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Thread: Best way to keep time?

  1. #1

    Default Best way to keep time?

    Ukulele for Dummies suggests using mnemonics to keep time while strumming, then goes on to say that in pieces that contain pauses and/or single notes the mnemonics don't work as well and one should keep time by patting a foot, head nodding, or similar.

    A dude on YouTube said to keep repeating one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and for every measure throughout the song.

    I've read that practicing with a metronome and keeping on the beat "ingrains" the timing so that playing accurately without the metronome is eventually possible.

    Is any particular way generally accepted as being the best? What is taught in formal music education?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Sunny Jersey - where the cows come from!


    Metronome ... or in this day and age a metronome "app"!

    The human brain has an inbuilt capability to fool itself (or at least satisfy itself) and all the mnemonic counting and foot tapping won't help if you slow down and speed up unconsciously as you work through the difficult bits

    Good luck
    There are those who will wax lyrical about the ability to play a double shuffle with a split fan and a tight G-string ...
    it just makes me walk funny!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2010


    Use a metronome until it is ingrained. There are great apps like Tempo that work really well. Often our sense of time can drift. The metronome is unforgiving.
    Last edited by EDW; 08-11-2019 at 02:00 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Ames, Iowa


    I do everything ass backwards so that factors into everything I do, but I started out trying to use a metronome, tapping my foot, counting, everything. All that did was screw me up because I can hardly chew gum and walk at the same time, let alone play, sing, and count all three at the same time. So I gave up and just played. After a while it started coming along naturally as I got more proficient. One other thing that really helped me was playing with others. When you are just on your own there is no real motivation to stay in time. When you play with others you have to, but it is easier because you can go with the flow of the group. It is like driving on the interstate, you just go with the traffic and if you do it enough you get a feel for it. I often times play along with songs on records or on youtube and try to get a feel for the timing. Anyway, at this point I'm a toe tapper and don't even think about it.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2019


    Toe tapping works best for me
    Happy just to be a Newbie +, Penny

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Honoka'a, HI



    People get overwhelmed because they jump in too fast. I just get my students to use the metronome to drill silly things like "strum only on the 1" or "pluck on the 2 & 3". By working these in many combos you're forced to PAY ATTENTION to the time.

    Start by counting along with the metronome and clapping on a single beat. Then moving the beat each time around (*1* 2 3 4, 1 *2* 3 4, 1 2 *3* 4, 1 2 3 *4*). Once you get good at that, add in the eighth note "ands" and shift those around. You can alternate 1 & 3. 2 & 4 for some fun. THEN you can pick four or five random numbers from 1-8 and assign them their appropriate beat. You'll end up with some very un-intuitive patterns to clap.

    95% of my students struggle with timing. It's really important. It's also a massive ego bruiser (which is silly because everyone seems to have trouble). But I tell you what, the ones who bone up, look in the mirror, and practice with a metronome sound WAY better than the rest. You'll never regret it.
    Last edited by Brad Bordessa; 08-11-2019 at 02:52 PM.

  7. #7


    Thanks for the comments! Sounds like a metronome is the way to go, at least until past the beginner stage.

    I'm kind of relieved to hear that, as the constant one and two and on and on seems harder.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Redmond, WA


    In addition to wha Brad said, go slow: set the metronome at a pace you can do and bump it up gradually as you master the drill at the current pace. If you turn up too fast to handle then dial back.

    I’ve been using the “Time Guru” metronome app on iOS. It will randomly drop beats so you can test that you maintain time when it comes back. Worth the price for me. I try to use foot tapping and counting along with the metronome to keep going and to manage subdivisions (and to keep my teacher happy ). Unfortunately I don’t have the hair to keep proper time head banging.

    A drum machine is more fun but allows for a lot more sloppiness. I’ll sometimes sub it in for song time. Metronome’s king for technique drilling.

    5/4 is less fun but probably good for me

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2017


    I would of course also support the metronome suggestion. However, I also think getting a real metronome is also beneficial. They aren't that expensive and offer unique benefits. It is difficult to explain, but for me it is important to have a physical thing sitting near me instead of just a disembodied sound. It is like my accompanist and I also appreciate its nice wood and its sleek shape like a little obelisk. More important to the music, I feel the beat better. After all, there is actually a beat. There is some percussion and a sound results. For me it is more palpable than just an electrical device that makes the sound of a beat without there actually being a beat.

    That's just my little point of view. It may or may not be important to you. That's cool. The real point is to get some manner of metronome.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Wiltshire, UK


    It's also useful to play along to a recording (you-tube video or whatever).

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