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Unleash Your Inner Beat: Improve Your Rhythm.

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

This blog post is quite a universal one, it will be useful for musicians leaning complex rhythms and for none musicians who just want a better sense of rhythm.

Baby music
Playing music to my daughter!

Everyone, right from the earliest age, should be exposed to music and rhythm, it is as essential as social interaction, good diet and exercise.

Why might anyone want to improve their rhythm?

  • To learn music faster

  • To play or perform more complex music

  • To dance in time to a beat

  • To sing in time to a beat

  • To appreciate music your hear more

  • To make more progress when learning a musical instrument

  • To follow ques when acting

  • To help with coordination

  • To help you or your child with their language development

  • To improve your cognitive skills

  • To help with exercise classes

  • There are many more....

What is the best way to improve your rhythm?

The absolute best way to improve your rhythm, is to PRACTICE. It doesn't matter which point above applies to you, without practice you will not get very far.

Are people naturally gifted with good rhythm? As a music teacher for over 20 years and as someone who has played a musical instrument pretty much all my life, the answer to this question is no.

I firmly believe that an individuals rhythm skill is first started in the womb. Heartbeat, breathing, internal sounds and movement are all things that have an impact on rhythm for an unborn baby. Musical sounds in the environment around a baby play a big part (I believe) in the musical development of a child.

My daughter
Ultra sound scan image of my daughter!

If a parent sings to their child and the child is exposed to music from an early age, I believe it doesn't only have an impact on their ability to sing in tune and have naturally good rhythm, it also has an impact on their intelligence. I am not basing this on any scientific research or data, it's just my opinion.

Let's face it, music is fun. Why would you not expose your child to music, there are surely no known negative reasons.

Good rhythm can also be learnt, developed and used to good effect in many ways, such as those listed above.

Let's explore some ways, starting very basic, to improve your rhythm with things you can practice.

I have broken it down into three main parts. Click on one to jump ahead.

1) Tapping your foot or nodding your head.

Play any piece of pop, rock or dance music through some speakers or on a mobile device. Something you like ideally or maybe use a radio station. Try and listen closely to the different instruments being used. Break it down in your mind or write it down. Can you feel the pulse or the beat of the music? Tap your foot or nod your head to this beat.

Maybe there is a regular beat from one instrument like a drum that you can latch onto. You can practice counting these beats. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight etc. You should be able to recognise, that sometimes a beat is stronger than others and you might even recognise a repeating pattern allowing you to count, one, two, three, one, two, three or one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.

Once you can start to do this, find a different song and do the same. Recognise any similarities or differences that you notice.

2) Playing on one note, using a metronome.

The previous part was helpful for people who just want to have better rhythm, not necesarily because you are learning a musical instrument. For this part lets presume you are learning a musical instrument. Let's presume also that you think your rhythmic ability is poor.

No matter what age you are, getting good at rhythm is very important as you learn your instrument. Here are easy 5 steps to follow:

1) Get yourself a real metronome, download a free app or visit METRONOME ONLINE. Select a moderate speed, say 88 beats per minute. For those Back to the Future fans, this metronome marking always makes me think of this clip!

2) Using your instrument, on one note, try and play, sing or hit (for drummers) on every beat you hear. Find the groove, so you can repeat it for ages without any error.

3) Then, play around with different tempos, faster and slower

Tempo = Speed

4) When you can do that, have a go at playing 2 notes in the space of each beat. So if the beat is a crotchet or quarter note, you can play quavers or eighth notes.

5) You can then, and only then, start changing notes or playing some simple music using musical notation and most impoartantly, a metronome.

3) Look for main beats, slow it down and subdivide.

This part is for more advanced musicians who are learning more complex music. Sometimes more complex music has time changes (or metre changes), tempo changes and can even swap from simple time to compound time.

Compound Time = 6/8 or 9/8 are examples of compound time. In compound time, each beat is a dotted note.

Simple Time = 2/4 or 4/4 are examples of simple time. Each beat has two equal subdivisions.

Finding the main beats or down beats or notes that are on the beat are the first steps towards mastering any tricky rhythm you might have in the music you are learning. You might need to write numbers above the musical notation or draw lines to seperate the beats.

If the music is in compound time, where a beat is made up of 3 quavers for example, I sometimes like to draw a triangle above that beat.

Next, it is essential to just slow it down. Aim to be able to play the music at half tempo, with the correct rhythms perfectly before speeding it up.

Lastly, use subdivisions. If a piece of music has 4 crotchet or quater note beats in a bar (or measure). You can break that into 8 quavers or eighth notes. If you get used to feeling the subdivisions, it will make you play far more rhythmically accurate.

Improve Your Rhythm, Conclusion.

Improving your rhythm is a rewarding journey that adds depth and finesse to your musical repertoire or even your life in general. Embrace the joy of playing simple music, learning to dance, experiment with different styles, and let rhythm become second nature. With dedication and a mindful approach, you'll find yourself unlocking new levels of musicality and groove. Good luck!

Thank you for reading. ❤

You can also see blog posts shared on my Facebook Alchemy For Musicians page - Facebook

Mark Glover


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