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When I'm playing late night gigs, I find that my drumming is generally a lot slower. The timing is consistent throughout the songs, but I just start them slower.

When I'm playing early gigs or had a nap before hand, I'm always spot on.

I guess that when I'm tired, my brain is slower...

Have tried red bull before a gig but that doesn't help.

Does anyone have any techniques to ensure you're always hitting the right bpm?

I don't want to be pulling out a metronome at the start of every song.

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While a fair question, I'm not sure this is directly related to music. I think the question has already been answered in fact: take a nap/caffine drink/etc. :P –  Noldorin May 20 '11 at 1:58
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I think this question is quite valid. And certainly related to music and performing... –  nicorellius May 26 '11 at 20:16
    
Why don't you want to use a metronome? If you are ashamed of people seeing you use one, buy an electronic one or a smartphone app and only watch it blink. You can hide them at the ground before you. –  user787 Jun 21 '11 at 8:31
    
This is definitely a method, skill, and learning question IMO. A few good answers, too. –  XTL Mar 7 '12 at 11:30
    
The title of the community is "Musiucal practice AND PERFORMANCE". I say it's a valid question. –  user2808054 Jul 22 at 11:00

8 Answers 8

Take your pulse before you start each piece. The body's awareness of time is closely tied to the metronomic beating of the heart. Biologists have found through experiment that those among us who are best at gauging time intervals (e.g. counting seconds accurately) are the ones who are best at perceiving their own heartbeat (i.e. they can feel it without taking their pulse by hand). They also found that giving people external feedback (a machine that bleeps in time with the pulse) helps them to improve at gauging time intervals accurately.

This connection between the heart rate and our perception of time is why we tend to play a little faster when we're nervous, and why you're playing slower when you're tired and conserving energy. Giving yourself that external feedback, making your body aware of where its internal metronome is set, will make it a lot easier for you to judge the tempo.

You don't need to count or time your pulse rate, or even to think about it, just put your fingers in the right position to feel your pulse (whichever position is easiest for you), and be aware of it while you're working out the tempo for the next song. Make sure to do it when you practice, and when you perform fresh, not just when you perform tired, so you have a 'baseline'.

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A metronome for count-in is best but you can also use a device on your drumkit that will tell you what your current tempo is. It's called a Beat Bug. enter image description here

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That's great question and it happens to everyone. A few things I do is try to conserve energy early on (I know it's tough, because it's so fun to rock out). Also, I notice that playing a bit lighter, dynamically, if possible, can be easier physically when you are already tired. Many of the answers above are very good things to try as well. In short, it's a combination of many things that can help you overcome this problem.

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Try using a watch. That's what a lot of orchestra conductors do.

It's fairly easy to train yourself to find a beat by just looking at a watch for a couple seconds.

Since a watch will give you 60bpm, subdivide the tick to get 30bpm increments or subdivide twice to get 15bpm increments.

Once you get the hang of it, you don't need a metronome.

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Do you have an alarm clock that goes "Beep ... beep ... beep" every morning? Think about it right now. Think of that annoying Beep ... beep ... beep. Beat time with it. Now check your tempo. I bet it's exactly MM = 60. (That's what my clock does.)

If the tempo you want happens to be 60 or 120 or 180, just think of that clock.

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Practice finding tempos and checking yourself with a metronome. Presumably, when you start, you'll be good at this when well-rested and bad at this when tired. Practice it when tired until you're good at it then, too. Ta-da!

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This answer reminds me of a trombonist I was talking to recently; he says that he often practises after "a few beers", so that he plays well after a "few" on gigs…! –  Bob Broadley Jul 21 at 23:41

Does anyone have any techniques to ensure you're always hitting the right bpm?

Yes, a click track.

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Presumably this counts as a metronome? –  Ben Alpert May 20 '11 at 4:21
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@Ben If he wants "techniques to ensure you're always hitting the right bpm" but doesn't want a click track (i.e. the industry standard technique for doing exactly that), I don't know what else to say. –  Rein Henrichs May 20 '11 at 8:02

If your timing is consistent once you start, have you tried asking a more-awake band member to count you in? (I don't mean audibly or obviously, of course.)

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