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Bass Player Relegated to Human Metronome

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Flatwoundround, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. Flatwoundround


    May 18, 2014

    What happens to a bass player when the drummer tends to rush way too much and the guitar player decides he needs to drink Red Bull during band practice?


    He becomes a human metronome.

    Talk about trying to keep the accelerator from taking off. The positive side of my brain says okay this is great practice for me to act as the band anchor to keep them from speeding up too much. The negative side of my brain says "this sucks, I am stuck to keeping things so basic and cannot let loose, I dare not do any fills because when I come back to the groove the BPM will have increased.

    It feels tense to me constantly trying to pull back the band from speeding up too much. It wasn't horrible and the rushing was not crazy bad but it was definitely noticeable to me.

    Do you guys ever encounter this and what do you do? I jokingly would say things like okay this song is at 90 BPM and if we go over 100 we will get speeding tickets.

    Any advice on how to pull back the band when they are rushing too much?

    We just have drums, bass, guitar, and singer who also plays harmonica.

    Thanks much.
  2. Use a click and put it into the monitors.
    thefruitfarmer and rtav like this.
  3. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    If the drummer can't keep time, have him work with a metronome. If he refuses or doesn't improve after working with a metronome, get rid of the drummer, period. The primary thing a drummer MUST be able to do is to keep reasonably accurate time. They don't have to be a drum machine, but if the tempo is shifting when it shouldn't, the entire musical foundation sounds weak. It doesn't matter how great his fills are, if he owns the practice space, how many drums he has, how long you've known him or how hot his sister is, if the drummer cannot keep time that drummer has GOT to go, period.
  4. If everyone in the band feels the song at a quicker tempo than you do, maybe it's not them...
    seansv and hhirbe like this.
  5. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv

    They need to find another bass player.
  6. faster than fast are consider fast nowadays. upbeat is cosidered slow. when it comes to "fast" i need the song to stop to let me think. i'm like you i don't want to hit then same note over band over.

    easy solution hit a open note over and over and use you fingers to hit notes every now and then. this is still like being a metronome, but when not give the time to look into a technique it's all you got.

    i would blame everyone else in the band. if the songs too fast, then theylre all wrong. if you can get a recording of the song, so we can determine who is too fast or who isn't fast enough.

    to try to slow down the band all you can do is look at each other. i you want come up with hand signals or something.
  7. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    The tendency to rush can happen without people realizing it, even for very good players. Sometimes just mentioning it will be enough, if all the players have a good sense of time and are willing to focus on it. In this case, I wouldn't simplify my lines, but would focus on my own time to make sure that my own playing is correct. There might still be a bit of tugging, but if the other players are paying attention, the problem should get better.

    Rehearsing with a click can help for those who are motivated to get the tempo correct but who are having trouble, or aren't really feeling it for whatever reason. If they're focused so much on playing their part, for example, they might not have enough mental energy left to focus on tempo. If the players are otherwise good about time but are having trouble with a particular tune then this may just be a sign that more (individual) practice is needed by one or more members.

    I've also played with others who didn't have a good sense of time so the only way to get through the tune is to do as you say and become the metronome. This is a version of hell, and I take it to mean that I need to leave this group. If it's an open jam, I'll do it to get through the tune, but I wouldn't want to be in a band that had this as a chronic problem.

    Finally, while as a bass player, I really value being able to play in whatever time is necessary, there are some songs where a subtle change in tempo can really affect the feel of a song. Sometimes, but not often, it just makes sense to adjust the starting tempo at which you play a tune so that it feels right, rather than always starting at one tempo and then drifting within the song. This isn't the only choice, but sometimes it's the one that works. Alternately, the rhythm section may need to alter the groove a bit to play at the original tempo, if it's a groove that feels more natural at a different tempo.

    Having said all of that, you need to bring it up. If you bring it up and everyone in the band says something like, "oh, thanks for pointing that out", and actually tries to fix the problem, you have a chance. If they disagree or resist, the first thing you need to do is get them to realize and/or care, which is extremely unlikely, IMHO.
    thefruitfarmer likes this.
  8. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    You all need to go home and practice with a metronome to improve your internal time keeping. Especially the drummer. Keeping time is at least half the bass players job though, so don't complain that you are being forced to do it. Makes you a valuable member of the band.
  9. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I play acoustic genres, most often without a drummer. That makes ME the rhythm section. I still get my fills in ... and hold the tempo and groove. I have new project, a trio (guitar, dobro, bass ... we all do vocals) and I WISH I was human metronome in this project. The guitarist gets a little flakey with the tempo sometimes and I have to remind him, while pointing to my bass, "it's right HERE!". He's been solo since quitting his last band in the mid-80's, so it takes a little adjusting. After a half dozen gigs he's getting much better, and we have potential (not Nashville potential, we're way too old for that) to get lots of gigs in the area. It's worth it to keep at it. That said, I've up and quit bands where the drummer couldn't keep time or groove.
  10. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Here's a news flash for you. It is the bass player's job to keep the time steady, not the drummer's. It is not fun when a drummer consistently rushes. To me it feels like I am pulling an old heavy car up hill when I have to do that.
    Talk to him.
    Tony B. Filthy, Flad and Seanto like this.
  11. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    This just in: Accurate tempo is the responsibility of each individual, evenly distributed.
    Do not mistake the ' power to screw up the tempo ' with ' responsibility to keep time. '
    Febs, Shanebo, MDBass and 3 others like this.
  12. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Yeah, every band member should be able to keep time, but traditionally, I mean as far as Iknow back to the1940s when my did was gigging, the bass player sets the rythmn. Since combos don't have a conductor with a baton, someone has to do it. Drummers usually, but not always, count it off, but after that, the bass player set the rythmn. Sure, any member can get off tempo.
    Seanto likes this.
  13. Remyd


    Apr 2, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    If anyone figures out how to tell a band "Rushing!" without screaming it in rehearsal, I would appreciate it.

    My band is also drummerless. The singer only has a passing acquaintance with steady time. I have to say something in every rehearsal! Last time, I brought a metronome and worked out the times once and for all. That way, we can get the guy used to singing to a click
  14. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    If a song is at the wrong tempo. I stop the song.

    EVERY time, in rehearsal. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    If a song is at the wrong tempo at a gig, you don't want to know me.
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I understand what you mean.
    My point is that it is an entirely reasonable expectation that band mates keep an more or less accurate tempo.
    OP's drummer and guitarist rushing is their fault, and their responsibility to recognize and clean up, not his.

    Yuo need everyone to at least acknowledge its an issue, then face it as a band. here's what my band did
    • decide on tempos for each song, count off to a metronome, and try to stick to them.
    • get a tempo ref for the drummer to check performance.
    We noted which songs we consistently sped up, figured the soing "wants " to be faster, and adjusted the chosen tempo until we minimized the inaccuracy
    some songs we just acknowledged we would speed up certain parts and accepted it.

    the important thing was we scrutinized and learned exactly what we were doing to the tempo, and made conscious decisions about it.
    We were probably never rock solid tempo wise, but it did improve.
    tbasstreble11 likes this.
  16. Just pop a few amphetamines and drink some Red Bull and don't worry about it.
    Gravedigger Dav likes this.
  17. pkstone


    Apr 13, 2011
    My drummer is also the lead singer, and I think this division of his attention often leads to rushing. We've almost come to blows about it in the past, because ability to hold tempo is a matter of pride to a drummer. Ultimately, he heard me, and he's been using the tempo ref mentioned above and making a good effort to stay steady. A few of our songs used to take off like galloping horses, and now they're reined in, mostly.

    My question to my low-down brothers and sisters is, how do you, as a bass player, hold the tempo back? When it's getting away, I just don't feel like I can have any effect on bringing it back. Maybe it's because of my drummer's divided attention, but I just don't feel that my coming in behind the beat does anything to drag the tempo back down; it just further muddies a less-than-stellar performance.
  18. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Everyone in the band is responsible for having good time. If it comes down to one or two players making up for a lack of time with the rest of the band, then it will sound like a tug-of-war. The audience may or may not know why they don't like it, but they will know something is off. The band will be in a battle instead of a collaboration.
  19. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    if a drummer cannot keep time, there is nothing you can do.
    rare is a drummer that actually listens to the time of his bassist and adjusts.
    I have solid time and every situation I have been in where the drummer was shaky, I could do nothing to fix him.
    the only way that I can see a bassist keeping the tempo of the band is if there is no drummer.
  20. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Honestly, if your drummer isn't listening to the bass, you need a new drummer.
    sowilson, Thisguy and Flad like this.

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