Learning to Play with "Good Rhythm" Quickly

with Michael Lowenstern

**Technical difficulties with the original video "How to Deal with Stage Fright." We bring you this video by Michael Lowenstern**



Originally published to Michael Lowenstern's YouTube channel: Earspasm Music



You know I’ve met people in my life who will say to me “I have really bad rhythm,” or worst yet they’ll say “I have no rhythm at all.” Yet, when I look at those people, walking, say down the street, and notice they’re not tripping all over themselves, I think you know what, you do have rhythm. Everybody has rhythm. The body is an inherently rhythmic organism. You breathe with the rhythm, your heart beats with a rhythm, you walk with a rhythm, and even tend to talk rhythmically. So when you’re playing music, all you need to do is get part of your brain that is—the rhythmic part of you—the physical rhythmic part of you, just bring that to bear when you you’re playing music. Because if you think about rhythm too much, your brain can’t focus on that, and the notes, and the articulation, and your air stream, and all of those other things you have to think about. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take the rhythm out of the picture and put it into the part of your body that is able to dance to music and not fall into your partner. Ok? Let’s get started.

So the first thing we’re going to do is I’m going to turn on my metronome to 90 beats per minute (bpm) and I’m going to start clapping my hands and I want you to clap with me. Now you can clap or tap yourself or tap your knee, whatever you want to do, but keep time. So here we go: Keeping time with me, I’m going to ask you a question that I want you to answer while you continue keeping time physically on your body. Now, when I ask you this question, I want you to answer it out loud.


What did you have for breakfast today?

Say it out loud:

Were you able to keep time?


 If so, great. That just shows you you are able to divide your brain into the part that’s physical that allows you to keep time and the part that requires a high-order of thinking in memory which is, what you had for breakfast. Now if you have problems with this or you want to keep practicing this, it’s very easy to do at home.

Just grab a friend, put a metronome on, and take turns clapping while the other person asks you questions, and then you ask them questions while they’re clapping, etc. They can be really simple questions—something that a person can answer without a person thinking too hard.

If you still have problems with that, it’s best to go out and take a walk. But while you’re walking, I want you to walk rhythmically and I want you to carry on a conversion with someone or think about other things: listening to music while you’re walking in time with the music. This is just (again) a way to show you that your body is able to do two things at once. So that’s the first step. Now we’re going to move into some syncopation in this book that I have.

I use this book right here when I’m working with my students. It’s a whole series by Louis Bellson who was the drummer for Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey, and a whole bunch of other people actually. They [rhythms] goes from super basic quarter notes, whole notes, those kind of things, into odd meter and stuff like that. This book in particular is the one I use for syncopation. It is syncopation studies: designed to develop accuracy and speed in sight reading. And when I work on this with students, I actually don’t use a metronome. But I use something better. I use this app: the Kaossilator. Now, there are so many apps on the iTunes stores that are rhythmic, funky kinds of things that you can use to create (what is in essence) a metronome that doesn’t sound like the academic metronome (tick, tick, tick) that most metronomes are. So you can either plug this into a speaker as I have or use it straight out of your iPad, if you can hear it. But practicing rhythm like this does two things:


1.       It can make it a lot less tedious but more importantly

2.       It starts to put rhythm into your body that you may end up dancing to which helps you get this “funk” in your belly and start to feel the physicality of rhythm.


We’re going to start this thing up and I’m just going to work with this first line of the first exercise of the Louis Bellson book. **Example played** Simple as that.

So I use this instead of a metronome because it’s just so much more fun. And then it allows you when you start to get into really complicated rhythms here, it allows you: this is page 39.

Practicing with that kind of a thing, it can start to really feel it in your body and you want to feel it in your body. Because again, rhythm is a physical thing, not a mental thing, ok? Go start taking a walk. Every time you take a walk, think about how you can use that as practice time. See you next time. 

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