Playing in time & in sync w/ more technical tunes

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SRVFan2000

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Joined: 06/01/21

Posts: 19

I've been casually playing for a while. Recently I joined GT and I am studying some of the lessons in here including "Intro to Improvisation." It is an increible course (learning a lot.) As part of the course, you play along and target chords, etc. To put some of it into practice, I mixed it up and tried playing along with one of my all time favorite tunes. To see what I am refering to, it's on YT and the title is Steve Stine Jamming to "Just Got Paid" by ZZ Top/Joe Bonamassa.

He makes it look so easy and super smooth. He doesn't break a sweat and he does not miss a single note during the entire tune which is amazing...so I thought I could give it a shot. I watched the video several times and identified some of the main chords and the main riff. When I play my own, very rough "improvised" version, it sounds decent- or so I thought. I then made the tragic mistake of using a drum track (not even the more technical backing track) at the correct 117BPM- and it fell apart badly. I realized quickly that something is way off. I either struggle badly with playing in time, playing in sync, both, and/or my technical skills are lacking to a point where I can't play in time. Maybe I am missing certain fundementals that e.g., tab doesn't teach. Ironically, I can play along with many other, more simple melodies e.g., blues and rock where I am mostly strumming chords or playing a few simple riffs (easy to tap your foot to and do not require exact timing- easy to fake and forgiving.)

There is something far more technical going on in this tune. You can hear in the video, it requires you to play a sequence of notes in time. It is brutally unforgiving. My riffs are just improvised so they change each time I play it. That might have something to do with it too. Basically, I get lost quickly but the musical train keeps rolling and I am left far behind with no way to catch up. Maybe I have to break down each piece of the song one measure at a time. That just seems like it would take forever and still might not help me. I don't know what I am missing.

Is playing in time and in sync something others struggle with too? Are there any lessons in here, or techniques to help me work on this? I'm not sure if I am missing counts in my head, or if I need to slow down and work through each bar (truly learn the song) before trying to wing it. Winging it works for many, many songs- not this one.

A big issue is that at several parts of this tune, you must be 100% spot on. There are very specific licks, riffs and drum fills that need to happen perfectly in sync (e.g., listen at 0:10 in.) You really can't just fake the song too much if you are playing with the actual track. It's just not forgiving like many other tunes like simple 12-bar blues. I can fake those all day long and even if I go slightly out of sync, each new mesaure is like a new day and I can jump back in. I would compare this tune to something like a musical where scenes are very tightly synced with the score. I guess it's more like playing actual musical correctly vs. the more common freeplay jam. Being a more technical piece, I guess the bottom line is that it is currently far beyond my current capabilities. I just really like it so I gave it a shot. At first it was a lot of fun (playing alone.) I felt confident and others commented that it sounded really good- but again, it got quite discouraging when I could even come close to keeping up with the actual song.

Any suggestions or advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

#1

I've been casually playing for a while. Recently I joined GT and I am studying some of the lessons in here including "Intro to Improvisation." It is an increible course (learning a lot.) As part of the course, you play along and target chords, etc. To put some of it into practice, I mixed it up and tried playing along with one of my all time favorite tunes. To see what I am refering to, it's on YT and the title is Steve Stine Jamming to "Just Got Paid" by ZZ Top/Joe Bonamassa.

He makes it look so easy and super smooth. He doesn't break a sweat and he does not miss a single note during the entire tune which is amazing...so I thought I could give it a shot. I watched the video several times and identified some of the main chords and the main riff. When I play my own, very rough "improvised" version, it sounds decent- or so I thought. I then made the tragic mistake of using a drum track (not even the more technical backing track) at the correct 117BPM- and it fell apart badly. I realized quickly that something is way off. I either struggle badly with playing in time, playing in sync, both, and/or my technical skills are lacking to a point where I can't play in time. Maybe I am missing certain fundementals that e.g., tab doesn't teach. Ironically, I can play along with many other, more simple melodies e.g., blues and rock where I am mostly strumming chords or playing a few simple riffs (easy to tap your foot to and do not require exact timing- easy to fake and forgiving.)

There is something far more technical going on in this tune. You can hear in the video, it requires you to play a sequence of notes in time. It is brutally unforgiving. My riffs are just improvised so they change each time I play it. That might have something to do with it too. Basically, I get lost quickly but the musical train keeps rolling and I am left far behind with no way to catch up. Maybe I have to break down each piece of the song one measure at a time. That just seems like it would take forever and still might not help me. I don't know what I am missing.

Is playing in time and in sync something others struggle with too? Are there any lessons in here, or techniques to help me work on this? I'm not sure if I am missing counts in my head, or if I need to slow down and work through each bar (truly learn the song) before trying to wing it. Winging it works for many, many songs- not this one.

A big issue is that at several parts of this tune, you must be 100% spot on. There are very specific licks, riffs and drum fills that need to happen perfectly in sync (e.g., listen at 0:10 in.) You really can't just fake the song too much if you are playing with the actual track. It's just not forgiving like many other tunes like simple 12-bar blues. I can fake those all day long and even if I go slightly out of sync, each new mesaure is like a new day and I can jump back in. I would compare this tune to something like a musical where scenes are very tightly synced with the score. I guess it's more like playing actual musical correctly vs. the more common freeplay jam. Being a more technical piece, I guess the bottom line is that it is currently far beyond my current capabilities. I just really like it so I gave it a shot. At first it was a lot of fun (playing alone.) I felt confident and others commented that it sounded really good- but again, it got quite discouraging when I could even come close to keeping up with the actual song.

Any suggestions or advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7371

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
I either struggle badly with playing in time, playing in sync, both, and/or my technical skills are lacking to a point where I can't play in time.

This is the most likely explanation. When you play along with a backing track any deviation you make from strict time is going to stick out.

This particular tune has a lot of very specific 1/16th note syncopations. If you are not tightly in the groove, in sync with & hitting those stop & start breaks right on the money, then it's going to sound like a train wreck. :)

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Ironically, I can play along with many other, more simple melodies e.g., blues and rock where I am mostly strumming chords or playing a few simple riffs (easy to tap your foot to and do not require exact timing- easy to fake and forgiving.)

I encourage you to try playing those simple melodies, chords & riffs along witth a backing track & see how well you do. Better yet, record your playing in a DAW & see how well or not it lines up on the grid.

There is a great deal of rhythmic precision required to play music! :)

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Maybe I have to break down each piece of the song one measure at a time.

If that's what it takes, then so be it.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
That just seems like it would take forever and still might not help me. I don't know what I am missing.

It takes as long as it takes. Break it down to each measure. Make sure you really understand which notes in which order at what specific time. To play just about any music it has to be automated. You have to have repeated it so many times that it becomes completely automatic second nature.

Break it down into managable pieces, play it right slowly a zillion times.

Gradually speed it up as you improve, start connecting those pieces. You are trying to increase the range of your focus. You have to play each one of those pieces until you can do it in your sleep & each one is a little self contained unit. Each one becomes encoded in muscle memory (your nervous system & hands).

There's no time to think about every single note, or the music has flown by. You can't be thinking "put my finger here", "play this note", "play the next note", "where's the beat", "am I on rhythm?"

Once you've practiced any given phrase or riff enough you can think "play the main riff", "play the fill", "here's the break", and rely on those zillion hours of practice to take care of the details while you can think about what's coming next.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Is playing in time and in sync something others struggle with too?

Yes.

The entire process of playing music consists of gradually and continually automating physical motions until they are second nature.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
...I need to slow down and work through each bar (truly learn the song) before trying to wing it.

This is exactly right. Dig in! Have fun with it. Try to enjoy the process. Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#2

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
I either struggle badly with playing in time, playing in sync, both, and/or my technical skills are lacking to a point where I can't play in time.

This is the most likely explanation. When you play along with a backing track any deviation you make from strict time is going to stick out.

This particular tune has a lot of very specific 1/16th note syncopations. If you are not tightly in the groove, in sync with & hitting those stop & start breaks right on the money, then it's going to sound like a train wreck. :)

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Ironically, I can play along with many other, more simple melodies e.g., blues and rock where I am mostly strumming chords or playing a few simple riffs (easy to tap your foot to and do not require exact timing- easy to fake and forgiving.)

I encourage you to try playing those simple melodies, chords & riffs along witth a backing track & see how well you do. Better yet, record your playing in a DAW & see how well or not it lines up on the grid.

There is a great deal of rhythmic precision required to play music! :)

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Maybe I have to break down each piece of the song one measure at a time.

If that's what it takes, then so be it.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
That just seems like it would take forever and still might not help me. I don't know what I am missing.

It takes as long as it takes. Break it down to each measure. Make sure you really understand which notes in which order at what specific time. To play just about any music it has to be automated. You have to have repeated it so many times that it becomes completely automatic second nature.

Break it down into managable pieces, play it right slowly a zillion times.

Gradually speed it up as you improve, start connecting those pieces. You are trying to increase the range of your focus. You have to play each one of those pieces until you can do it in your sleep & each one is a little self contained unit. Each one becomes encoded in muscle memory (your nervous system & hands).

There's no time to think about every single note, or the music has flown by. You can't be thinking "put my finger here", "play this note", "play the next note", "where's the beat", "am I on rhythm?"

Once you've practiced any given phrase or riff enough you can think "play the main riff", "play the fill", "here's the break", and rely on those zillion hours of practice to take care of the details while you can think about what's coming next.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Is playing in time and in sync something others struggle with too?

Yes.

The entire process of playing music consists of gradually and continually automating physical motions until they are second nature.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
...I need to slow down and work through each bar (truly learn the song) before trying to wing it.

This is exactly right. Dig in! Have fun with it. Try to enjoy the process. Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

SRVFan2000

Full Access

Joined: 06/01/21

Posts: 19

Thanks Chris- this is exactly what I needed to hear. It reminds me of martial arts- you have to drill each move 1000x's until they are automatic (and have 3+ back-up moves if one fails.)

I think part of my problem honestly, is a lack of talent and a lack of a good ear. I am not being self-defeating as much as I am being brutally realistic. I work hard at it and I think I will eventually get better (these lessons help), but realistically, I never see myself playing like you or Steve. Playing in time is something I have always struggled with. Fortunately I am not trying to be a professional musician. At least I really do still enjoy learning and improving to be the best that I can be.

These tips really will really help me to keep my focus- slow things down and try to commit each phrase to muscle memory. I've done that with some SRV tunes in the past and now I can play them accurately, fast and they sound great. If however you put a metronome on or require me to play certain phrases consistently to match with the song, that will never happen. It's the same with piano. I can sit there and play and I've been told it sounds great- but I know it is nothing more than amatuer playing. I could never hang with a group all playing together. Still I have fun with it too. Ironically, I use to play drums...so at least I am familiar with 1/16th note syncopation. To your point, my drum instructor didn't let me play on a drum set for months. We drilled playing notes on an old Remo drum pad before I earned the right to touch a real set. My first tune was Rikki Don't Lose That Number by Steely Dan. I never realized that drums had notes!

I have played a lot with backing tracks and usually do ok. If the song is forgiving and does not require precision (like a simple 12 bar blues), I can hang just fine with the rythm. This song is tricky and not really open to a lot of freeplay. Each phrase is dependant on the one that came before it. That, along with not having committed each phrase to memory is tripping me up. I hope I have the patience to learn it. I tend to learn enough to get by, then move on to the next tune that catches my attention. Sometimes Good (enough) Truly can be the Enemy of Great.

THANK YOU!

#3

Thanks Chris- this is exactly what I needed to hear. It reminds me of martial arts- you have to drill each move 1000x's until they are automatic (and have 3+ back-up moves if one fails.)

I think part of my problem honestly, is a lack of talent and a lack of a good ear. I am not being self-defeating as much as I am being brutally realistic. I work hard at it and I think I will eventually get better (these lessons help), but realistically, I never see myself playing like you or Steve. Playing in time is something I have always struggled with. Fortunately I am not trying to be a professional musician. At least I really do still enjoy learning and improving to be the best that I can be.

These tips really will really help me to keep my focus- slow things down and try to commit each phrase to muscle memory. I've done that with some SRV tunes in the past and now I can play them accurately, fast and they sound great. If however you put a metronome on or require me to play certain phrases consistently to match with the song, that will never happen. It's the same with piano. I can sit there and play and I've been told it sounds great- but I know it is nothing more than amatuer playing. I could never hang with a group all playing together. Still I have fun with it too. Ironically, I use to play drums...so at least I am familiar with 1/16th note syncopation. To your point, my drum instructor didn't let me play on a drum set for months. We drilled playing notes on an old Remo drum pad before I earned the right to touch a real set. My first tune was Rikki Don't Lose That Number by Steely Dan. I never realized that drums had notes!

I have played a lot with backing tracks and usually do ok. If the song is forgiving and does not require precision (like a simple 12 bar blues), I can hang just fine with the rythm. This song is tricky and not really open to a lot of freeplay. Each phrase is dependant on the one that came before it. That, along with not having committed each phrase to memory is tripping me up. I hope I have the patience to learn it. I tend to learn enough to get by, then move on to the next tune that catches my attention. Sometimes Good (enough) Truly can be the Enemy of Great.

THANK YOU!

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7371

You're welcome!

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
It reminds me of martial arts- you have to drill each move 1000x's until they are automatic (and have 3+ back-up moves if one fails.)

Yes, that's the same principle.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
I think part of my problem honestly, is a lack of talent and a lack of a good ear. I am not being self-defeating as much as I am being brutally realistic.

Every individual requires a different amount of time to achieve the same skill level. And yes, it's possible you won't have enough time to play as well as you'd like.

But the only way to get anywhere is to put the work in. There is absolutely no substitute for time logged on the machine. Try to enjoy it! :)

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#4

You're welcome!

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
It reminds me of martial arts- you have to drill each move 1000x's until they are automatic (and have 3+ back-up moves if one fails.)

Yes, that's the same principle.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
I think part of my problem honestly, is a lack of talent and a lack of a good ear. I am not being self-defeating as much as I am being brutally realistic.

Every individual requires a different amount of time to achieve the same skill level. And yes, it's possible you won't have enough time to play as well as you'd like.

But the only way to get anywhere is to put the work in. There is absolutely no substitute for time logged on the machine. Try to enjoy it! :)

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

SRVFan2000

Full Access

Joined: 06/01/21

Posts: 19

Thanks Chris. Based on what you said, I practiced it again for hours last night. I found that once I got the main riff down consistently, the timing did fall into place "better." It's very true about "time logged on the machine." That reminds me of what my broker just said last week- it's not about "Timing the Market" as much as it's about "Time IN the Market." I have to put the time in to get the payoff. I do play every day, but I realize I need to focus much more and challenge myself- not just noodle around playing the the things I already know.

#5

Thanks Chris. Based on what you said, I practiced it again for hours last night. I found that once I got the main riff down consistently, the timing did fall into place "better." It's very true about "time logged on the machine." That reminds me of what my broker just said last week- it's not about "Timing the Market" as much as it's about "Time IN the Market." I have to put the time in to get the payoff. I do play every day, but I realize I need to focus much more and challenge myself- not just noodle around playing the the things I already know.

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7371

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Based on what you said, I practiced it again for hours last night. I found that once I got the main riff down consistently, the timing did fall into place "better."

Outstanding! Great update.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
I do play every day, but I realize I need to focus much more and challenge myself- not just noodle around playing the the things I already know.[/p]

Great observation.

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#6

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
Based on what you said, I practiced it again for hours last night. I found that once I got the main riff down consistently, the timing did fall into place "better."

Outstanding! Great update.

Originally Posted by: SRVFan2000
I do play every day, but I realize I need to focus much more and challenge myself- not just noodle around playing the the things I already know.[/p]

Great observation.

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

kafrasen84

Registered User

Joined: 07/23/21

Posts: 1

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