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Off Rhythm: And How to Cure It

by Neal

Imagine the song ends with a quarter note on the fourth beat. Everyone hits it, except you. You come in a beat later……

If you’re at practice, everyone else will hear you being off and the entire group will go through the ending again to get it right.

We all make mistakes sometimes. But do you want to be the musician in the group known for not having good rhythm?

YBSC_CincoDeMayo_2013 (65 of 198)_sOr do you want to nail the rhythm perfectly and be the sax player that the others can count on and follow?

As a saxophone player, could your timing and rhythm improve at all? Do you ever get lost? Feel handcuffed to sheet music? Would developing great rhythm help you express yourself and feel more free on the saxophone?

“When familiar with a song, I can play along, when not I’m lost.”
-Sam (part of Saxophone Tribe)

If you play the wrong note, it’s slightly bad. It becomes worse if that mistake causes you to panic and lose your place.

If you play a ‘right’ note in the wrong place, it’s no longer right and can be very bad.

As you develop a great sense of rhythm, everything you play sounds better and you get closer to mastering music and becoming an amazing saxophone player.  Cannonball Adderley and many other great sax players could hold the rhythm just as well as drummers.

In music, you can hear:

Three main categories- notes, rhythm, and tone.


Of those three, rhythm is the most important.  Rhythm includes articulation, phrasing, and phrasing. Rhythm affects emotions and is related to technique.

Rhythm is most fundamental.

You want a great tone and you want to understand harmony, but without any rhythm….. you should probably put down the saxophone.

Fortunately, you can develop a sense of rhythm.  This involves breaking thing down and slowing down, among other things.

Sax Station breaks down music into pieces you can absorb and master.

I talk about saxophone groove on the site since I think it matters more if the music feels good than if you play the ‘right’ note.  And the note is only wrong if it disrupts the flow and messes up your playing.  If you use a ‘wrong’ note as a passing tone, it sounds good and gives some color to what you play.

Other saxophone teachers often focus on scales, harmony, and notes. You’ll learn some about those things on here, but we’ll also get more into rhythms, tone, articulation, articulation, feel, and more.

What’s the catch?

You’ll find a lot of free lessons (hundreds) on Sax Station. More recently, a growing number of video lessons. I have learned many things over years of playing and I share much of it. There are also paid classes and a program called Saxophone Tribe.

Sign up to get access to some exclusive sax lessons and find out when new lessons are made.

You can go through the free lessons and ask some questions, but if you want feedback on your playing and more direction on progressing and sounding better, check out the classes and Saxophone Tribe.

An Example of Improving Rhythm

Check out this progression where a student from Saxophone Tribe improves the rhythm, articulation, and phrasing of a melody. (Click on the link to Saxophone Tribe to see a video about this piece of music and hear what’s going on!)

If you look at the waveform of a recoding, you can see the rhythm.

First, rhythms are a bit off


Here it is so you can see the divisions of the beats.


Comparison with notation:



Next, it gets better but still needs some work. 


To see this lesson in greater detail and learn about the suggestions for the revision, follow the link below.

To learn more, click the link and follow the directions. Entering your name and email will get you the music that was played in the diagrams above and a detailed breakdown in a report.  After that, filling out the survey will get you access (with a password) to a video lesson on this song.

And after that you will find out about more steps.

Click here


Or consider joining Saxophone Tribe to jump in right away:

Saxophone Tribe


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