How does an adult develop rhythm?
June 23, 2008 1:17 AM   Subscribe

How does an adult develop rhythm?

My wife wants to develop a better sense of rhythm. She feels her general lack of rhythm is keeping her from: joining in on family jam sessions (i.e. playing a tamborine), and other things like dancing. She knows and listens to a lot of music.. but are there any programs/activities to help her out? thanks
posted by mrmarley to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
When I was learning to play the drums, I had a series of rudimentary exercises that just involved keeping straight time, then adding various layers of complexity (half notes, off beats, triplets, semiquavers, etc). Perhaps she could listen to some music that is similar to what you might play in a jam session, and at first just try to keep the beat (one, two, three, four) with a tambourine. Then she could try more challenging rhythms (One, two and three, four and one; one, and three, one, and three, etc).

This may not work for her, but learning the theory behind music (just basic stuff- crotchets and quavers and so on) helped me to understand it more.
posted by twirlypen at 1:24 AM on June 23, 2008

Two Words: Rock Band.

I have terrible rhythm and have a very difficult time hearing individual instruments in a song. Rock Band has improved this greatly and I have a blast playing drums and guitar/bass.
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:45 AM on June 23, 2008

Use a metronome. Either a real one or a software one like TempoPerfect. Practice keeping time with it at different speeds, then add in different rhythm patterns (preferably ones she can use in the family jam sessions). With a little practice she should have basic rhythms down, and she should be able to add more complicated stuff in as needed.
posted by xchmp at 1:52 AM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing I've noticed with a few people who've lacked rhythm is that they tend to do too much while trying to stay in rhythm. I taught a fellow gospel choirmate how to sway and clap in rhythm several years ago and his two biggest problems were in anticipating the beat and trying to do too many things at the same time.

We first worked on just identifying the right downbeats. He had problems with 3/4 vs. 4/4 beats, for example. We then went on to just clapping or foot tapping consistently in rhythm. Next was swaying on beat, which required stepping side to side AND clapping at the same time. After he was able to master that, he added singing to it with little problem. I think a lot of it is just brain & muscle memory.

Identifying the correct beat, for some people, is just hard for some folks, but I think it's the most critical point. Have her try just practicing to consistently tap her foot, snap her fingers, whatever on the correct beat. Once her brain is familiar with being in rhythm, it becomes much easier to adapt to activities that require rhythm.
posted by SoulOnIce at 4:52 AM on June 23, 2008

I spent a lot of time listening to an mp3 player anyway, so for several months, a few times per song I'd ask myself to identity the beats as quickly as I could (as if I'd just screwed up in a dance and needed to get back in time as soon as possible). So the mp3 player was an easy way to get lots of practise.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:23 AM on June 23, 2008

Buy her one of these these old-timey "tic tac" clocks. If she doesn't throw it against the wall*, she'll get a feel for a most basic rhythm. After that, practice, practice, practice.

Her breathing is also an innate rhythm (even if it can vary).

* we can tell Captain Hook hated the sound of the clock, not the crocodile carrying it.
posted by ersatz at 8:24 AM on June 23, 2008

listen to music that you enjoy and with a good beat, all the time. one day you'll wake up and realize you've now got rhythm. trust me.
posted by randomstriker at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2008

I strongly suggest she take partner dance lessons. Take regular (weekly or more often) group lessons where the instructor rotates students regularly so she gets plenty of practice dancing with everyone in the class. In the beginning, there will be dancers at all skill levels and some will have good rhythm, others not-so-good. As she learns to dance, she will also learn how to stay in rhythm with her dance partners. This skill carries over to free-style dancing, it doesn't just apply to partner dancing.
posted by jcdill at 1:48 PM on June 23, 2008

Another trick is to practice taping along to music. Your foot, a finger, whatever. Just tap tap tap. Won't win you any friends, but it will help with the rhythm
posted by d4nj450n at 1:48 PM on June 23, 2008

I really think trying out group partner dancing lessons will help a lot. I had no sense of rhythm before I started. It just gives you a lot of practice of hearing and counting out the beats and trying to stay on rhythm. Also gives practice at a variety of alternate rhythm patterns for a given type of music.
posted by vegetableagony at 1:57 PM on June 23, 2008

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