I'm a pretty good guitarist, and I can play some tricky rhythms (weird time signatures, syncopation, some of the easier djent stuff) but I've always had trouble when my drummer starts to play anything that sounds punk. I like punk music a lot so this confused me at first, but I realized that it's because whenever I hear bass-snare-bass-snare played that fast, I feel the snare is the down beat since it stands out so much and that screws me up.

I programmed some drums into my sequencer and tried practicing over that and slowly speeding it up until it gets to the point where I get the downbeat mixed up. I'm gonna keep working on that, but does anybody have any other advice on this? This is a fundamental issue in my playing and I'd like to fix it.

  • 1
    It sounds like the hihat is confusing you rather than bass-snare pair (drummer here). You might ask your drummer to play the hihat tightly closed and/or increasing the dynamics between the on-beat neck strokes and off-beat tip strokes which would after some time burn into your chip.
    – user1306
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 0:29
  • 1
    Thanks, I know it's mainly the snare because I programmed a simple beat with just kick and snare and had the same issue, but I'll play along to some of our recordings to make sure that that's not also confusing me.
    – Mason
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 7:03

3 Answers 3


Actually, the fact that you've analyzed your playing to the point where you can describe where you're going wrong means you're halfway there, so good job so far.

Some additional practice suggestions:

  • Try feeling macrobeats: instead of listening for a pulse on every beat, listen for every two beats, or every full measure--thus de-emphasizing the snare:beat relationship.
  • Try changing your drum sequence to desensitize yourself to the snare sound and listen more for the bass drum sound. For example, instead of sequencing |:bass-snare-bass-snare:|, try |:bass-snare-snare-snare:|
  • Try practicing 16th note syncopations in a completely different context. Since punk music uses that 8th note rhythm pattern at a very fast tempo, when you are lining up with the snare, you are phasing yourself by an 8th note. In slower music, i.e. half tempo, that would be the same as phasing by a 16th note. So, I would suggest approaching that concept intentionally, so you get used to what it feels like to play long strings of syncopated 16th notes. You can do this in many ways--I might improvise over chord changes, or alter the rhythm of a standard tune, or just play scales. Specifically, you could set yourself up with a metronome that plays distinct downbeats and upbeats at about q = 80, and then practice your scales on even 8th notes, syncopated by a 16th note in either direction, switching phase on your way up or down the scale, playing equal-length dotted 8th notes... Essentially, my suggestion would be to practice your familiarity with different rhythmic permutations so you are used to hearing emphases on odd parts of the beat.
  • 1
    Thanks a lot! I wasn't sure what kind of answers I would get, but these seem like really good ideas. I tried feeling the macrobeats before, that's what I do automatically but I do it wrong right now. That'll probably be better for picking up speed after I get it in my head that the snare isn't on a down beat. The |:bass-snare-snare-snare:| idea sounds like a really good idea, as does intentionally syncopating to get used to the way that feels. I'm gonna try these out tomorrow thanks!
    – Mason
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 6:20
  • I've made a lot of progress, I'm gonna practice more to make sure I retain it but I'm feeling the beat the right way now. If anyone has the same issue, the bass-snare-snare-snare beat helped a lot, I looped a measure of that followed by a measure of bass-snare-bass-snare (with cymbals to mark chord changes) and practiced over that at varying speeds. Trying to feel the macrobeats actually ended up helping a lot, just tapping the macrobeat with my hand to some punk songs for a while made a big difference, and I think of it that way when I play. I'm gonna mess with some syncopation now.
    – Mason
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 7:09

One idea might be to just play your guitar solo and focus on emphasizing the upbeat. "dana NANA dana NANA" sort of idea. It may be easier to keep track of where you are that way and not phase-shift over. And maybe count out loud at the same time, again emphasizing the upbeat: "one TWO three FOUR" or "one AND two AND" depending.

Another option is to invert the emphasis of a "normal" song. In addition to being pretty fun (IMO) it will let you directly compare the different emphases via something you're familiar with.


Have you tried eighth-note hits on the bass drum (bbS-bbS-) instead of quarter-notes (b-S-b-S-)? Sometimes a variation like that, either straight or swung, can be easier to lock into. I'd try to find some pattern you can lock into more easily, then set up your sequencer to alternate between the two.

  • That generally tends to be easier, the issue is when I'm playing with a real drummer and they're playing a punk beat they usually just hit the bass drum on the down beat (or do some sort of heal-toe thing that adds another hit right before the snare.) It's not really the speed that gets me it's the different feel, the other responses have helped me a lot but I'll try practicing this way a bit there's always room to improve with this sort of thing.
    – Mason
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 20:15

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