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Thread: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

  1. #26
    Registered User mmuussiiccaall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    A sense of rhythm is needed for all musicians, I always recommend this app because it gives you feedback plus the ability to read rhythmic notation.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #27

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    Is your family band you and your kids? Good for you! It will come. Can you play all the instruments in the house?
    Thanks for asking. Yes, our family band is me on mandolin, my wife on bass (amplified acoustic bass, due to some recent surgery), a son on banjo, a daughter on fiddle, and another son on guitar. And then we have the younger kids--a daughter on banjo, a daughter on fiddle, a son on bass, and the same guitar-playing son, who's coaching them along as our "little-kid" band. We take lessons together as a group from Chris Talley in New Athens, IL--she runs the Bluegrass Shack (if anyone's in that area, she's an amazing teacher of any musical instrument and runs a nice shop for instrument retail, lessons, and repair). We play gigs for local senior-living places. It gives us something fun and challenging to do together and a chance to give back a little.

    Mandolin is my only contribution, though a couple of the kids plays more than one instrument, and the guitar-playing son can make anything he picks up sound good. I'm clearly the least talented in the bunch, but they're nice enough to let me play along!

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  5. #28

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by mmuussiiccaall View Post
    A sense of rhythm is needed for all musicians, I always recommend this app because it gives you feedback plus the ability to read rhythmic notation.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks! I'll take a look at it.

  6. #29
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    That's really cool that your family is so musical. I wish mine was...
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  7. #30
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I knew a guy who played cajón in a bluegrass group.
    How would your group feel about your being the drummer for a couple years just to ingrain the 'beat' into your brain? (I'm kinda kidding, unless they really like the idea )
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

  8. #31

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Don't trust the tapping foot! Some people do crazy stuff, particularly when they solo.
    This is not picking a random stranger. The OP knows who he can trust for a steady beat in his family band.
    199? Ike Bacon F5
    1945 Levin 330
    192? Bruno (Oscar Schmidt) banjo-mandolin
    200? Olympia OM6-SW
    early Eastwood Mandostang
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    Fender Tweed Deluxe clone

  9. #32
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg P. Stone View Post
    This is not picking a random stranger. The OP knows who he can trust for a steady beat in his family band.
    I thought he meant don't trust your own foot...
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  10. #33

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    I knew a guy who played cajón in a bluegrass group.
    How would your group feel about your being the drummer for a couple years just to ingrain the 'beat' into your brain? (I'm kinda kidding, unless they really like the idea )
    Yes, I’m afraid my band mates have more traditional tastes than that!

  11. #34

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    I thought he meant don't trust your own foot...
    When it comes to music, self-suspicion is always my first instinct.

  12. #35

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    That's really cool that your family is so musical. I wish mine was...
    It all happened kind of accidentally. Nobody who knew me ever would have predicted it, but it’s been a lot of fun and a real blessing for our family—like the unexpected things often are.

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  14. #36

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    First of all good on you taking it up and playing along with the family!

    Secondly, what you are attempting to do in taking a break is complicated
    and involves many different aspects. It can be easily overwhelming. So first
    I encourage patience. It sounds like you've attempted logical steps of simplifying
    the environment surrounding the break, this is certainly a sound route to take.

    I noticed in your descriptions that you specifically called out "rhythm in relation to the melody"
    difficulty. I also notice that it seems to manifest itself most when the full band is playing. So
    at times when you are supporting the rhythm(chop) you can track it but still need support for
    the melody in relation. This makes perfect sense to me ... sort of like the difficulty in using 2
    hands to play the piano.

    One issue could be your hearing or positioning. When the full band is playing there is alot going on sonicly.
    Things can get really muddy and obscure the underlying rhythm. The fiddle would cut through so this could
    be why you can keep time with that supporting you. Similarly you had to key in on the bass for your chop.
    I would recommend practicing with only guitar accompaniment and you playing the melody. Then orient yourself
    where you get mainly guitar when the full band is playing. Maybe even position others across the room. Possibly
    even having the guitar pick some portions of the melody in addition to the rhythm. Break things into phrases so
    it's not so overwhelming.

    You reference being so lost when it's the full band is also why I mentioned hearing as a possible issue. My experience
    with a band mate with frequency loss was quite an education. This would be rare, but not as rare as you might think.

    Starting an instrument as an adult is complicated enough, especially so without any prior musical experience. You
    are drinking from the fire hose my friend ... keep with it and don't let it drown you.

    I'd love to hear how you progress ... music has been my hobby my entire life. I took having children for me to realize
    how complex many things in life truly are ... we adults have just forgotten.
    Collings MF
    Harmony Tenor

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  16. #37
    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandosopher View Post
    Mandolin is my only contribution, though a couple of the kids plays more than one instrument, and the guitar-playing son can make anything he picks up sound good. I'm clearly the least talented in the bunch, but they're nice enough to let me play along!

    I asked if you play all the instruments in the house because often times learning just a few things (maybe a chord or lick) on another instrument can be a big help. Perhaps dabble on some of the other instruments. Particularly the guitar and bass. It'll probably be fun to let your kids teach you things that they have learned. Also, as they teach you it will solidify those things for them. Good Luck!

  17. #38
    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    If you can play steadily with a backing track or a metronome, you can play with a band– how sure are you that you're the problem? A don't know how advanced your family is, but some beginner groups can lose the rhythm when the texture changes from one instrument soloing to another. A mandolin chop is basically a metronome, and when that suddenly vanishes it can feel like the floor fell away.

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  19. #39
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I'll throw my suggestions in here. Use the metronome when playing/practicing alone. It develops LISTENING skills, it never listens so YOU have to adjust to it.

    Know how your break or tune goes and how you are going to play it, i.e. be able to repeat it. Learn to play the 1/8 notes with accent on the beats of the measure. As, 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & . Then make them match to the metronome beat. Do this SLOW painfully slow. Then when you can play it perfectly that speed, increase the pace of the metronome by a few (1 or 3) see if you can still play it right with the beat. Repeat till you can play to what ever speed you can play.

    3rd. When you play with the band, watch the bass players fingers at they pluck the strings on the beat. I often can't tell where the beat is or can't really hear it from the guitar or banjo. But I know for sure that the beat will be when the bass player is plucking the string.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it

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  21. #40

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    First, I don't think playing with rhythm is outside of anyone's ability to learn. It just takes time and practice. Even people with good rhythm will struggle to translate it to a new instrument.

    I know you have attempted this with a metronome but I think more focused metronome practice should help. I would suggest starting with a slow speed and play quarter notes (down strokes only) -> eighth notes -> sixteenth notes - all with the metronome at the same speed. Don't even bother fretting, just work on your picking hand. (I sometimes mute the strings to make it entirely rhthmic). Once you get comfortable with this you can add complexity. You can switch between the various rhythms and add triplets.

    Before using your instrument to do these exercises, make sure you can vocalize the various rhythmic patterns against a metronome. I found this video helpful in getting started -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5_27Gc28ls

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  23. #41
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Billydog View Post
    Use a metronome. There are plenty available on smart phone apps.
    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Don't trust the tapping foot! Some people do crazy stuff, particularly when they solo.
    Quote Originally Posted by GTison View Post
    I'll throw my suggestions in here. Use the metronome when playing/practicing alone. It develops LISTENING skills, it never listens so YOU have to adjust to it.
    All of my music teachers forced us to study keeping good time by using a metronome.

    The jazz teachers also had us use the metronome set to click on beats 2 and 4, so we could learn to swing in time.

    The advice given above about beginning slowly and accurately is very important. This is not a speed picking exercise, it's a study in keeping accurate time.

    Frankly, many of my teachers discouraged foot-tapping as it is inconsistent and visually annoying on a pro bandstand. (this was a jazz band/tuxedo AFM union gig context).

    We were also taught not to rely on other band members to keep time for you...but you do have to listen and lock in with them.

    Finally, count. Even great musicians have to count the rhythm at times.

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  25. #42

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I would recommend practicing with only guitar accompaniment and you playing the melody. Then orient yourself
    where you get mainly guitar when the full band is playing. Maybe even position others across the room. Possibly
    even having the guitar pick some portions of the melody in addition to the rhythm. Break things into phrases so
    it's not so overwhelming.
    Thanks, Speacock. I like this idea. I don't think I've really tried it, but my son would do with it me, and he could give me good feedback as I went. And then I could try positioning near him, as you say, when we're playing together.

    You are drinking from the fire hose my friend . . . I took having children for me to realize how complex many things in life truly are ... we adults have just forgotten.
    This is a very encouraging note, Speacock. I appreciate it. As a philosophy teacher, it's been instructive to me to try to learn music. I often find my students have trouble discerning the structure that's obviously present to me in a text; but I have trouble discerning the various forms of structure that are obviously present in a musical performance. I have a strong antenna for the signal in a text, but have trouble finding the signal in a musical performance that gives it structure. So I think it's helped me to understand a bit and to empathize with what my students go through. Like you say, it's too easy to forget what it was like before our skills became second-nature. (On a related note, my wife and I are about to start teaching our three teenagers how to drive stick--that should be interesting!)

  26. #43

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I'm sorry I've not been quick to respond to y'all this week; it's been an especially full one for us, but I really appreciate all your thoughts.

    Several of y'all mentioned metronomes. I have tried that, and I think I can work with that; but when I return to the full band, there's so much information coming into my ears that I have hard time sorting out the rhythmic line I need to pay attention to. But dadsaster, you may be right that more and better metronome practice will help. And DavidKOS, your comment about counting in particular strikes me as helpful. I have sometimes tried counting to figure out when to come in, but then I tend to lose the counting as I start worrying about the notes and all--but that's no doubt something I could overcome with more concerted practice.

    Mandolincafe is a great place for help and encouragement. Thanks again to all of y'all. I'm going to save these comments, sort through them, and settle on some strategies to start with.

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  28. #44
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I experienced the same when I first began at age 63 ! Now 72 and much better ! Band in the Box program was a big help and just playing with others ! Never had much help from a metronome which is my downfall not the metronome.
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  29. #45
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I used to play music with a close friend who was a guitar player. I found I was always frustrated because I kept losing the beat. I thought I was an idiot, that I'd never be able to play, that I was just no good.

    Then I figured out that when he really got into a piece he went into this slurring kind of swing rhythm. It wasn't me. It was him.

    So it may not be you. The best thing you can do is stop worrying about it and just play. I mean, if it's your break, either there are people playing in the background and they're going to hold the rhythm, or you're playing alone and it doesn't matter what the beat was or will be.

    And if worse comes to worst, I'll pass along a little thing my jazz banjo teacher taught me. When you flub a note, or a chord, or a part, when you get to the end, just stop and stare up at the ceiling and say "Yeahhhhhhhhhh ...." and everyone will think you are a jazz great.
    belbein

    “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

    See my latest blog post: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...lay-for-People

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  31. #46
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Well the first step toward solving a "problem" is to recognize there is one. Consider approaching your "problem" like this. First listen to a song until you KNOW it. Second play the rhythm until you can do it confidently in time. Third play the melody simply no flourishes keeping the time of the tune or song. Four add some technique …. cross pick a chord, hammer on and pull off or slide into or out of a tone. Keep it simple. Do the above one song at a time. After awhile, it takes as long as it takes, you will likely begin to "feel" the timing of a piece and be able to hang with it. Be patient , practice scales , chords and partial scales so your muscle memory has learned where to go. Much of playing in time and smoothly is in truly knowing and not stopping to think. Play on.... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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  33. #47
    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I know this seems counterintuitive, but practice (with a metronome, backing track, and ultimately with the band) NOT listening to yourself. You need to be thinking of what you are playing with a part of your brain, of course, but listen to -- and focus your attention on -- the primary source of the beat. Ideally, you are counting with another part brain at the same time, and synching your counting with the groove.

    In my experience, when individuals wander from the beat, it's because they aren't listening, or they are only listening to themselves. Forcing yourself to listen to the group rather than to yourself, should help.
    Just one guy's opinion
    www.guitarfish.net

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  35. #48

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandosopher View Post
    As a philosophy teacher, it's been instructive to me to try to learn music.
    Now I understand your handle much better!

    From learning to play hockey it was explained to me like this. You have $1 of mental change. If skating takes 75 cents then you don't have much left for handling the puck. It's only when skating and handling cost you so little that you can now look up ... then the real game has begun.

    In music, there's rhythm, dynamics, chords, melody, harmony .... etc. I think all suggestions put forth are all really trying to reduce the mental change these require. Because the real joy in music, just like hockey, is when your head is up!

    Collings MF
    Harmony Tenor

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  37. #49
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    It's time to "Play Along" wth....
    THE SHAGGS! ! ! !


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  39. #50

    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Improve this skill as you would any other.
    • Slow down.
    • Simplify.
    • Shorten.


    Gradually increase difficulty.

    Record yourself to assess your progress.
    Last edited by JonZ; Aug-17-2019 at 1:38pm.
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