My sense of time and accuracy sucks. How to practice?

eddypierce

Senior Member
Many ideas and concepts to toss out there but start by playing whole notes at 35 BPM - no faster.

Then the table of time at 35 BPM - no faster.

Then everything you're currently shedding at 35 BPM - no faster.

Then up the click to 40 BPM and repeat.
Just wanted to chime in by agreeing with the idea of practicing things very slowly (which Tony and others have also emphasized). I've spent a fair amount of time practicing drum set grooves as well as hand technique exercises super slowly (for example, with the quarter note on the metronome being set anywhere from 40 to 60 bpm), and it's been very helpful in improving my precision/accuracy and overall timekeeping. Try practicing the single beat exercises from Stick Control at quarter note=60 for 15-30 minutes per day. Or practice some drum set grooves at 40-60 for 30 minutes. Resist the urge to bump up the metronome speed once it feels like you are getting a handle on the patterns--continue to sit at the slow tempo for a while longer (over the course of a practice session, or a period of days, or even weeks), and I think you'll find that your timekeeping and consistency will improve quite a bit. Just remember to stay focused while playing at the slow tempo, and really concentrate on the quality and consistency of your sound.
 

Lennytoons

Senior Member
+1 on the click. I still use an old school metronome when I practice. I also play to a lot of Motown...the grooves just don't get any better. Lots of the old stuff has simple fills but if you can jump in that groove...and stay there. Your body and brain will like it there. Oh, my mistake when I practice is not relaxing enough. Concentrating and relaxing sometimes conflict.
 
Hello matey,

This is just my opinion, but I found the best way to practice time is to play along to music. Preferably your favourite bands.

Learning from the drum masters helps to inspire and give me more practice ideas as well.

Most of my time is now spent learning other drummers parts for my drum lesson website and I consider my timing to be pretty proficient.

You can check it out below if you like...

Rob
 

ValboWorship

Junior Member
Resurrecting an old thread here.

I've recently fallen into this rabbit hole of suddenly being aware that my micro timing is off, and it has distracted me to such an extent that I can't really play or practice anything else lest I exacerbate the problem.

I understand that improving time at very slow tempos (35bpm quarter notes) is the way to go, but how can one actually practice hitting the click perfectly with a single limb?

My process goes like this: I record myself playing to a click, then I listen to it and try to identify where I'm off and whether I'm late or early. This is mostly for ear training. I then check the recorded hits against the grid in my daw to see how I fared.

I'm completely unable to get four hits in a row 100% lined up with the grid. (I have some margin for error, it's OK if the line is somewhere around the peak of the sound wave, it's inaudible to me)

How do I improve this skill? Usually when I'm unable to do something perfectly I break it down to its smallest components and practice them separately, which is what led me to this in the first place. But I don't know how to make it any simpler than lining up with a pulse.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
How do I improve this skill? Usually when I'm unable to do something perfectly I break it down to its smallest components and practice them separately, which is what led me to this in the first place. But I don't know how to make it any simpler than lining up with a pulse.
Hi VW,

In the past, when I've done what you are doing it actually inadvertently made things worse for me. Part of the deal was that it opened the door to anxiety as I tried to focus more and more on hitting those quarter notes as precisely as possible. Instead of improving my time, I became more anxious and uncertain.

You might try going in the opposite direction with this and give yourself a rhythm (maybe even with a melody) to sing or "hear" in your head. Todd Bishop offers an excellent explanation on why this approach might work better than focusing on a solid pulse:

Jason, the idea is that there's more to hang onto with a mixed rhythm than there is just an even string of pulses-- a rhythm is more specific-- it has an identifiable shape, and it's easier to tell if it's distorting. Playing based on even pulses, and just trying to get the rate right, maybe partially relying on muscle memory-- I think it just leaves you open to rushing or dragging because of what you feel or hear. I've heard a lot of other people besides Brown give that advice-- it's not wrong, and obviously it works well enough for many people that they continue saying it, but by itself it's not enough for me.

To do my thing you just have to be thinking rhythm all the time-- you practice a lot out of Reed so whatever you do on the drums, you're just thinking a single source rhythm. When practicing written-out patterns, you reduce them to one rhythm, be able to count that, then play the pattern. Awareness of how parts interlock helps, too-- paying attention to your coordination, and to how the things you play fit together with things played by any rhythmically reliable people you play with.

When you get used to thinking that way, it becomes pretty effortless and simultaneous-- you don't have to be thinking out the rhythm verbally or anything. It just takes reasonable focus to keep your time on the money. For me it's easier and more reliable than trying to call the subdivisions exactly consistently for 3-7 minutes of musical activity.
That quote comes from this thread, BTW, which you might also find helpful.

Jason
 

ValboWorship

Junior Member
Thank you spleeeeen, that's really helpful!

I've definitely become more anxious and uncertain. I practice at a place where there are always people hanging around in the lounging area outside of the room and I can't even bring myself to practice anything at all because I'm so self conscious about the timing issues.

Are there any other techniques I might try besides humming a melody or rhythm in my head in between beats?
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Also recording yourself because sometimes rhythms can feel different to how they sound - so when I feel I'm burning I'm often speeding, when feeling rock solid I might be dragging at times, and what feels dynamic while I'm playing has at times sounded more "lumpy" than anything on the playback.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
Thank you spleeeeen, that's really helpful!

I've definitely become more anxious and uncertain. I practice at a place where there are always people hanging around in the lounging area outside of the room and I can't even bring myself to practice anything at all because I'm so self conscious about the timing issues.

Are there any other techniques I might try besides humming a melody or rhythm in my head in between beats?
Thanks for the thread you linked VW! It's one of the richer conversations I've seen and I somehow missed when it was new.

Lots of ways to go at this but since you mentioned anxiety and uncertainty, resources that connect mindfulness practice with instrument practice might be especially useful. These would include some books mentioned on that thread (Effortless Master, Inner Game of Music, etc.) or something like Inner Drumming by George Marsh (http://www.shermusic.com/188321789X.php).

As I understand it, these kinds ideas and practices address problems with what is conceptualized as your autonomic nervous system. ANS is thought of as having two branches, the sympathetic ("fight or flight" response associated with anxiety, worry, fear, etc.) and parasympathetic ("rest and digest" response associated with being calm, present, grounded and connected).

The idea is to practice spending more time with your instrument while in a space dominated by the parasympathetic. It might even be that for this portion of your practice time, you're not caring at all about timing because that's not what this about; what it is about is giving your nervous system "practice" time to float around in that parasympathetic space. It can be one of those paradoxical things where if you let go and don't care so much, you actually get better at the thing you care about.

Okay, one more resource you might find useful: A DVD called The Art & Science of GROOVE by Benny Greb. For this video, Benny essentially put together a collection of "tried and true" time development practices that he explains and demonstrates with clarity.

Play around with this stuff, find out what things are a better fit for helping you move in the direction you're wanting to go, and remember to have fun with it!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
FWIW, I am finding out that my own inner peace really helps with time. In other words, If I am anxious, nervous, feeling not centered....that messes with my time.
So I try and really relax myself, and get that feeling that Jason described, being calm, present, grounded and connected. (great stuff Jason!) The weather in my head should be sunny and calm for me to play my best. No outside distractions to prevent me from centering myself. Being in a state of mild meditation beats being uptight about something, as far as my time feel goes.

Also, I try and shut off my conscious mind. Don't think. Feel. It's hard to empty your mind, but it's oh so effective.

The more I think or worry about my time while I play, the worse it gets. That's a definite enemy, fretting about whether my time is right or not.

That only happens when I am called out on something. Trying to not let it affect me is the challenge presently, and I am making progress.

Being centered myself is the best thing I can do for my time, after studying with a click of course.
 
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ShadoWReX

Member
After playing for many years and being called out on my 'wavering meter', it hit me... Above all else -drummers are the meter... first and foremost... it's great to see a drummer at blazing speed or playing a complicated pattern, but if he/she wavers in tempo, or wavering in what they are really in the band to do (keeping time) they have let themselves and the other members down -as the whole group suffers..
OK... enough of my soap box rants...
About 20 years ago I got a small metronome with an ear piece and have been using it ever since. I warm up with it (singles, doubles, triples, paradiddles, etc), I work out of my books to it and play around the whole kit to it.
Usually I vary the tempo of the metronome several times during practice, just to insure consistency at varying speeds.
I started working with a solo bassist who asked if he could try something with me that -up to that point- no other drummer could do and that was to play along with a looper. We tried it and it worked, we ended up doing some tasty recordings using the looper. Have to say that without using the metronome for years I doubt it would have gone as smoothly as it did.
John Lennon used Andy Newmark in his later years and when asked why, Lennon said "because he's always in the pocket'... wouldn't be surprised Mr Newmark used a metronome...
 

ValboWorship

Junior Member
Lots of ways to go at this but since you mentioned anxiety and uncertainty, resources that connect mindfulness practice with instrument practice might be especially useful. These would include some books mentioned on that thread (Effortless Master, Inner Game of Music, etc.) or something like Inner Drumming by George Marsh (http://www.shermusic.com/188321789X.php).

As I understand it, these kinds ideas and practices address problems with what is conceptualized as your autonomic nervous system. ANS is thought of as having two branches, the sympathetic ("fight or flight" response associated with anxiety, worry, fear, etc.) and parasympathetic ("rest and digest" response associated with being calm, present, grounded and connected).

The idea is to practice spending more time with your instrument while in a space dominated by the parasympathetic. It might even be that for this portion of your practice time, you're not caring at all about timing because that's not what this about; what it is about is giving your nervous system "practice" time to float around in that parasympathetic space. It can be one of those paradoxical things where if you let go and don't care so much, you actually get better at the thing you care about.
I know the basic concept from "Effortless Mastery" through listening to Drummer's resource podcast, and I've been trying to plan my practice sessions by breaking it down into chunks that can be mastered in 3-4 hours, which is also partly what lead me to this predicament since I don't know how to break it down more.

As I mentioned, right now I'm not practicing anything else than trying to play quarter notes or eighth notes in time slowly because I'm afraid to just ingrain the bad time in my muscle memory. If I understand you correctly, it might not be optimal to only practice while obsessing about something? How would I go about getting into this parasympathetic space? It sounds like you mean "letting go" and "just play" and this is very difficult for me at the moment. Before, that was all I did, but since waking up from The Matrix I'm a 100 % aware of everything I'm doing wrong at any given moment. There's even a part of me worrying about the things I probably dont' know about.

Okay, one more resource you might find useful: A DVD called The Art & Science of GROOVE by Benny Greb. For this video, Benny essentially put together a collection of "tried and true" time development practices that he explains and demonstrates with clarity.
I'm a huge fan of his and I have his first DVD. I've been wanting to get that one for a while. I guess I'll just be ordering it it then :)

Play around with this stuff, find out what things are a better fit for helping you move in the direction you're wanting to go, and remember to have fun with it!
I'm gonna try enjoying the process. I don't mind putting in the hours, but it's frustrating when you don't know how to practice something. Repetitive practice I find easy and enjoyable. I don't know if it's comforting or unnerving, but Mike Dawson mentioned working on this for 5-6 years and still being frustrated so it's not just me.
 

ValboWorship

Junior Member
FWIW, I am finding out that my own inner peace really helps with time. In other words, If I am anxious, nervous, feeling not centered....that messes with my time.
So I try and really relax myself, and get that feeling that Jason described, being calm, present, grounded and connected. (great stuff Jason!) The weather in my head should be sunny and calm for me to play my best. No outside distractions to prevent me from centering myself. Being in a state of mild meditation beats being uptight about something, as far as my time feel goes.

Also, I try and shut off my conscious mind. Don't think. Feel. It's hard to empty your mind, but it's oh so effective.

The more I think or worry about my time while I play, the worse it gets. That's a definite enemy, fretting about whether my time is right or not.

That only happens when I am called out on something. Trying to not let it affect me is the challenge presently, and I am making progress.

Being centered myself is the best thing I can do for my time, after studying with a click of course.
As I mentioned, there are always people hanging out outside of my rehearsal room, and some of them are even professional drummers. This is an incredibly stressful situation for me. Every time I go there I feel like apologising for being there, or even existing.

I used to play in bands back in the unconscious incompetence phase before I realised how much I suck. I would rarely be anxious or nervous on stage, I would just listen intently on the rest of the band. Once I snapped out of it I can't seem to get back in, and for some reason the practice situation is the absolute worst. Not sure where I'm going with this besides airing frustration.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Play to a click track ALL the time.

Use a gap click when you feel comfortable with the click.

Change the BPM every few days.. Learn each beat, each groove, each fill at different bpms and work on NAILING the click on the 1.

Fills are the most common thing to speed up and slow down. That and unfamiliar grooves.

If you get sick of it find some music to jam out to. Most bands record to a click so playing to a song has the same effect. Just make sure it's it's not a band that didn't use one and the tempo is all over the place. haha
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
FWIW, I am finding out that my own inner peace really helps with time. In other words, If I am anxious, nervous, feeling not centered....that messes with my time.
So I try and really relax myself, and get that feeling that Jason described, being calm, present, grounded and connected. (great stuff Jason!) The weather in my head should be sunny and calm for me to play my best. No outside distractions to prevent me from centering myself. Being in a state of mild meditation beats being uptight about something, as far as my time feel goes.

Also, I try and shut off my conscious mind. Don't think. Feel. It's hard to empty your mind, but it's oh so effective.

The more I think or worry about my time while I play, the worse it gets. That's a definite enemy, fretting about whether my time is right or not.

That only happens when I am called out on something. Trying to not let it affect me is the challenge presently, and I am making progress.

Being centered myself is the best thing I can do for my time, after studying with a click of course.
This is so true and accurate. I had this experience last night in the studio, after a pretty trying day (see my other thread). We rewrote major portions of two songs, meaning we needed new drum tracks. The first song we tracked, I'd previously nailed in two or three takes; this time, it wasn't happening at all. I came back after dinner and a break and got two excellent takes, feeling much more relaxed and at peace. Headed back in tonight to slay the second one; just hoping for a much calmer day at work.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
I know the basic concept from "Effortless Mastery" through listening to Drummer's resource podcast, and I've been trying to plan my practice sessions by breaking it down into chunks that can be mastered in 3-4 hours, which is also partly what lead me to this predicament since I don't know how to break it down more.
But, unless I'm not understanding you correctly, it sounds like "breaking it down more" isn't helping and is maybe making it worse? I gather you're super motivated to get better and have the work ethic to put in the time and effort. But I think that kind of focus and determination can inadvertently become problematic if anxiety and worry start creeping into the process. Neither of those are conducive to playing good time as they interfere with our ability to hold onto something loosely, to notice it but not dwell on it.

You might try limiting the amount of time you work on something before moving on to work on something else. I would say that as soon as you start feeling anxiety/worry compromising your practice in a bad way, stop doing that exercise and practice something else, even if you only end up doing 5 minutes. Come back to it tomorrow. Another paradox: By going slow (i.e., a little each day) you can get better faster.


If I understand you correctly, it might not be optimal to only practice while obsessing about something?
I don't think it's optimal because your nervous system is being trained to be in that "obsessive" state when you play your instrument. And that seems to work against what you're trying to achieve.

How would I go about getting into this parasympathetic space?
One possible route is Mindfulness Meditation. This is a good place to start: https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-how-to-do-it/

In essence, you sit, you notice your breath, eventually your focus gets pulled up into a thought stream and as soon as you notice that, you bring your focus back to your breath. Repeat. Set a timer for 5 minutes and when that goes off, you're done, and you continue going on with your day. Then, do it again tomorrow.

It's important to remember that when you do this, you're not worrying about how "good" of a meditator you are, how much you're focusing on your breath, how often you get pulled into the thought stream, how long it takes to realize you're in the thought stream, whether or not you're getting "better" at it, etc. You're just doing it. It's like when you bush your teeth: You're probably not worrying about how good of a tooth brushing job you're doing, if your tooth brushing technique is better than it was yesterday, and if it's worse, what does that say about your competency as a human being, and this means you're a failure at life, etc. You just brush your teeth and move on.

In addition to a daily routine, you can do a bit of mindfulness here and there and include it in your drumming practice. Among other things, it might help you to get out from under the "gaze" of the people hanging outside of your practice room.

sounds like you mean "letting go" and "just play" and this is very difficult for me at the moment.
No, I don't mean that. If only it were that simple, eh? ;-)

...since waking up from The Matrix I'm a 100 % aware of everything I'm doing wrong at any given moment. There's even a part of me worrying about the things I probably dont' know about.
Yep, this is what anxiety does. It likely kept our earliest ancestors alive longer because worrying about everything kept them on guard against predators, the elements, other people, etc. Most of us don't require that level of worry these days. I've always made it home from work without being attacked by a hungry animal or having a group of people attack me and take my shit. But unfortunately, we're equipped with the "old model" nervous system. In a relatively short amount of time, we've evolved much further socially than we have biologically.

I don't mind putting in the hours, but it's frustrating when you don't know how to practice something. Repetitive practice I find easy and enjoyable. I don't know if it's comforting or unnerving, but Mike Dawson mentioned working on this for 5-6 years and still being frustrated so it's not just me.
No, it's not just you. And (for me anyway) it's a lifelong process, an apprenticeship without end, but in a good way. I hope I never feel like I've got nothing to work on.
 
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MJD

Silver Member
When i was in HS and having trouble with staying in time at certain tempos(a common problem with young drummers, we have go to tempos which are solid but then have trouble with others) my band teacher handed me a metronome and told me to set it to the tempo i was having trouble with and walk around with it. You'll get funny looks walking around with the metronome going but it helped immensely. Nowadays i suppose you could get a phone app and use headphones but we're talking about an era before the iPhone.
 

ValboWorship

Junior Member
...worrying about how good of a tooth brushing job you're doing, if your tooth brushing technique is better than it was yesterday, and if it's worse, what does that say about your competency as a human being, and this means you're a failure at life, etc.
Haha, this sounds all too familiar.

I've had some small improvements (that's all I need to keep me motivated).

One thing that helps me is paying careful attention the wind-up of each limb and relate it to a subdivision. This has especially improved my kick.

Not sure if this makes sense, but I have improved limb synchronicity by discovering that I have to think about trying to do ultra close flams in a specific order, hat, then snare, then kick for all together. I'm not actually trying to flam them, but thinking about it like that somehow lands them more on top of each other.

Also, for the muscle memory practice, I discovered that I play more accurately if I play to a drum machine playing the exact thing I'm working on, since it's easier to determine if I'm late or early and can make adjustments accordingly.
 
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