Watch the Time and Feel online guitar lesson by Andy Timmons from Electric Expression
The next thing I want to discuss - one of the most important elements of music and of musicians is time. By that I mean, placement and the beat of the notes that you play. It's the basic drive of the piece of music and where you're fitting into that. Now time for me, when I think about it, I've led a very rhythmic life and by that I mean from the earliest age I can always remember moving to music. This is something that as a musician, couldn't have been more valuable and still is valuable to do. Something that I continually do. Meaning that, if there's music happening, even if music is not happening, there's music going on in my head all the time. But obviously when there's a piece of music happening, I'm going to find a way to be a part of it and that's one of the most natural things to do, or I'm hoping that it is for everybody. Just feeling where the time is by either tapping a foot or even nodding your head, and feeling the music as it's happening. Whether it be at a concert or just listening to music in the car. But from my earliest musical memory I can remember my head was bobbing or my foot was tapping and again, this constant rhythmic fortification, as I became a guitarist and a musician that was all my foundation. So there's always been some kind of groove happening. Even though I started playing guitar when I was five, I was always interested in drums. I had an older brother that played guitar and drums, so there was always drum sticks around the house, and I would end up with the broken drumsticks that he would discard and on my bed I would play along with my records and at that point it was all Beatles. All '60s pop stuff and my poor mom, I would tear my bedspread to shreds basically just from constantly beating. Not realizing at the time how much of a foundational part of my musical life it would be.
So what I'm getting to here is that this isn't something that you're already doing. It's something that you can be doing at any time during the day and it'll help your playing. It'll just solidify where your time feel is. Even if I'm walking down the street, chances are whatever pace that I'm walking to there's some kind of music going on in that time, and I may be sub dividing against it. Whatever the pace might be, there's always rhythm going on and it can be a physical thing. It can just be internal. I'm the type of musician that when I play I usually have a body part moving of some sort. It might just be my foot tapping, which I do quite a bit. It could be the head nodding, or sometimes it's even my teeth clacking and I don't even realize I'm doing it, but there's something going on. There's different schools of thought of whether that's the best way to do it or not, but that's what has worked for me and a lot of the players that I tend to have gravitated to over the years tend to be real physical players. I mean, think about Stevie Ray or Hendrix or any of these greatest of the greats. They all tend to have some kind of groove happening physically along with what they're doing musically, and I think that just allows them to have the music flow through them and on my better days hopefully that's what's happening, that things are just flowing. Now in addition to just feeling music like that, of course practicing in a time conscious fashion is obviously very beneficial. The way I did it growing up, I was just playing with records. I didn't have a metronome. I didn't have a drum machine. That stuff wasn't around back then. So I was just playing with whatever my favorite records were and idealistically the time feel was good on whatever those records were, and I guess it was. So that was my groove education. Just figuring out the chords to each song, and then play along. If you've got a guitar in your bedroom and a record player, you're in the band and that's where I was in that head space. But now we have quite a few things to work with. We have drum machines and I love playing with drum machines because I'll start practicing and the next thing you know I've written a song. What I have on board today is a metronome. It's just part of my little chord practice unit that I've used for years and I think I'll just put on a metronome on a random setting. Nothing in particular and just show you things about time. How I feel about time and how mastering time can really be one of your strongest assets. Because groove is just about everything when it comes to playing with other people.
If you're a solo guitarist things can ebb and flow a certain way and you don't have to worry about it. But when you're playing with a band it's really important that you know how to fit in to the groove, and it may not always be the best groove, but you have to figure out where to fall into it. Sometimes you might be the glue between a bass player and a drummer that aren't playing too well together. You might find a middle ground that makes it feel good and I love being in that role. Just finding where the proper placement is. So, now traditionally when we think about playing with a metronome it's very strict. I'll put the metronome on to playing an A major scale with playing right on the beat and that's a great thing to practice. Just being able to be accurate playing notes in time. The more that is mastered, the more you can play around with the placement of the notes. Again, what I feel about some of my favorite players like Lukather and Stern and Carlton, Robben Ford, Methaney, Hendrix and these guys - they have such a commanding time feel. Time feel meaning, where their insistent groove is. But they can place notes within that groove in different spots to give different feels. For more energy you might play on top of the beat, more ahead of the beat a little bit just to give it a bit more drive. Or you may relax on the beat and make it swing a little bit or just give it a more laid back feel and both energies are real valuable at different times within the musical phrase. So I'm going to set this quarter note up. Then maybe start with eighth notes. Pretty much on the beat. Now, some of that was just doing different subdivisions and playing a triplet feel over a straight eighth kind of implied. Not sure if you can hear it, but my foot's going the entire time. If the metronome is not on I'm creating my own just to solidify where time is. Now this obviously is really important with rhythm playing as well, because you want to be able to fit right in with where that pocket is with the bass player and the drummer. I was just swinging a little bit, giving a little bit of swingin' feel to it. So again, time is such an important factor of your playing. I hope you'll really hone in on that and really be conscious. Playing with drum machines and metronomes is really, really valuable stuff, along with playing along with whatever songs you're working on with whatever tracks. It's something you can do all day like I was talking about. Just constantly feel groove and rhythm. It's going to eventually solidify and ground your playing and the more you have command of that the more you're able to place those notes in a really special way to give more emotional emphasis to your playing.