Guitar player, timing discussion

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by stomp944, Jul 19, 2021.

  1. stomp944


    Feb 2, 2019
    San Diego
    Lurking guitar player here (now ducking). This forum, while established for bass players, always seems to have good discussions about band dynamics. This topic seems to straddle a few categories, so I figured I'd see if anyone wanted to weigh in here. Bass player is our BL, btw, but is very non-confrontational and I pick up a lot of the slack.
    I'm playing lead and rhythm in a classic & alt rock band for two and a half years (minus the obvious). Nobody in the band is a pro, except the drummer, though the potential is there to be really good. We rehearse weekly and have worked at getting "tight" for a long time now yet made only some progress. This includes both guitars going off independently to practice parts together. A problem (besides sound levels and members using rehearsal time for practice) is how to talk with the other guitar player about poor timing. While not calling out the individual, the drummer has raised it. I've raised it. We all agree it needs attention, but not if there is a specific cause. Easy Petty songs aren't bad. Songs where I am or virtually the only guitar (ie Coll.Soul, Shine), we sound tight (and I can hear it if I'm not!). But for other songs, as soon as two guitars come in we sound like a wall of noise. It gets better if I adjust my play to match the other guitar, but not great. The other guitar does recognize when we sound like crap but continually seeks external causes to fix such as trying to show me how to play my parts. I admit when I forget a chord or get sloppy, but a dropped chord now and then doesn't ruin a whole song.
    A quick song example - Foo's Learn To Fly has two different rhythm parts played simultaneously. The different chords work if played tight with the rhythm section (its Taylor and Nate, after all), but a fraction out of time, it sound like we're playing completely different songs. He's convinced that he's playing it correctly. So am I.
    He was in the band before me. Confronting it is sure to end up in finger pointing. Do bass players have a teachable method for this? Am I missing something and it is not a timing issue? Is timing an irreparable issue worth leaving over?
    I'm frustrated enough to consider leaving for a long time - but the members are good people, I like the songs and its better playing than not playing, since as you all know, there are guitar players littering every bloody street corner looking for a band.
    Garret Graves and Peter Torning like this.
  2. Best fix is to hear each person individually over metronome and you should be able to hear who is wrong. Have a third party determine what needs fixing, but both have to be open to changing and not be argumentative. If both still insist that they're doing it right and won't change, then drop the song.

    Timing is an internal thing and you either have it or you don't. Just like being able to sing on key, some people just don't got it. But, anyone can work on it and make it workable. How willing would the other be to work on his timing? If he thinks he's god's gift to music then don't even bother. If he's open to taking suggestions (or taking lessons!!) then it might be worth working with him on it. Bad timing is a sign of a mediocre player, and you should always aim to be the worst player in your band. If you're better than him then it might be time to find something better.
    Beej, Ronzo, Slater and 7 others like this.
  3. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once...

    Feb 24, 2013
    IME, Learn To Fly is a very challenging song, even when the guitars are not playing separate rhythm parts.
    Can you guys chart out your parts, separately, individually, showing all the timing - rests and all ? If so, compare charts against the reference track and each other.
    Can you play your parts separately, to a fixed time reference like a click or metronome? Record them separately and compare as above.
    Finally - multi-track record everybody - ideally dry DI's for the guitar parts, and compare the waveforms to each other and the reference track.
    Isolated tracks can be very humbling especially when solo'd...
    Musical purity aside, the problem is neither of you is willing to adapt to the other's timing style.
    (Have you considered the possibility that you're both playing it wrong?)
    Maybe one of you has learned to play ahead of or behind the beat and can't re-learn to adjust the timing. There are exercises where you practice playing behind, on, and ahead of the beat. it's an essential skill for bassists... I have found that a lot of players who don't really know the song tend to play behind the beat, because they are listening for and reacting to the chord change and play tentatively...
    Unless it's an essential element of your show, maybe try other songs with less challenging timing to really get your timing in sync and come back to Learn to Fly when you're better able to play together...
  4. 12BitSlab

    12BitSlab Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2016
    Liberty Township
    My life experiences would lead me down a different path.

    OP, you mentioned that the 2nd guitar player doesn’t have poor timing on all songs - just the more difficult ones. In the past when I have seen this, it is because the guitar player (or bass player) is playing with a death grip. That is the fretting hand is exerting far too much force to the back of the neck and the fretboard.

    If I were in your shoes, I would find a time (before or after rehearsal) when you can have some privacy and have a discussion. Instead of saying, you’re doing this wrong, take the tact around, “You know, I used to have challenges staying on the beat on really tough songs. I discovered that I was gripping way too much with my left hand. I found that if I had a light grip regardless of which song I was playing, my timing was far better. Do you think you have the same issue from time to time?”

    Then, allow him the time to think and respond. The light might turn on for him or it may not. If it does, the band gets better and the 2nd guitar player gains confidence.

    Good luck on making your band better!
    Ronzo, stomp944 and johnnynitro like this.
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    ^^^ Yes ^^^

    The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing the problem. Make a click track, and each of you records his part to it. The truth will out.
    Ekulati, Carl Hillman, And I and 2 others like this.
  6. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    A few options come to mind, from best to worst IMO:

    -Call out the issue with the parts right there during your rehearsals, since that is what rehearsals are for. Don't have some overdramatic band meeting where you point out his flaws, that will put him on the defensive

    -Bring up the original recording and analyze it a bit as a group during rehearsal

    -Just go along with how he plays it and make it work, assuming what he is playing sounds good even if it doesn't match the original exactly

    -Avoid playing the songs he sucks at and focus on the ones he does well...if there are any

    -Let the guitar player go if he literally can't make anything work well

    -If the guitarist isn't let go and this is a deal breaker for you, leave the project
  7. During my music store career one of my guitar customers came back after buying a metronome a few days earlier. He told me he threw it against the wall in a fit of rage claiming that it didn't keep time with him.
  8. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    I think the above two things are the primary drivers of the timing problem you’re having.

    Address the sound levels and practice issues and I think your timing problem may go away - or at least be minimized enough to be fixable.

    Luck! :thumbsup: And welcome to TB. :)
  9. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Well, score one for bass players.

    Okay, so timing comes from the drums and bass. If they're both tight, which I'm assuming they are, the guitars and keys can pretty much play anything they want to in key, and it will sound good. Unless, your volumes are overbearing, or your tones are clashing...and overbearing. Hahahaha. Try eqing out some low mid in both of your guitars. You'll be amazed at how it cleans everything up.

    To fix your issue at hand about parts, learn the songs, correctly. Correctly learn the songs. Learn the songs correctly. Drop your low mids, learn the songs (correctly). Having two guitarists is a balancing act of eq, dynamics, and styles. Most of the time, one guitarist is actually recording both guitar parts, on one guitar. That way everything sounds as clean and cohesive as possible on the finished product. You guys need to be a team.

    Know what I mean?
  10. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    You might both be right, and at the same time you are both wrong.

    Frequently when there are two rhythm players a compromise must be worked out so the parts interlock and complement each other. If neither of you is willing to budge, you're stuck with garbage. So maybe it's less about how to communicate, and more about being willing to make changes that actually make it possible for both of you to play together and sound great..

    Rarely is it going to sound great if you both play the exact same guitar part. If you play the same syncopations, you may wont' to play a different chord inversions. Often it's better to play drastically different parts.

    Not that these songs have anything to do with the style of music you are playing, but there are multiple guitar parts and they all sound great. (so hopefully you can learn something from listening to them).

    Songs like this don't come together without the players negotiating and working out who will play what part. A certain amount of discipline is required, and a certain amount of structure must be agreed upon. You don't necessarily have to play the part exactly the same every time, but the foundation must be consistent enough so everyone can keep there place.
    stomp944 likes this.
  11. Drog


    Feb 3, 2020
    Click track, both guitar players play their parts and it gets recorded live. Even an phone is good enough to hear whom is out.
    stomp944 likes this.
  12. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Roll tape at rehearsal. OK, not actual tape unless you're doing the retro gear thing. Record. When you come to a part where the rhythm fails stop the playback and ask the group what's up. Someone (or you) should be able to say politely that the guitars are out of sync and how can we fix it? Just pointing out the issue without having to fire the drummer for no reason might make him pay attention to the part next time. I'm guessing they don't want to mess up but also may not be aware of it or may not know how bad it is.

    And it's not TDPRI. You're allowed to say COVID here. I think.
    stomp944 likes this.
  13. stomp944


    Feb 2, 2019
    San Diego
    A lot to unpack here, but it seems that I put the question to the right group...! Don't tell my bass player - though he tends to be the most chill of the lot of us.
    Multi-track recording sounds a little ambitious but I'll look into click track and metronome. As several have pointed out, I accept that we may both be wrong and/or off in timing. And we may have more than just this issue. Still, it has to settle somewhere, or we will end up with a fairly 'meh' set list - or parting ways. Input very much appreciated!
    design likes this.
  14. stomp944


    Feb 2, 2019
    San Diego
    Thanks, yes, good guy and reasonably open (though if I may say, a little older than I am and maybe a little stuck in a certain way). Agree, I'm striving to be the worst instrumentalist in the band, hence a serious consideration to leave as well...
  15. stomp944


    Feb 2, 2019
    San Diego
    Somewhat, but all the pieces are there - we have dropped so many songs because someone found one part challenging or didn't want to put the time in, or the vocals were too hard, etc. We have dropped this song and picked it up again a few times because it is a great song to do live and straddles classic and contemporary. Song compromise is an ongoing chore, eh?
    bisticlz and JeezyMcNuggles like this.
  16. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Ha, bass.

    Yeah dude, just stick your phone out of the way of the bass amp, and you can actually get halfway decent sound off of video. Pick out the problems, work on them. It's easy as pushing record and walking away.
    stomp944 likes this.
  17. stomp944


    Feb 2, 2019
    San Diego
    Thanks, I get what you're saying - it is likely we are both introducing additional problems into the mix since we both like to play numerous (guitar) instruments and we both play through very different amps (him a big solid state and me a tube amp I built myself). One eq is out the window the next time we meet. I've got pages of settings jotted down for each guitar and each song.
    JeezyMcNuggles likes this.
  18. stomp944


    Feb 2, 2019
    San Diego
    Yup, thank you. Agree. Regarding my example, we have gone over the rhythm parts several times (together and with the band and even consulting several YouTube covers) and, at his insistence, I'm now on my 5th different way to play my bit. No change - therefore it leads me to conclude as I did from the first way that the problem lay elsewhere. ;)
    But I accept that I ain't God's gift to music either (as you've never heard a guitar player ever say before).

    Funny you should post those two samples - Eagles 'Already Gone' is next on the band's list. That's a busy one.
    Wasnex and JeezyMcNuggles like this.
  19. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    I think there's a banjo in there somewhere too :)
  20. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Back in the day, our drummer used to play a click track over the PA while the band played at rehearsal so that everyone could hear it. As a band, we got out time down real quick.
    Ronzo likes this.