The “Secret” to Improving Your Rhythm and Time by Chick Corea


One really good exercise that I think
most musicians, a lot of artists, a lot of people use this, it’s a really good way
to check your own judgment to see how to improve your judgment. Because it’s your
judgment you’re working with. So one way to do that is- it’s an easy way to apprentice.
What you do is you find a recording of a passage or song or an artists, that has the kind of
time and rhythm that you like, you say “Wow, that’s cool. I wish I could be that-”
whatever. That fluent or that smooth or that swinging or that whatever. What ever your
concept is.You say,“Boom. I wish I could-” see languages,” it’s so hard to describe.
“I wish I could do that.” So, what you do is you take that as a model. And for the
first step in practice is try to duplicate it. Just mimic it completely. See if you can
find out by mimicking it, what the points in it are that you like, technically. You
can mimic it. I used to do that with Bud Powell’s music. And I tried to mimic his motion. So
I get the flow of his rhythm and so forth. That’s step number one. And then turn the
recording off and play it yourself and see if that has helped you get the groove and
improve. That’s one way to do it. That’s-I’m going to give you the ultimate exercise in
a second. But that’s one way to do it, when you’re on your own in your practice room.
Another thing that I wanted to say is another method that musicians use that is really great,
that I think is really valid, is that you record yourself. Use a sequencer or use a recorder
of any kind or video, use an actual video recorder. And record yourself playing something.
Something that you would like to judge whether- on what level it is. What you need to improve
and then play it back and look at it or listen to it and go, “Well that’s too much this
way and it needs more of that.” So now practice more of that toward whatever your ideal is.
Because the tricky thing is, only you’re going to know when you reach a point where you go,
“Oh yeah, thats pretty good.” Who else is going to tell you that? Who, that matters?
You’re not looking for admiration at this point. You’re looking for, you’ve got
to know. So you’ve got to start trusting your own judgment. Now the ultimate exercise
is not only in improving time, but improving anything that you’d like to improve as a
musician, is what I called, what is generally known as the apprenticeship system. Apprenticeship.
Now when you’re an apprentice, you find a “master,” to work with. It could be
anyone. It could be your next door neighbor who plays a little bit better than you. Or
a friend. Or whoever it is who’s got an ability that you think you would like to have
too. And you go play with him, you go work with him, you go collaborate with, you go
make music together and this is how anyone learns a trade, or anyone learns the piano,
or how anyone learns an instrument. You go and play with other musicians that can help
you understand the area that you’re trying to learn in and so forth. That’s called
an apprenticeship. Work with a band, work with another musician. Always with the idea
that you want to learn something and you’re there to assimilate what positive things you
see and learn from them. And that is the ultimate, “secret” of improving your time, your
rhythm.