David Sertl is a composer and guitarist based in Vienna, Austria. He also runs David`s Music Guild, the Youtube channel tellign you everything you (n)ever wanted to know about music.
He independently released his album "Elegie" in April of 2015, which is available from Amazon and other online outlets.
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Click here for a printer-friendly version of "Sense Of Rhythm, Subdivisions, Metronome Abuse".
Rhythm is so difficult to learn...
If one listens to the general impression which seems to have become established among hobbyists as well as among some professional musicians, one would have to believe that any kind of rhythmic competence is a kind of mystical and supernatural talent, which if not magically innate, can only be obtained by either membership in one of those nationalities, "where the rhythm is in blood," or by some supernatural appropriation (which, fortunately, can be found in heaps at the local bookstore of your choice).
I'll be quite cheeky here and simply suggest that lack of an adequate theoretical
description of rhythm has simply led to an underdevelopment in the educational field
of rhythm - it is rather difficult to show something if nothing concretely
abstracted is there to be shown (apart from mystic fire in the blood of course). In
reaction to these circumstances I would like to some suggestions and approaches to
hone one's own rhythmic skills.
... But playing long notes isn't
For this I will use my (here briefly repeated) concept of rhythm as a pulse
arrangement, where a rhythm is the more "fluently" perceived, the more it resembles
a human heartbeat.
Furthermore, we need a more precise definition of what is to be achieved here. What
is rhythmic execution and a general "feel" of rhythm all about? Oversimplified, it
comes down to approximately correct execution of pulses that appear in typically
mathematical relations against a predetermined pulse (= speed).
The chief aim (among others!) therefore must be to create an accurate, repeatable
bodily experience of pulses of equal length and especially accompanying relative
pulses (= subdivisions)- and then repeat it again and again. For the sake of
simplicity, I will limit the discussion here to the simple ratios of 1:1, 1:2, 1:3
and 1:4, for which I will propose approaches for practicing with which the body (as
a kind of basic competence) can be accustomed to these pulse ratios. To achieve
this, we will call the oldest friendly foe of the musician on the scene - the
However, we will reverse its typical function here a little - instead of playing
"against" the metronome, by first playing one pulse/one click, then two pulses / one
click, etc., we'll let the metronome do the work by leting it "play" several clicks
against a long-held pulse played by us. By listening this way to and empathizing
with the metronome, which (almost as a byproduct), when repeated several times, will
create a solid basis for further rhythmic work by establishing an optimal rhythmic
imprint in the body - suffice it to say, playing 2/3/4/x pulses against one click by
the metronome will have to be done also to provide a solid understanding from 'both
sides of the story'.
In summary, with this article I have presented here a new way of working on the
development of rhythmic skills, which is based on the following principles:
1. Rhythmic expertise revolves around precise perception and execution of pulses
and pulse ratios.
This approach is especially useful for learning and getting used to odd meters for
which almost no frames of reference exist, but it can also benefit musicians in
rhythmically challenging areas. At this point, it however has to be said that
knowledge of pulse ratios alone will unfortunately not constitute a full package of
rhythmic competence - such a thing must, depending on on the scale of the ambitions,
still be polished and honed over the years.
2. Pulse relations must first be optimally internalized before they can be
memorized and executed.
3. A metronome 'knows' optimal pulse relations and can execute them - through
playing with and listening to the metronome, a solid rhythmic base can be
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