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Thread: Learning to read Rhythm

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    Default Learning to read Rhythm

    So i promise i did a search and nothing came up so send me the links if im wrong.: Im having a lot of trouble reading more complex rhythm and its keeping me from progressing. Im bored of playing the simple stuff but cant play more complicated things cause i cant read the rhythm and it just doesnt sound right. i thought of purchasing this book: "Sight-Read Any Rhythm Instantly - mark phillips" but was wondering if anyone could recommend resources or let me know if that book is no good etc... thx

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Man, I wish I could help you. I can't. I haven't actually "read rhythm" since playing drums in the marching band in elementary school.

    I am a proponent of feeling rhythm, and imitating what others do to find my own style. I started this as a preteen playing guitar. Richie Havens was the biggest revelation. Great rhythm and strong alternating pattern with the groove, using lots of muting here and there to suss out cool rhythmic patterns. Trying to imitate what Richie was doing got me on the right path, and all the more nuanced rhythm playing followed after. I had video - the Woodstock movie, TV appearances. For me, there was no substitute for watching and listening closely to what my heroes did. Another movie, Let It Be was pretty instructive as to John & George playing acoustics and electrics.

    These days, videos abound for you to watch what your heroes are doing. Also, video lessons are available by very capable instructors. For me, listening to the rhythm and feeling the rhythm comes first; I have to internalize it. After that, watching what the player is doing and imitating the groove in the right hand, the muting of the strumming palm or left hand fingers begins to get me where I want to be. Alternating the strumming hand like a time-keeping pendulum, choosing which up or downstrokes to accent and which to skip or mute, all that plays a part and I would be totally lost as to how I might render all that into notation.

    If any of this sounds doable to you, I would suggest imitating Sam Bush, Chris Thile, Don Julin, ... there are really too many great rhythm players to list. But those three have rhythm teaching videos on Homespun.com or YouTube and there are many others.

    Anyway, I thought I'd share my own experience, even though I can't answer your question about reading rhythm. Maybe try some books or texts aimed at drummers?
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    By the way, I see this is your first post! Welcome to the forum!
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    You could check out "Essentials for Strings" by Gerald Anderson. The first several pages are a series of increasingly complex rhythms in various time signatures. This is how I was taught when I was taking classical violin lessons in high school. I would recommend starting by just counting the rhythms out loud with a metronome, then moving on to playing them on an open string or with muted strums. There is also a wealth of scale and arpeggio content in the book that is relevant to mandolin. Very dry, but I think it will help get you where you want to go. Also its $8.50:

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by jla View Post
    So i promise i did a search and nothing came up so send me the links if im wrong.: Im having a lot of trouble reading more complex rhythm and its keeping me from progressing. Im bored of playing the simple stuff but cant play more complicated things cause i cant read the rhythm and it just doesnt sound right. i thought of purchasing this book: "jSight-Read Any Rhythm Instantly - mark phillips" but was wondering if anyone could recommend resources or let me know if that book is no good etc... thx
    Benjamin's advice is good.

    It's a good product, looks to me. You won't waste your money.

    As a general rule, to practice a particular rhythm you need to play or sing it slowly enough that the subdivision is countable. For example, a dotted 8th plus 16th is 3+1. You count four 16ths and hold for three. Professional musicians do this to unpack a rhythm that is confusing to play. No one is born being comfortable improvising over 5/4; it takes practice, counting 5 beats while you solo.

    Subdividing is how we play stuff like a big triplet over an entire bar of four --- in 4/4 time you mentally subdivide each beat into a little triplet 12/8) and then each big triplet note is four of those little notes.

    After you can build up from the subdivision you can go on to making it unconscious, in which dotted rhythms can be played by feel. If you intend tp play a wider variety of music than fiddle tunes you should buy the book and follow its practice routines.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    thx ! ill probably get that one

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    By the way, I see this is your first post! Welcome to the forum!
    thx ive been lurking for a bit without logging in, but i had to figure this one out

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Man, I wish I could help you. I can't. I haven't actually "read rhythm" since playing drums in the marching band in elementary school.

    I am a proponent of feeling rhythm, and imitating what others do to find my own style.
    Feeling rhythm is SO very important!

    Sometimes counting helps one to feel the beat better.

    "reading rhythm" is all about counting.

    Thanks for your post!

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    I'd go along with what most people are saying - feeling rhythm is the key. I'm not sure exactly how you would be reading rhythm - from sheet music? From watching other players in a jam or session?

    I did have one thought, though. If you are at all good at reading music notation, track down some orchestral sheet music that includes percussion, especially if the complete score is included. This may mean a trip to a music school and imploring the music librarian for mercy and largesse (speaking as a former one, this is more possible than you might think) in helping you in your quest. Musical notation for percussion is rather dry, but you can coordinate the solo parts with the conductor's score so you can see how the percussion ineracts with the other instruments.

    There are surely easier and simpler ways to accomplish your mission, but this could be one path to take. And pretty eye-opening. It was for me, some eleventy-seven years ago.

    Other than that ... Perhaps if you cited a couple of examples of songs, tunes, or rhythms that are giving you problems, it would help us focus on particulars.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Look up an oldie-but-goodie book by Robert Starer called Rhythmic Training. By the end it gets into some pretty complex patterns.

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    +1 on the Starer book. I have a fun little app called the Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer by Rolfs Apps. It puts up an exercise in standard notation and you tap it out with your finger in time to a built in metronome. It shows where you got it right and wrong. Only available on iOS I think.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    When you start it will be slow going, counting and subdividing, but it gets easy quickly and soon you'll be sight-reading complex rhythms.

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Sometimes counting helps one to feel the beat better.

    "reading rhythm" is all about counting.
    Although I don't "read rhythm" I do count it. In practice (which I do a great deal more of than performing these days) I dissect my playing as though I were preparing to teach it to others, that helps me understand what I'm doing and where I need to improve. Part of that is, of course, dissecting the pulse ... counting the beats, understanding the rhythm and experimenting with ways to play or improve it.

    In many cases, feeling the beat and the rhythm of a well known piece is very easy, whereas subdividing is difficult. Usually, pieces whose time signature changes for a measure or two along the way make for difficult analysis, while the playing of them is easy as apple pie because the songs themselves and their rhythms are already internalized. Count the beats to Doc Watson playing Little Sadie for instance to find where the time signature changes for a measure. Count the beats to Bob Dylan's Just Like A Woman to get a handle on the triplety 12/8 rhythm.

    I know the staff and can read, but am always amazed at how some musicians can so easily sight read, and especially now with regards to rhythm. My approach is backward I suppose, though I was taught to count in elementary school band. James Nash does a great job of teaching the approach to strumming and picking I use on straightforward or syncopated 4/4 or 2/4 pieces:

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    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Jan-26-2021 at 8:15am.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Some complex rhythms are difficult to translate to written page; too much nuance. All the advice about listening and absorbing are on the money.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    This has been the hardest task for me. Sight reading the notes was easy in comapison.

    For me it has been just listening a lot. Becoming familiar with the genre of music. So for example, I am very familiar with fiddle tunes, and knowing a tune is a waltz or a hornpipe just about gives it all away in sight reading that rhythm.

    Some of the more exacting for me right now are rag time and tango. Despite being very familiar, I really struggle with these when I first encounter the written music.

    What helps me is to find a recorded version of the tune I am working on, and then trying to see the rhythm in on the page while I listen. Still it not easy.

    Another thing that helps is to sing it, and find or create a phrase that matches the rhythm. "Watermelon watermelon apple apple pear" or "I wanna slice of pizza" or some such.

    I have no experience with instructional materials on this.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    I can read notation (melody) but unless I have the tune in my head reading the rhythms can be difficult and I find counting while playing slow. For difficult rhythms I will copy the notation into Musescore either the whole piece or just the troublesome measures. Within Musescore I can play it back at any tempo and also set up the metronome function concurrently. Musescore is free and has a learning curve, but if you are a notation user it's well worth learning and pretty handy practice tool.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by RobH View Post
    Musescore is free and has a learning curve, but if you are a notation user it's well worth learning and pretty handy practice tool.
    Rob
    I think there is a recently updated version of Musescore.

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Another thing that helps is to sing it, and find or create a phrase that matches the rhythm. "Watermelon watermelon apple apple pear" or "I wanna slice of pizza" or some such.

    I have no experience with instructional materials on this.
    Fiddle Rhythms by Sally O'Reilly is a wonderful book of word / phrase based rhythm instruction. I laugh at a lot of the food related images and phrases every time I look at the book. Certainly memorable and useful.

    https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/fiddle-rhythms-sheet-music/315542

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Coronado View Post
    +1 on the Starer book. I have a fun little app called the Rhythm Sight Reading Trainer by Rolfs Apps. It puts up an exercise in standard notation and you tap it out with your finger in time to a built in metronome. It shows where you got it right and wrong. Only available on iOS I think.
    That APP is like having a private teacher with infinite patience listening to you and giving you feedback on your sense of rhythm.

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Quote Originally Posted by mmuussiiccaall View Post
    That APP is like having a private teacher with infinite patience listening to you and giving you feedback on your sense of rhythm.
    Prepare to be seriously depressed when you hear how close you are......

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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    Another voice into feeling rhythm as much as learning to read it. There are a lot of music out there where the notes are right, but they really aren't. You can play the notes in a tango, or polska, or springar but unless you know the sound of the music, it might not sound right to others. And this is without going into all the variations of each of the styles.

    Some of the best advice I've ever received was listen to the music enough so that you internalize it. Once you get to that point, it's much easier to let the music flow.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    On learning to read rhythms: Reading Contemporary Guitar Rhythms by Mike Szymczak is an excellent resource. Guitar has little to do with it; the book is really a systematic exploration of sixteenth-note rhythms as they occur in popular music styles.

    I used this book as a student, years ago, and as a teacher have recommended it to students for a long time.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    For complex rhythm on mandolin I have two words - Sam Bush.
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    oops, duplicate post, sorry
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    Default Re: Learning to read Rhythm

    To learn to feel interesting and complex rhythms, try folk dancing. Thanks to doing that for many years, I'm quite comfortable with time signatures like 9/8, 15/16 and 25/16.

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