One of the roles of percussion in music is to provide a steady rhythmic pulse that accompanies the harmonic and melodic patterns of a certain arrangement. To practice this and how it applies to drum set, I have created an exercise for the player to prepare him or her to keep steady time while making some musical transitions. This exercise in “Timekeeping” will help the player accomplish a few, very important, musical elements.

It will help the player develop consistent timing with a constant beat pattern while changing the time, or cymbal, pattern that is played along with that beat. This helps the player focus on the beat pattern played as a part of the timing and not just as it relates to the cymbal pattern. This strengthens the ability to internalize the pulse, or overall timing, of any pattern that may be played.

Players do not count while performing. Concentrating on counting, while listening to yourself and others during a performance, is too difficult to maintain, and, due to this fact, it can make the player to get lost in the arrangement. This exercise will help the player develop a feeling for passing time. Transitioning through cymbal patterns in a certain way helps the player start to recognize the passing of measures. The more the player practices these transitions; the more passing measures begin to be recognized just like natural time passing in minutes and seconds. This is critical for perfecting song form or getting used to the length of sections of an arrangement, which is very important for musical performance.

Finally, this exercise will help the player to make musical transitions that are quite common in popular music by changing the cymbal pattern. More importantly, it will help the player develop a feel for each cymbal pattern so that making these changes does not affect the balance, sound, or timing of the beat pattern being played with them. Too often making these changes to the cymbal pattern can leave the player feeling off balance which affects everything that happens after the change is made. This exercise, once practiced and comfortable, can eliminate those feelings and smooth out the transitions to help the player with creative decision making, or improvisation.

This exercise can be applied to any bass drum and snare drum beat. It can also be lengthened to 8, 12, or 16 measure sections to stretch the player’s ability to “feel time” and help with musical application. When practicing it is best to start with a medium tempo that you feel very comfortable with. Don’t use a metronome. Once you feel good about the arrangement of the exercise then you should begin to try different tempo: usually faster first, and still without a metronome. Every musician should take time to work on their own internal pulse.

Once you’ve experimented with a few different tempo; then start to test yourself with a metronome. Try a three tempo approach: slow, medium, and fast. For example, slow at 60bpm, medium at 90bpm, and fast at 120bpm. When you’ve mastered these tempo; make the slow slower and the fast faster. As you test yourself with the metronome, also take the time to play the exercise without the metronome and see if you can keep the pulse steady on your own. Think of the tempo you play like you are blowing up a balloon. When you start, you are in your comfort zone: it’s a base point…the balloon is empty. As you change tempo: you are expanding that balloon in every direction. Playing all tempo and being able to internalize them will make you a better musician and make you feel more comfortable with your instrument.

Lastly, when playing this exercise it is very important to listen to your instrument. Try to make the pattern sound clear and even at all tempo. Get into the sound of the pattern you are playing and make it sing. Above all else, remember that you are playing a musical instrument, and, even though, this is an exercise- it should still be musical.

For a downloadable copy of this exercise click on the title below, Thanks!

Timekeeping Exercise

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  1. rick gratton
    Posted January 13, 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Love it!!!!!

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