Sheryl: ' Time and rhythmic clarity are my obsessions, so I'm glad you noticed it in my playing. I am a metronome fanatic and I really feel it's a waste to practice without it, outside of solo guitar playing, because I think it develops bad habits in terms of developing a devotional awareness to the time.
The most important aspect of playing with a metrenome is interacting with it, paying attention to it and grooving with it. I "personify" the metrenome, so that it's not an annoying critic telling me that my time sucks, but rather my favorite drummer that I am giving full devotion to playing in the pocket with. If I train my attention in this way, when I play with a real life drummer, I'm right "in the zone" with them, because that's how I've trained my mind, body and spirit in my practice sessions.
Time and Rhythm are the physical aspects of music and they are the intention behind the music. Without the delivery of your ideas with strong rhythmic pulse, it's just a bunch of notes, like taking a bucket of paint and throwing it on a wall, there's no definition or clarity.
I work with my metrenome by finding a comfortable circle, or series of circles that help me lock in with the physical space of a tempo. I call this the "Pocket Tai Chi" study, and it applies to all tempos and feels, whether they are straight or swung.
The "Pocket Tai Chi" study is this: choose any tempo marking on the metrenome and move your arms in a circle that completes a phrase evenly. So for example, at 60bpm, if that's a quarter note pulse, you have a circle roughly 1.5 feet wide from the beginning of your circle to it's completion. You'll find if you make a circle twice as fast you'll have a circle almost half of that. You can feel multiple cycles of time to any pulse depending on how you treat the pulse and length of phrase. What the goal of this study is to find the circle that feels the most relaxed and internalize that feeling, or find a way in your body to express it, so that you are dancing and moving with the time, you get past thinking about time, but really feeling it. If you liken time to something that has a steady flow, like water, you'll understand the flow and volume of time, meaning that you'll get a deeper sense of how you move from beat to beat, and that it is very alive and very human, not like a metrenome at all.
All of this connects deeply to technique, in that all great technique is based on relaxation, and tension is the enemy of great technique. If I'm dancing with the time, I am having fun and not stressed out at all. I can sit right in the center of the time and be having a celebration because I'm relaxed and feeling the time.
These can be abstract issues to discuss in writing, but I love the challenge!"
Me: "About the circle movement: Do hold your arms sideways and make a circle complete in 4 beats? ( 1 bar phrase) Or could you do it in two groups of 4 beats ( making 2 bar phrases.) Or 4...etc etc. Does this make you almost physically feel the bigger beats?
Sheryl: 'I make the circles in front of me, but you could do them sideways. The most important part is finding the circles.
I have a video of this in my Guitar Sherpa program, it's a bit easier to see than describe!'
If you like: Please share on FB, Twitter or G+
Have a nice day, JB