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

  1. #51
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    I was turning this string over in my mind last night and thought that maybe the OP needs a better definition of foot-tapping. I've had a good sense of rhythm all my life so tapping my foot is pretty much innate. I figured as much with other people until I started playing with some rank beginners, and had my assumptions tested. One guy just learning his instrument (button accordion) found that tapping his foot went contrary to trying to hit the right buttons on the right hand, the left hand and work the bellows ... sort of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. It was just another THING to do. Another guy learning the whistle seemed to think that he needed to tap the words to the song, not the beat of the tune. think of that double syllable in the beginning of 'happy birthday' followed by those single beats. When we'd speed up, he didn't know what to do with his feet. Same with tapping to a hornpipe with that little bounce (ta ta-ta ta-ta ta-ta ta-ta ta ta) where he tried to tap for every 'ta.' I got tired watching him. And eventually guys who do that just slow down because nobody's energy is that sustainable.

    So I'd suggest the OP get a good quick lesson on where the beat actually falls in a piece of music and how you can tap your foot on every second or every third or every fourth beat. It might help.
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  2. #52

    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
    That's encouraging. I've been curious about that Band in the Box program. Maybe I'll give it a look.

  3. #53

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

    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.
    Now there's the kind of really practical advice I need! Though maybe 'Yeahhhhh. . ." is a little too jazzy; what would a bluegrasser say?

  4. #54

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

    Quote Originally Posted by speacock View Post
    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!

    This is just it. In the education world, we sometimes call it cognitive overload. I think some of the suggestions here will help reduce the overload.

    For example, today I worked with just my son on guitar on a song where I know the melody quite well--"Shortnin' Bread," for what it's worth. We simplified the break down to all quarter notes, so I was just down picking. We went slow and I tried to really focus in on his beat (thanks, Paul!). He gave me live feedback as we went, so I could really tell when I was on and when I was wavering. I think I made some progress with that, and I hope some regular practice that way with increasing speed and all and then slowly adding in more information from more instruments will really help.

  5. #55

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    I started playing with some rank beginners, and had my assumptions tested. One guy just learning his instrument (button accordion) found that tapping his foot went contrary to trying to hit the right buttons on the right hand, the left hand and work the bellows ... sort of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. It was just another THING to do.
    This is so spot on. Foot tapping has always seemed like one more thing to do that I have to focus on to make happen. I also find that when I do tap my foot along, I'm always tapping on the off beat to correspond with my chop; but it seems like it would be better to correspond with the 1 and 3 when I'm doing my break, so I've wondered if my attempts at foot tapping will only make things worse.

  6. #56

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

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    It's time to "Play Along" wth....
    THE SHAGGS! ! ! !

    Exactly! Where does my foot go?!

    By the way, I bought your book on twin mandolin, and I find it fascinating, though, of course, most of it is still beyond me. But as I said, I can play breaks when I play with my daughter's fiddle, and your book taught us to at least play in octaves instead of unisons. We'd really like to put a lot of your other ideas into practice, and maybe we'll be able to if I make some more progress along these lines. Thanks for such a great book!

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  8. #57

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

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    This may sound stupid - but . . . how about if you keep the beat during the song by tapping your foot, and then continuing to tap during the break? Human metronome/drum machine.
    ...would NOT recommend "tapping your foot", or 'patting your foot'...it is NOT necessary to be a proficient musician !...learn to keep time WITHOUT doing that !

  9. #58

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

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    There are two ways to tap your foot.

    1. Tap your foot and follow it.

    2. Your foot seems to simply follow the music and while you are following your foot it can speed up or slow down as you are tapping to the music and not following the consistent beat of your foot.

    I watch folks do both, but mostly they do #2.
    ...perhaps you haven't spent enough time listening to tapes and records,watching videos ,etc.,...and the old saying,..."if you can't HUM it , -you can't PLAY it" always applies !

  10. #59

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

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Here are a couple places where I have had difficulty relating to rhythm and timing on breaks. Timing and rhythm are different but related things. You can have good rhythm and be solid on tempo but if you do not start your break on the proper beat then it falls apart and becomes quite frustrating when you cannot figure out why.

    First being very strict about alternate picking. Always down stroke on the 1,2,3,4 of the count, upstrokes on the "ands" of 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. Clearing that up solved a lot of serious problems I had. When I start tangling up my picking in a new song I often find I have mixed up the ups and downs somewhere, particularly when crossing strings.

    The other issue that has been difficult for me is the pickup notes. The breaks do not start on the one count always. If there are pickup notes you have to start ahead of the measure. If you get locked into the "1" count and start off on it then you will be off for the whole break and your rhythm will feel wrong. If there are three pickup notes that are eight notes you have to start on an upstroke to further complicate things. If the song is moving quick it may be easier to ditch the pickup notes. Emory Lester gave that recommendation to a friend of mine who Skypes with him. A metronome will not help with the pickup notes. That has to be fixed with backing tracks or playing with others.
    ...when saying "pick-up notes"...-you really mean 'lead-in' notes,...or in piano talk they are called 'grace' notes !...google up MAPLE VALLEY BOYS if interested .

  11. #60
    Registered User mmuussiiccaall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    xx

  12. #61

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

    Quote Originally Posted by mando-tech View Post
    ...when saying "pick-up notes"...-you really mean 'lead-in' notes,...
    I grew up hearing them referred to as "lead-in" notes, but in more recent years have also heard them called "pick-up" notes. Never heard anyone say "pick-up" notes until modern times, the first time I heard it I didn't even know what they were talking about. Maybe it's a regional- or era-related thing?

    FWIW, one modern possibly-authoritative (?) example of the term "pick-up" is in the well-known TablEdit music-writing app, where one can designate a measure as a "Pick-Up Measure" and optionally specify how many beats that measure should have (regardless of the main time signature). So the "Pick-Up Measure" can be used as a place to write the "pick-up notes" (when required).

    Another music-writing app, MuseScore, uses neither the term "pick-up" nor "lead-in", it doesn't call them anything at all (at least it doesn't in the older version 2.1 that I'm using), but it does still allow for that same functionality - via the option for individual measures to "Exclude from measure count". As with TablEdit, the MuseScore app also lets you change the number of beats in just that one particular measure, which makes it possible to write the [whichever term one prefers, pick-up notes or lead-in notes] without having to write a full-length measure.

    Those are the only two currently-available music-writing apps I'm familiar with, so I have no idea what is considered standard in other modern notation apps and elsewhere, as to which term is more common nowadays - "pick-up" or "lead-in" or something else. Most of the people I play with still say "lead-in".

  13. #62
    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 JL277z View Post
    I grew up hearing them referred to as "lead-in" notes, but in more recent years have also heard them called "pick-up" notes. Never heard anyone say "pick-up" notes until modern times, the first time I heard it I didn't even know what they were talking about. Maybe it's a regional- or era-related thing?
    As far back as the early 1970's I was taught that the correct term is "pick up notes" for the notes that , as you say, lead into another measure.

    This was in New Orleans in context of school bands, college music school, and working gigs. This was NOT in a country, Bluegrass, oldtime, etc. context. We were playing jazz and classical music.

    I never heard pick-up notes referred to by any other name.

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  15. #63
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Yeah, I'm another person who's always heard them as "pick up" notes, going back to the 1960s. but maybe it was an Ohio thing and maybe just a band thing. Or it could have been the director. Hard to say now. same with "grace notes." I've never heard the term "grace notes" applied to pickup notes, since pickups are the intro to the tune itself and grace notes are throughout the tune -- all those nice little additions to flute repertoire (and now that I'm doing it, fiddle tunes) that are written above the note. Certainly the sheet music I see these days has pickup notes as full notes before the first measure and grace notes added as tiny notations above the regular note.
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  17. #64

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

    Thanks David and Randi!

    Also it seems that there's yet another (maybe more formal??) name for lead-in notes or pick-up notes: anacrusis. Although I've never heard any of my ragtag bunch of musical associates (mostly oldtime fiddle/banjo players) use the word "anacrusis"... if I had to bet any money, I'd presume that usage is not very common... ?

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  19. #65

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

    Quote Originally Posted by mando-tech View Post
    ...when saying "pick-up notes"...-you really mean 'lead-in' notes,...or in piano talk they are called 'grace' notes !...google up MAPLE VALLEY BOYS if interested .
    Pick-up notes and lead-in notes are the same thing.
    Grace-notes (sometimes referred to as Slip-notes) have absolutely no connection to the subject at hand.
    To get an idea as to what a grace (slip) note sounds like, put some Floyd Cramer on the Hi-Fi.
    Last edited by FLATROCK HILL; Aug-24-2019 at 9:01am.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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  21. #66
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    ... Grace-notes (sometimes referred to as Slip-notes) have absolutely no connection to the subject at hand.
    To get an idea as to what a grace (slip) note sounds like, put some Floyd Cramer on the Hi-Fi.
    Not to sidetrack too much, but maybe worth saying (especially as those who don't know Floyd Cramer also don't know from "Hi-Fi"!) :

    A grace note (sorry to duplicate the nomenclature) is a lead into an individual note, usually from the note immediately below, that is SO quick as to not be calculated into the timing of the measure or of the beat, and is not essential to the melody or harmony of the line. They simply sound pleasing when used in moderation, and most often denote a strong beat of the melody or of the (presumed) underlying-but-unsung vocal line. Yes, Floyd Cramer on piano is a fine example, where while proceeding to play a white key, the finger simply slips over from the adjacent black key.

    On a fretted instrument, think of playing 4 quarters of ANY fretted note. Now continue at the same pace, but slide (or hammer) quickly up from the next lower fret, so that you just barely hear the (again sorry but...) lead-in note. THAT is a grace note. When notated, they often show as tied 8th notes OF A SMALLER SIZE and are not included in the beats of the measure, as they have no time value. Technically, a measure might "read" as 4 & 1/8 beats, but we know better!

    Oh, what the heck:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvfG9uFswis

    Okay, back to the latest pick-up line ...
    - Ed

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  23. #67

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

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    That was great! Maybe not as much fun as the Hi-Fi but fantastic none the less.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

  24. #68
    Registered User mbruno'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
    Thanks, Mike. I have tried this, but I thinking my singing often starts to wander. But maybe combining this with some of the suggestions below about foot-tapping and a little help from my bandmates might help.
    I would second the singing the melody in your head. If you do it with tapping your foot, that's even better. Also, I would definitely second counting all music you hear in your head and tapping whenever you can. That is great practice that you can do anywhere.

    Try simple practices too - set a metronome to something slowish - like 60bpm. First just clap the quarter note, then the eighth note, then 16th (you could do whole and half notes too) and count while you do (quarter notes = 1 2 3 4; eighth = 1 AND 2 AND 3 AND 4 AND; 16th = 1 E AND A 2 E AND A 3 E AND A 4 E AND A). There are some phrases that work well too - PIE could be a quarter note, Ber-ry could be eighth note, Hu-ckle ber-ry for 16th etc). Practicing those to a metronome will really help.

    You can also try writing a solo for a song you play. Keep it simple to start (maybe only eighth notes or something) and play that to a metronome and then with your band

  25. #69
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help! I can't hear the beat when I play a break

    OK, I may repeat others' suggestions...

    You have a five piece band. What are the other players doing while you are talking your break? Is everyone still playing? If so they should be playing rhythmically and softly to back you up.

    Many moons ago I was in my first serious band, meaning that we rehearsed at least twice a week and really worked on stuff. When we first started everyone would play all the time. It was, well, cacophonous. Eventually we got it all together for a cleaner and crisper sound. For songs we would arrange who would play backup fills behind the vocals. Other players laid back or out. I don't know whether that is the problem here. It is possible that one person (maybe your son) is the rhythm rock but others might be slightly off in accenting the beat or emphasizing different beats.

    As far as your playing, keep it simple. I might stick to the actual melody and play it straight to start. Or even riff off of your chop chords. Adapt your chop rhythm using two note chords and see what you can come up with.

    The final suggestion might be that you are now so tense that it is difficult to stay with it since you are sure you will blow it, so—I know it ain't easy—try and relax into the music. And, despite what some folks might believe, you don't have to be a virtuoso to play music that appeals to the audience. Simpler and heartfelt is often much better than virtuosic and mechanical. You will do fine.
    Jim

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  27. #70

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

    MikeZito is right on target. Keep in mind that you need not tap your foot on every beat. For a tune in a meter of 4 you need only tap on 1 & 3 or if it's a hot 4 even just on the down beat (#1) of each bar will suffice.

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