Are you a "rusher", or are you a "dragger" quote

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, May 12, 2019.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    I often wondered what this quote actually referred to. I get it is a timing thing, but I also realised that we could (and I stress, could) in fact be talking about three different, but related, terms. Rhythm, Pulse, and Tempo. All related to being able to keep time, sure, but somewhat different in how we "feel" each. So can potentially a person be right on time, but rush the pulse? Or any of those combinations?
    And is this any harder is classical music compared to other Western, popular generes?
    In my (limited) experience, tempo is the one that comes up more often as being the problem, as opposed to rhythm or pulse.

    Maybe I'm splitting hairs - so respond as you please!

    Regards to all
  2. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area
    When I play "classical" music in a section, pizz, I seem to tend to play/ hear, in front of others in the section. Arco, not an issue. No issue ( I think) in jazz. I suspect there is a difference in function in the genres that I have seemed to not have yet grasped, which causes the tendency for me to be on top of the beat (in my perception) rather than behind, which is how I usually perceive my section mates. I too am interested in the experience of others.
  3. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    I think you might want to do a bit of research on the psychology of music where this is concerned. It's a complicated subject, as you imply.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
  5. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    My ‘main band’ singer likes to play tunes up tempo often at the expense of the groove IMO. I find myself playing way at the back end of the beat often, dragging the tempo and hear about it from her at the break. That’s a whole ‘nother thread about stage battles.

    Overall in most circumstances the drummers and I lock onto a tempo and hold it. Yes, I will hit the backbeat late often for the syncopation effect but I don’t consider that dragging.

    In my festival/show band most tempos are so upbeat that when we play smaller venues, where people might actually dance on a dance floor, we try to slow things down. I’ve listened to countless tapes of live shows where we start at one tempo and collectively end at another (faster). It’s like inertia....
  6. s van order

    s van order

    Oct 4, 2012
    Interesting you wrote that. The concertmaster in my orchestra told the strings they were a touch late on the beat with a constant pizz (we were playing Jazz Pizzicato by Leroy Anderson).
  7. As is often pointed out, bassists have to deal with the inertia of the longer, heavier string—that lag between the physical actuation of the note and the actual production and projection of the sound, which requires a sort of ingrained sense of anticipating the beat.

    And I would agree that there is some variance in rhythmic production between players, as well. For example, in bow technique, my teacher sternly emphasized crispness in dotted rhythms in the classical excerpts (Beethoven 7, for example), pointing out that a lazy bow arm would produce a mushy pattern bordering on a dotted triplet. As a result, I think I may tend to exaggerate those rhythms (at least mentally), almost imperceptibly cheating the short note, to achieve that crispness.

    In orchestral playing, it's also interesting to experience how other aspects of sound production can impact the sense of time. For example, when there are intonation problems, It can often drag on the tempo as people try to hone in on pitch and adjust. Causes just enough loss of focus to impose a slight drag on the tempo. I've been in rehearsals where a struggle with pitch made the conductor's baton turn into a riding crop, trying to get us to pick up our feet in the mud.

    Problems hearing from one side of the orchestra to the other is another issue that can sometimes cause issues with note placement. (Taken to the extremes, two different tempi can emerge on different sides of the ensemble. We used to call that “phasing” in marching band. I've never heard that term applied in orchestral playing; probably because the problem gets arrested on the concert stage before it can get as far out of control as it does on an open field.)

    Forgive the random thoughts. Just typing out loud.
    Fleo, gnypp45 and Cheez like this.
  8. Sometimes I dig in too hard and it can drag.
  9. A conductor here once likened his job to taking an octopus for a walk on a rubber band. In a professional orchestra with lots of touring conductors we all (including them) have to quickly agree on where he/she wants the beat to fall in relation to their baton movement. Some beat earlier and /or with shallower movements. Others make make precise crisp movements, eg band conductors.

    I believe there is an old jazz standard called "It don't mean a thing if it ain"t got that swing". Some people have a strong in-built sense of rythm and I ask all my students to work on this. It means that you do not have to rely on the beat of a metronome - until you need a reality check while practicing. This is to ensure that you have "got your fingers around" difficult passages or shifts cleanly and in time.

    Coming back to playing within a section in an orchestra, it can be a job with a thousand pin pricks and is not for the faint hearted if you are to be successful. Experience does count a lot because it helps you adjust quickly with split second decisions. An example is the "right" moment in time to place your pizzicatos. Often they are used as punctuation points at critical places in the music and this is where you will see the conductor turn to the basses for help. If the Principal is leading his section well he, of all of them, will be in close visual and aural contact with what is happening all round the orchestra and will set the example for others in the section to follow. It does not absolve the rest of the section from listening and watching, not only to each other but far and wide around the orchestra, especially the conductor. All going well you are in heaven, all going badly..........(a bad day at the office?). An inexperienced player, or one who lacks a sense of rythm or sensitivity to timing and pitch, or one who insists that they are "right", can be a "bad apple" in a section. Again experience helps you cope with this. Perhaps you are reminded that you were once like them!!

    IMO the better the orchestra or group the easier it is to play within and enjoy the journey together.
  10. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    What David said. I find that in a good orchestra there is usually a consensus about where to place the beat, and it doesn't need discussion. When I play with hobby or pickup groups, especially if chorus and a choral conductor are involved, often the strings will play way behind, and the conductor will let the tempo drag. As a bassist, I feel it's my job to resist this. I have been called out for rushing, but I don't think rightly so.
    s van order likes this.
  11. DoubleBassBass

    DoubleBassBass Supporting Member

    Oct 6, 2013
    Interesting topic. Beautiful timing for me lies on the other side of knowing the dots.

    If you know the music inside out so that you can play from memory it opens up the possibilities of listening, looking at each other and collaborating as a cohesive whole. Perhaps the commonest cause I find on a regular basis for rushing or dragging, is when we as musicians are still getting to know the music and haven't fine tuned our playing - happens at all levels and not just the bass ...but then as has been so well pointed out we do have our own idiosyncrasies relating to the timely and musical release of notes on our instrument. Two very different videos - enjoy!

    Last edited: May 19, 2019
    Jason Hollar and gnypp45 like this.
  12. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Is that Toscanini clip an actual recording of the maestro? Wow. I'd hate to be in that section!
  13. Great quote. Thanks for sharing. My analogy always has been 'like herding cats', but I think I like this one better.

    When playing with a group of other hobbyists, I've found that there usually is a tendency to speed up. I believe that it is my job to (try to) help maintain the tempo that was originally counted out, so I am often playing after the beat trying to slow things back down. And yes, I am sometimes accused of 'dragging.'

    I have a cellphone video of 'This Masquerade' where the singer was speeding up so much that I had to skip a beat to catch back up with her.
  14. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Yes, it is. He was famous for his rants. There are more than a few conductors of that ilk.

    I find the trick as far as tempo is concerned is to get out of your own head. We all have an idea in our heads of the tempo the music "should" be played at, and we mostly tend to gravitate towards that. Listening and watching is the key. I tend to rush in fast passages, so I take extra care to hit the beats as closely as I can, but you have to watch. If you try to do it just by ear, you will drag.....
  15. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    As a non-classical player - my whole bass-playing career has been conductorless - I find this interesting. When I play ensemble, I expect everyone, from trumpet to violin to drums, to arrive at a correct forward motion, and to BE appropriately in tempo... ideally, no one should be leading and no one following.

    Neil, when you "listen and watch" ONLY, without actively taking some responsibility for forward movement, are you not actually behind the beat to some degree, because you are only reacting?
  16. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    I would say you're all collaborating, but with an ensemble of 70 players, someone has to be in charge! Orchestras as a rule play behind the beat anyway, so the note sounds fractionally after the conductor's baton "click". To me, that's not reacting, but there has to be an element of reaction if you're going to follow the tempo changes that happen (a lot!) in orchestral music. In chamber music it's slightly different, much more like a band (jazz, rock, whatever), and in that case I would totally agree that everyone has responsibility for driving the music.
    Fleo likes this.
  17. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    Thinking about the original question about rhythm, pulse and tempo. I think pulse and tempo are the same thing, although I think you are using the word pulse to mean playing ahead, in the center or slightly behind the beat. Often, classical musicians have a very imprecise perception of the difference between the three and confuse problems between them. In all three, bassists can be told they are late.

    Strange things often happen in my orchestra when we switch from relying on our ears for tempo to relying on the conductor's impulse - especially on the initial pizz in a new tempo, or after some rubato. Suddenly all the players who weren't really aware of how the conductor has been beating the whole time(because they were playing with the band) try to read the timing off the baton. In most situations there is no problem, but sometimes it makes a mess. Depends on orchestra, conductor and any traditions in the piece.
    Fleo likes this.
  18. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    So THAT'S why I'm confused when I watch the conductor at symphony concerts!
    Kickdrum and Neil Pye like this.
  19. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    This is why you need to both watch AND listen!! Conductors are paid to conduct, and if you don't watch and listen, 50% of the help you need as an ensemble is being wasted
  20. Fleo


    Jul 1, 2006
    Adding my bit: I'm in a jazz trio where the guitar player and drummer agree on speeding is ok cause it gives a nice energy. To me that's sounds like a bit of covering for weakness in an efford to raise a dynamic bow with building a good solo and interacting on it. Guitar player complaints for lack of own ideas and thus unable to create the bow for example. Also got the feeling the speeding is more interfering fatiguing for double bass on intonation and pizz.

    I'm also in chamber and bigger orchestra's : A lot of the above applies ;-) Great topic!
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