Good timing is important in love, music, comedy and making a good raspberry pavlova. I’ve been lucky enough over the years to join some very talented drummers to create a solid rhythm section, and in recent years I have used in-ear monitors with a click track ticking away. I thought I had great timing. This all changed one day last term. It was week four in my first term at the Institute in one of our live performance workshops (aka LPWs): in these classes we are grouped in with drummers, guitarists, and singers who are all on the same Higher Diploma course.
The LPWs are a lot of fun and also a great learning experience, as you get up and play a set song with a different group of musicians each time, then receive feedback on your performance. The song for this particular week Gary Moorewas ‘Still Got The Blues’ by the late . It’s a beautiful song in 6/8, with a lot of space in the bass part that requires some ‘1, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3’ counting to catch the stops and subsequent pickups into the sections. I played fairly well the first time through, with lack of confidence being the fault pointed out by Phil, my tutor. The next time I got up I had a different drummer, who may have been more nervous than me because his timing went everywhere. I was completely thrown, trying to find where he was, and to lock back in. It was then that I was told by Phil that I am drummer-dependent. I’m fine if I have a good one, but lost otherwise. He told me that my internal timing needed work, so that even if a drummer goes on his merry way, I know where the beat is and can attempt to push or pull him back into line.
Here is a little exercise for you to both test and then correct your internal timing. Using a drum machine (‘Mr. Drum’ is a simple and free download) put the kick drum on each beat at say 80bpm (try slowing it down later to make things hard). Grab your bass and play quavers (eighth notes) on a single note in time with the kick. Sounds simple, right? Now take the kick drum off beats 2 and 4 so you are only left with an aural cue on beat 1 and 3. Most of us will have a tendency to speed up without having the beat there to keep us in time. Once you have practised this for a while take the kick drum away from all but one beat. Experiment with where you place the hit for more challenge.
Some of my tutors use this exercise, but will only have a beat every 16 bars, and an occasional farmyard moo for distraction. Till next time. Life’s better at the bottom…