Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - November 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Timing/Time - Timing Over Time

 I recently subjected myself to an onslaught of YouTube gear demo videos.  I'm looking for a "replacement solution" for my ailing, sketchy amp situation at work.

 As it turns out, post Guitar Center Retail Apocalypse Denoument, there are no longer singular places where you can travel to and try out "most everything" as you once could in Ye Olde Tyme.  As predicted, Guitar Center is now wallowing in mediocre Mart of Wal descent: random selection of bland products in general, coupled with an annoying environment.
 It's so bad, that in order to try all of things that have interested me for said use, I'd have to spend a week on a road trip across the south east to maybe find these things and maybe try them out.  So I found myself studying the wild and wooly world of Super Amateur Hour Product Demos (which reminds me, I need to write a post about how to navigate such things in a more efficient manner...).

 I digress, sorry.


 It's not as simple or inane as "being on beat".  In fact, if someone thinks playing to a click means trying to match the click on every beat - sorry, you don't hear music properly. 

 Nothing in the classic, performed-by-humans pantheon of recorded music is perfectly on beat. 

 That is NOT the same as "off beat", "out of time", "having poor meter", or any other sundry bs terms I'm sick of that are bandied about by mediocre musicians incapable of making an artistic decision.

 I've ranted before about playing to a click perfectly as being wrong.  But what I'm going to discuss now is the flipside to that.

 It would seem...  "most" people's internal clock is either too rigid, or too fragile.

 Rigid: I know people that play perfectly in time.  Drummers that play perfectly on top of the beat, naturally. 

 This is overall a great thing for a drummer, because they can get by in almost any situation.  Generally.  Actually, I suppose these days, in everything - people don't hear the difference I'm talking about post-70's music:

 Great music requires push and pull. 

 When I hear endless demos of bits of people's favorite songs when they're doing their gear demos, it's revealing of two phenomena about humans.

1) Some are capable to "playing back", in detail, timing from an "inner recording".

2) Some are capable to manipulating this recording.

About #1: I hear some people play a part of their snippet eerily perfect.  The part they like most.  The part they remember the clearest.  Because then, they'll play the rest with an apparently completely unaware sense of a part having a push and a pull they obviously don't hear.  Something that falls into the micro-rhythmical realm, sub 75ms or so.

Their inner timing resolution goes below that, but only for a small part. In reality this is where the nebulous "feel" resides, maintaining that. Playing perfectly on top of the beat isn't "wrong", but it's not right in this context. 

#2: a dividing line in the sand.  Some people are trying to get within the ballpark, driving in the parking lot with dirty sun glasses on.  Others are inside, looking for the best seat.

 When I hear someone play an excerpt from a Famous Blues Guitar Solo, and it's not verbatim, the cliche "feel" comes up: there is a lack of diversity to the push/pull in the timing.  It's often quite literally "too correct".  That also goes for the dynamics and tone manipulation (if any).

 Why I think I hear this: music was like religion to me since I was a toddler, literally.  I "mainlined" it daily.  I knew what I liked, and wore it out.  Even before I became a "professional musician" I knew a lot of music inside and out. I wore out records and cassettes. 

 After I became Mr. Musician, I did the same thing.  I played to sides of records over, and over, and over, and over, and over some more.

The fun was in mimicking this great music I'd heard all my life!

I hated the post-mp3 term "music should be free!" (no...).  In a sense, it always was to a musician!  You can learn to play a piece of music that someone who is regarded as a historic genius has created, and you can practice and reproduce it over and over, as much as you like.


 Increasingly these days it seems like I have to struggle to motivate people to spend more than a few moments with a piece of music.  

 I can demonstrate where music is pushing and pulling, and try to wake someone's ears up to that aspect, but that has to be ingrained.  You have to want to do it perfectly; but for your own reasons!

 Meaning, because you love the music.  For me, there isn't enough time in the day to spend playing music; even if it's just a 5 second part!  If it is  great, and you love it, you'll want to do it over and over.  Being able to capture the magic of the gestalt of something great - it's free in music, if you want it.

 But if you can only tolerate "practicing" a part in a piece of music you "love" - maybe you don't know what you like as much as you think?  Or maybe just not as much as the OCD person; regardless, it is something that you have to pass through to get that "Full Featured Inner Metronome".  If you want to reproduce a feeling, it can't be something you have to consciously pull up, it has to be reflex: because you've done it so much.

 You must past through the gauntlet of having spent hours and hours reproducing your favorite music.  Not just barely getting through it and shutting the hood.  Not playing something once, moving on.  Doing it over, and over, and over, and over.  If you've never done that, you absolutely must if you want to both hear the difference AND be able to manipulate it.

 And most importantly - if none of this seems to make sense - then you need to do it.  Take 5 of your favorite songs, *favorite* songs mind you - not "the most difficult" - and play each of them 10 times in a row.  

Every day.

For at least 3 months or more.

THEN, go listen to people play the same 5 songs on You Tube; you'll hear rhythmic differences you couldn't hear before.

 Drummers are the worse about this. Lots of John Bonham and Stewart Copeland "big fans" who know a couple of beats, maybe some fills - but they can't trick you on the *feel* through an entire song. It breaks down, something gets averaged out that is either pushed or pulled.  And it's that subtlety that makes them great, not just the technical expertise or ultra clever parts!  It's their human side in control.  

 Anyhow... yeah.  There can be more to that "simple, easy to play" riff than you think.  The feel is just as much part of the technique.