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How to know if you are tremolo picking in time? Let's say you are going around 16th notes 160bpm and you are tremolo picking power chords. How do people actually know they went up and down 4 times in one metronome click? It's fast so you can't count it out. Do people just go by feel?

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ConfusionPerson is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
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  • Maybe it's all that metal I've listened to, but I can tell the difference between 16th notes at quarter note = 180 bpm and 16th notes at quarter note = 192 bpm just by listening to them.
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 13 at 0:13
  • @Dekkadeci - that's good, but does it make it 'better' or 'right' when it fits exactly? As in if 15th or 17th notes were played instead? Somehow doubt it - but I avoid metal...
    – Tim
    Oct 13 at 6:55
  • Maybe I'm mixing metal tremolo with mandolin tremolo?
    – Tim
    Oct 13 at 7:04
  • @Tim - Assuming you mean running ones, 15th and 17th notes when playing with others (e.g. the drummer) suddenly make you go out of sync with them. They can also sound like a tempo change in isolation (while 180 bpm -> 192 bpm is more blatant than 16ths -> 17ths, the latter can still sound like a tempo increase).
    – Dekkadeci
    Oct 13 at 12:29
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    Yeahhh, I'd been not saying anything, but it seems clear that the OP is assuming that these are measured notes, and didn't intend any association with the use of the word "tremolo" to mean "unmeasured fast notes." Oct 13 at 14:51
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That tempo is, arguably, too fast to count (is a bit above 10 notes per second). But you don't need to literally count (out loud or otherwise) to hear whether you played 2, 3, 4, or more notes... you need to train your ear on what groupings of 2, 3, 4, or more notes sound like. You need to become familiar with these rhythms at a slower tempo, a tempo where you can count, and so familiar that you don't need to count the rhythm at all to identify or accurately play it. This comes through repetition. Most metronome apps will have the option to click eighth or sixteenth notes at you, which may be helpful for this. Then you can bring the tempo up.

It may also benefit you to practice rhythms without distortion, since it can obscure the note attacks and make it harder to hear rhythm.

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  • This. Practicing slowly is the key. Often in fast lines all notes are not equal: for example depending on the tempo you'll play a slightly louder note each 4 or 8 notes to mark the beat (this really adds to a metal groove on bass). With the habit, you only focus on these strong notes, the other notes will follow naturally as long as you practiced right at slow tempo
    – Kaddath
    Oct 13 at 11:39
  • I don't want to derail onto what could be a giant and argumentative red-herring, but I want to spell out why I'm suspicious of the video's claim that it's "to fast to 'hear'." They move on to demonstrating that we can't distinguish between a separation of two notes by either 40ms or 50ms; sure. But what the video (or this application of its point) is missing is the human capacity for pattern recognition. ... Oct 13 at 14:56
  • ... I've heard, similarly, that we can't recognize sets of more than, I think, 5 or 7 at a glance. This is perhaps why the patterns of dots on dominos or dice are arranged so that 6 is represented by two sets of three. If I printed 11 dots on one line and 13 dots on another, we would have to count them individually to tell how many they are. But if I grouped them into groups of 4, it would be easy to see that each had an incomplete set. I could fill a whole page with equally-spaced dots in a grid pattern, replace one with a blank space, and we could instantly pinpoint the omission. Oct 13 at 14:59
  • ... So no, I have to respectfully argue that we have to get into much, much faster tempos before the listener loses the ability to "track" with common subdivisions of a beat like 2, 3, or 4. (Though maybe that was never what you meant to say, and you just mean that it gets too fast to linguistically count with numbers out loud.) Oct 13 at 15:01
  • @AndyBonner I agree that you certainly can track rhythms faster than 10 notes per second. The example given in the video is a bit of an extreme example (only 10ms difference) to demonstrate a point. What I'm really trying to get at is that the psychology of playing or hearing groupings of four is quite different from actually counting out four notes, one after the other.
    – Edward
    Oct 13 at 21:45
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Four subdivisions of 160 is definitely possible to keep track of with the ear and with the body. It's certainly not impossible even to count out loud, though it becomes a bit silly and slurred into "WututhrifoWututhrifo." There does come a point where things start to blur together, often right around the point also where our body just can't make the motions any smaller, but it might be somewhere more like 8 subdivisions of 125 or so.

And yes, the brain does think of those four notes as a unit, a pattern. You know it's 4 because 3 would be triplets and 5 would be... uh, "Take Five." You don't really have to ask yourself "Did I play 3 or 5 notes," because the four-note subdivision is itself a pattern.

So what do you do? Get used to it at a slower speed, then gradually increase. Can you do 16th notes at 100? 80? Start at a speed at which you're rock-solid, every note is in control and is the same length. Then add 5 bpm, then another 5; at some point you'll get into the gray area between "no sweat" and "impossible," and that's where you learn. Keep pushing that line every day. By the time you get up to 160, no question, your ear and your hand will be able to easily keep track of the four notes.

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You don't have to hear every beat. You have to hear every main beat, and know from slow practice that you are playing four picks to the beat. Practice like this:

(1) Just the downbeats.

(2) half-speed (in your case, 8ths);

(3) sixteenths.

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it´s always helpful to record yourself and listen to it afterwards. You will detect much more when listening to yourself while not playing.

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kram is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
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  • Even a simple stereo recorder like audacity can work well for that. Feed your click into the left channel and your instrument into the right, record and then take a look to see what kind of variance there is and if you tend to push or pull the beat. Oct 14 at 0:00

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