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Struggles with timing

Discussion in 'Notation' started by David Healey, Jan 30, 2018.

  1. Hi,

    When I'm transcribing a piece (including trying to write my own compositions) I always struggle to work out the time signature. What I end up doing is inputting the notes into the DAW and play around with the grid until stuff lines up enough that I can figure out what the time signature should be.

    Now I'm not talking about dense arrangements or complicated pieces. I struggle with even simple tunes. Today I tried to just figure out the time signature of a bunch of Christmas songs and nursery rhymes and I was right maybe 50% of the time.

    I know that pick up beats/bars throw me off and I know I have trouble hearing where 1 is. I also struggle to count while playing at the same time, which is a problem when it comes to my own compositions.

    I could carry on as I have been for years just letting my DAW do the work but it's starting to bother me because it makes me slower, and I like to jot things down at the piano but what I jot is usually in the wrong time signature and I have to rework all the notation afterwards which is no fun.

    So does anyone have any tips on how to improve my ability to detect where 1 is and figure out time signatures by ear?

    -Thanks
     
  2. Start with the pulse and the subdivision. Do you find that you can usually find the pulse and/or subdivision of a piece of music? Once you have that, it should be easy to figure out the time signature. It's possible you are just over-thinking things. Can you post some examples of pieces that you are struggling with? We could probably give you more specific advice that way.
     
  3. For rhythm problems, I recommend hanging out with more black people.

    Seriously, though, outside of transcription, how's your rhythm? Have you done/can you do playing-to-a-metronome rudiments or patterns like a drummer would? I used a rhythm trainer app for little Draco and it got him in shape pretty quickly. Of course, we have James Brown and Prince on in the house frequently...
     
    David Healey likes this.
  4. I can usually get my foot tapping to a beat but often I don't know if I'm at beat 1 or beat 4. To be honest it's pretty much anything. Lately I've been transcribing the main theme to Bruce Broughton's True Women, I actually didn't do too badly but there are a few time signature changes which really messed with me. Today I was going through all the traditional tunes on this page - https://www.8notes.com/all/sheet_music/ - and playing all of the ones I already know by ear. I then tried to notate what I played and compare it to the sheet music. As I went on I realised it was the time signatures I was messing up on and that caused my notation to be all out of line. Sometimes the time signature was really obvious and I didn't have a problem and my notation was pretty accurate but as soon as I can't find 1 every goes wrong. For example I can play Happy Birthday no problem but even right now I can't work out the time signature from playing it.

    My rhythm is not so good. I've always been a solo musician, hardly played with other musicians and when I have it's just strumming a few chords in the background, so I've always just played to whatever beat came naturally. I haven't done much playing with a metronome. If that's the way to go though I will get straight to it, are there any particular piano exercises that I should focus on or should I just try playing everything? What's the app that Draco used?
     
  5. Others have already given good advice. Most likely you have not done a lot of reading rhythms. I found having to sight read incredibly useful
    for connecting sound to notation.

    Couple of other small tips that helped me:
    1. Practice vocalizing rhythms while walking. Walking puts you into a tempo/groove automatically.
    2. Make it physical. I can't illustrate via text, but I would always clap a 4 or 3 or 2 pattern on my lap to help.
    For example if a Waltz -- I would tap 1 left hand on my leg, 2 right hand/right leg close to waist, 3 right hand/leg by knee for 3.
    This way each beat is physical. Plus it helps with the feel of the meter.

    Don't know your back ground, but you know most rock/pop music has a snare on 2&4. That will help.

    Oh,....and here is a groovy drum tutorial where he talks about the unconscious effect rhythms have on our bodies

     
    David Healey likes this.
  6. Definitely spend some time with a metronome, tapping out beats, etc. like others have already suggested. Also pay attention to chord progressions. Especially in simple pop/folk tunes, chords tend to change on downbeats. Often every 2 or 4 beats. That should help you find the time signature and where the downbeat is. Happy Birthday is a good example. Listen to any standard version of it and you should find the first two chord changes happen on the words "BIRTH" and "YOU". In this case, the song is in 3/4 with chord changes happening every 3 beats. The first beat (the word "happy") is a pickup beat.
     
    David Healey likes this.
  7. Thanks for the responses guys. I've got myself a metronome and a piano rhythm book so hopefully I'll progress in a few months. I was listening to the radio in the car today, with most tunes in a full arrangement with bass and drums I find the beat a lot more easily. I think my main problem is when it's a solo melody or when it's very slow (especially held string notes), or when there is multiple time signatures in a piece.

    I think when I'm playing tunes on the piano I should spend more time listening to the chords to help me find the beat.
     
  8. @Mike Verta Do you happen to have the name of the app? Or anyone else know of a good one?
    The one I currently use is pretty frustrating (e.g. If there are 2 successive eighth note rests, it won't accept a quarter note rest as an equally valid answer, it's not 'smart' like that..)
     
  9. Try Perfect Ear for Android. IIRC it's free, but has an option to purchase additional exercises for $3 or something. It also has sight reading, chord progressions, inversions, pitch training etc.
     
  10. That would be the one I'm using, probably should've mentioned..
    I mean, it's fine and I don't need the actual thing to tell me what my score was (i know that was correct even though it says otherwise) but still..
     
  11. Oh. Maybe you could post a comment on the Play Store page or email the developer? I'm sure they'll take a look at whatever suggestions you have, especially if they're small QoL improvements like that. These guys usually respond to lower reviews.

    Especially if you rate it as 1 star. They'll solve your hurdle asap. Then you just edit your rating. It's kind of a dick move, and I'm not sure if this is a situation that calls for it; you might just wanna try a simple email first :D
     
    T.j. Prinssen likes this.
  12. I see a title for a song !

    Anyone up for a transcription challenge ?




    If the timing here is too difficult maybe a prerequisite

     
  13. #13 Aaron Venture, Feb 6, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
    If in doubt, just follow the dad's head.
     
  14. Sure.......and for me, at least, what really helped to learn to count syncopations properly was to feel the downbeat at all times,
    even when the pitch is sustaining over it.

    Think super mario brothers intro, or Beethoven 5th. That another good one. How do you conduct something that begins on a upbeat.

    Dang...... the David Allen Grier clip is not showing.
     
    Aaron Venture likes this.
  15. Well man, at least you can put it into words. I was made in electronic music so I had no trouble whatsoever following. But I don't think I could explain how or why it makes sense to me.

    The best advice I can give is to anyone is to go and do some percussion music. And I don't just mean listen, but transcribe and write. Which is pretty much what you already said.
     

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