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Do Sax (or other horn players) have a better sense of rhythm/timing than the average bassist?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by glocke1, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    I've been taking some jazz workshops recently that have been taught by sax players.

    I'm finding that the guys that have been teaching these have offered a lot more useful tips in terms of helping me with soloing through changes than the bass teachers I've had and a lot of those tips are in the form of how to practice in a manner that helps to get a better sense of timing.

    It's making me wonder if these guys are actually better masters at timing/rhythm than the typical bassist. Over the years I've taken a lot of lessons from different bass teachers that come from both jazz and classical backgrounds but these sax guys are giving me tips that none of those bass teachers have ever given me.
    GlennRH, IamGroot, pacojas and 2 others like this.
  2. So what you're saying is sax tips are better than bass knowledge?
    bolophonic likes this.
  3. Thats very interesting.... i play trumpet, but dont really have an answer. Maybe theyre just offering a different perspective? like instead of teaching you "this is what id play" the horn players teach "this is what i need from my rhythm section." I remember when i took some piano lessons, it really changed my trumpet playing. Anyway, great thread, looking forward to seeing what everyone says...
  4. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002

    Im just saying that the advice/tips Im getting from sax players on how to improve my sense of timing and my soloing as well is more useful than what I've gotten in bass lessons over the years
    movinngruvin and gebass6 like this.
  5. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    It sounds like you may just be getting some education/exercises that are more geared toward improvisation. There’s probably more subdividing happening..splitting the measures/beats up into smaller pieces.
    Ekulati and gebass6 like this.
  6. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I would expect perhaps better phrasing, rather than simple timing.
    Fretless1!, Whippet, GlennRH and 11 others like this.
  7. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    As a steadfast rule, I'd say no. But I do know several professional jazz sax players who have an uncanny sense of meter, especially in the absence of a rhythm section. Absorb everything you can without bias, and what you retain will eventually manifest itself in your own unique style of playing.
  8. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I would guess it has more to do with the amount of education and experience the musicians have rather than their instrument of choice: Most of the horn players I know have both an extensive formal training and a thick resumé/history of gigging...whereas I'd bet a good 50% of the bass players I know are self-taught "bedroom warriors". Musicians with extensive experience -- especially experience performing with other musicians -- tend to have the more useful insights on what it takes to play well.

    fwiw some of the most useful ideas for swinging, playing on time versus behind-the-beat, and just nailing a groove, that I ever got came from a trumpet player I met on a gig. But he'd probably worked more in that year than I had in the previous 5.
  9. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002

    I hope so, I don't have any delusions about becoming a true jazz bassist from these, just a better bassist and while I don't consider myself a bad bassist in the genre I play the most in (rock/jam band) these workshops are really a humbling experience to be honest, as I am finding out exactly how much I don't know. People aren't shy about correcting you in these things either lol...thankfully I have thick skin and am open/accepting of criticism.
  10. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I think this effect is quite real, though could perhaps be stated more generally: people that really do their homework and woodshedding vs. those of us who just tend to "skate by" with "whatever's good enough for now". I've mostly been in the latter camp throughout my life, trying to move to the former. ;)
    CalBuzz51, Bob_Ross and wildman2 like this.
  11. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I wish! It's only a small sample, but with maybe one or two exceptions, horn players I've played with all seem to have trouble with rhythm. Always too late, problems coming in at the right time, can barely count to 4 (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration), etc. Those people rely on the rhythm group for their time too much.

    The upside is, there's no faster and easier way to learn how to swing than playing with a horn section.
    smeet, AlexanderB and pcake like this.
  12. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
  13. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Musicians who had to read complex sheet music, or studied music for a while, probably have played more complex rhythms than your "average" bassist. Not many bassists had to play complex pieces with bands of between 15 (jazz band) and over 100 (large orchestra).
  14. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    IME sax players are very good at reading and think more
    about timing than 1,2,3,4. They subdivide and think more in 16 ths.
    I just started studying jazz improve and solo tips with a 39 year old bassist.
    He has me subdividing time on the exercises given. He's killing me.lol
  15. Robscott


    Mar 20, 2017
    Tonbridge UK
    Learn "For Once In My Life". That'll sort your timing out! :)
  16. jeff62

    jeff62 Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    I suspect this is simply a statement either about the experience of those musicians relative to your experience, or the experience of those musicians relative to prior bass teachers you’ve had.
  17. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    I think there is a more complex system of counting for a horn player than a bass player only because they usually load measures with more constructive phrasing than the bass part. If that requires a better sense of rhythm then yes the advantage would go to the horn player.
    MrLenny1 and Koog like this.
  18. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I think there are multiple aspects of "sense of rhythm" involved here, too - for the reason you mention, I might expect horn players to be better at syncopation and complicated subdivisions within the measure, while it seems reasonable to imagine the bass player might have the "keeping constant time across measures" aspect down better.
  19. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    I love playing with pros, and I mean any, not just jazz players. I worked for a year in a country & western band where the lead guitarist's day job was playing bass in a symphony orchestra. He was doing the gig because his favorite music, I kid you not, was early Elvis. I picked up so much from him, just from banter at rehearsals, about timing, phrasing, chord voicings...I had to quit because my cover band had eaten up most of my calendar, otherwise I'd still be there.
    Quantized Harmonic and IamGroot like this.
  20. bearfoot


    Jan 27, 2005
    Chittenango, NY
    Yes, horn players are going to tend to be better (technical) musicians than the average electric bass player. The average bass player can't read music, and along with music-reading comes a stronger sense of timing.
    You'll often get long sections of rest on a horn chart, and its not obvious where the next entrance is.
    This is not about bass vs. horns, its just a matter of training.

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