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Tips to keep a steady pulse? (Read 792 times)

Offline kittenyarn

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Tips to keep a steady pulse?
« on: May 19, 2021, 07:05:40 PM »
Hiii everyone! Keeping a steady pulse is something I struggle with a lot. I have tried counting and using a metronome. When I follow the metronome I struggle to be exactly together with it, but I'm okay, I at least stay together with the beats... most of the time. When I count, I notice I sometimes count unsteadily, especially if the music is more difficult, so it doesn't really work xD But it's the worst when I don't have a metronome and don't count. It sounds correct to me when I play but when I listen to a video of myself I notice it's not steady and sometimes I'm really off after a while.

Ugh. It's so hard!! I don't understand why or how to overcome this. Do you have some tips?

Offline ranjit

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #1 on: May 19, 2021, 08:42:20 PM »
Here's an entertaining video about the topic which should give you some ideas.


Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #2 on: May 19, 2021, 08:59:19 PM »
Hiii everyone! Keeping a steady pulse is something I struggle with a lot. I have tried counting and using a metronome. When I follow the metronome I struggle to be exactly together with it, but I'm okay, I at least stay together with the beats... most of the time. When I count, I notice I sometimes count unsteadily, especially if the music is more difficult, so it doesn't really work xD But it's the worst when I don't have a metronome and don't count. It sounds correct to me when I play but when I listen to a video of myself I notice it's not steady and sometimes I'm really off after a while.

Ugh. It's so hard!! I don't understand why or how to overcome this. Do you have some tips?

Well, pulse and tempo are slightly different terms of art.

My only relevant tip is to record yourself solo:  playing along to recorded music is good, but there can be a bit of cognitive dissonance (you think you're right on, in the moment, but in fact you're way behind or ahead of the beat).

And there are multiple ways to be creative with the metrome. 

This is a simple example, but as far as tempo goes, I still make it a bit of a game to see how far you get "off kilter."  Turn off the metronome, then at various moments, check to see how well you've kept the tempo.

And, as well, if you're listening to music, say during a commute or so forth, it's worthwhile IME to try to vary different ways of counting to the music.  Just for the fun of it, really.  It could be as simply as tapping your foot on every other "four" of every other measure, and tapping on the one of every fifth bar.  Things like that.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline volcanoadam

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #3 on: May 20, 2021, 08:39:56 AM »
I placed a ticking clock in my bedroom (I read about such method somewhere on the PS forum, I think) and when I go to sleep I improvise to it. After two months or so I started noticing even the slightest changes to tempo in music I heard plenty of times before and never noticed that before. On my recordings it also shows the difference.
VA

Offline lelle

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #4 on: May 20, 2021, 09:16:13 AM »
I placed a ticking clock in my bedroom (I read about such method somewhere on the PS forum, I think) and when I go to sleep I improvise to it. After two months or so I started noticing even the slightest changes to tempo in music I heard plenty of times before and never noticed that before. On my recordings it also shows the difference.

That's incredible! I might try this. My rhythm is ok but I'd like to get way more precise. What do you mean improvise to it? Do you have a piano in your bedroom or do you improvise in your mind?

Offline volcanoadam

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #5 on: May 20, 2021, 09:46:15 AM »
Sorry I missed to write that, I meant, improvise in my head. Anything, either learned or created on the go.
VA

Offline jimf12

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #6 on: May 20, 2021, 02:38:41 PM »
I will vocalize the count.   However you want to do it is fine - 1 e and a 2 ... or ta ta ta ta ... doesn't matter.    Say it clearly and loudly as you play.     This puts the "metronome" in your brain, which is controlling both your voice and your fingers and seems to help.   

Offline lelle

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #7 on: May 20, 2021, 10:16:49 PM »
I will vocalize the count.   However you want to do it is fine - 1 e and a 2 ... or ta ta ta ta ... doesn't matter.    Say it clearly and loudly as you play.     This puts the "metronome" in your brain, which is controlling both your voice and your fingers and seems to help.

I find this useful as well. There is something about using your voice as the "master" over the pulse that puts you, rather than your fingers, in the driver's seat of the tempo again. However, it sounds to me like the OP is struggling despite counting loud. Unfortunately I got nothin' for that  :-\

Offline kittenyarn

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #8 on: May 23, 2021, 11:07:04 PM »
Thanks a lot for your answers! Is it truly so that it's just a question of me practising more?? I just feel so unsure, for lack of a better term, when I try to keep the pulse. I feel sort of insecure and unsure in my body. It seems to be getting in the way of me getting the pulse right. I try so hard to listen and time the keys I press together with the metronome but right now it seems almost impossible. Maybe I just need to do it more?

Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #9 on: May 24, 2021, 04:16:47 AM »
Is it truly so that it's just a question of me practising more?? I just feel so unsure, for lack of a better term, when I try to keep the pulse. I feel sort of insecure and unsure in my body.

I'm clearly not an expert teacher, but with some emendations, I'd say yes.

What I would do in your situation -- and I still constantly struggle with perfect time -- is try more work away from the keyboard. 

I'm no dancer by any means, of any sort, but I've learned an enormous amount by actively working on tempo and awareness of "time" by listening very actively to music (whether physically listening or playing through things in my head, or reading from a score).

If you can tap your foot or fingers, that's all the coordination you really need. 

It seems to me to be a question of internalizing what exactly perfect time sounds and feels like.

True, there are some classic session musicians who were known as human metronomes, meant as a good thing (i.e., not robots, but rock steady consistently), but I'd like to think most people can get plenty "good enough" by active exposure and a little bit of brain work to keep things interesting, as in a sort of a game.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline kittenyarn

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #10 on: June 03, 2021, 11:55:32 AM »
Thanks so much I will try to do some things away from the piano :) If anyone else here has any other tips they are very much appreciated!

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #11 on: June 03, 2021, 02:07:45 PM »
I don't think it is possible to keep a steady pulse without some accompanying body motion. 

It might be a sway, or a foot tap, etc., but there have to be some motor nerves involved. 

But which comes first? 

With my handbell players who struggle with steady pulse, I make them march in place.  That does help though of course not in performance. 

Can you join a marching band or a drill corps?  I think one season of that would set you up with pulse for life. 
Tim

Offline quantum

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #12 on: June 04, 2021, 03:31:19 AM »
It seems to me to be a question of internalizing what exactly perfect time sounds and feels like.

This. 

Aligning oneself to a metronome does not automatically equate to the ability to generate steady pulse.  Steady, consistent, decisive, pulse delivered with conviction has to come from within, it has to be internally generated.  Such pulse is also not metronomic, rather it is both flexible to the music and other musicians at the same time as being an authoritative navigator to the music. 

Being able to play along with a metronome means you are able to follow, but if you take the metronome away will the pulse have momentum to continue or does it fall flat without it? 

When vocalizing your counting, shape your vocal inflections so they match the phrasing and character of the music.  Counting isn't just some disconnected repetition of numbers, it needs to be made an integral partner in the making of pulse.  If counting is made to be a random set of syllables without relation to the music, it becomes just that - random and not helpful.  We need counting to be part of the music.  So if you are playing something lyrical, count lyrically.  If you are playing something rhythmic, count with rhythmic decisiveness.  If you are playing staccato, count staccato.  If you are playing legato, count legato.  If there is a phrase break in the music, there needs to be a phrase break in the counting. 


I don't think it is possible to keep a steady pulse without some accompanying body motion. 

It might be a sway, or a foot tap, etc., but there have to be some motor nerves involved. 

But which comes first? 

With my handbell players who struggle with steady pulse, I make them march in place.  That does help though of course not in performance. 

Can you join a marching band or a drill corps?  I think one season of that would set you up with pulse for life. 

One of my university courses, we spent a significant time marching around the studio while doing rhythmic exercises. 

Involving the whole body and mind with pulse, goes a great length to establishing a quality steady pulse. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline kittenyarn

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #13 on: June 06, 2021, 10:16:47 PM »
This. 

Aligning oneself to a metronome does not automatically equate to the ability to generate steady pulse.  Steady, consistent, decisive, pulse delivered with conviction has to come from within, it has to be internally generated.  Such pulse is also not metronomic, rather it is both flexible to the music and other musicians at the same time as being an authoritative navigator to the music. 

Being able to play along with a metronome means you are able to follow, but if you take the metronome away will the pulse have momentum to continue or does it fall flat without it? 

When vocalizing your counting, shape your vocal inflections so they match the phrasing and character of the music.  Counting isn't just some disconnected repetition of numbers, it needs to be made an integral partner in the making of pulse.  If counting is made to be a random set of syllables without relation to the music, it becomes just that - random and not helpful.  We need counting to be part of the music.  So if you are playing something lyrical, count lyrically.  If you are playing something rhythmic, count with rhythmic decisiveness.  If you are playing staccato, count staccato.  If you are playing legato, count legato.  If there is a phrase break in the music, there needs to be a phrase break in the counting. 


One of my university courses, we spent a significant time marching around the studio while doing rhythmic exercises. 

Involving the whole body and mind with pulse, goes a great length to establishing a quality steady pulse.

I think you hit the nail on the head!! When I try to follow the metronome, I don't feel the pulse in my body. I actually also don't when I try to count. I mostly feel stressed and kind of alost "trapped" haha  ;D I'm an awful dancer so maybe that's why it's difficult for me. I don't feel the rhythm in my body easily. Am I cursed to be forever like this or what can I do?? I don't have the option to join a marching band like suggested earlier :(

Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #14 on: June 06, 2021, 11:02:55 PM »
I don't feel the rhythm in my body easily. Am I cursed to be forever like this or what can I do?? I don't have the option to join a marching band like suggested earlier :(

This might not be the most apropos or popular suggestion, but you could do worse than to listen to classic Hammond Organ jazz trios.

You could benefit from the knowledge that in the classic style, the organist is playing the bass with the LH, augmented to more or less degrees by the foot work, however rudimentary that might be.

You can copy the organist's basslines by doing what they do.  With your foot or a hand:  just "tap" and practice it with the recordings or by yourself, giving a periodic "sanity check" with a metronome to see if you're dragging or speeding up over time.

That would be the baseline test:  then you might want to work on finer subtleties like exactly where you're striking the keyboard vis--vis the beat (slightly ahead, straight on, a bit behind).  I wouldn't worry about that for now, since I think you're after basic consistency and "feel" for now.

That's a bit of an off-the-wall suggestion, but it shouldn't be a waste of time, so to speak. 

You could also do walking basslines yourself on the piano easily enough, even though I don't think you're a jazz player:  it doesn't need much knowledge or mechanical technique, but it's a simple exercise in coordination that shouldn't require much effort from the brain, so you can isolate the feeling of "being in the pocket" and get the connection from time and the hands.

Or, you could just do the same thing by "beating time" in octaves or a single note in LH (or RH) or doing a waltz pattern or whatever you want.

Maybe even just learning the basic conductors' strokes and work with those as well could be fun and fruitful.

Just isolate it, is really what that amounts to.  The advantage with listening to and absorbing something like the classic Hammond organ jazz with organ bass is that there are many examples you can easily use as models.  Some better than others, but, you know, that's the same as any genre.

And, who knows, maybe you'll benefit in other ways by increasing general musical knowledge or by scrutinizing the interplay between the trap drums and the bassline.  Couldn't hurt.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #15 on: June 07, 2021, 01:03:50 PM »
This will seem off topic because it is.  Maybe.

I ride an exercise bike (an old ten speed mounted on a magnetic trainer stand).  I can't run anymore due to arthritis but the bike is okay. 

Some of the exercise programs have precise speeds you are supposed to pedal, like 80 rpm.  They sell speedometers but actual cadence meters are a little pricey.  But you have to calibrate the speedometer for your wheel size because these vary for different bikes. So I put the sensor on the crank instead of the wheel, and calculated a fake wheel size that would make speed read out in feet per second on the km/h scale. 

To test that my math was correct, I turned on a metronome and pedaled carefully at that rpm while watching the speedometer.  It turns out that pedaling very steadily is easier while listening to the metronome than while watching a digital readout. 

So my thought is that doing a steady physical pulse while watching a digital readout, maybe on an exercise bike at the gym, might work.

There are some really advanced drills on youtube drum channels, involving different subdivisions and dropped beats, etc., but you might have to get the basics first. 
Tim

Offline quantum

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #16 on: June 07, 2021, 03:54:27 PM »
I think you hit the nail on the head!! When I try to follow the metronome, I don't feel the pulse in my body. I actually also don't when I try to count. I mostly feel stressed and kind of alost "trapped" haha  ;D I'm an awful dancer so maybe that's why it's difficult for me. I don't feel the rhythm in my body easily. Am I cursed to be forever like this or what can I do?? I don't have the option to join a marching band like suggested earlier :(

Try walking!  Most people walk intuitively with a steady rhythm, even those who walk with a limp.  Count out loud as you walk and clap/snap/tap rhythms with your hands.  Work on feeling both the underlying pulse and clapped rhythm with your whole body. 

In university we did these rhythmic exercises by walking or marching around the music studio.  You don't need to be a good dancer to learn to feel pulse with your whole body. 
Get your body accustomed to moving in a rhythm, moving to sounds, moving to pulse.  Have music making expand beyond occurring solely in the hands, and get those hands to musically interact with the rest of your body. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #17 on: June 08, 2021, 04:48:05 AM »
This will seem off topic because it is.  Maybe.

I ride an exercise bike (an old ten speed mounted on a magnetic trainer stand).  I can't run anymore due to arthritis but the bike is okay. 

Some of the exercise programs have precise speeds you are supposed to pedal, like 80 rpm.  They sell speedometers but actual cadence meters are a little pricey.  But you have to calibrate the speedometer for your wheel size because these vary for different bikes. So I put the sensor on the crank instead of the wheel, and calculated a fake wheel size that would make speed read out in feet per second on the km/h scale. 

To test that my math was correct, I turned on a metronome and pedaled carefully at that rpm while watching the speedometer.  It turns out that pedaling very steadily is easier while listening to the metronome than while watching a digital readout. 

So my thought is that doing a steady physical pulse while watching a digital readout, maybe on an exercise bike at the gym, might work.

There are some really advanced drills on youtube drum channels, involving different subdivisions and dropped beats, etc., but you might have to get the basics first.

I think I heard an interview on the radio a long time ago that Michael Jackson used to work out the beats to tunes like "Billy Joe" by riding on a stationary bicycle.

Something like that.

And, yes, just walking as well:  it seems silly, but that's what I was getting at with playing around with accenting beats in odd manners:  once the pulse is there, do a heel strike on every other bar on the 3 and and again on the 2 every fifth beat.  Or whatever consistent random pattern you desire, just to play around with.

It's really all there in the recordings, one just has to own it and mesh with an abstract idea.





On the second clip, you can hear how ahead of the beat Richard Tee is when "breaking it down" with Steve Gadd on the trap drums (about 02:30 or so):  and yet it somehow is coherent, and Richard Tee brings it back after allowing Gadd a bit of solo time, coming back exactly on top dead center of the beat.

I personally would not have pushed the beat ahead that far, doing, say, some jazz tune and dropping in and out of the piano to maintain the form, but there is some distances one can go and still maintain.  So, as you know, one can take liberties with time, as long as you're consistent and have a good idea of what you're doing and why.

In this case, I guess Tee on piano was trying to push Gadd on the drums a bit, maybe to give the illusion of a heightened sense of excitement.



My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline kittenyarn

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #18 on: June 12, 2021, 09:33:42 PM »
Thank you so much everyone!! Wow, this forum is really helpful :) I'll just have to get on the basics and start walking, biking and everything to a beat. Keeping my fingers crossed it'll help  :D

Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #19 on: June 13, 2021, 04:22:07 PM »
Thank you so much everyone!! Wow, this forum is really helpful :) I'll just have to get on the basics and start walking, biking and everything to a beat. Keeping my fingers crossed it'll help  :D

Neat.  I don't think you can go wrong!

Here's a neat quote from an interview with drumming great Clyde Stubblefield:

"What influenced me mainly was sounds. Train tracks. Washing machines. I just put patterns against natural sounds, and that's what I do today. I could be walking down the street in time and put a drum pattern against it while I'm walking (...) That's the same thing I'm doing now when I sit down behind the drums. I put a pattern behind what everyone else is doing."
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #20 on: June 14, 2021, 06:09:14 PM »
This weekend a brass group I play with had an inperson rehearsal in a room with good acoustics.

We all have pretty good internal time.  But on one piece, the director asked for the eighth notes to be lightly swung.  Not straight eights, and not a heavy triplet feel swung, but somewhere inbetween. 

That's when it gets tricky, because our individual timing for that varies, but you have to match.  He had us each playing our parts alone until he found someone swinging the amount he wanted. 
Tim

Offline j_tour

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #21 on: June 15, 2021, 12:45:15 AM »
That's when it gets tricky, because our individual timing for that varies, but you have to match.  He had us each playing our parts alone until he found someone swinging the amount he wanted.

I think this might be getting beyond the scope the OP's very good question, but I have to know.

Adjusting one's own internal feel for swung eights is....problematic, I find.  I'd be listening to the drummer and bassist and eventually get there, but for a larger ensemble like you're talking about.

Did you all just eventually (probably subconsciously:  if notated, it'd likely be a nightmare to read except for maybe some name orchestral percusssionist) "gel" with the groove set by that one person?

I can see that happening over the course of perhaps many rehearsals, even among solid musicians, but without a rhythm section and just a conductor and one of many ensemble players, that sounds like a formidable task, especially if one's on a tight schedule.

How'd you all manage, beyond being very good musicians, in a practical sense?
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #22 on: June 15, 2021, 02:11:18 PM »
How'd you all manage, beyond being very good musicians, in a practical sense?

Our group has an average of about 16 people show up, so not dissimilar to a big band.

Normally several of them will have made their living for a few decades playing that style music.  So the difference in swing feel between a Basey chart or an Ellington or a trad jazz is ingrained in them.  They see the title of a standard piece and the rhythm feel is obvious.  To them. 

Those of us like me who are not pros listen until our brains hurt and try to match.  This is also true for me in syncopated jazz rhythms at tempos too fast to count, where it has to be felt and learned by rote. 

Occasions like this past weekend where the director wanted something specific are a little different. 

Also we do have classical pieces where the challenges are a little different. 

Tim

Offline ranjit

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Re: Tips to keep a steady pulse?
«Reply #23 on: June 16, 2021, 04:49:30 PM »
The part about train tracks etc made me realize something. Do you have any kind of music which just plays in your head (or is stuck in your mind)? Play along with it, and voila! You've got yourself an internal sense of pulse! ;D