Rhythm is one of the most important elements in music. It’s been said that a mistake in pitch is more acceptable to the human ear then bad timing.
Often when we work out rhythm we have a tendency to lay heavy on the downstrokes. This is natural. However, to really master time and rhythm we must be equally strong at controlling the upstroke. Not just in velocity, but in groove.
Here are a few exercises to work on that can assist you in developing your upstroke skills.
These three excesses are designed to help you gain control over sixteenth notes.
Notice that I’m not just skipping the other 16th notes, I’m muting them. The added advantage to this exercise is strengthening left hand timing and muting.
Ex 1: May as well kick it off with a bang. In this exercise you’ll be changing position and moving between strings all on the “E” of the beat.
Ex 2: This exercise is built around the “Ah” of the beat. You’ll also notice it takes six bars for the pattern to repeat. Keep counting as you’re playing so you know when the pattern recycles.
Ex 3: Example 3 is an 8 bar phrase designed to keep you paying attention. The change in pattern doesn’t come exactly where you feel it. This will require not only concentration on the timing, switching and muting of each string, but the awareness of measure counting.
I recommend using a metronome to work out these exercises. Make sure not to start too fast and use alternate picking for each exercise. Real control is being able to play it painfully slow.
Once you feel like you’ve gotten it up to an impressive speed, it’s time to start over. This time let’s swing the sixteenth notes.
You can experiment with various levels of swing too. You should only practice one feel variation at a time though. Give yourself the space to really absorb the timing.
For more about Counting Music