How Perfect Is Perfect Timing?

brentcn

Platinum Member
Hi all,

I’ve been recording myself to a click and looking at the hits on the grid. i know people say not to do this but i find it useful, as i feel like i’m right on the beat when i’m playing but the grid/recording says something different. it’s good immediate feedback that has really improved my playing.

i find that i’m about 2-3ms off (usually in front of beat, but sometimes behind) from the click. this is subtle but nonetheless feels different from being right on.

question is: am i expecting too much of myself? can i really fix that 2-3ms or is that totally normal? i’m finding that correcting this extremely slight difference is difficult to feel out and am wondering what i should consider to be bang on the beat consistently.

thanks!!

2-3 msec isn’t much, but what might be concerning is that sometimes you’re in front, and then behind. So, mathematically, there *could* be 4-6 msec of drift in your time playing from one beat to the next.

Most players tend to rush the space from beat 4 to beat 1, so they arrive on beat 1 early, and then spend some beats getting back on track. Is that happening with you?

I had a marvelous teacher from Wayne State University who could bury the click so well, you couldn’t hear it, even though it was coming from a speaker next to the kit. I swore it was turned off. But when I put my ear right up to the speaker there it was! I learned how to improve my time center in the weeks to follow, and it was probably the most valuable lessons ever, for me.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
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Bigsby

Junior Member
2-3 msec isn’t much, but what might be concerning is that sometimes you’re in front, and then behind. So, mathematically, there *could* be 4-6 msec of drift in your time playing from one beat to the next.

Most players tend to rush the space from beat 4 to beat 1, so they arrive on beat 1 early, and then spend some beats getting back on track. Is that happening with you?

I had a marvelous teacher from Wayne State University who could bury the click so well, you couldn’t hear it, even though it was coming from a speaker next to the kit. I swore it was turned off. But when I put my ear right up to the speaker there it was! I learned how to improve my time center in the weeks to follow, and it was probably the most valuable lessons ever, for me.

Interesting, what was the lesson that the teacher showed to improve your time center?

It may happen more so from Beat 4 to Beat 1 but I think it's just generally. That being said, it's not like every beat is like this. But, yes, sometimes there will there be some rush or drag, about 2-3ms from the center. So you're right that there could be 4-6 ms deviation between a beat in certain bars! That's a bit more noticeable.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Interesting, what was the lesson that the teacher showed to improve your time center?

It may happen more so from Beat 4 to Beat 1 but I think it's just generally. That being said, it's not like every beat is like this. But, yes, sometimes there will there be some rush or drag, about 2-3ms from the center. So you're right that there could be 4-6 ms deviation between a beat in certain bars! That's a bit more noticeable.

It wasn’t one lesson or “magical” exercise. It was more like 4 or 5 of them. Some musicians think having great time is innate, or a gift, and therefore can’t be learned. But my teacher admitted to me that he had dug deep into improving that aspect of his own playing, and had developed a few things that worked. Counting out loud, “flamming” the click, getting comfortable with subdivisions (including 5s and 7s), and playing live with a click, were among the things he taught that helped me. If you’d like a lesson or two, feel free to send a PM.
 

mrthirsty

Junior Member
I know some musicians who think they have perfect time and can tell the slightest variation in tempo but struggle with a metronome. Strange how they won't devote any time to analysing or developing this part of their playing.
 

Sonorfan

Well-known member
In order, yes, and no.

I have worked in this industry for over ten years, in everything from touring stage work where I played live on stage to a click and backing track, to studio recordings (with and without a click), educational media productions, and everything in between, and my timing to the ms has never, ever come up. Quantisation exists for pop producers who demand a particular thing, but as far as live drumming is concerned, you're never going to fix, nor ever need to fix, a 2ms timing issue.

That said, I applaud your method, and it will help your overall timing. I just don't think it's necessarily something to get hung up about. We're not robots, nor should we be.
Thank goodness you said this because since Covid lockdown
I have been playing to YouTube tracks no drums and like you say were not robots. I too get minutely behind the click. When I play live I’ve never had trouble with timing. In fact, i’m well known for coaching other musicians on timing especially the ones that have learned their instruments alone at home.. can you say guitar ?
Note: Apparently my advice is not always appreciated or welcome. 🤪
So thanks for setting my mind at ease.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Yup, arguments between instruments about where the time is is far from perfect.
How about perfectly good time? Perfect accompaniment? Or just plain old good time, I like having (a) good time.
 

Richard Jackson

Junior Member
the more important thing is that your position in relation to the beat is consistent. It's when it relates differently constantly that it sounds weird. It is beneficial to be able to control where you are in relation to the click and know how it affects the music. Ben Sesar calls it the illusion of perfect time.
 

Sonorfan

Well-known member
the more important thing is that your position in relation to the beat is consistent. It's when it relates differently constantly that it sounds weird. It is beneficial to be able to control where you are in relation to the click and know how it affects the music. Ben Sesar calls it the illusion of perfect time.
I had never played in a group that regularly used a metronome until a year ago. There was a piano/ keyboard and Sax that had been playing together for 30 years. Both tended to wander playing Jazz so the piano man put a flashing electronic metro on the edge of his instrument where I could see it. I must admit as I didn’t know them or their style that the metronome helped considerably. Also as we didn’t have a bassist so I had to carry some bass lines with my kick. I had experience doing that before so it worked. We got through the gig very well so now i’m a convert. Never too old to learn.
 

jimb

Member
And people still pay a fortune to see the Stones a band thats all over the place timing wise....perfect time has got nothing to do with playing grt music. All those hit tunes back in the day...pretty sure the click was every member of the group, everyone had to be able to play in time.
 

moxman

Silver Member
Great question! Perfect time is something I've thought about for years.. starting back in the 80s or 90's when I read an MD interview with a famous drummer talking in a restaurant and the drummer (can't remember who.. maybe Jake Hanna from Merv Griffin band) demonstrated something by tapping his fingers on the table or a coffee cup.. and the interview was blown away and said 'you can tell he has perfect time!'

.. and it's true, when you see a drummer with perfect time you can tell right away. It's not just a mechanical thing.. it's the way they play with confidence and precision, steadiness, groove and feel.

My journey began in high school playing in all the bands.. and the dance band was conducted by a military guy who had perfect time.. so he was my clock. Later playing in bands I carried it with me.. but at some point I started to lose my frame of reference (easy to do when other band members are sloppy and start to pull in one direction or another).. so I started working with a metronome and the Gary Chester book.. and that really solidified my time. But then I started noticing that sometimes when playing if you're tired, or in a hot room, you can play a bit sluggishly if not on top of your game... and there's nothing worse than a draggy drummer or band! So I set out to fix that.. and the solution is quite simple (apart from playing relaxed and breathing etc.).. the time has to feel good! It's more of a thought process.. like where should the backbeat precisely land to really smack that groove and fit in with the band and let them know where it's at! The other thing is if I'm really tired and feeling sluggish.. I try to wake up by thinking of precise, staccato note placement and driving the band forward.. and not laying back and falling asleep! Seems to work for me...
 

mrfingers

Senior Member
funny, in high school, i played in my band director's.....Polka Band. It was him on clarinet, his wife on tuba, his dad on accordion and vox, and me - a mulleted 80's metal head - on set. Dad was straight from Poland by way of Cleveland...we gigged on weekends and I was making $100 a weekend as a freshman and sophomore playing church basements, the local German restaurants and social clubs. It was a freaking blast!! My metal head/punk friends could not believe it, and I was like "it is basically old school punk!"
I always thought the reverse: punk is new-style polka.😆😆
 

Sonorfan

Well-known member
I always thought the reverse: punk is new-style polka.😆😆
When one plays in dance bands timing is so critical. In the 80s I played in an old time fiddle band and the leaders wife did nothing but chord on the piano, never melody. She must of had a metronome built into her head as she was “dead on all the time” She made playing a breeze and we became very popular because we made dancing easy. Now I was a Jazz, Swing Head and did I really like playing Old Time music in 3/4 and 4/4 for four hours.. no, but at a $100 per gig plus some gas money it bought me a new kit and both my band mates and those old time dancers were nice country folk.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
This reminds me of discussions about latency in recording situations.

Let’s see…sound travels at 343m/s (20°C, low humidity), so being off the click by 0.003 seconds corresponds to 1.03 meters. A guitarist standing 3 meters from his amp has a latency of 0.009 seconds, but never hears it or feels it, assuming he’s "burying the click" at the moment he strums.
 

Sonorfan

Well-known member
This reminds me of discussions about latency in recording situations.

Let’s see…sound travels at 343m/s (20°C, low humidity), so being off the click by 0.003 seconds corresponds to 1.03 meters. A guitarist standing 3 meters from his amp has a latency of 0.009 seconds, but never hears it or feels it, assuming he’s "burying the click" at the moment he strums.
So many guitarists, so little time. !
😂😂
 

Lennytoons

Senior Member
Playing with a metronome or click track will make you a better drummer IMO. What we think is perfect time or near perfect ofen times isn't. I started recording myself last year and that really opened my eyes. I have improved a lot by using a metronome and listening to myself. I agree that feel is king but feel with good timing is golden. You need both. I use Steve Jordan as a perfect example.
 

Rotarded

Senior Member
funny, in high school, i played in my band director's.....Polka Band. It was him on clarinet, his wife on tuba, his dad on accordion and vox, and me - a mulleted 80's metal head - on set. Dad was straight from Poland by way of Cleveland...we gigged on weekends and I was making $100 a weekend as a freshman and sophomore playing church basements, the local German restaurants and social clubs. It was a freaking blast!! My metal head/punk friends could not believe it, and I was like "it is basically old school punk!"

Aw Man, this reminds me of good times with Esther Craw playing the accordion at Deibels Restaurant in German Village/Columbus.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
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