Timing and It's Importance in Guitar Music
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
By: Jeff Kozelski
I always go back to thinking, “Boy, wouldn’t it have been nice if I learned to do it the right way first”, which I didn’t.
Guitar players rarely focus on timing due to the way we read music. Tablature and chord charts only tell you what to play and not how long to hold notes and exactly when to to change.
My teacher, the late great jazz master Robert Newton, used to say it’s not what you play but when you play it. That always stuck with me.
How do you get better at "when you play it"? I’m glad I asked for you. Over the last few booming years of technology there have been quite a few things that could help us all out.
First is the Metronome and if you own a smart phone, which you probably do if you’re reading this, there are multiple free apps to try out that don’t take up too much space. You can start playing chords over 60 BPM (Beats Per Minute) and gradually speed it up as you start to feel comfortable with the changes. Reading chord progressions can be like an assembly line of boxes that just keep coming and if you can’t do it slowly... well you’re never gonna do it fast. For beginners it’s good to start with a simple chord progression like G-D-Em-C at 60 BPM for one week then the next week 70, then 80 the following week, play each chord 4 times with the beat of the metronome and then move to the next chord in the progression.
The next bit of techno is the app "Yousician". Many people ask if it’s really that great, or just a gimmick. My answer to that is yes it is a very useful app for practicing and learning timing between chords. The Wii games “Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band” are similar to "Yousician", but instead of using a little fake plastic guitar looking controller you would use a real guitar.
For most kids this works pretty well since a lot of them use apps for learning in school. I have seen an exponential growth of skills when kids get serious with the app. However anybody over the age of 35 (me) or anyone that grew up listening to classic rock guitar players usually likes the old fashioned way-- part one the Metronome.
With patience and commitment, either of these tools will improve your timing skills.
Jeff Kozelski has been playing guitar for over 20 years. He began taking lessons when he was 12 years old and began studying music theory under Robert Newton at 19. By the age of 17, Jeff was playing solo gigs at restaurants. Jeff has played with a number of bands, most recently, King Hippo. Jeff performed lead guitar and vocals for King Hippo while they toured across the country and recorded three albums. Jeff has been teaching guitar lessons for 10 years. He has a large curriculum from which to choose and individualize his instruction based on student need, ranging from beginner guitar to advanced jazz theory.