Testament's Gene Hoglan: My top 5 tips on timing

Metronomic guidance from 'the atomic clock'

Gene Hoglan of Testament

If you're looking for advice on timing, who better to turn to than a man known throughout the world as 'the atomic clock', thanks to his rock-solid timekeeping and intimidating speed.

Gene Hoglan is also renowned for the creativity of his arrangements, but they're all built on his fundamentally disciplined timekeeping. Here's how it's done.

1. Find rhythm

“You can work on your timing absolutely anywhere. You can be driving in your car and your turn signal can be your metronome for a minute. If you have a light that is burnt out in your car then that signal will be like a shuffle, ‘dack, a, dack, a, dack’.

"You can be driving in your car and your turn signal can be your metronome for a minute."

"If you’ve got a clock in a room and you can get the room quiet enough to hear the clock ticking, use that as a metronome for an hour while you’re sitting on your couch. A water faucet drop can be a rhythm, rhythm is everywhere.”

2. Go digital

“If you want to get really ballsy you have those digital clocks and it has a colon between the numbers, sometimes that colon blinks. Watch it as it turns, say two o’clock.

"Then you start playing and close your eyes while counting in your head, ‘57, 58, 59,' and then you open your eyes as the clock goes over to the next minute and then you do it again.”

3. Don’t cry

“I had been playing for 15 years before I really learned the importance of timing. Meter and things like that weren’t all that prevalent in what I was doing. I thought I had great meter, but I didn’t.

“I had been playing for 15 years before I really learned the importance of timing."

"It wasn’t until I started using the click track when I got hooked up working with Devin Townsend that I turned my whole life around. I had heard the click track could turn a drummer into a crying baby so I quickly wrote two songs to the metronome and played along to the click with them.

"That’s when I realised I was pretty solid with the click.”

4. Push and pull

“People might think the click will turn them into a robot, but if you don’t want to be a robot you don’t have to be a robot. If you’re building a click track template for a record you can build in pushes and pulls.

"We did all the Strapping Young Lad albums to click and we would drop the click here and there or ramp it up in the chorus. That is super-fun.”

5. Find a pulse

“Have something in your head that is relative to the meter that you’re playing. If I’m ever trying to count in 60bpm or 120bpm I’ve always got that song ‘The Millionaire Waltz’ by Queen in my head.

"I have no idea if that actually is in 120bpm but to me it is so I use that like, ‘one sec-ond, two sec-ond...’ That works for me, and hey, if it works for me it can work for anybody.”