Global Bass Online May 2001
(Getting the metronome to work for you)
by George Urbaszek
players generally have their own comfortable “pocket”, i.e. their
relationship to the absolute beat. Some players naturally play right on the
beat, some slightly ahead of, and others slightly behind the beat. All these
applications have their place in various music styles. And that’s exactly the
point. If you want to be at ease in many music genres, you must be able to play
on and around the beat. Once you have
achieved this proficiency, you will better be able to musically relate to
drummers and other musicians. (Yes, I do call drummers musicians.)
is a series of exercises that will get you not only in control of your own
time-keeping ability, but will ultimately enable you to better perceive your
colleagues’, and furthermore will increase your awareness of space in music.
This “space awareness” is one of the elements that distinguish mature and
relaxed players from immature and rushing players. Musical maturity has little
to do with age. In fact, generally speaking, the sooner you mature musically,
the sooner you will “make it” on a professional level.
out that metronome or drum machine.
pulse of 50 bpm (beats per minute).
one note of full duration (sustained) on each beat. If you play the note with a
lot of attack (slapping works well) you should not hear the metronome beat.
are nowhere near the beat, try this: subdivide
either into sixteenth notes (sing “sock-it-to-me-sock-it-to-me, etc) or
eighth-note triplets to create the basis for a swing or shuffle feel (sing
are still not right on the beat, then increase the metronome tempo to 60 bpm. (A
slower tempo is more difficult.)
successful, this on-the-beat technique is good for many styles of playing.
closely your natural relationship to the beat. Don’t fret if you don’t get
consistency right away. The next exercises will help.
pulse of 40 bpm (more difficult) to 60 bpm (less difficult).
attempt to play consistently after/behind the beat. Use the beat to guide you,
i.e. you react to it. The beat and your note should sound like a flam (a quick
grace note). You will feel when the distance between the two is just right. Keep
technique is useful for a laid back effect.
next step involves you guiding the metronome. You guessed it! Now it is your
turn to play ahead of/in front of the beat.
to play consistently before the beat.
before, the two rhythmic events should produce a flam.
are the timekeeper.
technique is good for a driving effect (from the bass).
back to the first exercise and check if your timekeeping has improved. It should
have. That is because you are already a lot more aware of beat placement.
exercises explained above are only the beginning to what can develop into very
sophisticated timekeeping awareness. So let’s start at the beginning. Once
these steps are mastered, try variations like using different note durations and
different notes for each beat. Also try the same exercises with a drummer or any
next time, keep creating.
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