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Contradictory statement that bass does not keep tempo.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by kohanmike, Oct 10, 2019.

  1. kohanmike

    kohanmike Gold Supporting Member

    A couple weeks ago I attended a festival that included performances and seminars. I made sure to watch the performance that included a bass player who also conducted a seminar.

    Without a doubt he's a terrific bass player, but as a teacher, he left a lot to be desired. It was a beginner class and as he started to explain the bass, he included explanations of other instruments. Odd I thought, but what really got me is when he asked, "When there's no drummer, who keeps the tempo?" Pretty much everyone said the bass. He replied, "Wrong, all the other instruments."

    Even though I only started playing bass 6 years ago after playing guitar for almost 50 years, my understanding in all that time, and said here many times, the bass is part of the rhythm section that keeps the tempo. I never heard another school of thought.
    TolerancEJ, EatS1stBassist and pcake like this.
  2. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    "All the other instruments" or "all the instruments". The former doesn't make any sense to me, the latter does. And there needs to be some mention of context. In a style of music where the bass is playing a consistent rhythm such as a walking line it is most definitely going to be regarded as a primary reference for time-keeping (and most likely the primary reference if there are no drums in the picture).
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
  3. UntitledUser


    Sep 18, 2019
    He is right.
    In a lot of drumless ballads the bass does not play every bar/loop.
    It can be a piano, or a violin, or the singer alone keeping the tempo and the bass player plays only some notes to accent some things.
    Who leads the tempo keeps the tempo.
    TolerancEJ, zenrad, DrMole and 7 others like this.
  4. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    His claim is only valid in certain musical contexts. As a blanket statement his suggestion is bizarre (and unfounded).
  5. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    He should be reported to Jeff Berlin!
  6. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    Are you sure you didn’t misunderstand what the guy said?
    pellomoco14 and MDBass like this.
  7. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    EVERYONE is responsible for keeping time, all the time!
  8. twinjet

    twinjet The smell of burnt fish excites me Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Correct. If the right person screws the tempo bad enough more will follow.
  9. bassdude51

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

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Umm, follow the kick drum and there'll be no tempo problem!

    ObsessiveArcher and dramatwist like this.
  10. ak56

    ak56 Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2015
    Carnation, Wa
    Besides being a bass player, I sing in a local chorus.

    The director is responsible for SETTING the tempo. The entire choir is responsible for KEEPING that tempo.
  11. kohanmike

    kohanmike Gold Supporting Member

    OK, so there ARE other schools of thought, got it.
    DrMole, pcake and Passinwind like this.
  12. kohanmike

    kohanmike Gold Supporting Member

    But there us no drummer. In my case the group is 50 ukulele players and I'm on bass.
    mikewalker, pcake and Volker Kirstein like this.
  13. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Is that a joke or did you just make your way into hell? :blackeye:
  14. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Supporting Member

    50 ukuleles?!?! Please tell me this is a marching band!
  15. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Hopefully everyone in the band has the tempo and time. If you're counting on other people to do that for you, that's probably bad mojo.
    MarkA, pellomoco14, JimK and 2 others like this.
  16. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I was in a band where we fired the drummer (no, really). A couple of things came from that experience:

    1) Never fire the drummer while all your gear is in his girlfriend's basement.Yeah , we shoulda thought about that.

    2) Suddenly, the rest of us, we were all responsible for the tempo. We practiced for a month or so without a drummer. When we did get a new drummer, we were a much better band, because we "got it" - we'd learned to play in time without a drummer.

    The most important skill in any musician is good timing. Period. A wrong note in tempo is better then the right note at the wrong time. Yes, the drummer has tempo as his job, but it is absolutely everyone's job. When the music breaks down to just bass and drums, yes, we own half the tempo. But...really....it's everyone's job.
  17. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    True, but it also makes sense that the main reference point be the person subdividing the most and playing consistently even rhythms (in most cases, the drummer).
    eJake, retslock and SactoBass like this.
  18. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    In my world if it ain't the drummer, it's the keys or riddim guitar player.
    bass12 and Vinny_G like this.
  19. most bluegrass music i listen too, the upstanding bass player is holding the rhythm down, sometimes with a slap.
    that said, the rest of the band is usually locked in strongly to the tempo.

    i believe that all musicians in a group should be responsible for maintaining the tempo, and the best ones can still allow for lots of space between notes.
    EatS1stBassist and HolmeBass like this.
  20. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    it's true that everyone playing 'keeps the tempo', but the bass plays the tempo in almost all modern/popular/western music --- with or without a drummer!
    ObsessiveArcher, QweziRider and smogg like this.

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