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At the age of 9, I started singing in a choir and quickly discovered my passion for music. I had a great voice but I soon realised that I had no sense of rhythm.

When I heard a song I wasn't even able to tap the tempo with my foot or anything, it's something I just didn't feel. Then as a teenager after quite a bit of work on that, I was able to feel the tempo of a song.

Now I'm 19 and my rhythm became a lot better but my natural sense of rhythm is still very weak. I'll try to explain that with the best of my abilities:

  • When I sing a song where the instrumental has a very organised rhythm (for example Another one bites the dust by queen or Imagine by john Lennon) I am fine because there are keys or "signs" in the song that tell me when to start singing and which rhythm to adopt.

  • Same thing goes with playing any type of instrument

  • I can also play in rhythm if I improvise for I don't have a problem with tempo

  • Now my problem i when the instrumental is more "abstract", I can still feel the tempo but there is no signs of when to start singing or playing.

  • I am fine if I have a music chart because I simply have to count

Now my problem is that I don't want to have to count or study the song everytime I wanna play or sing. I've seen many people with no musical education who can sing songs with very complex rhythm without any problem.

Does any one know how I can improve that ability because unlike moste it's not innate to me.

Thank You

  • Can you give us an example or two of "when the instrumental is more 'abstract' "? – Richard Dec 14 '16 at 17:25
  • @Richard Well most songs to be honest. An example would be "wearing the inside out" by pink floyd – Sylvester Stallone Dec 14 '16 at 18:04
  • @Richard Or satisfy my soul by Bob Marley – Sylvester Stallone Dec 15 '16 at 14:14
  • @Sylvester To clarify, you would be fine if (for example) you had a music chart of Wearing the Inside Out or Satisfy My Soul? Or would it be difficult for you either way? – MysteriousWhisper Dec 16 '16 at 4:54
  • @MysteriousWhisper Yes I'd be perfectly fine with a music sheet. I just can't feel the pattern of the rhythm (if that makes any sense) – Sylvester Stallone Dec 16 '16 at 16:06
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I think pulse/rhythm are things that are learned best through exposure and immersion in a kinesthetic way.

Specifically - what I'd recommend is the following (the more you make this a habit the better your rhythm gets):

  1. When you hear a piece of music, do something physically to match the pulse - the repeated regular moment in time that tells you where you are - in "Wearing The Inside Out", listen to the ride cymbal - the metal "ting" is the pulse in the verse. Perhaps the most popular and visible is to tap your foot. You could also clap, bob your head, or breathe with the pulse. The periodicity of events in time is what organizes all of music and more complex groups of timed events (rhythm)
  2. When you hear a "rhythm" or rhythmic idea, do something to match that as well - something you can feel strongly. For instance in the example you gave "Another One Bites the Dust" you could do a number of things to match the bass guitar repeated idea - you could tap it with your fingers or hands on a surface or your body, sizzle it with your breath, or mimic the instrument with your voice.

At first, it may be difficult to do these on their own, but try to combine them so you are both reflecting the pulse and the rhythm at the same time. The idea is to automatize your feel of both pulse and rhythm so you can then think about the fun stuff "What does this sound like?" "How am I making this sound cool or whatever else I'm going for musically?"

Once you feel these things as second nature - it is much easier to maintain a sense of pulse/rhythm when you perform something that is less familiar. It also becomes easier to recognize what elements of what you're hearing give you information: where the "pulse" is and what the "rhythm" is or is suggesting.

Continue to move as you perform - the freeness of your ability to move allows you to be comfortable in the pulse as you interact with it musically.

Hope this helps!

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