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  • Writer's pictureVal Bastien

Got Rhythm?

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

During singing lessons, singers are the most concerned about the quality of their voice and seek to improve their vocal technique. Of course that is always a priority but as you and your singing teacher work on applying corrective strategies to a performance, it's inevitable to touch on other aspects equally as important from a theory point of view.

Rhythm is certainly one of them because altering the rhythm of a song can either enhance it, when done creatively, or totally ruin it. Of course you could speed up or slow down the overall tempo of a song but that's not really what I'm thinking about here. When we speak of “having good rhythm” we mean the ability to accurately follow the set tempo and respecting some pre-existing music conventions appearing in the phrasing that define a piece and even make it unique.

Failing to keep time immediately creates a sense of chaos. Notes forming harmonies all of a sudden appear out of synch.

Latency sucks the life out of a tune as if you don't have the energy to keep up. On the other hand, you may get the impression that you are always chasing after something to catch up with the next sentence.

You appear late for your entrances. This may affect your ability to manage your breath well, in accordance to the logical unfolding of the phrasing.

The same is true when you rush too much and get ahead of yourself. You're stripping the song away from its natural flow instead of enjoying the melody in the moment.

Some rhythmic figures are super important to the identity of a song. When you inadvertently change that, the song loses some of its original appeal.

Here are 7 tips to stay in the swing of things:

Tap your foot: I am often surprised that this habit doesn't come intuitively for even some of my more advanced students. Many singers can tap their foot to most simple songs but lose their spot when the melody and accompaniment become syncopated. The truth is that complicated rhythmic figures are confusing and can totally throw you off. Practice tapping your foot to develop a better sense of the down beats in songs. Practice without singing and with singing. To avoid the noise of tapping your foot bleeding through a recording or during a performance, you can also tap your big toe alone so that it remains unseen to the public eye.

Listen for rhythmic patterns in the accompaniment: If you are having trouble finding the down beat to tap your foot to the beat and maintain the tempo, listen for queues in the music. You could hear some continuity in the piano arpeggios or guitar strumming for example. Finger picking also offers great incentive for rhythm consistency. Even the chord progression often predictably falls on down beats. But it is the bass and drum section that will give you the most obvious hints as to how the rhythm is marked. Listen with intent to find some steadiness to anchor yourself to. This brings me to the next tip...

Use a metronome: Figure out the actual tempo of a song and set a metronome accordingly. You can buy an old school metronome, download an app on your phone or use a free online metronome. There are many to choose from out there. Recording softwares also have the option of adding a click to a track . Import your song and set the click accordingly. That would be the easiest way to coordinate a track and the metronome exactly for playback.

When you practice tapping your foot to the song and the metronome at once, you quickly notice where you get out of sync. This makes it easier to pick up the rhythm again promptly. Address areas of need by practicing them in isolation.

Learn basic music theory: Being able to tell different rhythmic figures apart will help you recognize them in songs and reproduce them 100% precisely. You may already be familiar with a 4/4 time signature but how comfortable are you with a 6/8? Do you know the difference between eight notes and triplets? What about dotted rhythmic figures? Know your stuff!

Write it down: When complicated rhythms come up, write them down on your page to memorize them properly. If understanding what a particular rhythm figure is to begin with, slow down the track to hear it more clearly and note it down. Review your notes often to make sure that you stay true to the intricacy of that part.

Get the sheet music: Personally, as a vocal coach I always appreciate when clients bring in sheet music. Not only does it allow song mapping, it also gives you a visual of what is going on in the song. You can clearly see how the song is divided in bars and how the words are spread out rhythmically.

Count: Practice counting the beats out loud during periods of silence, when you don't sing, so that you are ready for your next entrance. This is particularly helpful to figure out tricky sections as well.

Energetic wins over sloppy. Get it right! As you can see, good rhythm is just one of the many facets of expert singing. There is of course so much more to learn about how to sing better but this is one of the many ways I help my clients maximize their skills.

Contact me today to schedule your FREE consultation. Let's get you grooving:

Jazzing it up,



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