Play Music In Time

Hi everyone:

I wanted to put it out there and ask for any tips on playing in time. Thus far I went back and reviewed all courses on strumming and playing in time. In addition, being the outspoken type I am, I took my family for a steak dinner on Saturday night and there was a solo artist playing. So I asked him what tips he had for me to improve. The guy has 30 years experience writing and playing music here in California. He was surprised it wasn’t a song request-lol. I said you strum complex patterns without breaking a sweat. How is it so easy? So here’s what he said:

  1. Music is all about math as in 1-2-3-4
  2. Practice with a metronome or drum machine loop
  3. Keep it simple (don’t bother with complex songs)
  4. give it time (You have played around a year and I have for 30 years)
  5. Google the tempo of the song and try to match the track exactly, even at half time.

A lot of this matches what people have said here in the forum. Any other suggestions? I don’t want to keep posting mediocre vides and waste people’s time here.
I really want to achieve Justin’s Open Mic challenge badly. I have no fear of being in front of a group and I used to sing well years ago. If I can get this rhythm figured out, it’s on.

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Well all those tips are the standard ones and as youve said repeated many times here. It’s good advice.

Can you play in time when you just play down strums? That really is the starting point OR even more basic just downstrum the one and count the two, three, four.

Once you’ve got that working slowing try a very simple strumming pattern e.g D U D U D U D U. Basically the same as doing all down strums but playing the Upstrum as well. Once you e got that it’s a matter which D or U strums you miss out to make your pattern.

Thanks for the advice. If you have time let me know what you think from the videos I posted. “Fall to Pieces” used the strumming pattern you mentioned, but still doesn’t sound quite right to me. Today I did “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone” by Cinderella. But didn’t post because it sounds mediocre too. Maybe I’ll work on it some first to get it in exact BPM first. Have a wonderful day.

On your Fall to Pieces you sound like you are broadly in time. A few observations. The first is that the tempo for that song is quite fast and therefore you’re strumming quite quickly which makes it difficult for a beginner to stay in time. I’m not clear whether you’re playing to a backing track or not…it would help if you were as you’ll be able tell whether you are in time or not. Also if you were playing to a backing track or metronome you could slow it down slightly to give you more time to play it accurately…it doesn’t matter about the speed to start with as once you are comfortable you can then slowly increase the speed.

The second thing is that it looks like there are quite a lot of chord changes and quite a few mid bar i.e. two strums on one chord then two on the next. Perhaps pick some simpler four chord songs which will help you get the timing right without having to think about quick chord changes. You want to be focusing on your strumming at this point and timing not the chord changes.

Posture wise it looks like you are almost leaning back, sit up straight and try to have the guitar more vertical, also lift the headstock a little more. That posture will not be good long term.

All of the above said you’ve got the D U D U D U D U going but I think - given the song - you slip out of time slightly because it’s a little too fast and too complicated. Bear in mind if you want to play “old faithful” pattern you’ll need to think about playing D D U U D which requires a little time and thought to get it right. Give yourself that time by slowing down.

It’s the old saying “you have to walk (or even crawl) before you can run”.

Right now I’m off to do some more practice :joy:


Thanks very much Rossco. You really took time to give meaningful tips. The answer is no I didn’t use a backing track. I played from memory of the song. I squeeze in 20 minutes practicing/videos between work meetings. If I ever have to work back in the office my game plan will be foiled. Thanks again for the help.

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Hey Jeff,

Lots of solid suggestions here. I found that Justin’s Strumming Techniques 1&2 completely transformed my rhythm and strumming over a few months. Would highly recommend it.
Also Jeff, you’re not posting mediocre videos, and you’re certainly not wasting anyone’s time. We are all learning here mate, and I for one am glad to have you as part of this community, and posting your progress.

All the best,



Also, another tip is to build stamina. I think you are already doing this, but strumming in time over a full song is harder than doing it over a handful of bars (at least to start with).

I mention this mainly for other people who might be reading this, because I have come across people who think that being able to hold down a chord and strum it for a few bars means they know it.

Being able to strum, and keep up with the chord changes, across a whole song is when you know it.

I think you know this and are putting it into practice, but, as I said, others may be reading this and may not have considered it.

It’s why the mantra around here is “learn songs”.




Thanks Shane. That was very nice to hear.

Continuing the discussion from Play Music In Time:

Thanks very much Keith. I hope this topic helps more people learning than just me. Like many of us I am my own worst critic. No one is covering their ears when I play. Ha ha. Cheers

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Interesting world view. What’s the cutoff, a two minute song? Five minutes? By and large I think folks that are taking the Justin guitar course should play the songs/progressions all the way through as indicated in the courseware. Be true to your school.

In your free exploratory time, play as little or as long as you want. Find your voice on the instrument. After all you are the Julia Child of your musical soufflé. :slight_smile:

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And that’s fine. Justin recommends songs at each stage. Being able to play through some of these songs is important. I suspect most songs are 3-4 minutes.



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