Hearing note placement within phrases

I created what I think is an interesting exercise for evaluating and strengthening one’s ability to hear the difference between notes placed early in the beat, late in the beat, and right on. This is now on page 39 of Rhythm Savvy, the book I am currently writing.

No doubt that for some, this will be easy and for others, not so easy. Honestly, I’m not sure how many will find this difficult, and I’d love your feedback in the comments as to how challenging you found this. I think I have a better sense of what is challenging for players regarding intonation. I see guys struggle with tuning, but even though I hear players struggle with laying down precise time, there isn’t an easy gauge for seeing people evaluate the rhythmic flow of melody like in this exercise.

I’ve created a three bar melody that I’m playing over a rhythm section track. I recorded five variations of the melody performance which represent one of the following options:

  1. On the beat
  2. Early in the beat (rushed)
  3. Late in the beat (laid back)
  4. Some combination of the above

The two and a half minute track goes through the five variations as I guide you and give you verbal instructions.


I’ve sent this out to a few people asking for input. I could make the time differences much more subtle, but before going there, I’d like to get a better sense of how hard this is for people.

I put the correct answers in a comment. Don’t peek until you have your answers.

Too easy? Too hard? Just challenging enough to make you think?


  1. Michael Lake on April 22, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    The answers are:
    #1: Note placement is ahead of the beat
    #2: Note placement is on the beat
    #3: Note placement starts ahead and ends after the beat
    #4: Note placement is behind the beat
    #5: Note placement starts behind and ends ahead of the beat

  2. Michael Lake on April 22, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    Based on the feedback I’ve gotten, I’m going to make a second batch of these that are more obvious, and include both. It’s really hard to estimate the right degree of difficulty!

  3. Michael Eastin on April 23, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    I think this was pretty challenging for good players.
    The First, Seccond, and Forth versions were pretty obvious but the third and fifth time were challenging to pick up on. I knew they were not correct but had to listen several times to tell it was a combo of rushed and behind.
    These examples would not be for the start of your method. To be more helpful for inexperienced players they need to be more obvious in the beginning. Espivall if you are trying to reach students who are just beginning to learn jazz.

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