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As I notice that my left hand is not on the beat at all times, I was wondering if there was a simple way to do a visual analysis of one's playing. What I mean is the ability to see whether we hit the notes at the right time. I know hearing is one way to achieve this but it requires to improve hearing to such a level where we feel the offsets to a metronome.

This is not do develop a "robotic" playing but to be/come aware of where one's notes are in reference to the beat (or time). Experience musicians can tell this by simply hearing, but what about those whose hearing is not yet at such a level? I would like to see if any beat (i.e. snare - left hand) is playing in time and what is the offset. The end result being a visual assistance that indicates if I should play earlier or later. This, in return, would help me learn the feel of when different limbs are playing exactly in time.

So far I'd be aware of two possibilities - recording WAVs and MIDI.

a) MIDI would be easier to analyze but is more difficult to record as it requires a PC. This increases the hurdle in setting up for practice and is severely detrimental. Anything that adds time to the practice, or the preparation for it, makes the practice less likely to happen.

b) Recording WAV would be easy but what would be the best tool to analyze the recording? This method would probably also work great with a practice pad or any surface.

Here I'm interested mostly in drums and drum practice but probably other instruments might benefit.

  • I'd think that MIDI would be better for determining whether you're on beat, as the resulting MIDI files displayed by a music notation program such as Musescore painfully show slightly off-beat playing as 32nd notes tied to larger notes, bizarre tuplets, etc. Making your playing look completely square on a MIDI rendering does make it sound less human, though, and the MIDI method is fairly useless when it comes to ornaments such as trills, mordents, and grace notes. – Dekkadeci Aug 31 at 10:35
  • There seem to be apps for this for cellphones. I don't want to name any of them because there are many bad apps out there and I haven't used them myself. Some Roland V-drums drum modules have a rhythm "coach" function which shows your hit timing on a late/early display, in realtime as you play. I have the TD-15 module and the coach's timing display seems to do what it's supposed to do, but I don't know if it will help you develop as a player. Asking from a teacher might not be a bad idea. – piiperi Sep 1 at 11:44
  • Thanks for the comments, Dekkadeci and piiperi. I've used both ways but was hoping for something simpler. Currently set on n-track DAW (or something like that) on the phone. Seems to do the job in being easily accessible and providing the wav alignment function. – Alen Siljak Sep 2 at 7:29
  • I can see where you are trying to go with this, but I am not sure it will help you in the way that you think. Visual and aural senses are quite different. Practice slow against a metronome and be patient, it will help you much more I think. – dmb Oct 2 at 20:11
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    Thanks for the comment, @dmb. I agree with you. This was an interesting exercise, although not that useful in terms of results. I would, however, mention something that really made a breakthrough for me in terms of time/groove/precision and shamelessly advertise the following video series: youtube.com/… :) – Alen Siljak Oct 3 at 9:39
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Considering the general attitude of the question - trying to improve practice without adding equal weigh on the opposite side, making it more difficult or long in the process - I've narrowed down to:

  • using a mobile device (phone/tablet), which can always be in the proximity of the practice space and can activate within seconds.
  • using a WAV analysis as it can record the hits on the practice pad
  • using a tool that can align the WAV to the tempo markings

I've found a decent DAW on Android (n-track) that allows this. Probably there are others that do, too, but this is just the first one I ran into which does the job to a satisfactory level, should anyone look for a concrete example. It offers easy WAV track recording and manipulation, setting up the tempo and the time lines, and aligning the recording to the lines. It is quite educational to see the different beats and how off the mark they are. The idea is to tie the feeling we have when playing to where the notes are compared to the beat.

Based on the results, we can determine the course of action to mitigate it. The important thing being the fact that we are now aware of what exactly is going on. This may also improve our hearing in the process.

For a "more advanced" option, as mentioned in the comments, one can use an electronic drumkit. There, one can

  • use a coach exercise of Time Check
  • output MIDI to a DAW on a personal computer and set up the quantization (or not). I find this option to be the best in terms of the results but is also the most requiring in terms of time and infrastructure so that would probably use it only extremely rarely, doubting it's usefulness.

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