#1
Hi, i'm completely new to this forum so sorry if I posted this in the wrong section. I have a question about timing with lead guitar. For some reason it confuses me I can understand basic rhythm keeping in time with a simple strumming patterns and can also 16th note strum. I want to take my playing to the next level by learning lead guitar. For some reason it confuses me and I don't know why. When I tap my feet to a guitar solo they never really land on the beat all the time.


Sometimes I'll hear them bending a note off beat why do they do this? I know reggae music is off beat, but they're still keeping in time by doing chips off beat. For some reason I can never understand why when people solo they never land directly on the beat! They'll land just underneath it, I can't really explain how I feel about this. So I have some questions do they just feel the beat when they play not counting at all? How should I approach playing lead when I start practicing it because this all has me confused! Really I can't even explain this situation in some solos I listen to they rarely land on the beat. Sometimes it doesn't even sound like they're playing along to the beat. Could someone please explain this to me?
Last edited by mega fear at Nov 14, 2014,
#2
It's called "syncopation". They do it for precisely the reason you state; it's unpredictable and shakes up the listener.

Not all leads do this, though. And yes, trying to count syncopated rhythms drove me nuts when I first started playing. It does get easier after a while; what helped me was to actually read sheet music so I could see where the beats were and how they subdivided in the rhythm.
#3
I get what you are saying, but how would I go along approaching my lead playing? I feel like if I go over a backing track and count out loud how i'm playing a lick I'll sound too mechanical. I want to make myself clear so I will explain it. For example if I were to play a 4 note lick in 16ths for a bar straight. I feel like that would sound way too mechanical. So how should I approach my lead playing and can you please post a link to a topic speaking about syncopation rhythm? I want to understand it more
Last edited by mega fear at Nov 14, 2014,
#4
Quote by CarsonStevens
It's called "syncopation". They do it for precisely the reason you state; it's unpredictable and shakes up the listener.

Not all leads do this, though. And yes, trying to count syncopated rhythms drove me nuts when I first started playing. It does get easier after a while; what helped me was to actually read sheet music so I could see where the beats were and how they subdivided in the rhythm.



I forgot to mention by the way thanks for the reply. I feel like the rhythms they play during lead is all natural. Like they aren't even counting they just play what they feel they need to play whether it's over or under the beat. I like these solos more I was just trying to understand them. I find the solos that usually always land on the beat are bland and boring IMO. Am I right about the feel part? Sorry if i'm asking too much questions i'm just curious is all!
Last edited by mega fear at Nov 14, 2014,
#5
Quote by mega fear
I get what you are saying, but how would I go along approaching my lead playing? I feel like if I go over a backing track and count out loud how i'm playing a lick I'll sound too mechanical. I want to make myself clear so I will explain it. For example if I were to play a 4 note lick in 16ths for a bar straight. I feel like that would sound way too mechanical. So how should I approach my lead playing and can you please post a link to a topic speaking about syncopation rhythm? I want to understand it more


I would say the heart of lead is melody. You can't play a solo until you can play a melody, so work on your ability to play melodies.

When you say "I feel like that would sound ..." I think you're thinking too much. Play it. How does it sound? Like the way it sounds? Keep it. Don't like the way it sounds, change it.

Music is a language. You didn't learn how to speak English by thinking about it - you learned by speaking, listening, reading and writing. Take the same approach to music. Now, I'm pro music theory, but only insomuch as it's a guide for what you learn how to hear.

So if you want to understand syncopation, spend a day listening to a bunch of syncopation. Set a metronome and play syncopated rhythms against it. Repeat as necessary. You can read about it all you want but it's not going to help you as much as listening and playing.

You have to learn to listen as a musician. e.g., "What is this person doing? Okay, let me try that." You'll find there's a very strong connection between what you HEAR and what you PLAY. If you can't hear something clearly - that is to say, really hear all the different parts of it precisely - you won't be able to play it.
#6
Try playing to a metronome. One note plucked for every click. Then once you have that pattern, start putting in syncopation, maybe by adding upbeats (during the silence) and taking out the downbeats (the click).

Play simple melodies that all land on the downbeat. Then play a bit more complex melodies that require you to work out their timing.
#7
Quote by HotspurJr
I would say the heart of lead is melody. You can't play a solo until you can play a melody, so work on your ability to play melodies.

When you say "I feel like that would sound ..." I think you're thinking too much. Play it. How does it sound? Like the way it sounds? Keep it. Don't like the way it sounds, change it.

Music is a language. You didn't learn how to speak English by thinking about it - you learned by speaking, listening, reading and writing. Take the same approach to music. Now, I'm pro music theory, but only insomuch as it's a guide for what you learn how to hear.

So if you want to understand syncopation, spend a day listening to a bunch of syncopation. Set a metronome and play syncopated rhythms against it. Repeat as necessary. You can read about it all you want but it's not going to help you as much as listening and playing.

You have to learn to listen as a musician. e.g., "What is this person doing? Okay, let me try that." You'll find there's a very strong connection between what you HEAR and what you PLAY. If you can't hear something clearly - that is to say, really hear all the different parts of it precisely - you won't be able to play it.



Best advice so far!
#8
Quote by Will Lane
Try playing to a metronome. One note plucked for every click. Then once you have that pattern, start putting in syncopation, maybe by adding upbeats (during the silence) and taking out the downbeats (the click).

Play simple melodies that all land on the downbeat. Then play a bit more complex melodies that require you to work out their timing.



I like this too!
#9
There are two aspects to this: phrasing and time-feel, both related to note placement in time (i.e rhythm). They can artifically be practised separately. You will definitely need either a metronome, or something like Cubase (where you can literally draw in where pitches start and stop playing with a MIDI editor).

If you use an electronic metronome in 4/4 time, and start it up, you get a series of evenly spaced clicks (in time), with one in every 4 being emphasised. Without that emphasis, there is no sense of time being "broken up". With it, the clicks are sectioned up into blocks of 4 clicks ("bars"), with the first click being the emphasised one (beat one of the bar). You can then imagine sub-dividing the bar again, with 8 evenly spaced clicks over the same passage of time. And again to get 16 clicks in that same bar, running twice as fast again. Let's ignore 16, 32 etc, and stick with 8. Ignoring time-feel for a minute, and assuming you play really accurately, and only ever start playing a pitch on one of these clicks, then this gives you 8 possible places to begin at. Once you've made a choice, then you hold that sound for as long as you like, and either deaden it, followed by silence, or change to another pitch on one of the 8 places.

Beginner musicians will choose the first click of the bar to start at, typically, and play fairly rigidly (starting on a click as accurately as possible, and usually play one note per click). This sounds mechanical, and this is one of the biggest tell-tale signs of a beginner (ignoring bum notes, string noise etc !!). They also tend to pick each note with the same strength ... analagous to the metronome with no emphasising click every 4 beats.

So, as players develop, a couple of things tend to get added to their style. First, they play with different strengths ... some pitches are hit harder, others less so. This is called "dynamics". Secondly, they can consciously very slightly offset their start points against the "correct" start point, either playing the note fractionally early ("ahead of the beat") or fractionally late ("behind the beat"), or even ignore the time (pretend some other tempo is being used, or that the underlying click is emphasised one in every 5 or 7 clicks, or whatever).

The above, along with syncopation, are all aspects of "time-feel" playing.

This can be practised. Set your metronome to a slow enough speed where you can think fast enough to be aware where each click is, so if it's playing 4 clicks to the bar, you can find divide that bar into 8 yourself. 4 metronome clicks ("on-beats") and 4 you imagine ("off-beats") and then try stuff like:

play a note on each click, and:

1/ play each at same strength (volume)
2/ emphasise each on-beat
3/ emphasise each off-beat.
4/ choose one of the 8 available "clicks" (one of the on or off beats), e.g. the 4th available click and empasise that, while the rest are played at the same strength.

Then you can do similar, using the same strength always, but now vary the note duration, e.g. a note lasts a whole bar, or a 1/4 of a bar, and etc.

Interesting things happen when you start a longer duration note (e.g. a 1/4 of bar) on a evenly numbered time boundary (e.g. start that on the second 1/8th note click). This is an example of "syncopation".

Phrasing is a BIG topic. Another time! But for starters, we can consciously decide to leave gaps of silence, say for three bars. We can also choose to start somewhere other than the first beat of the bar, and end somewhere other than the last. This again breaks up time into larger chunks of sound, silence, sound, silence.

BTW: All of the above can be practised just using the SAME note, so you can concentrate exclusively on time, and ignore note choice.

Sadly, this whole area tends to get ignored for way too long as the guitarist gets absorbed into mechanical technique (we all go through "I got to play as fast as that guy" ... problem comes when "that guy has to slow down" ... the musicality may be lacking).

My best advice is spend as much time on the above as on learning scales, note choice etc. But many will disagree.

So now, try going back and listening to solos you like, listen to the drums to work out where the bar starts, and then listen how the guitarists breaks up time.

Good luck,
cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 15, 2014,
#10
Quote by mega fear
I feel like the rhythms they play during lead is all natural. Like they aren't even counting they just play what they feel they need to play whether it's over or under the beat. I like these solos more I was just trying to understand them. I find the solos that usually always land on the beat are bland and boring IMO. Am I right about the feel part?


You are right. The feel has to be yours. The ideas have to be yours. You can only be shown how to be able to convert your ideas into sound on your instrument.

Imo, this is the rarest and most difficult ability in music. Many people need to count and practice a lot their timing. Others just feel it strongly, as though their body wants to move and they just need to let it.

When I was first started music I had a couple of teachers that taught me to count, or clapping syncopation, and I couldn't stand it. It seemed so odd to me that such a training would exist. Almost like if a blind man was teaching you how to navigate with a stick to feel your way around, when you can just obviously see all the obstacles.
There are a lot of training exercises you can do, and there is counting you can do, which will all become second nature to you. I am not intimately familiar with many of these though. But some people have a strong innate ability to feel rhythm, and they will be more capable to toy with rhythm than people that rely more on training.

The beat that you would normally count, is sort of a reference grid. It is not the "grid you should stick to". Sticking to it will sound a certain way, which might be what you want at one time, and which is really cool sometimes, and other times what you might want is more of a swing beat. For me, it all has to do with how it moves the body, in a way.

You know what? think of it kind of like a lie detector test thingy.


Like that except with grid lines perpendicular to the ones you see in the picture.

The 4/4 beat you'd count, is like every time the grid on the paper passes the writing tip. If you mess up the speed of the paper, it will all be screwed up. If the paper moves at a constant speed, you can do anything with the needle, and you'll get nice coherent lines. They don't need to always peak on the grid lines or whatever. They might make the rhythm feel more pushed or hanging, or just a straight bob. Like the needle moving up and down is your head moving up and down. If the paper moves correctly, the design will look correct. It will have flow, no matter what design you did. If you mess up the paper speed, the timing will not be good and the design will show it.

But to me, art is more than that even, it is not doing it "right" or "correct" or something that "works". It is expressing yourself. Making the design on the paper you think is cool. That specific one. Just like when you build a sentence, you don't think about words working together, or grammar, or anything like that. You think about the message you want to say.

But before you can say the message you want, you must learn the language. I think for me what exploded my understanding of rhythm was beatboxing. It wasn't until programming that I named those things though.

I think you should definitely explore all sorts of rhythm. first 4/4 straight billy jean/metronome beat, and then all other straight divisions triplets, swing, all of that. Learn solos you like, and mess around a lot focusing on rhythm rather than notes. Mess around with 2 or 3 notes only, stuff like that. I think you should count as well, but I don't know the best way to internalize all that. for me, every beat was a feel relative to the 4 grid/billy jean beat, and it wasn't until I came to programming that I realized how rigid perfect timing was, what some of those beats I felt were, from a theory standpoint, and how frequently it felt really right to deviate from a perfectly straight beat.

I personally find that in music forums you hear so much about scales and what notes to play, which is important also, but I find rhythm is where most of the magic is. There are only 12 notes. Everything else is when you play them.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Nov 15, 2014,
#11
Quote by fingrpikingood

I personally find that in music forums you hear so much about scales and what notes to play, which is important also, but I find rhythm is where most of the magic is. There are only 12 notes. Everything else is when you play them.


1000000 % in agreement. So important, and yet so skipped over in the early stages (and later!!) of learning, playing and writing.

cheers, Jerry
#12
Listen to some funk. It is all about syncopation.

Also, it may help if you learn to play some rhythm guitar. That can help your sense of rhythm.
#13
trying really hard not to make a crap chemistry joke

seriously, though, i guess as a probably terrible analogy, rhythm playing is a bit like rapping or reciting (non-free-verse) poetry- there's a definite obvious beat, and most of the time at least, you stick to it. so the beat is pretty easy to hear.

with (a lot of) lead playing, you're almost playing across the beat a lot of the time. It's more like normal speaking, or free verse poetry. so the beat is harder to hear.