Have you ever heard, “So and so just cannot keep a steady rhythm when they sing!” or “They can’t stay in time.” I know that I have heard this about my own singing a number of years ago.
This lack of rhythm or pulse is a common fault that has two basic causes.
The first cause is an issue with hearing and feeling the rhythmic pulse. Instrumentalists have a good sense of rhythm as part of what comes about due to their training. Drummers in particular do this well for the way they practice is to feel the beat. Yet, maybe as a singer we have not been trained to feel the beat in this way. That is okay, for this can be learned as we can tap the beat with our hand and speak the pulse using syllables.
The second cause is related to faults within our vocal muscles. The muscles cannot adjust to the beat or pulse, so no matter how hard one tries, there is no singing on the beat. This can be really frustrating when one realizes what is going on. Very common is being too slow and falling behind the beat. This is due to muscular constriction, rigidity, and too much volume and weight. But have no fear, for there is a solution. Sing a bit softer. With less volume there is less vocal cord vibrating, and the feeling of rigidity with the tone being pressed or forced is alleviated. Over time, the muscle constriction is eased, and freedom is established.
A teacher helps by having the student sing a bit softer and lighter; utilizing exercises with a consonant and vowel combination like “na, na, na” on a five tone scale. This helps with equally defining the different steps or notes with less tendency to drag too much weight up and down. There can also be an encouraging of an increase in speed so that one is also shedding vocal weight as one has to keep up. The bottom line is for there to be a spontaneity in exercises so that the muscles can stop being so consciously controlled. Thus, the natural weight and volume will appear. The student finds movement to be free. In tune and on time!