** As featured in issue 30 **
Hi guys and welcome back to my guitar lesson column for issue 30! In this tutorial we’re going to be further developing our time feel and internal metronome when improvising on the guitar. If you didn’t check out my time feel guitar lesson in issue 29, make sure you go back and check it out so that you get a good grasp of the ideas that we worked on and get the basics of ‘internal metronome’ practice together. For this lesson we’re going to be expanding our practice with a more difficult but equally telling guitar exercise that can be modified to test even the most solid of guitar players.
In the majority of musical scenarios that we play in there is usually a drummer or percussion player outlining the rhythmic framework in a very explicit way. If the drummer is great (or even not so great!) we end up playing and feeling the groove based around their rhythmic information and not relying on our internal feel of time quite so much. For most players that haven’t worked specifically on their time feel and internal metronome, if the drummer were to stop playing for a number of bars they may find it difficult to really maintain the pulse and groove in the same way as if the drummer were playing. The best improvisers and players can maintain this pulse and groove using their internal metronome whether the drummer is there or not and can feel very specifically the space between each beat with accuracy and style. When we describe someone as having great ‘time feel’ this is one of the elements we are talking about - their ability to maintain and feel a groove/pulse and for the listener to hear that groove without the aid of a drummer or metronome. The result is that the listener can hear all the elements of the groove without the drummer or percussion player being there.
There are many steps that you can take on this journey to developing your internal metronome but there is one very simple exercise that can be utilised a lot for big gains in your rhythmic confidence and accuracy when a drummer is not present. Most people have a tendency to rush or drag their time feel and this exercise will also teach you in which camp you reside so that you can start to improve your rhythmic accuracy as quickly as possible.
The exercise relies on the use of a drum machine, sophisticated metronome or DAW such as Logic or Cubase. There are quite a few free DAWs on the market so if you can’t afford one of the professional versions you can always check out the free options on offer for this exercise. If you are going to use a metronome then I suggest one of the cheap or free iOS/Android apps on the market because you need to make sure that the metronome can be silenced for a number of bars rather than just clicking all of the time. There are many such apps available and a quick search will highlight them for you. The basic premise of the exercise is that we will have a drum loop or metronome play for three bars of a four bar loop and mute the drums/metronome in the 4th bar. You will be improvising for all four bars with the drums/metronome providing all of the rhythmic information for the first three bars. In bar four the metronome or drums will be muted and you must use your internal sense of time or internal metronome to feel where each beat is, trying to come back in on beat one of the next four bar loop as accurately as possible, maintaining the groove and feel from the previous three bars. Initially you may feel a sense of discomfort when playing in the 4th bar as the lack of drums or a click can be disconcerting but very soon you’ll start to develop a much more developed confidence of the beat placement, allowing you to be far more assured in your internal metronome.
Once you are comfortable with a single bar of silence try to extend this to two bars so that you have two bars of drums and two muted bars. This will really help you to identify any pushing or pulling that you are doing and help to correct it as required. Extending this to three muted bars makes the exercise exponentially more difficult and this can be expanded to two bars of drums followed by six muted bars for an even more challenging and rewarding practice regime.
I recommend checking out the video lesson for more details and trying this exercise with as many different rhythmic styles, grooves and tempos as you can in order to really develop a great internal metronome. To get you started I’ve included the drum groove that I used in the video for you to download but get cracking with your own rhythms as soon as possible! In the next issue we’ll be looking at switching between straight and swung 16th’s for a modern fusion sound. Good luck and I’ll see you in the next issue.