Right on Time
Post by: Chris Taylor
As musicians, there are many things that we must consider and stay aware of in our daily approach to music in order to build good habits and achieve continued growth. At times it can seem difficult to know which of the many musical elements to prioritize. It is easy to overlook any of the subtle but important facets of musicianship. One of the easiest and unfortunately the most costly aspects to overlook is timing.
If we’re most often playing unaccompanied, as most of us are in our daily practice, we have little holding us accountable to this crucial musical element. Sadly, this can keep us unaware of how good - or not so good - our timing is. Timing is the foundational element upon which every musician in an ensemble must agree and abide. Without it there is little we can do to play effectively and proficiently. Timing in and of itself can make the difference between sounding like a competent, experienced musician and someone who sounds like they’ve only just begun playing.
Even though I am a guitar teacher, I actually began my relationship with music on drums. Because I felt that I had established a good sense of timing early on in my drumming experience, I didn’t make timing exercise or metronome use a habitual part of my practice as I moved to other instruments. But as I began collaborating with other musicians in various ensembles, although I was proficient and well-practiced in many ways, I was forced to recognize something I consider to be true for all musicians: in order to maintain good timing, we must implement habitual use of timing exercises and metronome use in our practice. (Check out some of the best metronome apps for musicians here!)
Start by slowing down. Timing is actually much more difficult to execute with more space created between beats. By slowing the tempo and making sure that we can still be precise, we’re immediately challenging and developing our sense of timing. Recording our performance is also a very effective way to evaluate timing. It’s hard for us to listen objectively as we are in the heat of performance. A recording can be a great resource to evaluate our timing. Lastly, continue to challenge yourself with increasingly complex rhythms. Timing that forces us to divide the beat more and find syncopated rhythms can help maximize control of this crucial musical element.
Try out some of these tips in your next guitar lesson!