Fix Your Timing - Play The Backbeat

Weekly Newsletter #56

September 2, 2022

Do you spend a lot of your practice time working on your rhythm and timing? 

What about playing with a metronome? 

If not, why not? 

Timing and rhythm make up the vast majority of playing any instrument. After all, just about anything you play has some rhythm connected to it. 

There are very few instances in music where there is “no time”. 

Since timing is such a huge part of playing, learning how to get really good at it is a skill that will make every other part of your playing much better. 

As you read this, follow along with the VIDEO and see if you can keep up with this metronome practice at home. 

Using A Metronome 

You’ve probably heard, “use a metronome” hundreds of times before…but this time I’m telling you something very different. 

Using a metronome is essential for learning how to play in time… yes that’s true. 

Feeling the rhythm and beat of a song is one of the things that separate average players from great ones. 

However, simply putting your metronome on to the BPM of the song won’t get you to be a master of timing. 

Sure, it will get you proficient at playing to a beat, but how you play to a beat is an advanced concept. 

Instead of using your metronome so that it clicks on all four beats within a measure, we’re going to work on playing on the backbeat. 

What’s The Backbeat? 

Simply put, the backbeat is the two and four of every measure. 

This is where (almost always) the snare drum hits in music. 

The backbeat is the heavy beat and it’s where advanced players feel the rhythm. 

Rather than tapping your foot on every beat, something which often causes players to rush, feeling the backbeat allows you more time in between clicks or foot taps to line up the beat so that it falls more heavily and the groove is more pronounced. 

Take a listen to any good drummer, the backbeat on two and four likely has a feeling of falling into it and hanging before dropping into that heavy backbeat. 

Changing Your Metronome Practice 

Instead of just putting your metronome on the BPM of the song you’re playing, the best way to learn how to feel the backbeat is to only hear the backbeat. 

Let’s say you’re working on a song that’s 100BPM. 

Cut that number in half: 50 BPM. 

Now instead of having a click on every beat (four beats) you only have two clicks. 

These two metronome clicks must be on beats two and four. 

In order to do this, have your metronome set at 50 BPM and simply say out loud, “two - four - two - four” on every click. 

Once you can do that try to add in the one and the three so that they are in between the clicks…leaving beats two and four as the only beats which get a metronome click. 

Harder than you thought huh? 

If it’s not working for you, try adding only beat three in between the clicks. 

You’ll now be saying, “two - three - four” and leaving beat one blank. 

Once you can do that, then add in beat one, but still start counting on “two”…so that you’re saying “two - three - four - one - two - three - four” etc. 

All the while, the metronome is only clicking on two and four. 

Once you can successfully do that and you’re counting one and three in between the clicks, you’re ready to count yourself in to playing your song. 

The tempo is still technically 100 BPM. But you’re only hearing two clicks of that. 

This is the type of advanced metronome practice that will get your timing to a professional level, very quickly. 

Being able to play anything, any song, any riff etc. while tapping your foot on beats two and four only is a skill that will take your playing to a whole new level. 

You’ll notice immediately that you feel less rushed and more ease and relaxation while playing…even while playing fast. 

Additionally, any swing or shuffle will have a much more pronounced and stronger feel. 

This truly is one of the greatest skills any musician can attain and I urge you to spend a lot of time acquiring it. 

You’ll be very pleased that you did. 

-Max Rich