Do You Know Where Your Beat Is At?

Chayro

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Back around 1980, I studied drums with a guy named Lynn Oliver, who ran these amazing jazz workshops on 89th Street and Broadway in NYC. Virtually all the NY players went through there at one time or another, and Lynn, a very talented multi-instrumentalist, transcribed hundreds of charts from Art Blakey, Horace Silver, George Shearing and numerous big bands. He played drums, piano, vibes, trombone. A real NY icon, and in addition to learning to play this great music, you learned to toughen up because he had no problem calling you out in front of everyone when you f'ked it up. Not as bad as Buddy or Whiplash, but you had to learn to accept criticism in front of other musicians. But I digress.

I was already playing for at least 10 years when I started studying privately with Lynn and I had already studied with some very good NY teachers, including Joe Cusatis. In my first lesson with him, we worked on finding the beat. He put the metronome on and asked me to to block out the sound of the metronome by clicking the sticks together and I was a little surprised at the outcome. I was consistently behind the metronome by just a drop, but I wasn't hearing the beat where it actually was. This was enlightening to me because a few times at gigs, we would start a tune and the leader would motion to me to pick it up a little. I eventually compensated by taking the countoff and mentally adding one click of the metronome to it. In other words, play just a hair faster than what I perceived the count to be and it worked out better. But eventually I learned to hear the beat where it actually was and I guess I was a better musician for it.

So maybe give it a try and see how you come out. Set the metronome to a tempo and block it out by hitting the sticks together. Try to keep it up for 30 seconds or so. Not so easy.
Be well my friends.
 

Tornado

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Great advice. I will say that I have made similar observations about my playing with a click or metronome. In my case, not playing just slightly in front of the beat is difficult, if I go back and look at the recorded waveforms, I would consistently be just a few milliseconds in front. In time...it was consistent...just not burying it completely. I think this is because you subconsciously adjust your playing to be able to hear the click if you aren't making it your goal for it to disappear.
 

Matched Gripper

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Back around 1980, I studied drums with a guy named Lynn Oliver, who ran these amazing jazz workshops on 89th Street and Broadway in NYC. Virtually all the NY players went through there at one time or another, and Lynn, a very talented multi-instrumentalist, transcribed hundreds of charts from Art Blakey, Horace Silver, George Shearing and numerous big bands. He played drums, piano, vibes, trombone. A real NY icon, and in addition to learning to play this great music, you learned to toughen up because he had no problem calling you out in front of everyone when you f'ked it up. Not as bad as Buddy or Whiplash, but you had to learn to accept criticism in front of other musicians. But I digress.

I was already playing for at least 10 years when I started studying privately with Lynn and I had already studied with some very good NY teachers, including Joe Cusatis. In my first lesson with him, we worked on finding the beat. He put the metronome on and asked me to to block out the sound of the metronome by clicking the sticks together and I was a little surprised at the outcome. I was consistently behind the metronome by just a drop, but I wasn't hearing the beat where it actually was. This was enlightening to me because a few times at gigs, we would start a tune and the leader would motion to me to pick it up a little. I eventually compensated by taking the countoff and mentally adding one click of the metronome to it. In other words, play just a hair faster than what I perceived the count to be and it worked out better. But eventually I learned to hear the beat where it actually was and I guess I was a better musician for it.

So maybe give it a try and see how you come out. Set the metronome to a tempo and block it out by hitting the sticks together. Try to keep it up for 30 seconds or so. Not so easy.
Be well my friends.
My beat is slightly behind the click. Except when it’s slightly in front of the click.
 

Chayro

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I'm not really talking about whether you actually play on top or on the back of the beat. When you're playing music, IMO it's the drummers job to play where he/she feels the beat needs to be to give the song it's best feeling. But just as an exercise, and nothing more, I think it's worth trying, if for no other reason, to teach yourself that you might not be hearing things the way they actually are.
 

Mcjnic

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I would “play that beat” and think that it was “the perfect beat”.
The keyboardist would complain about “the crooked beat” and ask for no “bonus beats”.

I was feeling ”pretty beat up”.
I had to do something before they all told me to “beat it!”

I realized that “I need a beat”, so I “turned the beat around” so that “the beat is on“.

The keyboardist no longer tell me to ”keep the beat”.
Now, “we got the beat” and it’s all good.

Now, if I want some “fashion beat“ or a “big electronic beat”, or even a “street beat”, “beat wise” I just “let the beat build” until “all we got left is the beat”.

The lesson - if you struggle with “the beat of your drum” and you don’t want to end up “broken, beat, and scarred”, remember - don’t go “beat crazy” and “mutilate the beat”.

Just “keep your beats to the rhyme” until you feel “the beat connection”.
Trust that “the beat comes”.
That’s “the beat of your heart”.
Nothing better.

EDIT:
hopefully you get that this was a serious post done with some humor ... playing with song titles.
There is a solid point made.
I struggled with destroying the groove when I was younger. It took some introspective honesty.
I learned to play for the song.
 
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cornelius

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I'm not really talking about whether you actually play on top or on the back of the beat. When you're playing music, IMO it's the drummers job to play where he/she feels the beat needs to be to give the song it's best feeling. But just as an exercise, and nothing more, I think it's worth trying, if for no other reason, to teach yourself that you might not be hearing things the way they actually are.
What a cool time to be in NYC and studying music - sounded like a great experience.

Kenwood Dennard showed me a similar concept, he called it the AOB exercise. Ahead/on/behind the beat... On a practice pad we'd set the metronome at 60 and record me playing quarter notes along with it for 100 counts. Then I'd play it back, listening to hear if I buried the click or not. While listening, I'd mark along a horizontal line that I drew, and put a dot above, on or below the horizontal line. It was interesting to see the shape of the line. After a while I was able to drown out the click, but only after first learning my tendencies.

This exercise really helped with my time, listening ability and concentration.
 

Pounder

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I think these are probably a lot more important than some people realize as a concept.

I know as a player people have a tendency to focus on technical stuff when they don’t even have the foundation down yet.

Vice versa you have people dissing drummers who have a really good solid beat—drummers like Ringo and Charlie Watts—these people don’t realize that the beat is so important. Not seeing Ringo or Charlie playing the technical stuff, they think they’re just average drummers when the opposite is actually true, there are so many average drummers out there that have good technical skills but lack the solid beat, which is the soul of drumming (and good musicianship, really).
May you always keep the beat! Great topic here thank you for posting !
I need to go work on that now.
 

JazzDrumGuy

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The click is off.....

Seriously, I normally have the beat and that's about it. Forget about technical skills or creativity.......
 

dirtysicks

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A drummer that I use to vibe with showed me an exercise similar to this when I was younger. He would set the click on a metronome and I had to make it "disappear" with the kick on 1 & 3 and the snare on 2 & 4 while playing different time signatures on my right hand and left foot. Say 4/4 on my right foot and right hand, while doing 5/4, 6/8 or whatever signature he was working on with the left foot and right hand. It really helped with staying on beat while subdividing the measures and working displacement. This is a great exercise to try once you start getting better at doing the exercise that you proposed.

It really helps with creativity and timing when learning to play complex rhythms, especially in styles like latin, afro-cuban, or even in jazz when learning to play complex patterns on the ride.
I know that things are working when the click disappears.
This is when you know you are truly on. In most gospel, hip-hop or R&B settings, the music is played live over a loop or a "click track" that typically consists of auxiliary percussion and various sounds. When that loop stops feeling like a time keeper and starts feeling or sounding like a part of the song; that's when you know you are doing your job.

Vid of some drummers playing and shedding over a "click-track" or loop. If you can't accurately stay on beat and catch "the one" in my drumming world, you will be called out and made to get up lol.
 
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I do this with intermediate and advanced students all of the time. It's really good for a musician to know where his or her time sits naturally (without any thought or attempt to affect it) FIRST.

With students today, I do this with a metronome (with good headphones) and Live BPM. At first, I PLAY, and I don't let the student see the live BPM and I ask him if the time feels on top, dead on, or behind. Then they can see the Live BPM (for "the answer.") I think it's important to develop that recognition skill first (EARS.) If they can't hear it, they can't play it. So I'll play (on top, dead on, or behind) and let them hear and feel what it sounds like. It's really important to develop the hearing and the feeling of good time, way BEFORE trying to manually manipulate it.

Then we do the same process with the student playing with the phones, 'nome, and me looking at Live BPM (so they aren't chasing the Live BPM.) We always start by getting their natural time (wherever it naturally sits) more consistent, and so it feels good (musically.)

THEN we start to manipulate time. (NOTE, I do this with more advanced players ONLY!) I have them (try to) play CONSISTENTLY on top, behind, or dead on (burying the click.) Start to get comfortable in each "feel location." This takes a LONG while too. Live BPM helps in this too. Yes, for burying the click it's essential to know that when you don't hear the click you are nailing the time dead on (a weird concept to perceive.)

Then we do this with playalongs (music) that have specific tempos, and record ourselves, and listen back. It should also be known that changing the tempo is also a part of this process, because that's how music works (different songs, different tempos.) You might be able to nail this process at a fast, medium, or slow tempo, but have trouble with other tempos ranges.

EVENTUALLY as a student gets more comfortable with the larger tempo changes (jumps,) I make the tempo changes (not the feels) smaller. We start at big jumps (120 then 70 then 200.) Those big jumps are much easier to nail.

But eventually try doing it at 70, then 72, then 69, while manipulating the groove (playing on top, dead on, or behind) at those small tempo changes. THIS IS TOUGH! Those minute tempo and feel adjustments are professional level time manipulation (FEEL and GROOVE) and you are on your way (so to speak) to being a groove-meister.

I hope all of that makes sense. It's a long, yet rewarding process for me to practice this, and teach it! Students (at a certain level) really like it too!

MSG
 

budz

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I'm not really talking about whether you actually play on top or on the back of the beat. When you're playing music, IMO it's the drummers job to play where he/she feels the beat needs to be to give the song it's best feeling. But just as an exercise, and nothing more, I think it's worth trying, if for no other reason, to teach yourself that you might not be hearing things the way they actually are.
Interesting. I just came across an app that can remove the drums from any song quite amazingly. Its "Play N Sing" on Android. Not sure if there is one in iOS.
 

shuffle

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I'm not really talking about whether you actually play on top or on the back of the beat. When you're playing music, IMO it's the drummers job to play where he/she feels the beat needs to be to give the song it's best feeling. But just as an exercise, and nothing more, I think it's worth trying, if for no other reason, to teach yourself that you might not be hearing things the way they actually are.
I figured one of my appendages is on the 1!
 

pwc1141

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I always thought I had a good feel for jazz until a fine guitar player said "Peter, you are not so much in the pocket as on it". It took me a while to ease off my pushier style.....
 

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