Time and Feel Exercise for Bass Guitar
So, the other day, I mentioned seeing a video from Yonit Spiegelman called Time and Feel Exercise for Bass Guitar. That video led me to the online lesson site, Lessonface, where Yonit teaches. I posted about Lessonface already, but meant to talk about the exercise video as well.
The idea of the video is that when practicing with a metronome, we generally count 1-2-3-4 as we play a bar of music. Yonit moves away from this with a task to help us internalize time by not counting the “strong beats” (the 1 & 3) and instead focusing on the “weak beats” (2 & 4) and lining up our playing with those.
The exercise is played at 100 bpm, but Yonit has us lower it to 50 bpm. This way, instead of counting all 4 beats at 100 bpm, we can essentially count 1/2 of them at 50 bpm, which works out to us playing at the same speed as 100 bpm, but only counting 2 of the beats aloud (or in our heads).
So, to start, we just count the beats, with the metronome only playing on the 2 and 4 instead of on the 1 and 3. This way, we have to know where the 1 is, in our heads, and only verify it when the metronome joins us by calling out the 2 and 4. Once we’re able to count accurately, we actually play, with the tick from the metronome playing on the 2 & 4.
That’s the basic version of the exercise, which uses 8th notes with regard to speed and note duration. After we’re able to handle it, Yonit steps it up with a faster bassline that uses 16th notes, with us still counting on the 2 and 4 of the measure. so, its more notes but in the same span of time.
What’s interesting to me is that when she designed the basslines for the exercise, she made it so that we don’t actually play on beats 2 and 4. Only the metronome sounds at the start of those beats, which is supposed to simulate when a snare drum would be struck. This is because people are accustomed to hearing the snare drum play on those particular beats, and I think it also helps us reset and keep our place in time. It also helps us to develop an appreciation for not playing “on top” of the drummer, and instead, playing “with” the drummer.
If we’re able to get through all of that, Yonit has a final challenge for us: play only on the 2. So, we lower our metronomes to 25 bpm, count the 1, hear the 2, and have to count the 3, 4 and next 1 in our heads until the 2 comes along again to validate our place.
For those of you who can read notation, she provides it for both basslines at this link.