keeping tempo

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by saltydog, Sep 30, 2012.


  1. saltydog

    saltydog

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    I am fairly new to playing out of the basement in a real gig, and had a great time at a recent gig...even if it was at 9AM in the morning. But I did come away with one concern that I'm hoping someone can give me some advice on.
    There were several times when I felt the tempo of the song we were playing slowed down as we went along. One of the tunes, Sweet Georgia Brown, was especially noticeable as it started out at a really nice blistering pace, but slowed quite a bit about half way through.
    I tried to pick things up, but was afraid of getting totally "off beat" with the drummer. Who's job is keeping the tempo, the bass or the drummer? (the drummer was also new to playing in a group) I'd like to think my sense of tempo is OK and it was all the drummer; but no matter who's having the bad day, the main point is how is this situation handled during the tune by more experienced players?
    Thanks
     
  2. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

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    Bass is the timekeeper. On my first gig with the big band, the drummer told me so, along with "I'm gonna put down four on the floor until you get the hang of it, and then I'll get to do my thing."

    I recorded the first gig, and when I listened to it I thought, "Man, those horns are dragging", but as I listened closer, it was I who was slowing down--kind of not being all the way through the string on the beat. Enlightening.

    After that, I made an effort to not let it drag, to the extent that it felt like I was pushing it. That's what it took. I even used a visual metronome a few times so I could match the feel to the true tempo. Occasionally the drummer might say something to me during a song--or I to him--and we work together to adjust the tempo. Sometimes the director starts the song too fast or too slow, but we're really in charge.

    The only time I have trouble now is when I'm the only rhythm person at rehearsal; it's hard to be the only one keeping time when you have horns to deal with. Even though it's my responsibility, I really need the drummer there to feed off of.

    Record your sessions, and listen to yourself.

    Good luck.
     
  3. BassmanSBK

    BassmanSBK

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    Basically, this. You and the drummer need to be in sync, which is often easier said than done. Just make sure to pay special attention to the drummer, and keep ready eye contact.
     
  4. DoubleMIDI

    DoubleMIDI

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    All very true, specially the recording and listening. But also the drummer needs to pay attention to you.
    You and the drummer together are responsible for the tempo, so keep in contact with him during playing, so the one slowing down or hurrying up could be brought back (hopefully). And still record it, so you can proof who was wrong, so that this person might better adjust to the other one in the future.

    I think changing tempo without intention is often a sign that something else is wrong with the timing or placement of notes/beats. Some players try to compensate that by adjusting the tempo. It would be better adjust the playing style a bit instead so that it sounds good again in the tempo you started.

    If the starting tempo was not the intended one, try to make the best out of it and adjust your playing style so that it sounds good. If it really doesn't work, keep it for the chorus and then speed up for the next one quickly and keep that one.
    Getting faster and faster makes the swing weak rather often.
    Getting slower this is also often the case, because the rhythm group might not work together (because someone wants to keep the tempo and the others don't) and also the playing style needs to be adjusted a bit for a slower tempo which very often does not happen.

    Yesterday I listened to some players in a jam session and they (unintentionally) accelerated a lot. I was thinking of tapping the beats into a tempo detector (part of an electonic metronome app) and compare the original and accelerated tempo. At the end I didn't do that, but maybe next time... (I was really curious how much the difference was.)
    Of course, you can do that also with your recordings to see if you get better over time.
     
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  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    I have to disagree, maintaining the same time stream is the job of EVERYBODY on the stand.And it's each musician's job to work on their timefeel individually.
    So how are you working on developing your timefeel?
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    +1, 2, 3, 4
     
  8. John Crosley

    John Crosley

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    WHAT ED SAID AND CHRIS REITERATED!!!!
     
  9. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

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    Thanks, Ed! As a musician who plays across different genres, I have come not to like working with some jazz players where I have to be Mr. Discipline all night long. What a drag -- for me and for the listeners. How much more enjoyable to play with folks who want every second to sound and feel as enjoyable as it can be!
     
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    Agreed. And just wanted to add that there's a difference between those who play against the beat well and those who just aren't hearing it to begin with. The former can be a real blast to play with and the latter... meh, not so much.
     
  11. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

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    ...and then you've got cases that fall into both categories. They hear the behind-the-beat thing (or what have you) and they mostly execute it well but, if they don't get the support they need, they drift. And now you're spending another night making sure the tow line is taught at all times...

    Some folks might enjoy being the whip but, as a someone who will never be a naturalized citizen in the land of jazz, always a landed immigrant of some sort, I certainly don't.
     
  12. saltydog

    saltydog

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    Thanks everyone. I wish it had been recorded. Thanks for all your comments.
     
  13. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

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    If you can stand yet one more comment on this, I'll add my two cents. Ed is right of course and when everyone keeps the time, the band really grooves and that's the most fun. However, there are times that I'm playing with folks who aren't doing a good job of keeping time. Sometimes it's because of an unfamiliar tune and so the melody is lagging and jerking forward, other times a player just has more time. I've played with drummers who were nearly an eighth note off from the rest of the band for most of a chorus. Poor technique also tends to make players play over the bar line unintentionally.
    When this happens, there are things the bassist and/or drummer can do to help keep the band together and they're better able to help than the other players. For instance, I've played with bands who can't play a ballad in time because the slow tempo augments their lack of time feel. In that case, I can walk instead of playing in a two-feel to help ground the band. It makes a world of difference in that case. It keeps the ballad from completely crumbling. The drummer can focus more on a metronome-like ride cymbal and play simpler, less ornate fills, and not mess around with where "one" is. Keeping time for the band is no fun, but bassists and drummers are better qualified to help than the others.
    Long and short of it, bassists without good time feel don't tend to work much. But it is something most of us can improve with study.
     
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    I hope none of that is taking place in front of an audience.

    Oh and SALTYDOG, I did ask a question....
     
  15. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    Ed's right on but unfortunately this sounds like a case where not everyone has great time and you need to be the sheriff.

    If you are sure of your time feel then grab that bull by the horns. A drummer friend of mine calls me the 'time bully'. Get that quarter note inside you and make your time-feel so irresistible that it is like a black hole and the people on stage are inside the event horizon.

    Read my blog about 'clarity of time'. I think it applies here. It's all about perception and that changes based on the listener (or drummer as it were).
     
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Administrator

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    Right on. Playing music and keeping time is like so many things in life. In an ideal world, the people around you have their **** together so you don't have to worry about shepherding them. But in real life, this isn't always the case. Since you can't control other people, when you are around unstable people you have to be extra stable. They may not completely fall in line, but they'll likely do so much more than if you are not completely comfortable with what you're doing before they join in.
     
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Marc, to me that's two different situations. If you've got that "black hole" timefeel, then the situation doesn't come up because hanging with you is what feels best to everybody, if they're listening. If they aren't listening, then even the time bully doesn't work, it just makes everything feel like a fight on the stand. And that's a fight EVERYBODY loses...
     
  18. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    And the fact is it is part of our job as accompanists to make the others sound better. It is certainly a drag when you have to babysit no doubt but it'll make the phone ring.

    I actually find a satisfaction in pushing people with questionable time around. 'Hey m*****f*****, this is where time is!"
     
  19. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

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    Absolutely. Then the best thing to do is be 'booked' the next time that guy calls.

    I actually wish we knew more and the question is kinda general. Maybe I missed it but the OP has no info on their profile. They might be a 15 yo kid in rural Wyoming playing porkchop for all I know.
     
  20. davidjackson

    davidjackson

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    Just remember the jazz pecking order: horns, keys, guitar, drums, bass. Your job is to hold everything together on a firm foundation so the other guys can improv and be the cool jazz cats they want to be ;-)

    Seriously though, I think it's a common thing with 'Sweet Georgia Brown' for some reason. Bands always slow it down as they get into it. I played it with quite a big band a year or so ago and we struggled with that every rehearsal.
     
  21. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

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    It doesn't have to be that way and what's interesting about going to something like Jazz Summerschool, is that you get to play with many people of varying abilities and you can find that say, a Sax player will be very strong timewise and will drag the band in their direction.

    You can hear a group of people that sounds un-coordinated, be joined by a tutor (Jazz pro) on Sax and the whole thing gets much tighter.

    I have spent weeks at Jazz Summerschool with people like the sax player Julian Siegel, trumpeter Chris Batchelor etc. and their time feel is much stronger than anybody else I have played with, regardless of instrument. What I'm saying is it's more about the player, than what instrument they choose.
     

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