Anyone ever tried the exercice of having only the bass player hearing a metronome click ?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by basseux, Jan 26, 2022.

  1. basseux


    Jan 10, 2010
    Bass is said to be part of the rythm section, but sometimes I feel that some drummers listen to nothing else but themselves, and that tempo isn't even a discussion.

    So as a practice exercice I was thinking to be the one with the click, which would force the drummer to listen to the bass.

    I did that in the past when some drummers refused to do some group practice with a click.
    And what I saw was a bit expected, they just can't follow the bass, probably because they don't really listen to it.
    So far when I tried with drummers it was mostly a catastrophy.

    But I take it also as something that I am maybe doing wrong in my playing, like not beeing articulate or percusive enough.

    Drummers practice to backtracks too, so do they do it on tracks that have no drums but still a click, or no click at all ?
  2. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Everyone should be listening to everyone. You having a click track won't change anything if they aren't already listening.
    MonetBass, Novarocker, smogg and 24 others like this.
  3. This might be off topic but perhaps not. When home recording, I tried to add percussions to a bass track. Never worked out too well. But when I start with percussions and then add bass, it works much more easily. It might be because I'm not good enough drummer, but I believe it's rather because the percussions fill in more if the metrum, to which then the other instruments lock in.
    KJMO, basseux and bolophonic like this.
  4. Goatrope

    Goatrope Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2011
    Sarasota Florida
    Every drummer I’ve played with practiced to tracks of a full band. None ever took the path of seeking out a drum-less track.

    That being said, I feel your pain.

    We discuss this a lot within our 3-piece rock band. Our drummer struggles with meter due to issues that could take up a whole post, but he’s improved by watching his tempo on an app (Live BPM ), and the objective feedback is better for him than me or the guitarist pointing out issues during a gig.

    In our case, the drummer’s meter challenge is exacerbated by the way we listened. I listened to the drummer, the drummer listened to the guitarist, the guitarist listened alternately to either the drummer or myself. Like the old “telephone game”, things would escalate further as time went on.

    Again, we discussed this at length and try now to just stay with the drummer despite his fluctuations, which have gotten 100% better with a lot of work.

    As a group we sound a heck of a lot better doing this rather than me trying to pull the drummer back or forward during a song.


    This is just a long way of expressing the point above about listening.

    Don’t get me wrong; at this point in time, the fluctuations would be barely noticeable to an audience, and more often or not, it’s about starting too slow or fast. If it was really dramatic, I’d have ditched a long time ago.
  5. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    The problem there is that you have to have the environment where the drummer is willing to try different things, and to listen and subordinate himself to another instrument for a while. We can all benefit from trying something different while running through tunes, in the hope of learning something. Unfortunately, most of us practice at home, rehearse with extremely limited time, and gig in situations where doing something different and risky poses too much risk. And then we wonder why our bands sound like everyone else's bands.

    Probably the only environment where this experimentation is really possible is when all the musicians are young, broke, and committed to one project - think Grateful Dead all living in one house and doing basically nothing but jamming all day every day, or the Beatles playing 200 nights in a row for four and five hours at a stretch in Hamburg where the audiences didn't really care what they played as long as it suitably accompanied drinking and fistfights. Other examples might be the lengthy residencies of bands on Fifty Second Street that resulted in bebop.

    In situations like that, you can try things like "I'm just going to play the hi-hat only all night tonight" or "tonight the bass player is going to lead the rhythm section and everyone else is going to follow his lead".
    longfinger, HolmeBass and basseux like this.
  6. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    It would be well worth doing the exercise where EVERYONE follows the bass player for a whole night; then EVERYONE follows the rhythm guitar for a whole night, etc. But getting the band to try things like this? Ay, there's the rub.
    HolmeBass, basseux and SLO Surfer like this.
  7. Shalto


    Aug 23, 2019
    Most musicians rush when they don't have a click. One person being on the click and hearing the rest rush ahead is about as predictable as what happens when you put mentos in a coke. It proves something we already know when we are the audience at an amateur show.

    There are some musicians who can keep steady rhythm consistently without a click. They are playing in top bands in top venues when they aren't teaching jazz at the best music school in your nation.

    I'd say if you are serious enough about tempo to want the whole band on a click, and the rest of the band doesn't agree then you have a mismatch in standards. These seem like your options:

    1) try again to convince the band to play to a click. Record your practice and have them listen to it. If they don't care the tempo is poor (or can't hear it) then its unlikely the situation will change.

    2) put up with it/lower your standards

    3) walk.
    basseux, Element Zero and HardNHeavy like this.
  8. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    Pretty much the building blocks of the musical pyramid.

    Same... when we would record, we'd play along (scratch tracks) to give the drummer a really good sense of where he was in the song, in the hope he'd deliver the foundation for the rest of us to record our parts, later.

    After repeated listening to a solid drum track, nuances would surface which made it easier to adapt to, which really tightened the song up.
    bombpop14 likes this.
  9. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I was fortunate enough to do quite a few gigs with some Nashvillle pro musicians. Every single time I worked with that artist the drummer had a Rolls mixer on a little stand beside him.

    In one channel was their In Ear Monitor mix. In the other channel there was a metronome. I probably worked with a dozen Nashville drummers and all of them did this.

    Some of them would leave the click on the whole song. Some of them would use tue click to start the song and then hit the mute several seconds into it.

    Having the bass player on a metronome (and nobody else) seems like a recipe for disaster. The best musicians listen to everyone. Even the best musicians (with some rare exceptions like an acoustic trio or bluegrass band with no percussion perhaps) won't "follow" the bass player.

    Your solution is to work on, or replace, your drummer.
  10. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Umm, I'll enjoy reading comments to this thread.

    Drummer follow the bass player? Isn't that a no/no? Isn't everybody supposed to follow the drummer? (Although Charlie Watts followed Keith Richards and thus the Rolling Stones "wobble".)

    I'm not much of an experienced bass player but I lock into the kick drum when I play bass in a band!

    If a drummer has good timing, he's a good drummer! No problems! (I've always thought that a drummer should have a "click reference" for each song so that it gets played at the same speed each time.)

    IMO, the drummer is "God". The foundation for everything else.
    westrock likes this.
  11. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    So you can't see any value in trying something different for a few practices, in the hope of learning something?

    I must say that (since this is almost 100% a rock forum) the sense of experimentation in rock and roll seems to have almost totally evaporated since 1980 or so.
    31HZ and basseux like this.
  12. Oatis


    Nov 6, 2018
    Has anyone tried the "sectional rehearsal" with only the drums and bass. I have made the suggestion but no one else thought it would help.
    40Hz and LetItGrowTone like this.
  13. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    If you read Oscar Peterson's autobiography, he talks about finding out that Ray Brown and Herb Ellis were sneaking off to have bass-and-guitar-only sectional rehearsals: "Now we know he's going to double time here, let's try THIS" and so on.

    Who do you think was "God" in that version of the Oscar Peterson Trio, since there WAS no drummer? Or do you think they didn't know where the beat was?

    In many big bands I've played in, the absence of the drummer from a rehearsal has been treated as an opportunity to practice tunes in a different way. One small group I used to regularly play with ONLY practiced as a trio - bass (me) piano and cornet, then we added guitar, reeds, and drums for gigs.

    There are not a lot of drum-free rock bands, but I'm sure that with some thought we could all come up with successful examples of individual rock and roll songs that were recorded sans drums.

    If, as a band, your goal is to get together periodically and play through old chestnuts, exactly the way they were recorded, and then play some gigs where you play the same old chestnuts, exactly the way they were recorded, then maybe the various ways serious bands rehearse are irrelevant. On the other hand, if you really want the performance of your band to improve, it seems it would make sense to try different rehearsal methods, including sectionals, rehearsing without certain players, trying all kinds of experimental methods ("let's play that tune at half speed, then play it at double speed!"; "Let's play that again right where XYZ happens, but Johnny, you lay out") in the hope that you'll learn something that you can apply to your actual performance practice.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2022
    12BitSlab, longfinger, Oatis and 4 others like this.
  14. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Serious groups are likely to rehearse in any number of partial configurations, to iron out rough spots or to try out different things. Of course, if the only objective is to duplicate the one true recorded version note for note, maybe that's less important.
    Goatrope likes this.
  15. That would suck! But, seriously, could be a light-bulb moment for some players. I could see a combo rehearsal or recording session where each musician takes a turn with the click in their ears only (start with the horn players, switch to keyboardist, then to bassist, drummer, etc.) Then do a take where everyone has the click.

    The lesson being: 1) we're all responsible for clearly stating the time in our playing, there are things we can do to be more concise/less nebulous, 2) we have to listen to everyone in order to agree where we are placing the time, 3) it's a whole lot easier when everyone is holding themselves accountable with the click, you can get by with just the drummer having it, but only if they a good drummer
    basseux and Carl Hillman like this.
  16. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    I saw Pete Townsend on David Letterman 25 years ago do a Reggae version of Won't Get Fooled Again...............classic songs of rock or rock n roll can be done slow, fast, hard, soft and acoustical. Experimental versions abound.

    We all remember the MTV, Unplugged series. Classic Rock slowed down and no electric. Eric Clapton's unplugged version of Layla. Curt Cobain's Nirvana songs done completely different.

    On YouTube we have "lounge versions" of rock songs. (For humor.)

    Motown songs done Blue Grass style. (Run C&W)

    Sky's the limit on experimentation! Alive and well.
    halcyo likes this.
  17. Sounds like your drummer needs more practice. Thats mostly the only way to fix anything.
  18. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I think the exercise of having only one person use a click runs counter to the purpose of a click, which is for everyone to play in time with the reference. People can't refer to what they can't here. Unless you bass line is quarter note walking or a straight 8's, it probably makes an inconsistent tempo reference. Exercises in following a tempo are likely best done as a full band or in solo with a metronome
    James Collins and SLO Surfer like this.
  19. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I don't see this as being productive unless its the drummer who is wanting to do it, and at a practice session only. If that's the case, then I think its actually a pretty awesome idea. It would be great practice for a drummer's listening (as well as timing) skills.

    For gigging purposes, if it ain't the drummer following the click it is pretty much a guaranteed train wreck. They're the loudest, clearest on the beat, and easiest to follow brainlesslly.
    31HZ and JRA like this.
  20. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    If I could only own 36 basses what would they be?
    I used to play with a drummer who was inconsistent so I had to force the timing by play on the beat exactly and playing very staccato ... but no metronome
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2022
    basseux and DrCannabass like this.
  21. sears

    sears Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2005
    ec, md
    I just played a gig with a sub drummer. I was warned that he has tempo problems. There were no tempo problems. It was a great gig. I actually wonder if he was following me without realizing it. And maybe this band has had former bass players who rush and they blamed this guy. People listen in different ways.
    HolmeBass, halcyo, SteveC and 2 others like this.
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