Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Q & A: Turned around

I received this question in the comments a while ago:

I wanted to ask you a quick question about listening to (not playing) up tempos. I find that sometimes my brain shifts the hi-hat 2&4 so that I am hearing them as the downbeats 1&3. I find it hard to correct this once it “settles in” and the music is flying by, unless there are some clear accents on the 1, for example. Do you have any tips for correcting my brain if this happens? Also, should I continue to listen if I know I'm not hearing it right? I know that sounds strange, but I feel like listening in the “wrong” way is training my brain to hear in the “wrong” way.

It's probably not a good idea to just go along hearing it wrong.

Although it's not a wrong instinct, if Michael Longo's book is any authority. Those are the accented beats. The problem is how we resolve what you're hearing with the real agreed-upon rhythmic structure, which says those beats are the 2 and 4.

You can try actually saying “2” (or “2, 4”) along with the hihat. Hopefully your counting instincts are developed enough to tell you that the 1 is therefore somewhere else. Or you could say “&” along with the hihat. That should really drive it home that these are not the downbeats. That would be counting the fast 4/4 in 2/2— 1 & 2 & instead of 1 2 3 4, both at the same rate. You could also try saying 4-1 or &-1 out loud.

I find that lapses like that happen to me less often as my rhythm and time improve— a not-insignificant part of which has centered around developing a healthy relationship with the 1 and 3. And with quarter notes in general. For many years I thought myself too hip to be thinking about that, and it ended up being a point of weakness in my playing.

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