Playing Solo Guitar, Busking on the Street, Keeping Time

I always like seeing buskers on the street, a city or town is missing so much if they don’t allow busking.  Buskers add a pulse to a town.  They are often raw, but you’ll find an honesty in the rawness, and we are getting it in real-time, it’s not overproduced; and yes maybe a little off the mark with its musicality at times but guitar players need a platform that is in a public place to express themselves while they are developing their craft.

 What you’ll notice if you look carefully at street musicians if they are soloists, they may or may not have the ability to keep time.  As a rule, I prefer music to be in time, but as a soloist it is possible to take liberties with the beat; you can’t do this when playing with other musicians, it’s the glue that holds it together.  What I have also noticed is that if a guitarist is self taught and rarely played with other musicians they could easily fall into the trap of not knowing how to play in time at all.  This in the long term will work against them. As you mature as a musician, you find yourself wanting to work with other musicians that will enhance your sound.

 What I recommend is if you have been working alone for a long time, it’s a good idea to get hold of some sort of drum machine, ‘musical sounding’ audio files for the computer, assuming you are computer literate or some type of backing tracks and work with them for a while, these can help you develop a natural rhythm. 

Every now and then, I get the opportunity to work with different people, some have tremendous voices or with  other great skills but often it’s their timing that lets them down.  Your timing should get to the point where you can stop playing for a few bars and then automatically come in on time at the precise place. 

Guitarists often doodle around a bit and waste time. Be focused, set your self a plan of what to work on and then do t.

 Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you are having a few difficulties with timing and we can look at a way of sorting it.

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7 Comments

Filed under acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, Busking, learning guitar, MUSIC

7 responses to “Playing Solo Guitar, Busking on the Street, Keeping Time

  1. Well, you are so right! I took a long break from playing with the band because we didn’t have a rehearsal room and I kept playing everyday at home alone. Man, what a surprise I had when joining again with the guys for a jam! I have almost forgotten how it feels listening the others when playing… I had difficulties in matching the rest (they had too, so was not a problem), phrasing, timing, damn, it felt so strange at first!

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head Tony. If you want to play in a band, or even with just another person you’ve got to know how to keep in beat. This is definitely fundamental.

  3. acousticguitarist

    Thanks Ovidiu and Ruben

    Guitar players as a general rule have a tend to spend a lot of years working alone and then gradually merge into a band. If they start with a decent teacher, this is sorted early.

    I used to teach a lot of kids, and then when they got a little older I’d send them to another guitar player Dave Ash and he’d teach them all the latest songs and how to get the ‘right’ sound. He always said that they could play in time.

    What happens is that most players are in a hurry to play fast and miss the essentials that ultimately will help them to play very very fast.

  4. The danger is the solo guitar reportoire (classical) is cut off or isolated from other instruments, and often, the soloist is not aware they are not playing in time. John Williams said in an interview that he feels he makes loads of mistakes (contrary to what many believe) BUT the difference with him is his playing is rhythmic and any mistakes (click, buzzes ect) occur on the beat, therefore less noticable.

    Williams is also a great advocate of playing guitar in ensembles. Even for soloists, it’s a great experience, and you get to find out about your own timing and rhythmic flaws!

    Like you Tony, I do enjoy buskers on street corners. I’ve played in restaurants myself, although pieces are rehearsed, there’s not THAT much difference, it’s background music just the same.

    Mark.

  5. susansa

    I am a beginner and having a tough time with timing! I do take lessons but this has proved the most difficult part of lessons. Frustrating but I am not ready to give up on it. At least I know I am not the only one struggling with this. Any other tips on improving a beginner’s timing? Thanks!

  6. acousticguitarist

    Hi Susansa

    I just noticed your comment and decided to write a short article about it.

    https://acousticguitarist.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/playing-guitar-in-time/

    Regards Tony

  7. susansa

    Thanks Tony! Har! My teacher also recommended dancing! Actually, I love to dance but I think I follow my own beat. Well, I am going to follow your tips and see what happens and will post again when I am over this hurdle. Again, THANKS so much for the article!

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