Rhythm perception

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I posted this on a quiet forum about 2 years ago and didn't really get a response, but I still think it's a reasonable idea.

Do you notice that the way you perceive rhythm varies from time to time?

Let's say you're playing and you think you're not making it feel good. Then you listen back to a recording and it's actually really good.

Or you go to see a show and you think the drummer is having an off night. Then you watch a dvd of it and then you realize he was on fire.

And then reviewing either of those later on, you change your mind back. Or vice versa, you thought it was good but upon reviewing the same music you think it's bad.

I definitely notice this myself, not all the time but sometimes. I guess it's probably difficult to document but there are times that this wreaks havoc in my music/drumming life. Like when I'm recording or playing a show and trying to summon the magic.


all of the above brother

there have been nights live where I thought I was on fire and had a blast....then I would listen back to the board recording and ......it's not terrible...just doesn't feel right ...and definitely doesn't sound as good as I felt playing it and I could hear my excitement and adrenaline

there have been hundreds of times in the studio where during a take I am thinking ...this is definitely NOT a keeper....then I go in the control room and listen back and it is a brilliant lively great feeling creative take.....I have actually thought to myself....is that what we just recorded...sometimes I go out and get a breath of fresh air then come back and make the engineer play it back again.....I've even done another take after that one and felt it was better while playing then listen to both back to back and the one I hated while recording is still better

very odd and there is no explanation

what I thought you meant when I read the thread title was something I experience quite often .

when hearing a tune for the first time I often hear the rhythm upsidedown ....or the reverse of what it actually turns out to be

like I'll hear it backward ...the down beat as the upbeat ...then the rest of the music will kick in and I'll realize I was hearing it wrong ......a little twilight zone moment ....and most of the time I like what I originally heard better


Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Interesting questions.

I have noticed that sometimes I feel I had an off night and that I did not play well. And then that same night some drummer tells me I sounded great.

There is a deep emotional element to playing and listening to music. Consequently knowing and/or agreeing on whether music sounds good or bad is very difficult and subjective.

Also, if you are not completely sober (no drugs or alcohol) all bets are off as far as how well you think you are playing and how well you think others are playing.



Silver Member
There's also the "micro-timing" sensation that I get when I'm playing and in certain measures I totally know that I just played something a hair out of time, and it bugs me for a measure or so, and I know that everyone in the whole world must have just noticed that and I"M SO EMBARRASSED OMG WHAT WILL EVERYONE THINK....and then I watch the video or listen to the recording of the gig and I don't even notice any of that. The dancers kept dancing and the band kept rocking and no one but me even had a hint that something was a little off. :)


"Uncle Larry"
Yea agreed Dre, perceptions are funny things. The goal, is to have no discrepancy between your perceptions and the actual reality. The recorder is your savior there. It's the only tool I know that can help with reconciling the playing to the listening back. Like if you listen back and it matches up with what you thought went on onstage...that's a good thing. I record myself so much that I don't usually have any surprises anymore.

Like hearing your recorded voice for the first time, you say, "I sound like THAT?" After a while you learn to accept the sound of your voice, and after more time you realize you don't sound as bad as you thought, and after more time you might even grow to like your voice. Your voice didn't change but your perceptions did. Perceptions completely affect your mental outlook, for better or worse. So it's best to try and perceive things as they actually are.... as they are happening. Means listening honestly without your emotions or adrenaline clouding your perceptions. Again, the recorder will show you the way forward there.

On a positive note, sometimes when I fumble a stick, or something comes out a little wacky...it doesn't sound as bad on the recording as I thought it would. Another reason not to grimace when something strays from the plan. Never never let on that you messed up, it just subtracts from the audiences perceptions.

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Larry you just highlighted something that I should prob clear up.

I experience this even when watching or listening to the same recording twice. So it's not a drum throne vs mixing desk/sofa thing. I could be watching a YouTube video that I go to for inspiration and some days I just don't feel it, as though my internal measure of rhythm is different at different times.


Junior Member
Perception of rhythm most definitely varies. For me, it is pretty frequent, and fortunately seems to be much more in my head than outside it. I've even gone so far as to apologize to my bandmates, only to have them stare blankly at me at times. Part of it, is definitely mental. Otherwise, I see it being a general combination of physical status, emotionality, and whether or not I can "shut off" my brain and just play, etc, that all ends up coming out and what perception I have of it depends on how I feel it as I play it. Since music is by nature expressive, whatever is "pent up" tends to release when playing. It is hard not to have a mis-perception on occasion.

Perception is 9-tenths of the law right?

It happens to all of us. I tend to automatically physically move along to grooves and let the body movement be sort of a guide when all else fails. Now...when that movement is off...I remind myself I am human and therefore am prone to a flawed view of reality from time to time.


Platinum Member
Well, one of my rules is that you're always playing better than you think you are. It seems like no matter how lame I think a performance was, when I hear the recording-- after a long enough interval that I forgot what I was trying to do, and how I felt in the moment-- it always turns out to be reasonably good, or actually good. Obviously, if you're making a lot of gross errors or lapses in taste, and there's a lot objectively wrong with your playing, that won't be the case, but if you're basically doing your job, and it's just a matter of normal taste, or inspiration, or of feeling like you're grooving and playing great, then, yes, you're going to sound fine, or better.

You just have to have faith that you know what you're doing, and that if you're laying the notes down basically in their proper place, it's going to sound good no matter how you feel about it when you're doing it. It sucks to go through life being a competent player, but feeling bad about your playing half the time because you and the band are not feeling A Love Supreme-level bliss at the moment.


"Uncle Larry"
Larry you just highlighted something that I should prob clear up.

I experience this even when watching or listening to the same recording twice. So it's not a drum throne vs mixing desk/sofa thing. I could be watching a YouTube video that I go to for inspiration and some days I just don't feel it, as though my internal measure of rhythm is different at different times.
Yes, I'm not immune from that either. I'll make a "decision" about a song (it dragged, it rushed, whatever...) and upon further listening, I reverse my decision. So what is a person to do when they can't even trust their own decisions/perceptions?

I like dancing naked outdoors lol. Who cares? I'm doing the best I can lol.

But really, we are at the mercy of our own brains sometimes.