How Your Posture Affects Your Timing and Rhythmic Feel

How Your Posture Affects Your Timing and Rhythmic Feel


I will never forget the first advanced rhythm class I had with Mitch Haupers at Berklee College of Music many years ago.

Up to that class, I had always been unhappy with my swing feel.

I used to have the same reaction to hearing a recording of myself playing swing, as I have when I hear a recording of myself talking. (“Wooww… REALLY?? I didn’t even know I have an accent!”) 🙂

I truly consider Mitch a “master music educator”.

He’s been around a long time at Berklee, and his classes at Berklee are very popular amongst the student population.

I had always wanted to improve my swing feel, but somehow, no teacher had ever managed to truly make a positive impact in that part of my guitar playing.

So I was thrilled to study with Mitch and ask him how to improve my swing feel.

He said: “Play me something with a swing. Anything: shuffle blues, jazz standard, a swinging melody, …”

I started and after a couple of bars, Mitch interrupted me.

He said: “Ok… let’s do this again but let me record you this time”

He took a quick minute to set up a recording and had me play again.

When I was done, he stepped up to me, and with both, his hands, gently pushed my shoulders so I fell back into my chair a bit.

He ignored the surprised look on my face, and said: “Great. Play exactly the same thing again and let me record that again”.

I responded: “Sitting like this?” (I had this voice in my head wondering: “Isn’t this lazy, laying-back-in-my-chair way of sitting, a bit inappropriate in a classroom in college?)

“Sure,” he said.

So I played what I just played before, and Mitch recorded it.

While I was playing, I could sense that something was different in my playing.
I was not entirely sure if it was better though! Part of me felt that everything felt a bit off… like I was playing things a little “too late”.

When I was done, Mitch said:

“You are classically trained Vreny, aren’t you?”

The surprised look on my face again as I had to admit he was correct.

Mitch then went on to explain that stiff swing-feel is something common with classical guitarists.
Classical guitarists spend many years practicing with their back totally straight, sitting straight up, with a leg lifted on a footstool.

This works great for classical guitar music, where for the most part, everything is rhythmically even, on the beat, and straight.

However: that posture makes you sound rhythmically stiff in musical styles where syncopation and swing are important style elements.

You need to switch from sitting stiff and square to relaxed and round.

We then listened to both recordings, and everybody in the class, including me, was blown away by the difference in feel between the 2 recordings.
The difference was all the more noticeable when playing the 2 recordings back to back.

The 2nd recording sounded like swing was the only thing I had ever played my entire life.

Morale of the story:

Adapt your posture to the style of music you are playing, to catch the best possible feel that goes with that style.


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  1. Mitch Says:

    Vreny!!!!! OMG…you remembered!!!!! 🙂

    May 1st, 2018 at 11:24 pm