Any suggestions how to improve tempo accuracy?

Channing

Member
I currently use a metronome on stage most of the time because if I didn’t, I doubt we would ever play anything at the right tempo. It does the job but I’d like to be able to at least work toward being able to play without it. Is there anything specific like exercises to work on this skill? People who have this ability, how did you develop it?
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Play to a click or timekeeper always. I've been doing it since day 1. Be it a metronome, the radio, programmed drum tracks, whatever, use it. Anytime you pick up a pair of sticks put a click in your ear. It will work wonders for when you don't play with one.

You can even work on your time keeping with everyday tasks. When you put gas in your car, get the pace of the meter on the pump. Look down for a few seconds while still counting the number. Look back up and see how close you really are.

Try to beat the microwave. It is possible to open the door at 0:00 without the buzzer going off.

Play rudiments or anything on your steering wheel while waiting to turn using the blinker as a click. Anything that has a steady, repeatable pattern can be used as a click. These are your friends.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Basically you just drill with a click when you're not on stage until your time feels good. The more practice like that you put in the easier it gets and the more confident you are which makes you sound even better. If you want to start now I'd say ditch the click at band practice but include it even more in your at home practice.

As for types of helpful exercises, what you want to do is train your body/mind based around subdivisions of the beat. Run a click and play inside the spaces. As a very simple example, run a quarter note click but then use it to practice triplet subdivisions. Move through subdivisions and focus on the spaces between the clicks more than the actual click notes. I'll sometimes use the click as another player and try NOT to step on the click beats.

I also listen to a ton of music like most of us, and I make it a point typically to "find" the beat and time signature so I can count out a few parts.

Tap your left foot when you play, and do it when you listen to other music too.

Being fully honest one of the reasons I got into drumming is that even before I knew "how" to keep time I was naturally pretty okay at it. Literally before I realized that beats had numbers and they corresponded to things that happen. Over the years it's become somewhat automatic.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
I use 2 apps to help with this:

For live playing/rehearsals - LiveBPM - It uses the microphone and reads out the current tempo. I use this at rehearsals and gigs.

For home practice - Beat Mirror - This starts a metronome at a given tempo, then drops out and tells you what tempo you are at. I have all the tempos of the songs that I play written down and practice starting and playing through the tunes with this.

These 2 approaches have been extremely helpful in dialing things in for me after a long time off.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Here’s one method to just improve your time in general—

Set the metronome to a tempo where you can easily bury the click for 30 seconds at a time, maybe 120 or 140. Then drop it by 5-10 bpm until you get to a tempo where you can’t bury the click at all. Spend 5 minutes or so a day working on burying the click at slower and slower tempos. You’ll have really good time when you can do it at 10 bpm. It’s usually best to play something really simple while you’re working on this, like single notes on snare, or clapping instead of drumming.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
for my students at school, and my self, I will get the met going, play along to it, and then randomly pause it while they keep playing. Then I will turn it on and off randomly as they go. At first, this is rough, but after a couple of months, they become pretty steady.

We do this while marching too, to keep their feet in time. But the whole idea of taking it away and putting it back in force them to think of keeping the space in between the pulses consistent.

We also talk a lot about how motion in space effects timing. Straight from a Peter Erskine clinic : "your sticks need to move at an even rate from the contact point of the drum head to the apex of the arc while the stick is in motion. THAT is where tempo problems happen"

For me this concept has fixed SOOOOO many things. He finished that clinic by saying that "the drummers with the best time play SPACE, not drums"
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Another way to get the tempo right without any help is to relax, take a deep breath, and sing your most favorite part of the song lyrics to yourself, at the right speed of course, and tap along to yourself singing, to extract a good tempo.

Instrumentals.....you could hum the head or equivalent.

It's the drummer's job to know and feel the right tempo for the song.

On stage that translates into not being distracted by emotions, others, or anything else, and knowing exactly what the speed should be.

Keeping one's head is required, to be able to get the right tempo. Don't be a victim of adrenaline.

The music won't feel it's best if a drummer isn't fully in control of the adrenaline factor.

Drummers drive the bus for all the partiers, so we have to keep our wits about us.

Think of Miles Davis. Sometimes he would stand there for a while, until he felt it. Then he would play it.

I always thought it was electrifying, just watching him take as much time as he needed to feel it.

Like an Olympic diver visualizing the perfect dive while he stands on the the edge.

The song starts in the head first.
 
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fachries

Member
Play to a click or timekeeper always. I've been doing it since day 1. Be it a metronome, the radio, programmed drum tracks, whatever, use it. Anytime you pick up a pair of sticks put a click in your ear. It will work wonders for when you don't play with one.

You can even work on your time keeping with everyday tasks. When you put gas in your car, get the pace of the meter on the pump. Look down for a few seconds while still counting the number. Look back up and see how close you really are.

Try to beat the microwave. It is possible to open the door at 0:00 without the buzzer going off.

Play rudiments or anything on your steering wheel while waiting to turn using the blinker as a click. Anything that has a steady, repeatable pattern can be used as a click. These are your friends.
+1
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Another way to get the tempo right without any help is to relax, take a deep breath, and sing your most favorite part of the song lyrics to yourself, at the right speed of course, and tap along to yourself singing, to extract a good tempo.

Instrumentals.....you could hum the head or equivalent.

It's the drummer's job to know and feel the right tempo for the song.

On stage that translates into not being distracted by emotions, others, or anything else, and knowing exactly what the speed should be.

Keeping one's head is required, to be able to get the right tempo. Don't be a victim of adrenaline.

The music won't feel it's best if a drummer isn't fully in control of the adrenaline factor.

Drummers drive the bus for all the partiers, so we have to keep our wits about us.

Think of Miles Davis. Sometimes he would stand there for a while, until he felt it. Then he would play it.

I always thought it was electrifying, just watching him take as much time as he needed to feel it.

Like an Olympic diver visualizing the perfect dive while he stands on the the edge.

The song starts in the head first.
I do the lyrics thing all the time...or musical phrases...

this is how I survive my country band gig since I am not super familiar with the music. I get the hook in my head and I am usually good to go
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Another way to get the tempo right without any help is to relax, take a deep breath, and sing your most favorite part of the song lyrics to yourself, at the right speed of course, and tap along to yourself singing, to extract a good tempo.
Yes, but singing or tapping affects the tempo. I suggest 'playing' the song in your head... hear it rather than reproduce it in any manner. It works very well and takes literally a few seconds to get the tempo. Of course that means being extremely familiar with the song. Not familiar with playing it, but familiar with hearing it. You should be able to reproduce the tempo within a few BPM, and if you're really good, you'll even hear it in the original key. That also helps with the parts in cover songs. If you know the recording well enough, you'll also hear the correct parts and fills without thinking too hard about them.

Bermuda

PS - Oops, I forgot how to explain how to become familiar with a song. That's easy: listen!
 
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KamaK

Platinum Member
I currently use a metronome on stage most of the time because if I didn’t, I doubt we would ever play anything at the right tempo. It does the job but I’d like to be able to at least work toward being able to play without it. Is there anything specific like exercises to work on this skill? People who have this ability, how did you develop it?
A lot of the instructional exercises focus on modulating with the metronome. IE... Play the beat with the metronome on the quarter. Now move the metronome so that it clicks on the "and". Now play with the click on the "ee". Now play with the click on the "ah".

I've found this to be a worthwhile exercise to add to the practice routine, especially when I really need to master a particular beat for recording... Playing with the click on the beat becomes a lot easier once you can play with the click on the off-beats.


EDIT: JB's video below demonstrates this perfectly.
 
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beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
time guru is a sweet app. You can skip bars and make your own gap click. go longer and longer and try and nail it. practice to a click for hours in a super high subdivision to work on not rushing fills, triplets, things like that.

And even when you have GREAT time, the stage is a whole new beast. This takes "stage practice" i like to say. You can jam the same speed with your band day in and day out, then hit a stage and jump 20bpm. You need to control the excitement and adrenaline. Everything sounds super slow to me live. You need to fight that urge to speed it up. Also, it could be a shared kit, or your setup isn't 100%. You need to get used to playing your kit set up in different configs, reaching a bit, not having things perfect. Because if you are focused on that, you are not focused on tempo. I gear share so much you can give me 1 rack, 2 rack, 3 racks. it doesn't matter. 1 crash, 3 crashes. sure. I'll use everything I am given, but ok if there is less. That doesn't stress me out.

Things like sound. If you have a hard time hearing yourself you end up hitting harder and speeding up. Get used to playing with a super loud band where you can hear yourself and just trust you are playing well. get used to a guitar being super quiet, or only hearing yourself.

All of this while maintaining time. I've played in situations where I can't even see my toms due to waaaay to many stupid fog machines or crappy lighting. Uneven stages. Cold stages, hot stages. It really doesn't matter.

And at the end of the day just have fun up there and if you go up 5bpm so be it. You will notice many pro drummers use a click. The faster you play the more likely you are to jump up the tempo.
 

Alex Sanguinetti

Silver Member
The metronome can tell you where is "the beat", and act as "a beat police" telling you wrong or right, but it is not necesarely something that is going to fix the problem, the same as a parking ticket might not fix your actitude about crossing red lights or parking anywhere...

There is a number of things acting to get a better tempo...
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Is there anything specific like exercises to work on this skill? People who have this ability, how did you develop it?
I memorize a key element of the song, typically a chorus, and this helps me count off the tune for the band. I also figure out the tempo of each song and write that tempo next to the tune in our set list (our guitarist loves it, I love it, no one else cares).

For large gigs (when band mates can get nervous) I use my Tama Rhythm Watch in "stage" mode. It counts off only two measures, stops, then auto-advances to the next tune/tempo. I start it, listen to a bar, then count off to the band by clicking sticks.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
Here's a great program that I've used successfully.

Warning: Not for the faint of heart.

Assume we're on a 16th note grid at 60 BPM. Set the click to 1/4 notes.

Sing the pulse to the click, including the subdivsions. Accent the down beat ala: ONE e and a TWO e and a etc.

Now play through all the rhythmic permutations (while singing, of course) of that subdivison ala the Dave DiCenso RADD book or Gary Chaffe fat back exercises. Let's start with 8ths on the ride and downbeats with the hi hat foot, backbeat on the snare and the bass drum reads the line. You can always do different ostinatos later.

Once you can do that, displace the metronome by a 16th note forward or back. Keep singing!!!

The downbeat-oriented singing, combined with the playing of the permutations plus the displaced click will get your brain internalizing this faster than any other exercise routine that I've ever done. As soon as the length between your notes varies, you will hear it instantly and you will develop the ability to fix it. Soon the mistakes will come less frequently and be smaller.

Not easy but worth the investment.

Dave DiCenso has videos on this on Youtube that must be watched.

Benny Greb's video is excellent as well.
 

TMe

Senior Member
I suggest 'playing' the song in your head... hear it rather than reproduce it in any manner. It works very well and takes literally a few seconds to get the tempo.
That's how I do it. The problem is... if somebody in the band insists on noodling at full volume between songs, that throws me off completely. So either shut up, or you get to count in the song.

More generally, I find any work with a metronome helps. I'm at the tail-end a year spent woodshedding rudiments. I don't know how much benefit I'll actually get from studying rudiments, but all that time spent with a metronome seems to have improved my tempo even when I'm playing completely different stuff.
 
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