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  1. #1

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    I find this tricky. I can do medium-fast tempo tunes fine with a metronome no problem, but I find anything below 60 tough. I think of ballad-phrasing kinda different from medium-fast tempo tunes too. I feel I have good time generally over ballads, but was just wondering if anyone does this and found it benefitial?
    Last edited by whippersnapper; 01-02-2010 at 09:48 AM.

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  3. #2

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    I'd say practice everything w. metronome and above all Ballads especially!

    One of my favorite experiences was playing Ballads with this bass player once at a clinic and he started to walk, sort of hinting double time and the clinician went up to the bass player and demanded he not play double time and said.

    "it's a ballad, play it like a ballad"

    It should be slow and emotive. I realized in my life that anytime I played a ballad that rhythm players would get double time happening for no reason other then it helped their own ability to feel the beat in a smaller subdivision and they were unable to pocket that for themselves. Meaning they couldn't count their subdivision and play a longer one to keep the tempo steady.

    Since then I worked methodically at ballad playing and did so with a Metronome set between 50 and 72 depending on how I felt. 72 imo is the absolute fastest ballad tempo, anything faster just sort of feels too rushed to me (just my personal thing) and anything below 50 is too drawn out. Although once played a ballad in a jam session at 40 and it was extremely fun, just it's pretty hard to find guys to trust at that slow a tempo.

    I want to play ballads all the time as there are just some amazing Ballad players that I work with.

    Long and short, use a metronome. Subdivide accurately and you'll havce no issue.

  4. #3

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    Thanks Jake...I always play ballads, relatively slowly, and never use my metronome. Now I will start!!! Sounds like good advice.

    Sailor

  5. #4

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    I find playing slow with a metronome is MUCH harder than playing upbeat.

  6. #5

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    A bass player friend of mine took some lessons from Rufus Reid, and Rufus told him that he should learn every tune as a ballad, even if it's an uptempo one. I've found doubling up the metronome setting helps at first to get the subdivisions internalized. After you're comfortable with that then just make them quarters.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Hanlon
    Since then I worked methodically at ballad playing and did so with a Metronome set between 50 and 72 depending on how I felt. 72 imo is the absolute fastest ballad tempo, anything faster just sort of feels too rushed to me (just my personal thing) and anything below 50 is too drawn out. Although once played a ballad in a jam session at 40 and it was extremely fun, just it's pretty hard to find guys to trust at that slow a tempo.
    Thanks, I really appreciate the advice. I actually just tried a ballad with a metronome on 50 and I could play it confidentally. Just seemed a little rushed for me...

    I tend to practise ballads on band in a box at around 70-80 so on a metronome that's like 30-40 which is what I really struggle with! Mabye I am just playing 'em too slow...

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by whippersnapper
    I tend to practise ballads on band in a box at around 70-80 so on a metronome that's like 30-40 which is what I really struggle with! Mabye I am just playing 'em too slow...
    No such thing as too slow, in practicing at least. Slow tempos are the hardest to hold, for individual players and ensembles as well. The measure of a good rhythm section is it's ability to hold a slow tempo.

    All of Jake's advice is gospel.

    Find a good looking metronome and marry it.

    john

    Also what kind of metronome are you using? There should not be that much difference in the tempos between BIAB and the metronome. If your using the old 'Franz' type electric metronome which has a piston that clicks against the interior of the case, it may require recalibration as the vibrations tend to knock the metronome out of calibration over time.
    Last edited by John Curran; 01-02-2010 at 05:36 PM. Reason: Additional thought

  9. #8

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    My rule is don't practice anything without a metronome, whether ballads or uptempo. Both extremes present their own challenges, and some players specialize in one or the other. Ballads are all about mood, so just doubling up to make up for lost sustain on a guitar isn't going to do the tune justice, unless you are Pat Martino. Martin Taylor is a great ballad player, or someone like Jim Hall. Listen and analyze what they do, not just the notes they play. Are they inside the tune's mood? How they use silence, rhythmical ideas, chordal flourishes, and never get ahead of the beat, or rush things.

  10. #9

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    When playing very slow tempos, I like to have no sound on the metronome.. with only having a good visual keeping the tempo... I found that the Matrix Mr 600 has a great sound like the Franz but the visuals let you see in between the beat... this works out great for tunes below 60 bpm..

    I got my metronome at .... metronomes.net... they have a sound file so you can hear how close it is to the Franz...

    I play on a very old Howard Roberts ... (round hole) and also a Benedetto Bravo....

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by whippersnapper
    I find this tricky. I can do medium-fast tempo tunes fine with a metronome no problem, but I find anything below 60 tough. I think of ballad-phrasing kinda different from medium-fast tempo tunes too. I feel I have good time generally over ballads, but was just wondering if anyone does this and found it benefitial?
    Interesting, I went through my chord melody repertoire today, did every tune as a very slow ballad to the 'nome. I learned a lot. Some of the quicker tunes were on automatic pilot and played slowly I had to think! Thought I had an original idea til I checked this thread! I want to tighten up my ballad playing, it's what I seem to be really good at. I enjoy the way chords develop when held out.

    I much prefer to only have the metronome click on 2 and 4 for time keeping though.

  12. #11

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    I think it's great to practice all tunes both burnin' and as ballads. Very challenging depending on the tune. Sometimes some interesting results. I had a verrrrrry slow arrangement of Countdown I used to do as a duo with horn.

    Definitely great to shed ballads with a metronome. I have an app on my iphone called webmetronome, it can go down to literally one beat per minute. Great to feel time at ridiculously slow tempos, or feel the half note at ballad tempo, which can be as slow as 25 bpm.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek
    I find playing slow with a metronome is MUCH harder than playing upbeat.

    the best jazz player I have known said, it's easier to play fast than to play slow.

    for some very beautiful slow playing l really like the album with herby hancock, michael brecker, pat methane, jack de johnette,

    named

    Michael Brecker - Nearness Of You: The Ballad Book CD Album

    very Beautiful music.

  14. #13

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    pat methane

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by markf
    pat methane
    I got that on autocorrect the other day

  16. #15

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    Learning to swing at extreme slow tempos will greatly improve your overall feel.
    This is different than slowing down with the goal of perfecting technical execution.
    This can be done with any tune, not just limited to ballads and it is very challenging.

  17. #16

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    The same here. Slow tempos are the hardest. These days I mostly play 4-to-the bar swing rhythm and there it's not good enough to be almost there. One got to be exactly there or the whole band falls apart. I use a metronome most of the time when practicing. Charlton Johnson suggests in his book on Freddie Green style comping that one should have the metronome play half time to mimic the high hat on 2 and 4. Try that at 45/min.
    Last edited by oldane; 05-16-2011 at 01:47 PM.

  18. #17

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    I don't use a metronome much--they irritate me after a while. I usually open up Band in a Box, pick a rhythm and tempo, and mute everything except the drums. For some reason, I find this much easier to deal with than a metronome (and I get to hear how I'm swinging too...)

  19. #18

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    I sat in a lesson with a bass player friend being taught be Chris Tarry, whose time feel is for lack of a better word, perfect. One of the most insane exercises I have ever seen anybody doll out started as a pretty simple one. He said 'play 16th notes and every group accent the next 16th note' which sounds pretty simple. But then he set the metronome on his iphone to like 35 bbm, and then used that as the click for 4 beats, and then played 16th notes for a whole bar, while displacing accents, keeping them in perfect time, is pretty insane, even just on one note. Explains how he has such an epic feel for time though. I gave up on it pretty quick.

    You should always have something keeping time when you practice. It is important to develop good time feel. It is harder for slower tunes, but that makes it even more important. The best ballad players keep a lot of space, but have the grid locked down in good time.

  20. #19

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    Yeah! Keeping on the beat in slower songs can definitely be a challenge. You just have to let go and trust the rhythm. Tolerating the emotion and the pulse is not an easy thing to do. Listen to some old R & B songs like "Rainy Night in Georgia" or a slower Aretha song and you can hear the bass player very often playing just one note every measure. It tantalizes and stretches the imagination.

    I think using a metronome or any kind of "clock" is a very good way to get comfortable with feeling the beat, but I think you can also expand your rhythmic skills and sense of timing by slowing down the inner conversation, acknowledging when your mind is racing, and taking a few deep breaths.

    I know, I know - I'm getting a little philosophical and mystical - I can't help myself

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by vsaumarez
    My rule is don't practice anything without a metronome, whether ballads or uptempo. Both extremes present their own challenges, and some players specialize in one or the other. Ballads are all about mood, so just doubling up to make up for lost sustain on a guitar isn't going to do the tune justice, unless you are Pat Martino. Martin Taylor is a great ballad player, or someone like Jim Hall. Listen and analyze what they do, not just the notes they play. Are they inside the tune's mood? How they use silence, rhythmical ideas, chordal flourishes, and never get ahead of the beat, or rush things.
    This is a good advice. Singing your musical ideas and playing them is a great way to more melodic and musical approach. That's exactly what Jim Hall's playing is all about. Another great example is Stan Getz. Take one of his solos and learn it. Metronome at 50 or 60 is generally a good approach to ballad playing. I usually put metronome in quarter notes when playing ballads but in faster medium tempo and uptempo tunes I have usually
    metronome at 2 and 4.

  22. #21

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    In very small tempos, I count 16th note subdivisions until I got the groove and don't have to.

    1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a ... ... ...

  23. #22

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    The secret of successful ballad playing, for me, is to keep a moving tempo without being dragged down by rubato/personal effects. If it drags too much, it dies musically. If it's too tempo driven, it looses personality. Here's the master, however, it helps to have a bass player . . . Play live . . . Marinero


  24. #23

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    Learn to play it like Shirley Horn. One can only play faster from there. Shirley knew how to milk a Ballad!

  25. #24

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    I think there's benefit in going both with and without the gnome; different challenges. We of course want to be able to play in time, but there's nothing wrong with phrasing more expressively and not necessarily always as clear/familiar subdivisions of a pulse. Similarly, playing ballads with others, sometimes everybody is working off a rhythmic grid and sometimes people are a bit looser and relying on each other for harmonic cues. I suppose a useful 'best of both worlds' activity to tackle either extreme is to have the metronome on but feel comfortable ignoring it for varying durations (like 1,2,3, or 4 measures, for example) and being able to come back in on the correct bar and beat.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    If it drags too much, it dies musically. If it's too tempo driven, it loses personality.
    That's it, precisely.

    It's very difficult by oneself. It's easier with a band because the drums and bass can keep a movement going, obvious or underlying. However a lot of jazz tunes are really quite indistinct and it's not easy to keep it together.

    Your Chet Baker vid is a good case in point. You're not always getting a solid 1 beat, or 1 and 3, there are gaps. I know the clever people will talk about training, practice, and all that, but it's still not a simple thing.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Epistrophy
    I usually put metronome in quarter notes when playing ballads ...
    Same here for practice:


  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geechnyc
    Same here for practice:

    Very complex and very well played. And, is that a Super400?
    The guitar sounds really nice as well.
    Excellent.

  29. #28

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    Thanks for your kind words: it's a 1973 Super 400 CES that I had refretted.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geechnyc
    Same here for practice:

    Yes, well played indeed, but music isn't so precise! What happens when you do it with expression?

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Yes, well played indeed, but music isn't so precise! What happens when you do it with expression?
    Thank you! When I am not 'practicing with a metronome', then I might instead be performing the piece, in the hope that having worked with that timekeeping tool, which mercilessly exposes weaknesses in articulation and tendencies to rush or drag passages, will have enhanced my expressive ability.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geechnyc
    Thank you! When I am not 'practicing with a metronome', then I might instead be performing the piece, in the hope that having worked with that timekeeping tool, which mercilessly exposes weaknesses in articulation and tendencies to rush or drag passages, will have enhanced my expressive ability.
    Absolutely. Of course it's fully possible to play with great expression without losing time. It's a sort of an anomaly really because you'd think that a lot of expressive pauses, emphases, dynamics, and so on, would take you outside the beat, but apparently they don't. I suppose they kind of hover around it. Playing rubato, of course, is different.

  33. #32

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    You should always practice with a metronome until you have such a strong internal tempo that you can mute it, then come back measures later and still be on the beat. Another tool is to turn the metronome down to 10bpm. If you can't stay on the beat, you need more practice.

  34. #33

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    I’ve practiced and recorded a lot with a metronome recently, and it’s got to the point where Stevie Wonder sounds out of time lol. Playing finally with other musicians is a shock too.

  35. #34

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    I thought this was an interesting video


    There is a note of controversy about using a metronome to practice. In fact not every musician endorses it. Many great musicians did not practice with a metronome and learned their time feel ‘on the bandstand’ with experienced older musicians and demanding dancers. And that’s not just old school players; Robert Glasper has expressed frustration at the metronome obsession of modern jazz edu.

    I suspect metronome practice became established in jazz education during the late 60s; but Tristano was already recommending it before then. (Whether or not Tristano’s empirical concept of time feel relates to African American bop is actually a complex and interesting issue.)

    Tristano at 100 | DO THE M@TH

    I would say that the competent modern musician develops the ability to play well on grid but also understands that metronomic time is not the last word, not always appropriate.... (also playing only with a click and make you drag, apparently.)

    Ballads are an interesting one, as no good ballad playing is metronomic; there’s always the human element in there. One important thing is to not speed up egregiously tbh, maybe a click can help ‘bed in’ a tempo until a player can play it with more feel.

    With slow metronome exercises (10bpm etc) I have noticed that I can synch a lot better with my voice or tapping a rhythm than with my guitar. That suggest that the problem is not my internal clock, but rather playing the instrument. Something about it can encourage me to lose the time if I’m not careful.

    Anyone else had this experience?

    There seem to be players out there who think they only need to work with a metronome. This is false. There’s more to it...