YES! You read it correctly, SLOW. You may be wondering what the purpose of this article. Well, I'm glad you ask. I have created this article to help you avoid the frustrations I've experienced in a recording setting. To make it easier to comprehend I will divide this article into two sections. The first section explains my personal experiences and why I think it's important to practice and play over slow tempos. The second part will provide examples and exercises with explanations to help you adapt your practice in a musical context for your own usage, style, and development.
I understand that for us rock based players, head bangers and shredders, speed is an important key to expressing ourselves. We've locked ourselves in our rooms, jamming along to our idols with the dreams of one day playing in front of thousands. We focus heavily on physical techniques that enable us to play fast. Of course, there are other factors aside from just physical techniques that we need to embrace to become good solid rock players. I do not wish to discourage you from practicing such techniques. I merely want to put forward a few ideas that can be added to help you continue to play fast while staying tight and accurate.
We all know of a band that plays simple but each member plays perfectly in time. On the other hand, we also know of bands that have amazing talent but each member plays purely to show off their skill lacking accurate rhythm. Who do you prefer? We all know that rhythm is important but why? Rhythm is a heart of a song, and it is the key element that drives listeners to move. Imagine a guitar solo played at lighting speed without the steady beats that drive the song underneath! That's why having a tight and accurate rhythm is very important regardless of how fast or slow of the tempo is.
In the past, I never thought I would have an issue with playing a riff and rhythm over slow tempos, because surely playing slow would be easier to play and control the groove right? Wrong! It wasn't until I had to record a track around 70 bpm for my band that I realized playing slow was not easy. I found myself playing ahead of the drum beat and sometimes when there were rests between chords and sections I was starting to play ahead of the beat. I became extremely frustrated after practicing and playing for all these years, why was I having such a basic issue? I had to increase the tempo to 100 bpm to practice. It was only after the increase that I was able to find the groove which I felt more comfortable locking in than with the slow tempo where I felt disconnected and hard to comprehend. It was like someone saying "GUITAR" at 30 seconds per syllable.
However, I came to the realization that our human nature responds to moderate to moderately fast tempos better than those very slow or very fast tempos. Our ability to adapt naturally to the different tempos is based on our heart rates, environment and musical experience. Thus, as a guitar player we need to retrain our bodies to adapt. Being able to play at any tempo is a great skill to practice to become an all rounded guitarist and truly become an asset to any band.
Hopefully, you get the importance of practicing playing over slow tempos. Stay tuned for the second part where I'll share some examples and exercises to help explain and improve your rhythmic ability.
In a meanwhile, you can challenge yourself by playing a steady quarter note power chord over the 4/4 drum beat around 60 to 75 bpm, and do the same thing for 120 to 150 bpm. If you find yourself comfortable to lock in with the faster rhythm more naturally than locking yourself in with those slower tempos then the next section is perfect for you. Until next time keep practicing and...
ROCK ON! \m/