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Playing with Time 1


1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8

These may look like a bunch of numbers to most people,

but to me, they are Seconds.


This is NOT maths.  It is the ticking of a clock – Tick Tock.


This is a bar,  a phrase,  a sequence of notes,  a rhythm,  a cycle,

that repeats over and over  for the length of a piece of music.

Time is the foundation of all Rhythm.


Timing is one of the Three Vital Elements of playing music,

as discussed in last week’s blog.

Individual notes are like stray atoms floating in space.

Groups of notes are like molecules without any reference.

Timing gives structure to music, there is a start to a song, and an end.

There is a precise time when everything happens.

Everybody in the orchestra or band knows it,
and everybody is beholden to it.

There may be a 4 bar intro.

The singer starts singing the Verse, in bar 5

There is a drum fill in bar 12

The Chorus begins in bar 13.

A solo may happen in bar 25.


There is a pace for the song.  There is a frame of reference.

Time is a standard.  A Rule.  A benchmark.

You can set your watch by it. Ha Ha.


Unfortunately, the only way to mark off time, is to count it.

Count the seconds as they tick by.

This seems one of the hardest things for Students to do.

I teach all my students that once a song begins, it has to reach its end.

Once you Begin a song or a piece of music,

you always have the End in sight.


Of course, the only way to learn a long, complicated song, rhythm or piece of music, is to break it down into smaller chunks.

Learn it phrase-by-phrase,

bar-by-bar,  riff-by-riff.

But, always have the End in sight.


The back of a CD has 3:15 after a track.

That’s a precise time!

Sheet music has 90 Beats Per Minute at the top.

Again, that is very precise.

There is no room for delay  or meandering  or creativity,
when you are playing music written by other people.

You have to abide by their rules.

Make the piece sound like the composer intended.

The only way to have complete freedom in music, is to create it yourself, and play solo.


All students start Counting Time like this:

1  2  3  4                                            (then they make a mistake and start again)

–   –   –   –  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8


I point out to them that they have gone Back in Time.

The band have moved on, with the End in sight, but one person has gone back to the beginning and started the song again.

Time waits for no Student!


Remember The “Count” from Sesame Street?   Loves counting so much, like me!


See you in next week’s blog – Playing With Time 2



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