Will rock band help my rhythm?
February 6, 2012 12:43 AM   Subscribe

I have bad rythym. Will playing Rock Band help?

I am a swing dancer. I'm good at the steps and the moves, (Turns, spins, etc.) but I have a really hard time following the beat. I am one of those people without natural rythym. I actually Cannot hear the beat among all the other instruments.

Will playing Rock Band help? If so, what would be the best instrument to use? I'm imagining it sould be the drums, since they carry the rythym. What about the bass?
posted by TigerCrane to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From my experience playing Rock Band or drums doesn't help much.

My father has horrible rhythm and he actually learned how to play the drums... and is in a band. Go figure. It helped him understand music to an extent but it has not helped his sense of rhythm. When he plays it's basically "hit that, then that, then that, then that." It's very mechanical which means he can't ad lib. He doesn't really feel the music, instead he'll watch for cues from other band members like the strumming down of the guitarist's hand to determine the beat. When he can't pick up these cues he'll end up drumming the rhythm of the melody. It's really weird, but also cool because it sometimes works.

I have a friend who not only has a bad sense of rhythm, but is also tone deaf. He loves Rock Band. Listening to the slapping of the sticks on the drum pads is chaotic and really distracting for teammates, but he manages to get through medium level difficulty songs because he can still hit the pad in the acceptable window of time. There is absolutely nothing rhythmic to it... he just tries to hit the correct pad as its icon approaches the line. Despite owning Rock Band 1, 2, and the Beatles Edition along with multiple hours of play time he has not picked up rhythm or tone.

I think classically learning an instrument with music theory might help. Understanding how music is created and being able to decode the layers could be the key.
In my father's case he learned the basics from a musician friend, bought a set and learned the rest himself, so he never got the formal music theory education.

Good luck!
Side note: you should still play Rock Band anyway because it's fun.
posted by simplethings at 1:35 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll claim the opposite and say that Guitar Hero and Rock Band-style games helped my rhythm quite a bit, but mainly on the higher difficulty levels where the game is less forgiving. More by playing alone on weekdays and really concentrating than playing with friends on weekends with beers in hand, but YMMV.
posted by adamk at 2:49 AM on February 6, 2012

My friends and I beat it on expert. It all came down to memorizing the patterns. If you play a song 100 times you will get it eventually no matter what.

I will also say, if you are not focused on your part, or are mearly a spectator, the drum sound is crazy irritating because the drum part does not really keep time the way actual drumming does. It is just a cacophony of slapping noise.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:01 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok, I am going to amend my previous answer. On higher difficulty drumming is much closer to the actual song. On easy and medium, it is pretty random sounding.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:07 AM on February 6, 2012

It's possible though not a given. You have to deliberately practice with the goal of improving rhythm.

I feel like it helped me, but I set out to improve my rhythm. At first there's some manner of flailing about trying to hit the pads when the screen tells you to do so, but once you're more familiar with the song you can allow yourself to sink in and pretend you're really playing the drums. When a new pattern comes on string - drill it until you can *hear* what it means.

On the other hand, if you're not actively trying to get better rhythm, you can go quite far in the game without improving at all. So I understand where simplethings is coming from.

Lastly, if you're a real cheapskate, you don't need to buy the game. I've done quite a bit of "lap drumming" watching videos like this.
posted by losvedir at 3:32 AM on February 6, 2012

Sorry, no help on the rockband thing - I don't play games. But I do play monophonic instruments, and one of the books I used to practice with is Rhythm Coach Level 1. I thought it was pretty helpful, especially with off beat timings. Book cover also says for dancers!
posted by TrinsicWS at 4:03 AM on February 6, 2012

Any practice is good, and will improve your sense of rhythm - be that with an instrument or the game. No one is is tone deaf or cannot learn rhythm, these things are not innate.

Bonus: a good acronym to remember how to spell the word:

posted by iotic at 4:41 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

It depends how you play it. I can five-star almost any song on expert drums, so I have a fair bit of practice. If you play like, "Hit the pad when the note reaches the line," you just need hand-eye coordination and fairly good reflexes. You can play up to medium, or maybe the easier songs on hard, with that strategy. But to progress further, or to develop you sense of rhythm, you need to realize from the notation, "Okay, the pedal and the red pad alternate on the major beat of the song, and the yellow pad plays twice on every major beat." Then you listen to the music to get the pace and feel, and you're playing a standard backbeat rock drum part that 95% of songs are based on.

It's definitely possible to just "follow instructions" and ignore the music for the most part at lower levels. It's what most people do straight off. Whether it's possible to develop rhythm by transitioning from that to more natural playing... hard to say. Worth a try, though, because it's fun!
posted by supercres at 5:00 AM on February 6, 2012

I'd recommend one of the guitar parts, lead or bass, over the drums. Rock Band etc. are rhythm games more than anything else, as you're basically just hitting things in time with the music rather than doing something which might plausibly produce melody or harmony. But the drums involve a whole 'nother level of hand-eye coordination that many people, myself included, find to be significantly harder than futzing around with the guitars.

As to whether it will actually help you develop rhythm? I'm tempted to say no, but it certainly wouldn't hurt, and might actually help. Go for it. It'll certainly emphasize doing certain physical movements in time with the music, which is all you're really looking for, methinks.
posted by valkyryn at 5:29 AM on February 6, 2012

I would say Rock Band is not an effective way to spend your time if you are looking to improve. For one thing, the rhythms (and notes) do not always match what you play in the song, depending on the level, and you will have a harder time incorporating a variety of rhythms if you rely on the recent popular music most often found in Rock Band.

Also, there are some sub-topics here:

- perceiving rhythms you are hearing
- playing with good metronomic (accurate and consistent time)
- ability to understand and play varied rhythms and subdivisions
- ability to play with feel (e.g., swing, funk, waltz, country; it applies to all genres)

If I were serious about resolving this, I would take drum or percussion lessons and explain what you want from your teacher. You wouldn't need to buy a drum kit—everything you need to learn could be done on a practice pad, but having a snare drum or other drum would certainly make it a lot more fun and allow you to play with others if you so choose.
posted by SNACKeR at 5:48 AM on February 6, 2012

I've played a variety of music instruments (piano, guitar, drums) both by reading notation and by ear, and I have a pretty decent sense of rhythm. When guitar hero and rockband came out, I took to it enthusiastically (it is a really fun game) and I got to witness many of my friends, who have absolutely zero musical background, also start playing it.

Having an innate sense of rhythm of course helps tremendously with playing the game, as I was more or less able to jump right in on expert difficulty on all the instruments. But the thing I felt, particularly with the drums, was that it was teaching you to robotically hit the notes exactly as they were written by whoever made up the score - it didn't actually teach you to feel the song, embrace the rhythm and play the song.

So it feels like a game that harnesses your sense of rhythm if you already had it, but it doesn't really teach you or improve your sense of rhythm if you didn't, if that makes any sense.

In particular, the timing window that the game considers "correct" is so large as to be worthless - the game would consider so many drum beats "correct" where, if I was playing in real life, I would be booed off the stage.

Playing Rock Band (with friends especially) is a good idea though, since it's a damn fun game, and general exposure to music and rhythm can only help... the best thing to do would probably be to take up drum lessons and have your teacher teach you to identify and play to various genres, particularly the one you are dancing to.
posted by xdvesper at 6:02 AM on February 6, 2012

You could also learn to mix records. That helped me a lot.
posted by empath at 6:37 AM on February 6, 2012

This might be weird, but running helped me with rhythm. I think finding the beat for each foot fall is like dancing for people who have bad rhythm.
posted by katinka-katinka at 6:53 AM on February 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, i don't know if you do this already, but learn to count beats. Just start listening to a song and count 1 2 3 4 2 2 3 4 3 2 3 4 4 2 3 4 and so on.. . This is really easy for electronica, because it's almost all 4/4 time. Do this for every single song you hear on the radio. Tap your finger with the beat. Ignore everything else in the song except the beat and focus on that.

I've played Rock Band drums and worked my self up to expert level pretty quickly, but I was already a DJ, and I didn't need to develop a sense of rhythm. What drums in rock band taught me was limb independence -- the ability to keep different time with each hand and my foot. If you're just struggling with basic 'keeping time', picking up drums in rock band is going to be a tough slog at first, and you can learn the basics from just counting along with songs.
posted by empath at 6:58 AM on February 6, 2012

Another thing you can do instead of beat matching records -- get a metronome or a metronome program and try to sync it up with a song you're listening to. (Garage band and Audacity both have metronomes, I think).
posted by empath at 7:01 AM on February 6, 2012

I've spent the last couple years gradually working my way up to hard drum songs (and the easier ones on expert) -- last couple years because I don't have a console at my apartment, and only play once or twice a month.

I had a few years of piano lessons before that, so I had a fair grounding in rhythm, but what Rock Band did help me with was getting some of the rhythms that aren't as regular as a Ramones song. Some of the songs have odd syncopations and off-beat stuff going on and I found that I really had to listen to the music to learn how to play them well.
posted by Jeanne at 7:33 AM on February 6, 2012

I didn't have horrible rhythm, and I was already a (real) guitarist, but Rock Band drums improved my rhythm from not-so-steady and sometimes-not-knowing-where-I-am-in-the-count to being pretty metronomic most of the time. It took me about two years to work up to playing almost everything on expert pro.
posted by cmoj at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2012

Oh, and I can play real drums now with very little learning curve. They're actually easier since they're more responsive.
posted by cmoj at 11:29 AM on February 6, 2012

I would suggest two earlier Harmonix games: Frequency and Amplitude. They're kind of like a version of Dance Dance Revolution using a standard game controller rather than a dance mat.
posted by thatdawnperson at 5:36 PM on February 6, 2012

You likely don't know me, but I am also a swing dancer. I live on The Other Coast.

What do you really want to do, play Rock Band or work on your rhythm? I know people who are great at both, terrible at both, and great at one and terrible at the other (both ways). I've also heard several stories of national/international-level instructors having trouble finding the beat.

If you want to play Rock Band, play Rock Band. Maybe you'll get something more out of it, but I wouldn't bank on it. If you want to work on your rhythm, work on your rhythm. That can be boring or interesting, but I don't think Rock Band is the way.

And for empath's benefit, we'd be more likely to count up to 8 rather than 4.
posted by cardioid at 7:40 AM on February 7, 2012

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