During a session at my recent GillaCamp Guitar Workshop in Brisbane Australia we played a simple 12 bar blues together as a group. As soon as the exercise was over, every one of the students recognized how they all fell into a “group groove” at a certain tempo.  Once that groove was established, it was extremely difficult for them to adjust to another tempo as a group when I changed the metronome slightly up or down from their initiated comfort zone. 

 

We were all quite shocked at how quickly it occurred.  One bar of music and they were out of time. That’s how fast it happened once they left the group-established tempo.  To be honest, it was quite fascinating.

 

I’d like to encourage players to not only work with a metronome, but also adjust the comfort zone setting you initially establish and if possible, work with another player or more, not just as a soloist. Call it a social experiment, if you’d like.  Make sure that everyone drinks exactly the same amount of coffee ahead of time.  Ok, kidding about that part, but not about playing with others.

 

Another thought is to appoint a player with a very solid rhythm to play along with the group (or at least one other player) instead of a metronome. I’ve been told that listening to another player can be more important than just listening to a metronome.  You add what I like to call the human element, assuming they have good rhythm and actually at least appear to be human.

 

If there are no humans around or house pets that can play the guitar, perhaps you can record yourself as you play a rhythm or a fingerpicking arrangement at more than one tempo and play the other approach along with it.  For example, if you’ve recorded the rhythm, then fingerpick with it and vice-versa.

 

A third layer to try is to play a small supply of lead notes to jam along with the rhythm or fingerpicking versions.  However, keep in mind that when the fingerpicker is playing and the lead player is playing simultaneously, things can get a bit crowded musically.  This is a great opportunity to listen to the other player and if you become proficient enough, try as a fingerpicker to fall into the rhythm smoothly and lay a steady platform down for the lead player to have a bit of fun

 

This year’s GillaCamp was graced by my friend Michael Fix, one of the finest guitar players in Australia (and arguably the nicest!).  I was thrilled as he seemed eager to sit in and play a bit with my students after his lengthy European tour.  He was also kind enough to address the students by fielding some of their questions and concerns as he shared his own personal feelings and experiences at length.

 

Michael and I will be touring together for the mid-segment of my trip and it’s one of the highlights of touring – learning new music and making new friends. I just need to watch my tempo!

 

                           Catch the Acoustic Guitar Spectacular Tour schedule here

 

Photos by Tom Ford Photography, Brisbane Australia

 

– Richard Gilewitz