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In Part 1 and Part 2 of How To Sing In Time With Music we touched on the difference between having rhythm and singing in time with rhythm. We also went over some basic informal exercises to help understand what singing in time with music or rhythm is. Now lets get in to developing a true sense of rhythm as a singer that will help to easily sing in time with music. In order to do this, we must do two things in order to sing the words and notes where they belong, thereby singing in time.

  1. Sing the words and notes where they belong in the measures.
  2. Don’t sing and give the measure their full value.

We have gone over the first one – singing the notes where they belong in regards to the beats and measures.  In fact, you can take this image and fill in the blanks with the lyrics to almost any rock song. It is a table of measures.

The ultimate goal is to get to the point that you instinctively know where to sing and where to not sing, or ‘rest’ as it is called in music theory. This rhythmic instinct is known as ‘feeling the rhythm’.

A handy drill to help develop this ‘feel’ is this, The Measure Table Drill:

  1. Listen to a song and count 1,2,3,4 along with the beat. This will give you an idea as to where the words fall in the measure in relation to the numbers.


  1. Using a Measure Table, write the lyrics of the song in the spaces before on or after the numbers as they are sung.


  1. Check your work to see if they match by listening to the song again and following your own table.


  1. Repeat 1 – 3 with the same, then other songs until you are comfortable you can place the words in the correct please in the table.

This will help you with both 1 AND 2 above. Because the second one – not singing- is as important as the first.

In a song, the numerical value (1,2,3,4) of the measures are unmalleable.  The beats 1 2 3 4 exist whether you are singing or not.  Just because you are finished singing a phrase doesn’t mean that line is over.  The measure still gets its full value.

Look at the 2nd and 4th line of Hotel California again.

As you can see, at the end of the line the words run out but the 3 and 4 still exist.  In the song, the instruments are playing a line that leads musically to the next chord and phrase.

If you were to just start singing the next line without giving the last line its full value, you would throw the whole feel of the song (not to mention the band) off.

So, it’s important both to sing where you should, and not sing where you shouldn’t, letting the song play.

Doing the above drill will help you develop a full sense of singing in time/rhythm.  And as always with SFS drills, don’t go to the next step until you are confident in your ability to perform the one you are on.

If you simply can’t get through step 1. of the above drill, do the Metronome Drill first.

A metronome is a device that clicks to a set tempo.  If you set it to 60 bpm, it will click 1 time per second.  If you set it to 120 bpm, it will click twice per second and so one.

These days you can find a metronome right online.  In fact if you Google the word ‘metronome’ Google provides you one right there in the search results.

Metronome Drill

  1. Set the metronome tempo to 60 bpm.


  1. Count 1,2,3,4 repetitively and each number to a beat.


  1. Repeat step 2 until confident you can easily count 1,2,3,4 to the beats


  1. Increase the metronome tempo by 10 bpm and repeat 2 and 3.


  1. Continue increasing the metronome tempo by 10 until you reach 140 bpm.


That will give you the basic ability to count to a tempo.  Then go back to the Measure Table Drill and continue on.

Soon you will be able to easily follow and sing in time. And now that you are familiar with beat, tempo and measure consider this.

Have you ever watched dancers start out practicing a dance routine when they say “And 5,6,7,8”.  What happened to 1,2,3,4?  Well, 5,6,7,8 is the second half to their dance pattern of 1,2,3,4 – 5,6,7,8. They are saying ‘5,6,7,8’ to establish the tempo or bpm, then they start on 1 of 1,2,3,4. After 8, they start back over with 1.

Most contemporary dance routines are groups of sets of moves.  The moves are in two measure sets – 1,2,3,4/5,6,7,8. The sets are grouped together to make a routine.  The routine is usually performed to song.  The song ultimately has a finite number of measures.

And that is how dancers know how long to make their dance routines to that particular song.

Hope this helps!

Michael Graves

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