How to lay back and groove/swing
I play in a big band which is made up almost entirely of people considerably more than twice my age. The drummer and I are the youngest in the group, and while we both think we are playing well and swinging, the band leader is always asking us to lay back more. We aren't rushing or anything, and it feels good, but what can I do to help lay back even more?
I also have the same question for soloing. I have a tendency to rush during solos in the big band setting. What can I do to get better at pulling back?
Not sure what your BL is addressing, but sometimes less is more, in case you might be playing your part with more notes than are needed. I once knew a super pro guitarist , Terry Rosen, (Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, BBC broadcasting), who required his bassist to play only quarter notes, for the most part. The idea was to just keep the groove going. For me, personally, I try to keep time first, then feel the groove and try to stay in it. Anything extra has to not get me out of that feeling. How to practice doing that? I'm not sure. For me it's just something that I always keep in mind when I'm playing whether it's at band practice, solo practicing, or playing a gig.
Listen to the originals you are covering with your eyes closed through headphones. If you don't get it then, swing music might not be your thing.
Relax. That's the number one way to lay back and groove.
Relaxing is a key as Lownote mentioned. What may be happening is that you could be sitting on top of the beat and not realize it. It might feel good at the time, but if you listen to a recording of it later I think you will hear that happening, and you will probably find that it's just a bit unsettling. Not wrong, but just... not right...
It's unlikely that you are playing in the pocket when you walk, then suddenly rush during solos. Your time is probably somewhat off all the time, otherwise the BL would not have to tell you to lay back. Hard news to take, I know...
Check out this lesson from Scott's bass lessons. If you apply his advice, it will straighten you right out. Over time you will feel it more naturally, but for now it's key to address the issue with Scott's technique. You don't even really need your bass to work on this technique. Practice it in your head. Constantly....
I posted about a similar issue on the DB side:
I can think of a couple of challenges in a big band setting. The first is that in virtually every big band, the wind players all drag. If the rhythm section doesn't propel the band, it will slow down. This gives the wind players the impression that you're the one rushing the beat.
The second problem is if the drummer isn't in the pocket with you.
One suggestion in that thread was to put more arm and wrist motion into my plucking. You might not be able to get away with so much of that on electric, but just a bit might help. And overall (learned this at a music camp that my kids attended this summer), is to let your body be the metronome, i.e., really groove to the music.
At the same time, perhaps a tone setting on your bass with a softer attack and more legato will make it sound like you're not rushing so much.
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