Time feel of great CtC interviewees

On the site I have been watching the interviews more than anything else, I really like the conversational style. One of the things that I have noticed quite heavily, is these players have a really good time feel.

I have an obsession with time. The most notable for me on these lessons and interviews are Martin Miller and Teemu Mäntysaari. To be honest, I find their time-feel to be one of the best parts of their playing. I wondered if anyone else felt similar, and if Troy has thought about investigating this along with the mechanical and physical aspect as it comes across as being somewhat a cornerstone of their overall sound.


I’ve noticed this among all the very best players I’ve ever played with (on any instrument). And people like Cory Wong and Carl Verheyen continue to work on theirs, despite already being some of the finest pickers anywhere.

My hypothesis is that the ability to accurately perceive time is a hidden skill shared by everyone whose playing we’ve ever admired. The interesting question for me is: can it be learned?

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I feel it can be learned, although there’s the factor of can you hear it?

Additionally, there’s differing levels. What is acceptable for the occasional beach strummer would be totally different for someone like Wayne Krantz or Pat Metheny.

I don’t know about other countries but here in Russia when testing kids in serious musical schools piano teachers first check their sense of rhythm, then musical pitch. If they have former - they would be accepted regardless of their ‘ears’. People say that pitch is easier do develop than the sense of rhythm. (though from my point of view classical pianists don’t really need a musical pitch at all)

A metronome is great for this, I would think. Especially if it is set to quarter notes or half notes or whole notes.

A drill could be: Find a riff to practice if. If the riff contains 16. notes as the shortest note value, then use that as the subdivision on the metronome first.

Then try the riff with 8ths as the subdivision

Then quarter notes.



… did you keep the time?

Another option is to practice handpercussion (I do this on my jeans or a table) and se if you can divide 16th, triplets, etc to a click.

Or study konnakol.

The point being, to keep time, you need to be able to subdivide internally.

‘time feel’ or time ‘accuracy’?

I think of ‘time feel’ as relating to aesthetic effect of someone’s personal/idiosyncratic division of the beat, placement of their attacks in comparison to the mathematical ‘grid’ of the rhythms (behind, ahead, etc) accents, etc.

And ‘accuracy’ meaning just ability to execute to a grid. Some would argue you can’t have the latter without the former.

There are some musicians I enjoy a lot who have a more flexible time feel as opposed to being um ‘grid-locked’

I saw this thread because I’ve been working on my own time-feel a lot lately.

I think it’s a mark of a professional musician when they have developed a solid time feel. They are able to phrase fluidly through the time, which can be divided in myriad ways, and they know intuitively where in the time (or when!) their phrase will begin and end. Maybe we should call it temporal awareness. This goes in particular for improvising musicians, as they are required to make phrases on the fly that are coherent within the form of the music they are playing, and a lot of the excitement of what they do comes from their ability to play at just the right time.

Time feel is a skill and it can definitely be learned. My time feel used to be much poorer than it is now, but with practice it is improving like everything else.

I have recently been trying some new exercises for developing a more self-assured feel for where I am in the form of a song and within the measure.

One exercise I found particularly effective is this:

Try is to take/make a phrase of 9 eighth notes, with no rests, starting from beat 1 of one bar and ending on beat 1 of the next (one bar of continuous 8th notes with a final note on the first beat of the following bar).

Then set a metronome at a comfortable speed and play the phrase, starting and ending on beat 1. Then take away the first note, so you start on beat 1-and, play the phrase. Then take away the second note, and play the phrase in time, and so on, until you are left with just the 4-and to the 1, then work backwards, adding the previous note until you get back to where you started.

You can then apply this to phrases that begin and end on different beats. The possibilities are endless…I think.

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