I’m now feeling the beat at 20 BPMs

Noisy

Well-known member
Here’s the background. Based on a thread on DW, I wanted to learn to
bury the click at 20 BPM without subdividing. There is disagreement
on this goal but here is my personal experience. I think it turns out
good but different.

Post by Uncle Larry:

Previously, over the course of about two weeks, I tried burying the
click at 20 or 30 BPMs. I could often get 30 BPM hits on time but in
an ”awkward” way. 20 BPMs was completely foreign to me and trying it
was somewhat pathetic. So, changing to another method and spending
about six hours over two days, I was able to “feel” the rhythm in a 20
BPM metronome pulse. The previously disconnected beeps could now be
heard/felt as a steady beat. I could hear the rhythm in it like I do
with faster beats. Now I’m able to get some fairly long strings of
on-beat hits at 20 BPM and hope to keep improving.

So what I did was use a mundane training method to train the beats
while working my best to remove bad habits. The bad habits noticed
and then worked on were tension, rushing, random jumping ahead, random
hand movements and reaction to “mistakes.”

I used the following iPhone app for a metronome because it is free and
goes as slow as 10 BPMs: Pulse - Metronome by Seth Radman.

Overview:

So the mundane method is to act like a beginner and *follow* the beat,
but in a very “controlled” manner. If you try to bury the click first
like I did, you will likely jump around and not improve. If there is
no “system” for following a slow beat, progress may be more difficult.

What I did is to imagine that the metronome beat was a 16th note (or
so) before my drumstick downbeat. I timed the drumstick downbeat to follow by a
natural and relaxed beat feeling. The beat/delay *must* be consistent
for all practice. I don’t know the exact numerical time, only that it
feels good and natural, so it will be consistent. I then followed the
slow metronome beats of 20 BPMs for a long, long time. I don’t know
if it helped but I also spent 10 minutes following beats with my right
foot, 10 minutes with my left foot and 10 minutes with my left hand.
The majority of time was spent with the right hand.

If my drumstick hits have the same delay (that natural feeling time)
every time, my muscle actions are at 20 BPMs, just at an offset
starting time. My thinking is that a correctly timed mind+body action
should be helpful. Then I worked on 10 BPMs and then 15 BPMs for a
long time. Part of the reason for the “long time” is that the bad
habits don’t show up immediately.

Bad habits:
I also observed bad habits and kept working on staying relaxed during
the time between metronome beats. Relaxing and noticing the bad
habits seemed to be enough to tone them down. I could be very relaxed
because the process requires no decision making. Just maintain a
natural and consistent following and probably build some muscle
memory.

So while waiting for the next beat, my brain or hand would sometimes
just jump in and hit a beat. Or when I wanted to hit a beat, there
would be suddenly a rush to hit or some pulling back. My hand could
also have some tiny movement or shaking going on, like anticipating a
hit. I worked on relaxing to reduce these issues and just kept to
following the metronome pulse with my natural delayed beat. I did
this for hours.

I don’t know if this part helped but I also tried to listen for the
silence between the pulses and focus on the drumstick hits more than
the metronome for a while.

Moving up the drumstick hits to the metronome beat:

So after a very long time of relaxed following, I would try to slowly
creep up and move close to the end of the metronome beat, closer but
nowhere near burying it. Sometimes I would bury the beat but this is
actually a mistake because I jumped too far ahead. It would often
cause the next beat to be way off while compensating. I consider
being ahead of the metronome beat to be the worst mistake. I want to
be in control of my changes. If I suddenly jump ahead more than
intended, I interrupt and go back to following the pulse after my
usual natural offset to recalibrate for multiple beats to help settle
down. Then, I will try again to slowly creep up on the main beat.
This period is another time to work on getting rid of illogical and
weird brain and body actions that mess up keeping a steady timing. At
some point, I was able to move up to be on the beat at 20 BPMs but not
to be so exact as to bury it.

So as far as mistakes, my thought is to not think that being late as a
mistake (for this type of training). It is only that I don’t know at
the moment. So, just wait for the metronome pulse and then hit the
beat after the standard natural delay. Don’t sweat it. The real
error to me is to “panic” and “think” it was the right time and just
jump in. That is some part of my brain that should stay silent and
not get involved. That is my thinking but you can have your own
ideas. Whatever works best for your end goals and helps reduce your
particular weaknesses would be more applicable to you.

After getting reasonable control at 20 BPMs, I followed at 10 BPMs for
a while, then 15 BPMs for a while and then back to 20 BPMs. For 10
and 15 BPMs, most of the time was spent just following the beat and
not trying to be on the beat. That is just what I did. I didn’t
initially work on being great at 10 and 15 BPMs. Just following. It
probably helped.

The biggest thing for me is to suddenly feel rhythm at 20 BPMs where
there was no feeling before. Once the rhythm is felt, I think real
progress can be made. Yes, it took hours for me.

Afterwards:

After more work, I have learned to be occasionally mediocre at 10 BPMs
but can’t say I feel the rhythm yet, like at 20 BPMs. On the third
day, after a few more hours, my 15 BPMs got pretty good.

By the third day, my 20 BPMs is very good by my standards, as I was
previously pathetic. I can have long strings of being on beat and I
can feel a rhythm. I expect to bury the beat in the near future but
am somewhat more interested in working on the rhythm aspect at various
slow timings first. With rhythm, keeping time and later burying the
beat will be somewhat natural. Plus I want to keep working on slowly
creeping up the beat and having more control over my changes. I still
have bad jumps ahead of the beat but they are much fewer than before.

When starting the next day, I warmed up using the “natural beat after
the metronome pulse” for a little bit until I got back into the
groove.

Issue to subdividing.

I intentionally started with not subdividing time since that was what
the original poster did. The strange thing is that as I got good and
was hitting beats at 15 and 20 BPMs, my brain started to subdivide. I
was suddenly counting without trying. I intentionally stopped
counting and focused on feeling. It could be as my brain recognized
the beats had a rhythm to them that it naturally wanted to subdivide
them. Maybe subdivision naturally happens after a beat is
internalized???

This is my experience and hopefully it will take less time for others.
This is for those who don’t already have a handle on the low BPM
territory. Many around here can already handle 20 BPM and lower but
my post is for the “regular folk.”
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Congrats! I think the easiest way is to just slowly work your way there over a period of several weeks, starting at 80-100 bpm (or wherever you can easily bury the click) and then decrease the bpm by 1-5 beats daily. And I think it’s easier to practice this with clapping instead of with sticks and a drum/drum pad.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I appreciate the time you put into this, and especially into writing about it in detail. Experimenting with time is good-- just understand that this is not how musical time actually works.

Issue to subdividing.

I intentionally started with not subdividing time since that was what
the original poster did. The strange thing is that as I got good and
was hitting beats at 15 and 20 BPMs, my brain started to subdivide. I
was suddenly counting without trying. I intentionally stopped
counting and focused on feeling. It could be as my brain recognized
the beats had a rhythm to them that it naturally wanted to subdivide
them. Maybe subdivision naturally happens after a beat is
internalized???
That's the thing: apart from being the tool professionals use to play difficult tempos, subdividing is also an ordinary, organic human process. Trying to force it not to happen— arbitrarily, based on a weightlifting-style theory of developing time sense— is kind of absurd. It's like a carpenter saying I really need to learn to build a house without a tape measure. Learning how to use it when playing real music is the actual entire job.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
That's the thing: apart from being the tool professionals use to play difficult tempos, subdividing is also an ordinary, organic human process. Trying to force it not to happen— arbitrarily, based on a weightlifting-style theory of developing time sense— is kind of absurd. It's like a carpenter saying I really need to learn to build a house without a tape measure. Learning how to use it when playing real music is the actual entire job.
Thank you. As a regular dude with some time on my hands, and who was going to wade into this territory for awhile, your analogy is quite enlightening.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Subdividing is a wonderful tool to use. I can do 20 BPM fairly easy if I subdivide. However, it's really hard for me to feel a 3 second gap between beats without subdividing. That's exactly why I do it, because its hard. If I had to perform at 20 BPM, you can be sure I would be subdividing. But for practice, I see it as a crutch for the goals I'm aiming for. Which is to drill myself in time, inside and out, until I am completely confident with my abilities.

It also strengthens my listening skills. When I do 20 BPM without subdividing, I listen for the decay of the drum as an indicator as to when to fire. I practice on a snare drum. So it both mentally strengthens and lengthens the amount of time I can go between hits, plus it helps to train my ear.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
Just wondering, but what exactly means “feeling the beat” at quarter note 20 BPM without subdividing..?

A “beat” and “feeling” suggest something musical to me, while to me this exercise or skill is not at all about that..
 

Noisy

Well-known member
Thanks for the replies and feedback. Subdivision does seem to be what the practicing drummer needs. I will let it happen sooner or later.

Maybe my post should have been put under music appreciation of 20 BPMs. 😀 Hearing a rhythm in slow tempos may allow me to hear someone’s music differently because I previously couldn’t appreciate/comprehend the far spaced rhythm. Subdividing would somewhat ruin the experience. I think 20 BPMs isn’t too far from a few measures (or one 63/8 polyrhythmic measure 😁) so being able to feel in larger chunks isn’t a bad thing to me.

It may be difficult to explain why the slow tempo is rhythmic/musical to me. When I hear a dance beat, I know it is musical. It is by feeling. Previously, when I heard 20 BPMs, the pulses were too far apart for my brain to connect them. Each beat had a randomness to them. It’s not a limit on brain capability but more like it isn’t important for living so I didn’t learn it. Using subdivisions, I could have started to count and figure out that a 20 BPMs time period is made up of four beats of 80 BPMs beats, which is way easier to keep time with. But if I did, I would be good at making beats on time but not have my brain sense a musical rhythm to 20 BPMs.

Feeling a rhythm at 20 BPMs wasn’t planned. It just started to happen after the hours were put in. No drugs were involved. 😁The time did include moving my hand to strict beats for hours so there is a body/mind training involved.

Edit: I used a practice pad for the majority of the time and didn’t use other sounds as a time reference. Just the metronome. I did try 10 minutes each of bass drum and hi hat as part of my experiment, which I did list previously.
 
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Noisy

Well-known member
Just wondering, but what exactly means “feeling the beat” at quarter note 20 BPM without subdividing..?

A “beat” and “feeling” suggest something musical to me, while to me this exercise or skill is not at all about that..
Hi. I commented a bit on this a little earlier but I’ll elaborate/speculate a bit here. Some of a person’s rhythm perspective is probably the conscious, subconscious and body anticipating and then actually hearing that another pulse appears equidistant in time from the prior chain. It is enjoyable.

If someone was playing a ride cymbal at 160 BPM, it would sound musical to many. If the guy kept slowing it down over a long period, sooner or later people would not call it musical at all. At what point each person no longer felt any rhythm may help indicate the drop off point. It is different for everyone. I just extended my “threshold for understanding” (or feeling or whatever it actually is).

The feeling portion was not the initial aim. It just happened. Maybe many others feel slow time as well. I think it will be useful in parallel with other timekeeping methods so I will keep at it for a while longer.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
My favorite thing about developing this ability is being able to instantly tell when a song playing on the radio was recorded without a click. It’s fun to know something like that without having to even turn on a metronome app.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..If someone was playing a ride cymbal at 160 BPM, it would sound musical to many. If the guy kept slowing it down over a long period, sooner or later people would not call it musical at all..

The intention of what i wrote was not about saying that a rhythm or a piece of music at a certain tempo is not musical anymore..

I also can understand the experiment, etc..

I just see little musical use with this..

In other words, i seriously doubt a drummer will groove harder, play better, sound better, will make the music sound better, etc only because he is able to bury the click at quarter note 15 or 20 BPM without subdividing..

For me, the musical value of an exercise is important, nothing else..
 
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Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
Just to be clear, I'm in favor of practicing with a slow click-- to learn how to subdivide consistently. I've written some other things that might help explain my thinking, at least, about this: Time and Whatnot, The Hard Way, Equivalency of Tempos. Also Dave Di Censo's book Rhythm & Drumming Demystified talks about similar things.
I'm actually working through Dave's book with him and you are right.
Learning to tap at 20-40 bpm without subdividing doesn't really take you where you want to go. You need to be able to subdivide every permutation of the particular rhythmic grid you are playing and develop the ability to move from one to another easily and gracefully.
Tapping along at 20 BPM won't point out to you that you tend to rush the "e" in a 16th note grid after ending the previous measure on the "and" of 4, for example.
We play music and that music is rhythmically subdivided. Any counting type exercise should acknowledge that fact.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
I'm actually working through Dave's book with him and you are right.
Learning to tap at 20-40 bpm without subdividing doesn't really take you where you want to go. You need to be able to subdivide every permutation of the particular rhythmic grid you are playing and develop the ability to move from one to another easily and gracefully.
Tapping along at 20 BPM won't point out to you that you tend to rush the "e" in a 16th note grid after ending the previous measure on the "and" of 4, for example.
We play music and that music is rhythmically subdivided. Any counting type exercise should acknowledge that fact.
My teacher, who was the timpanist with the Dallas Symphony for 50 years, said that subdividing is a crutch. I definitely agree that subdividing is an important part of the learning process, though. As is learning to feel slow beats WITHOUT subdividing. It’s ALL important to learn.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I don't see 20 BPM click burying practice as musical. That's not my intention at all. I look at it kind of like a runner training by running in sand. It strengthens basic skills, that's why I do it.

If my quarter note pulses are steady and don't waver, the subdivisions fall into place naturally. I can't imagine myself thinking 1 E AND A all the time.

I understand that people have different approaches and that's the way it's supposed to be. I just don't get it when a method that works for some people gets put on trial.

There are many equally worthy paths to the waterfall.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
There are many equally worthy paths to the waterfall.
So surely there's room for more than one opinion on this?

My teacher, who was the timpanist with the Dallas Symphony for 50 years, said that subdividing is a crutch. I definitely agree that subdividing is an important part of the learning process, though. As is learning to feel slow beats WITHOUT subdividing. It’s ALL important to learn.
Maybe it is a crutch and God will get me someday for having impure craft, I don't know. If we're relying on authorities for this, I trust people like Peter Erskine, who have commented on this, more than I trust any classical percussionist to understand a drummer's job. It is different when you're a timpanist and your job is to follow a conductor; in most situations, the drummer largely is the conductor.

The problem with longer spans of time is that our perception of them is totally unreliable. Even if you get really good at playing slow single pulses in the practice room, it's going to go right in the toilet as soon as you get into a pressure situation. Or just be totally useless, because there is very little call for slow, single pulses that are independently metronomically perfect. And since there's no way to check whether you're right or not without a metronome, what's really the point?

The whole idea is that we're trying to get a concept of time that is reliable in any performance situation, regardless of how excited or tired we are, or how pressured we're feeling. And regardless of how skilled we are, otherwise, or how much we've been practicing lately. That's the nature of production in any trade-- not just training athletically until you can build the Sears tower freehand without a tape measure or level.

I'm actually working through Dave's book with him and you are right.
Learning to tap at 20-40 bpm without subdividing doesn't really take you where you want to go. You need to be able to subdivide every permutation of the particular rhythmic grid you are playing and develop the ability to move from one to another easily and gracefully.
Respect-- I haven't been able to practice it much-- it's very hardcore. It's been really helpful just for general clarity on this-- having a defined universal method for developing time and execution, as a guide.

We play music and that music is rhythmically subdivided.
Exactly this. My whole thing has been moving towards a matrix conception of time and meter-- not emptying out the beat.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Thanks man! I love reading about what people feel when learning stuff. I remember the 20 bpm thread. the example was on youtube so it had a timer on it. I think I messed with it for like fifty some minutes after reading about it and had the inkling of the feel you describe.
I don't see how anything we learn correctly- as in accurately- can be anything but good.

So, here's a question for you:
having internalized this tempo, have you noticed it in life? And if so, do tell.
Because I know we are capable of internalizing long stretches intuitively. I can walk away from processes at work that take like ten and a half minutes and be back right on time every time with no effort at all just having practiced it for years.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Because I know we are capable of internalizing long stretches intuitively. I can walk away from processes at work that take like ten and a half minutes and be back right on time every time with no effort at all just having practiced it for years.
Without checking your watch? Pretty incredible.
Most people, if they are not shown or following a measure of time, will show up way early, or way late.
 
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