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  1. #1

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    Dear Forum,

    the question is actually quite simple. At the moment, I am practicing with the metronome in different meters and displacing it on different beats etc. But I have never put it on Off-Beats and I am now getting started with this. So my question is: In a setting of Swing Waltz, when I put it on an Off-Beat must it be a swung off beat or can it be a "unswung" Off-Beat, too? I imagine that it is hard to phrase Swing over something, that is in itself not swinging. But might be good practice, too. Should I consider to practice both?

    Thank you in advance, a kind hug to everyone,



    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    If you place the click only on say the the fourth 16th/the ands of 2 and 4, it’s really up to you how much you swing because you can place the downbeat where you like.

  4. #3

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    But I would suggest practicing straight for now. Just aim to place your upbeats in the right place

    swing is not something to work to consciously at; it is a feeling you pick up by and large and it tends to creep in. I think by and large the more you try to swing the less you swing.

    But being able to synch with the upbeats in a band will help you with that aim.

  5. #4

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    Sorry just realised I didn’t answer your question. I’d probably put the click on the and of 3, and let it swing if that makes any sense. Any of the upbeats can swing.

  6. #5

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    If it were me I would keep the metronome on the fundamental down beats. Any style, to me, is the player inserting it to time.

  7. #6

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    Hi, H,
    I think C has given some good advice. However, I'd like to makes a couple comments that will be helpful to you. Firstly, though, kudos on your use of a metronome. It is one of the most indispensable tools for any serious musician. Before every practice session, I do 20-30 minutes of warmup exercises before I begin working on pieces. And, 90 percent of that time is working with the metronome. However, contrary to what most would think, I work mostly in slow tempos since it does two things: 1.) creates greater reflex control and timing when you're playing fast passages, and, 2.) more importantly, it gives you ultimate, in-time control throughout the entire tempo range.
    For example, try practicing 4-note arpeggios starting at 52 bpm up to 60 bpm. If you think you have a good sense of time, you'll be surprised how many mistakes(being off-beat/fast or slow) you'll make at a slower tempo staying in exact time. Anyone can play relatively fast arpeggios that sound o.k., but very few musicians can play consistently in time.
    Secondly, try this same concept with rest and free strokes. I don't use a pick when I play, but it still can be an effective exercise with a pick using up strokes/downstrokes and combinations of the two. See how easy/difficult it is to stay in time. Start at 72 bpm.
    Finally, when I play scales and chords (after these exercises), I start at 120 bpm and work my way to higher tempos until it gets sloppy and/or the tone suffers. You may start at a slower speed if that's too fast. So, finally, when you reach a certain level of musicianship and play with other professionals, your time with the metronome will be well rewarded--especially playing in big bands when there's no room for error. Good luck on your journey. Play live . . . Marinero

    P.S. No one like a guy who plays out of tune or out of time.

  8. #7

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    Sorry, I just want to add something else. I know I'm posting a lot, but this is really close to me.

    I'm currently studying rhythm with a drummer, and he said something interesting... so doing stuff with the metronome and Konnakol (which is what I am doing) is really good for practicing grid or what we might call mathematical rhythm.

    OTOH the human factor - swing for instance, or the little of the Gnawa 6/8 and so on - is often in being inaccurate, and the pushing and pulling tempos, and micro rhythmic nuances in the placement of rhythms in real music is actually what makes it live, and this is true I think of all musical traditions. (On YouTube Rick Beato has done some good vids on this, and the guitarist Paul David. )

    The way he put this was great - you can do whatever you like, provided it is intentional.

    So you have to understand the limitations of the metronome at the same time as embracing it as a practice tool.

    Another interesting thing my teacher said is that we tend to do things backwards here in what we might call the Western musical world.

    We start with mathematics and learn the human element after. Actually, traditionally people did it the other way around. For instance, I played with a guitarist/singer from Argentina who quite often dropped beats, but My God, she can play a Milonga.

    Things things that generally plague musicians from a European/Western type of background (such as myself)
    - tendency to accent the downbeats over the upbeats, and generally preference the downbeat placement over upbeat placement in ones thinking
    - poor rhythmic independence
    - tendency in particular to have trouble with the 4 'and'
    - tendency to cut rests short

    The last one can only be addressed by practicing away from the metronome, and developing your own sense of inherent pulse. Rhythmic independence is a real human, physical time thing, and apart from being both fun and frustrating, is a great way to improve your time generally.

  9. #8

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    It doesn't matter where you put the click. Regardless of what anybody says, the position of the click will not affect the "swing."

    Metronome practice gives you a solid internal tempo and a good feeling of time.

    If you play on the offbeats or 16th notes or whatever, it helps you recognize the tempo in unusual situations. In rock and pop music, the drummer always plays the tempo. That isn't always the case in jazz.

    If you want to get really good, turn the tempo down to 10 or 20 bpm, but play a tune at 120 bpm.

  10. #9

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    "you can do whatever you like, provided it is intentional." Christianm77

    This is the essence of all good music . . . irrespective of genre. Play live . . . in and out of time . . . Marinero

  11. #10

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    I can't take credit for that quote.

  12. #11

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    Here's a bit of advice on developing time feel given by Ethan Iverson

    The metronome does not exist in classical African musics. If you can already groove, never pick up a metronome. A metronome does not help you swing. Milford Graves says a metronome will give you a heart attack.
    However, for most of us students, a bit of metronome can be a fun way to check ourselves and keep focused. I don’t have an exact statistic at hand, but something like 99 out of 100 student jazz pianists rush a bit.
    There’s no reason to have the metronome clicking away on every beat unless you are true beginner. For the more advanced, I recommend two approaches, “slow” metronome and “fast” metronome.
    “Slow” is where there is one click every bar, or even every two bars. It is good to put that click on “4” because it imitates Philly Joe Jones’s side-stick on many tracks with Miles Davis.
    Modern digital metronomes go down to 10 BPM. One click every six seconds: That’s pretty slow. But 20 BPM is common in my own practice. It’s good to play a mix of 3s and 4s “against” it. After doing this for years, my time is definitely better.
    The point is not to have precise time. Most of the people we really love to listen to do not have precise time. Working with a metronome is an intermediate step. Clave sentences are more important.
    on “4” (40 BPM):

    even better, on every other “4” (20 BPM)

    “Fast” metronome puts the click on the upbeat. Playing a Charlie Parker bebop head like “Ornithology” is revealing. This looks easy but…check it out. If you can do it at 200 BPM I’ll be genuinely impressed. After practicing this for a few months it was much easier for me to play with experienced drummers, like Billy Hart, who play a lot of upbeats.

    Ben Street taught me an exercise called “feet in three.”
    When we listen to a great bassist or drummer play straight quarter notes, there is something besides accurate time that makes their beat feel so good. It seems like there is a “glow” around their beat. Buster Williams and Ron Carter have this glow in a particularly obvious way; so do Tony Williams and Jimmy Cobb. It’s not the skip beats. You can find examples of Tony and Jimmy playing quarter notes on the cymbal with no skip beats and the “glow” is still there.
    In many classical African musics, there is a simultaneity of duple and triple.
    So: If we are in 4/4, what about a “phantom” cross rhythm in 3?
    Here’s the basic idea. Play the duples with your hands and the triples with your feet. (I wrote in “left” and “right” here to make it extra clear but you could also start with the left or tap with one foot.)
    Listen to yourself play just the quarter notes with the hands, then add the triplets in the feet. When the feet come in, it seems like the quarter notes take on another kind of “glow.”

    This might look easy, but I found it very hard to master. I don’t think any of my students have really gotten it together yet.
    I can personally attest that it helps. I was in some despair when I first started playing with Tootie Heath, but after doing feet in three for a while, it was easier to hook up with Tootie’s magnificent constellation of drums and cymbals.
    A good “cheat” while getting it together is counting all the small value triples phrased in four in the feet:

    After you can pull off straight quarter notes in the hands, try some clave rhythms against the feet. Ouch. It’s also good to move the feet between four and three. Double ouch.

    Eventually you can try playing stride piano or bebop heads with the feet in three. It really taught me something about swing. Indeed, I think this exercise borders on pure magic. (This exercise can be done by any instrumentalist or singer with at least one foot.)

    Forgetting feet in three:
    Should you tap your feet on the beat while playing? Some famous jazz piano teachers say no. On the other hand, almost every truly great jazz pianist does, especially the ones that swing the hardest. Check the videos.
    Probably you don’t want to tap on two and four. It is better to tap on one and three or every beat. Two and four is already a “displacement,” and you want to feel steady. Check the videos. I don’t think you can find a consecrated legend who taps on two and four. (Let me know if you find one!)
    I guess you don’t want to tap too loudly, unless it is an intentional special effect. When Duke Ellington played solo or duo, he often tapped so loud that he had a percussion section to bounce the syncopations off of, and I suspect that effect was intentional.
    On a related topic: When leading a group, don’t count off in a big fashion. Be discreet or just start. It’s what the masters did.

  13. #12

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    Excellent excerpt, C! An interesting thing happened to me when I first began to study Classical Saxophone/Flute after playing for years "on the road" as a paid performer. In my first lesson, my teacher, T S, at the American Conservatory of Music(Roosevelt University) in Chicago, asked me to read some music. Within the first few measures, he stopped me and asked me why I was tapping my foot. I told him I always tap my foot. He said "time" is in your head, not in your feet. I thought seriously about his comment until the next lesson--first being angry believing he was a "square" Classical guy . . . then I understood what he meant. . . ever see Rubenstein, Heifetz, or Segovia tap their feet? Or even Coltrane, Miles, or Dexter?
    Play live . . . tap/no tap . . . Marinero

  14. #13

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    Barry says tap your foot. Tap it on 1 and 3

    TBH, that's a whole other thread... tapping can be a nervous tick sometimes.