How to stop playing slightly ahead of the beat?

WaitForItDrummer

Senior Member
Hi guys,
So here is a problem I'm having: I seem to be playing slightly ahead of the beat on stuff that's fast or unfamiliar. Which does not sound great... I understand I should try to be on the beat or slightly behind.

For example, I can hear it when I play with a metronome. Or I can 'see' it if I play to a metronome that's muted. I start playing and check back 8 measures later and I'm very lightly ahead. My drum teachers has also mentioned this.

On stuff I know I do tend to settle into a nice groove, and people tend to tell me I have good time. So I don't think it's a technique or 'bad time' issue. As I can set the metronome faster or slower on new stuff and I'm still slightly ahead... I think it's a 'mental' issue... like being afraid of being too slow?

Also I do this on the piano too (on newer, harder things) so it's not even drumming specific...

Did anyone ever have this issue? How did you overcome it?
 

single-ply

Senior Member
This works for me. Great for practicing...

Get a Dr. Beat or an electronic metronome that allows you to hear just the first beat of the bar at any given tempo. You can also start out by setting it to click on every other beat.

Now start using the method books or music at your disposal and start practicing at a moderate, comfortable tempo. What you will find is that at first, your "1" will be ahead of the metronome almost every bar. Have patience. By not hearing the click on every beat, it FORCES YOU TO INTERNALIZE the tempo. Over time and with consistent practice, your "internal" time will start to match up with the metronome more consistently. After a LONG time, it will become second nature. Practice both straight, simple timekeeping as well as fills, at different tempos.

After doing this for several months, record yourself playing without any metronome. Check it against a metronome. I bet what you will find is that your timekeeping has vastly improved.

Works for any instrument.

Hope this helps
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I would start by saying that playing ahead of the beat is no more right or wrong than playing behind or on the beat. A whole set of factors about the music—such as tempo, style and how the other musicians are playing—are going to determine whether playing ahead, on or behind the beat is correct. And even then, it's subjective and really up to the artist or producer.

Where our playing lays in relation to the beat is part of our individual, musical fingerprint. But a well-trained musician can consciously adjust her tendencies as required by the musical situation.

I think it's easy to get sick of your natural feel, even if others dig it. Did you ever get sick of looking at your own face in the mirror? That's how I feel about my drumming sometimes. Learning to play with your beat placement helps you change up your feel. And even if your natural feel is good, learning to do it another way means more options, which I think can only be a good thing.
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
I would start by saying that playing ahead of the beat is no more right or wrong than playing behind or on the beat. A whole set of factors about the music—such as tempo, style and how the other musicians are playing—are going to determine whether playing ahead, on or behind the beat is correct. And even then, it's subjective and really up to the artist or producer.

Where our playing lays in relation to the beat is part of our individual, musical fingerprint. But a well-trained musician can consciously adjust her tendencies as required by the musical situation.

I think it's easy to get sick of your natural feel, even if others dig it. Did you ever get sick of looking at your own face in the mirror? That's how I feel about my drumming sometimes. Learning to play with your beat placement helps you change up your feel. And even if your natural feel is good, learning to do it another way means more options, which I think can only be a good thing.
Our guitarists asked me to play ahead of the beat. It is not a natural tendency of mine but simply took some conscious effort to do it. Now whether I am doing it well is another story.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I would start by saying that playing ahead of the beat is no more right or wrong than playing behind or on the beat. A whole set of factors about the music—such as tempo, style and how the other musicians are playing—are going to determine whether playing ahead, on or behind the beat is correct. And even then, it's subjective and really up to the artist or producer.

Where our playing lays in relation to the beat is part of our individual, musical fingerprint. But a well-trained musician can consciously adjust her tendencies as required by the musical situation.

I think it's easy to get sick of your natural feel, even if others dig it. Did you ever get sick of looking at your own face in the mirror? That's how I feel about my drumming sometimes. Learning to play with your beat placement helps you change up your feel. And even if your natural feel is good, learning to do it another way means more options, which I think can only be a good thing.
Great insight, especially that last paragraph. My biggest hang up with my own playing is where my natural feel lands, which is back beats that fall too far behind and a tendency to over compensate when trying to correct.

When I feel this happening, I can fix it by putting my left hand on ride duty and my right on the snare. This does fix it but it also creates a whole new set of challenges.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I would start by saying that playing ahead of the beat is no more right or wrong than playing behind or on the beat. A whole set of factors about the music—such as tempo, style and how the other musicians are playing—are going to determine whether playing ahead, on or behind the beat is correct. And even then, it's subjective and really up to the artist or producer.

Where our playing lays in relation to the beat is part of our individual, musical fingerprint. But a well-trained musician can consciously adjust her tendencies as required by the musical situation.
Exactly. It depends on the song, how it's being played, and the other players, but playing on top of the beat ins't always wrong. I can't think of many songs where you'd want to be exactly on the beat for the entire song.

If you are finding that you're playing on top when you need to be more behind the beat, then it might be nerves (I know many drummers have the tendency to play a little more aggressively when they are nervous). If that's the case, then just find some way to relax and leave some space in the song.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Have you done much slow click practice?

E.g 30 - 40 bpm

If you just play the simplest beat (kick snare kick snare) with quarter notes on the hat you will have room to experiment.

You could try displacing by an 8th or a 16th note too and pretend you're playing behind the beat.

And another suggestion - bury the click. I learnt this from a Simon Phillips video recently... He doesn't hear his click because his kick and snare are right on it. Don't turn it up too load, play over it and if you can't hear it, then you know you're on time.

Honestly I don't know because my problem is the opposite but I can imagine these working.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
When I play to a metronome I tend to play ahead of the beat as well. One studio guy told me he just moves my whole drum track over just a hair to line it up with the click. To me it sounds like I'm right on it.

A few days ago I found the "groove guide" and "groove gate" function on my Yamaha e-kit. Groove guide lets you see on a screen and a graph where your hits are compared to the click. When I started trying it with just a short click sound I was always ahead and couldn't even lay back enough to get on the click. After a while I started playing with the metronome sound. When I changed it to a voice counting the beat, I was always behind the beat. I felt like I had to rush like crazy to get up to playing on the beat. A shaker was the same thing. Short sounds I played ahead, legato sounds I played behind. I then tried playing to some of the built in songs. With the actual music, it said I was playing behind. It was eye opening, but I am also taking it with a grain of salt. When I listen to the built in drummer playing those songs, he sounds like he is playing way ahead of the beat even though the machine says he is right on. In the end, I'm not sure what I do with a live band.

To work on playing behind the click sound i started using the groove gate setting. When you turn on this setting it won't make a sound on the pad unless you are hitting "on" the beat. You can set a window of how far off the beat you can get and still make a sound. I can only get accurate down to a 256th not either side of the click, which makes a total error window of a 128th note. But to work on getting the feeling of playing behind the click, I set the window to only make a sound if I was a little behind. It helps but it's a different feel than I'm used too.

I've also been practicing a lot lately with the "gap click". Having the sound turn on and off. With medium to fast tempos I can do four bars on four bars off and stay with it. Slower tempos, I can only do two on two off for the time being. But it's all a work in progress.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
There is a big difference between playing ahead of the beat and speeding up. If it takes you a few measures before you notice, are you not simply speeding up? Pushing the beat, or playing behind the beat are accepted styles of playing, Copeland made a living pushing the beat with the Police.

It is not always important to be dead on the beat, it can make you sound like a drum machine. The great Max Roach insisted "Time should be elastic, playing like a metronome is inhuman and sounds like...bap bap bap bap".
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Have you recorded yourself and listened back? If not there's your answer. When you hear yourself....when you are not playing....you are much better equipped to understand what you need to do to correct yourself, than if someone told you about it.

Do you think you are playing ahead? Everyone feels time a little differently.

I'd suggest recording and listening back for yourself. Don't take their word for it.

You decide if you don't like where your pulse falls.
 

Magenta

Platinum Member
It is not always important to be dead on the beat, it can make you sound like a drum machine. The great Max Roach insisted "Time should be elastic, playing like a metronome is inhuman and sounds like...bap bap bap bap".
I think Mike has hit the nail on the head here. Timing should be RIGHT - not necessarily "correct", and there are many things that might influence its rightness, not least what the other band members are doing. It's all about sympathy. Yes of course it's important to maintain consistency - there's no point starting off Presto and ending Largo - but within the parameters of "thereabouts", there is IMO a degree of influence within the band, and going with the flow is far easier on the ear, and far more musical, than keeping a rigid time if nobody else is doing the same.
 

WaitForItDrummer

Senior Member
Thanks all for comments! Thoughts below...

This works for me. Great for practicing...
Get a Dr. Beat or an electronic metronome that allows you to hear just the first beat of the bar at any given tempo. You can also start out by setting it to click on every other beat.

Now start using the method books or music at your disposal and start practicing at a moderate, comfortable tempo. What you will find is that at first, your "1" will be ahead of the metronome almost every bar. Have patience. By not hearing the click on every beat, it FORCES YOU TO INTERNALIZE the tempo.
Thanks, the metronome I have is electronic and will try this...

I would start by saying that playing ahead of the beat is no more right or wrong than playing behind or on the beat. A whole set of factors about the music—such as tempo, style and how the other musicians are playing—are going to determine whether playing ahead, on or behind the beat is correct. And even then, it's subjective and really up to the artist or producer.

Where our playing lays in relation to the beat is part of our individual, musical fingerprint. But a well-trained musician can consciously adjust her tendencies as required by the musical situation.

I think it's easy to get sick of your natural feel, even if others dig it. Did you ever get sick of looking at your own face in the mirror? That's how I feel about my drumming sometimes. Learning to play with your beat placement helps you change up your feel. And even if your natural feel is good, learning to do it another way means more options, which I think can only be a good thing.
That's very good points, 8Mile.. I used to think that if I play ahead of the beat, it sounds a bit uncomfortable / edgy ... which might be right for certain styles or songs... where as playing behind would make it sound more relaxed. Is this right or just an oversimplification?

Have you done much slow click practice?

E.g 30 - 40 bpm

If you just play the simplest beat (kick snare kick snare) with quarter notes on the hat you will have room to experiment.

You could try displacing by an 8th or a 16th note too and pretend you're playing behind the beat.

And another suggestion - bury the click. I learnt this from a Simon Phillips video recently... He doesn't hear his click because his kick and snare are right on it. Don't turn it up too load, play over it and if you can't hear it, then you know you're on time.

Honestly I don't know because my problem is the opposite but I can imagine these working.
Thanks, Duck Tape... yes, I have but not for this purpose.. I'll give it a go. Agree that playing with a metronome is not always helpful.

When I play to a metronome I tend to play ahead of the beat as well. One studio guy told me he just moves my whole drum track over just a hair to line it up with the click. To me it sounds like I'm right on it.

A few days ago I found the "groove guide" and "groove gate" function on my Yamaha e-kit. Groove guide lets you see on a screen and a graph where your hits are compared to the click. When I started trying it with just a short click sound I was always ahead and couldn't even lay back enough to get on the click. After a while I started playing with the metronome sound. When I changed it to a voice counting the beat, I was always behind the beat. I felt like I had to rush like crazy to get up to playing on the beat. A shaker was the same thing. Short sounds I played ahead, legato sounds I played behind. I then tried playing to some of the built in songs. With the actual music, it said I was playing behind. It was eye opening, but I am also taking it with a grain of salt. When I listen to the built in drummer playing those songs, he sounds like he is playing way ahead of the beat even though the machine says he is right on. In the end, I'm not sure what I do with a live band.

To work on playing behind the click sound i started using the groove gate setting. When you turn on this setting it won't make a sound on the pad unless you are hitting "on" the beat. You can set a window of how far off the beat you can get and still make a sound. I can only get accurate down to a 256th not either side of the click, which makes a total error window of a 128th note. But to work on getting the feeling of playing behind the click, I set the window to only make a sound if I was a little behind. It helps but it's a different feel than I'm used too.

I've also been practicing a lot lately with the "gap click". Having the sound turn on and off. With medium to fast tempos I can do four bars on four bars off and stay with it. Slower tempos, I can only do two on two off for the time being. But it's all a work in progress.
That's interesting... I have an acoustic kit so no such settings - but I can see how this might work.

There is a big difference between playing ahead of the beat and speeding up. If it takes you a few measures before you notice, are you not simply speeding up? Pushing the beat, or playing behind the beat are accepted styles of playing, Copeland made a living pushing the beat with the Police.

It is not always important to be dead on the beat, it can make you sound like a drum machine. The great Max Roach insisted "Time should be elastic, playing like a metronome is inhuman and sounds like...bap bap bap bap".
Well, on occasion I speed up too... (and an occasion slow down, too on stuff that's already very slow)... Guess I consider that a different problem. But I have been told more times 'you are ahead of the beat' than 'you are speeding up'...

Totally agree that the metronome can be inhuman and has no place in music as an art form. And as 8Mile said, a good musician will be able to choose his or her beat placement to flex with what the other musicians are doing and to express what they are trying to say.

In my case, still learning and still a way to go until such advanced playing...
I use the metronome as a learning tool and practice tool -


Have you recorded yourself and listened back? If not there's your answer. When you hear yourself....when you are not playing....you are much better equipped to understand what you need to do to correct yourself, than if someone told you about it.

Do you think you are playing ahead? Everyone feels time a little differently.

I'd suggest recording and listening back for yourself. Don't take their word for it.

You decide if you don't like where your pulse falls.
Thanks for comments, Larry.
Yes, I have recorded* and listened back. So, simpler stuff that I have known how to play for over 6 months sounds pleasant (it was an ambient recording with the band). It has a good feel to it (at least I liked it ok, not brilliant by any means). It was recorded without a click so no real baseline. But it has a good feel.

Some other stuff recorded* 2 weeks later (ambient) is a new groove I started learning 4 weeks ago (the 16th feel groove for the Chicken, if anyone is curious) and I did use a click while recording it, while the band did not hear the click. On this, the drums sound terrible. The time sounds really uncomfortable, ahead a whole time (but not speeding up)... just makes me feel nervous listening to it... weirdly, the bass player liked it. I was after a nice laid back feel...

Note: recorded means = just on a phone, but it's good enough to tell what sounds good and what's terrible...
 
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LEDRUSH

Junior Member
I think you just need to develop your inner ear not your outer ear.

I used to have the opposite problem. From me playing by myself for many years to covers I would fall just under the beat as I had trained my ear to follow the recordings.

I had never played to a metronome for the first 20 years playing drums. When I was introduced to it one day and told, "This is how we are gonna do it from here on out", I was petrified. I had developed some small bad habits over all these years and now I was supposed to be click tight like tomorrow? Yikes!!

My comfort zone was to follow the lead singer and guitar player (same person) for the last 12 years. So my ear was trained to stay tight with him. Throwing the click into my ear now meant I had to retrain my ear. I struggled with going back and fourth listening to the singer, then back to the click.

It was very difficult as I was now lending mental resources to trying to listen to the click and taking from my ability to remember parts etc. I really struggled and played uncomfortable where I could not relax for a long while.

Then a drummer told me that I had to completely ignore the singer in regards to timing and just stay with the click and make the lead guy default to following me. So if he began to venture off a hair I was to stay tight and force him back to me. He also told me that I needed to stop listening for the click but to learn to feel it instead.

From then on I started practicing at home with a click. Even to covers etc. The challenge of starting and stopping the click in time with recorded music helped me develop feel for it. I also would have one in my car when I was commuting. I would turn it on and keep time to it. Slow, fast, with the one emphasized, with the one not emphasized, 1/2 time, whole note etc.

After much training I went from having the click on top of my mix trying to follow it, to just under everything in my mix and now "feeling" it. Sometimes during a very dynamic part of a song I can't even hear it so I glance at the lights and see that I am still tight with it. As I play my goal is to be so on top of it that I can not hear it at all.

Now when a singer or a lead starts to drift off I can actually go get him and bring him back to the click with out stopping or restarting it.

I think you just gotta train your inner ear and develop that "feel" instead of trying to follow or listen?
Hope this helps.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Maybe try this:

Instead of playing 16ths...just to crystalize the right feel... play only quarters on the HH and work on that groove with your kick and snare. When that's happening, double it to 8th's then again to 16th's. It's all about the ubiquitous quarter note pulse, you can't lose that. There's nothing that says that song has to be a 16th note feel the whole time.
 

Skate

Senior Member
Get a free metronome app, and try and practice various songs whilst listening to the metronome.
 

WaitForItDrummer

Senior Member
Thanks everyone for ideas!
Good comments about 'feeling' the beat from Ledrush.


Play in slow motion. Seriously, that's how I laid things back.
Thanks, BillRayDrums. That sounds like a great idea.
So do you mean imagine I'm playing in slow motion?
Excellent drumming on your YouTube channel, by the way.
 

drum4fun27302

Gold Member
Practicewoththe click on the "and" of the beat or on the "e" or "a".
What happens to me with playing with the click on the downbeat is that I purposely (and can't stop it) play "off" so I can hear it. When playing right on, the click gets lost so I purposely move my beT around so I can hear it.
When playing with the click nog on the downbeat, there is plenty if room for me to put it where I want it and bury it :)

Not sure if my explanation makes sense.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
Thanks everyone for ideas!
Good comments about 'feeling' the beat from Ledrush.




Thanks, BillRayDrums. That sounds like a great idea.
So do you mean imagine I'm playing in slow motion?
Excellent drumming on your YouTube channel, by the way.
Thanks for that! Always nice to get compliments! And yes, I just "slow down the bouncing ball" so to speak.
 
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