Testing Timing

How does everyone test their ‘timing’ when playing?

I always use either a metronome or my drum machine to practice to, but there are many more times that I play to music that I have available in my iTunes folder - it’s so much more fun to play along with an original recording!

Anyway, one of the big take-away’s from @JoshFossgreen’s B2B course was his timing exercise where the background beat was silenced while you still had to play along and then see if you were able to stay in time. I loved this exercise!

To stay sharp on my timing I decided that I would lay a bass track to one of the songs we learned in the course - Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’. I recorded one bass track playing along with the song, then muted that track and recorded another bass track - again with the song. I then un-muted (is that a word?) the first recorded track and played the entire song with both bass tracks playing at the same time… What an ‘Ear Opener’!!

There are times where you can actually hear both individual bass lines - something you really shouldn’t hear if I were consistently in time with the song…

Sometimes we think we sound really good… Then there are those times when… Oh well…



That’s interesting. what I like to do is record my line, and then listen to it very carefully, loud on my monitors (KRK VXT8), with my eyes closed to avoid distractions, and of course with the others tracks playing. I intentionnaly over-mix the bass line a bit when I’m seeking timing issues. It’s pretty easy to ear where I’m spot on and where I’m not, and I think this “method” is pretty straightforward (but probably not the most accurate).


One of these days I’m going to have to learn all the technical stuff you guys do to record yourself playing the bass. Of course, I need to finish learning how to play the damn instrument first LOL


It’s all in the timing @terb… You can play just one note throughout an entire song, but if that one note is not in time… My focus is always on a tight arrangement. Timing is something that’s pretty hard to teach, yet it is the one most important aspect to music composition…


@PamPurrs,… You always have a way to put a smile on my face…:grinning::smiley::smile::grin:


yeah @Lanny you know I totally agree with you about those timing-thing :slight_smile: it’s way harder than it appears ! but very important, especially for a bass player !

actually my guess is that recording yourself could be really helpful to play better ! it’s a really good exercise and it shows you your playing from an entirely different angle.

You could use a fun support to learn recording, for exemple a cover of a song you like ! (yes I’m advertising for the cover thread right now :grin: )


Another thing I tend to do is ‘Overthink’ my next finger move… I had this same problem when I learned playing Banjo years ago. I get to thinking my next move and then get way out of time or just plain mess the entire song up and forget where the hell I’m at!..

Yea, over-thinking is a ‘bad’ thing for me…


Totally agree @terb!! When you hear yourself play, humbleness sets in and fills the voids left empty by the absence of arrogance… Speaking from experience…


totally agree again ! to catch the good timing I find we have to really feel the music, be inside of it. it’s pretty much like meditating : be very focus on the music itself (the groove), much more than what we’re playing (the notes).

Not sure I’m choosing the right words but I hope it makes some sense :slight_smile:


To my ear, if those are 2 bass tracks recorded one on top of the other, they sound really close and almost in sync to me. But I get self-critical for stuff I record, and over-analyze it too. From doing multiple takes on a track, no 2 are ever the same anyway. I don’t know if this is the case for professional musicians too or not, but there’s just a human element to it too.

And I know I’m not a fan of computer generated music - it may be just perfectly exact in its timing, but it lacks something, a human touch. Some of the feeling is lost, no matter how rhythmically accurate it is. So I’d rather listen to a just slightly off recording, done in good spirit, than something “perfect”. I think guitarists can probably get away with this more than bass players though! Just my thoughts…


Exactly @Vik! Having played guitar for many years I learned a ton of tricks on how to ‘cover up’ timing and missed note screw ups… Something a little more difficult to do as a bassist…


Spot on @terb!


Great advice!


That’s a pretty quirky method @Lanny! I’m not saying it isn’t useful, but I think there are simpler things you could do to work your timing.

Another issue you’ll run into with that is phase cancellation issues (which I’m sure someone else here can explain better than me) - even if you play perfectly both times, the bass tracks will sound weird and bad together because they’re close, but not the same performance. So don’t expect it to sound “good” either way.

Personally, I test my timing with the same exercise from the course you referred to, just with a lot more blank space than drum beat. I usually just give myself one beat every 4 bars, which is really hard because the single crash doesn’t tell me the tempo, so making a mistake can spiral into more mistakes unless I stay sharp.

But today I was generous with myself, and let myself here 1 bar of clicks, then 3 beats of silence. Felt so easy in comparison. :stuck_out_tongue:

And what @terb said! Just recording one bass track, and then listening back, simple but powerful. But again, you have to keep in mind that not all variations in performance are “bad” or “mistakes”, so you’re looking for overall trends in your timing tendencies, not necessarily to exactly match the existing track. Unless you are!


yeah I know this thing pretty well and I could explain if needed (but that’s very technical and I’m not sure I would be very comfortable with it in my non-native language … language barrier is a huge thing in my life :sleepy: )

but, yeah, let’s expand the thing a little bit … what Josh just said has a pretty important involvement : some folks might say that it’s a good thing to record two bass tracks and mix them together to archieve a bigger sound. in my opinion it’s a big NO. it could ( / would / will ) work with a guitar (higher frequencies, less phase issues) especially if the tracks are recorded in slighlty different conditions (different guitars, differents pedals, different amps, different settings). but with a bass it’s a slippy way, the lower frequencies doesn’t allow those kind of thing very well. just my 2 cents here but it’s what my experience says.

yeah I know I disgress, but … :grin: … if you have to record a bass line I would recommand you record ONE really clean track (might involve a few attempts, and that’s perfectly OK), it would be better than two average tracks mixed together.

again, just my 2 cents.

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Im my chat with my classically trained sister-in-law this week, she asked me how I practiced my timing. Her response when I told her I used a metronome was surprising; she said that was great and she was pleased I did that as many beginners just play along with backing tracks now and don’t put any weight in such accuracy.

I didn’t say I was any good, but I think you can hear when you’re on or off by small amounts, whereas with a backing track you can be tricked by the other sounds on the track into thinking you’re doing it perfectly. Recording myself playing along to a blues track a few weeks before starting the course then listening back was an eye-opener.