Hallmarks of Emily Remler’s Style: Keeping Time

Jazz writer Gene Lees said, “[Emily Remler] was an extraordinarily daring player, edging close to the avant-garde, and she swung ferociously.”

Remler’s incredible sense of time became a hallmark of her style, but it wasn’t “natural.” When she was a student at Berklee, her teacher told her she rushed (pushed the tempo). It broke her heart, but she got the message and bought a metronome. Metronome games became a cornerstone of her practice routine. How she used the metronome varied depending on style, but for the most part, she set the metronome to click on the second and fourth beat of each bar. Two and four, the backbeat, are usually played on the high hat in jazz or the snare drum in rock. Internalizing the backbeat is key to developing a solid rhythmic sense.

To mimic Remler’s method, set your metronome to a slow setting—for example, 60 beats per minute. It is important to start with a slow setting because each click represents two beats. (At a setting of 60 beats per minute, you’re really playing at 120.)

Once the metronome starts its click, your ear may hear it as the downbeat—that’s natural. Start counting, but start with two, and make sure your count is in double time, with two numbers per click.

Even if you’re counting the right numbers, it may take a while to feel it correctly. Try putting an accent on one. Either say it louder, or tap your foot on that beat only. Do that until you feel the one as one and the two as two.

Practice everything with your metronome clicking on two and four: scales, funk grooves, changes. It will change your playing and do wonders for your time.

One note: Make sure you use a boring, old-fashioned metronome that makes the same sound for every click. Metronomes that make a different sound to indicate “one” are useless when trying to develop your time. (The irony.) Here’s a link to a free online metronome: http://www.metronomeonline.com