Help - my time sucks!

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by bassbuddy, Feb 1, 2005.

  1. I've always thought my time was pretty good, but then I've almost always played with drummer. Plus, I've always tried to create a fairly thick, greasy groove, so as a result I've tended to play a bit behind the beat as a result.

    Now, however, I've gotten into a primarily acoustic group where I'm playing URB, and we often don't have a drummer. We're also doing some bluegrass-type stuff. So now I find two things: my internal clock isn't great, especially on faster songs; after a verse or two, things often slow down noticeably. Worse, I should be playing right on top of the beat, but I find I'm still laying back behind the beat. It's just the way I think and play, and the way I've done it for years (in fact, it makes me fairly popular!), but in this setting it's just WRONG.

    So what are your suggestions for helping increase stability in my time? More importantly, how do I get out of the drag-time thing? It would be nice to be able to play ahead of, on top, or behind the beat as I choose, but I'm not even sure I know how to even FEEL it, much less play it.
  2. fatdawg


    Sep 7, 2004
    I agree with this, and the listening. But mostly--Get out of OHIO. J/K :spit:
  3. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    producing a sound on the db requires you to push a lot of air through a large vessel. there is a natural lag between the time you pull the string and the moment it sounds. this causes many players to play behind the beat. I would suggest some serious metronome work where you focus on the sound of the bass rather than what your right hand is doing. try placing the sound directly on the click, then a little ahead, and also a little behind. learn the difference in feels. it will be a valuable tool in the future. good luck.
  4. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Savino, cool site. Nice sounds.

    I have to disagree with one thing. Groove lies in the attack of the note. The attack is the click that your finger tip makes when it plucks the string. Dragging has to do with that not how long the note takes to develop. Often fast tunes rely just on attack because there isn't time for the sound to develop.

    I do agree with your ideas of metronome work though. Practicing pushing and pulling the beat on purpose are where it's at.
  5. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    if were talking about groove . . . . . groove is not the notes you play really at all. it is the space between those notes. but yes your attack is very important. all these things are vital ingredients
  6. I once had a similar problem with this same thing. Two things really helped me overcome it.

    For one thing, learn the tune. Yes, I know it is bluegrass and it probably only has three chords. However, when you are not exactly sure of when the change occurs, there will be hesitation. About the time you catch up with the beat, it changes again and you slip behind. It may not be much but it is enough to gradually drag the music down. I think the key to keeping time is confidence and knowing a tune inside out and always knowing where you are in the tune breeds confidence.

    Secondly, I unknowingly slipped into a habit of resting my finger on the string before I pulled it. What I mean is after playing the 5, I immediately moved my finger to the string for playing the 1. I would then have a split second that the finger rested on the string. I began the pull on the beat but by the time the sound was produced, it was too late. This was especially true on fast tunes. I began concentrating on making the move from string to string one of continous motion (but not necessarily continuous sound) and the time dragging problem virtually disappeared.

    The metronome is a good tool but diagnosing what is causing the problem is probably more important.
  7. I've been investigating the time issue for a while now and there seems to be alot of ingredients. 1. Everything mentioned above. 2. The people you are playing with.
    Number 2 is more from my own experience in a drummerless setting I can be a little too "acomodating" by going with a soloists time feel. If the soloist plays behind and the bass follows guess what, the soloist will play even more behind the bass will follow etc. etc. It seems that the drums are such a powerful force in a group that other player's time issues can be covered up.
    I think metronome work is very important for correcting the problem, listen to yourself and the nome while practicing and adjust. But you should also try to work without the nome a bit to make sure you have a grasp on time yourself with out having it "fed" to you.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    There's the answer to your question. It is all about feel and the rest of the stuff is really just excuses, as far as it goes with me.

    You have to carve out your own space and groove. If you groove, the band has to follow.

    Don't force against a lagging tempo. When you're in that head space you've already lost the battle.

    An almost instantaneus way to to hear and fix all the other problems (aside from knowing the tune) is to put on the metronome so that it's clicking on 2 and 4. Turn on your mic and recorder. Groove a while. Listen back. Does it GROOVE? -- You and the metronome are either swinging or you're not. Easy to determine.

    Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001

    More on the feel part, now that I think about it.

    When the tune is being counted off, FEEL where it is. Don't even THINK the word tempo; Don't allow the thought, "Don't let this drag". What does it feel like where it's being counted off? Think of this groove as you would think about a tune being in a particular key. The GROOVE just IS. Playing in the groove is easy. Playing some arbitrary TEMPO that is a certain BPM is impossible. Like Kenny Werner states in his book, getting into that groove is like getting in a warm bath. It feels good and is EASY.

    Now, before I start sounding out of my senses, this is something that I've been working on very specifically for a couple of years now, and I'm about at the point that no one can slow me down -- if they're listening to me. If the lock-up is good between me and whomever I CAN be pulled faster. For a tune or two until I have my guard up and then I can reel in the 'offender'.

    The part that I have the hardest time with is a drummer who rushes. I can keep the tempo pretty even -- but it's just that, EVEN TEMPO. Still can't make a rushing drummer FEEL good, but I'm still working at it.
  11. The metronome is the truth so you can use that to practice but how do you know if it's you or "just you" dragging down the tempo?
    Time is everyone's responsibility, This is more apperent when there is no drummer (to blame it on :) ).
    If the whole group is dragging over the course of a tune, it's probably not just a matter of playing behind the beat, but of the players falling into their "comfortable" tempo.
    Bad news is if the others in your group dont work on it, it probably wont get much better even if you do.

    Good Luck,
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    GROOVE is everyone's responsibility, but you can't count on it. Groove, plant your flag, and they will come.
  13. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    I'd like to add that playing with a metronome also has it's own feel. You can really feel it when the 'nome is set to click on the 2 & 4 beats. When practicing with the 'nome, I try to get the feel of playing in time with in my system. Kinda trying to put it into an emotion. And I know I'm starting to get it down for a certain tempo when I can can totally relax and pay attention to staying with the "feeling" and how I sound rather than trying to "keep time". The more I can 'nome practice, the more I try to make this "feeling" stronger, where I can call upon it on demand with little effort. I guess I'm just trying to simply groove with the 'nome.

    Once that "feeling" for that tempo is strong, then you can go into a playing situation and bring that feeling in your playing and stick with it. The hard part is to stay with that "time feeling" even when others don't because the temptation is to drag or speed up. But once everybody is in lockstep, I think that's when the groove really blooms.
  14. Klelewon

    Klelewon Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I'm fairly new to playing DB (a little over 1 year). But here's my experience from playing Jazz EB. Most of my initial playing was without a drummer. I still play sometimes without a drummer.

    I like what Ray and Hdiddy said about 2 & 4. One of my guitar teachers called it the Berkeley Jazz metronome method. I use this method for Jazz or music where the strong beats are on 2 & 4. But, does this work for bluegrass, country & western, etc… where the strong beat is on 1 or 3?

    I learned this from Ed Friedland at a National Guitar Workshop several years ago. He has an article titled "The metronome as guru". It's on Bass Player's website under Trenches. It’s very helpful. The last two links work.

    First I turn my metronome down to 40 BPM (or slower). I then play a muted quarter note (I count mentally in 16 notes). I aim for the center of the beat. I keep doing this for about 5 to 10 minutes everyday. After a few minutes I place my note before and then after the beat. Just to get the feel of what it's like. I want perfect control of where I place the beat. This helps me very much. I then go back to right on the beat. After doing this for a few weeks my time got VERY good. The downside…it really bugged me when I played with someone whose time was off or erratic. Talk about finger nails on a chalk board! :scowl:

    What should it sound like? If I'm on completely right on time I should hear ONE sound. I do not hear the metronome AND the bass. Here's my mental/aural picture: “a basketball hitting a wood gym floor”. Imagine two basketballs bouncing at the same time. If they bounce at the same time you hear ONE sound and ONE echo. If not, you hear two sounds -- one is before/after the other. I try to achieve that type of sound. I actually prefer to use a drum machine with a bass drum. The sound is fatter.

    What should it feel like? Well, once I know that I'm hitting the beat in direct center. I notice how I feel when I hear the single sound. I know everybody is different, but I get a strange feeling in my gut when I'm dead center. Also, being ahead or behind each has its own feel.

    Now Groove....Well my motto is "Groove is the Attitude". Each music type has its own groove. Afro-Cuban, Reggae, Jazz 4/4, Jazz 3/4, Bossa Nova, Klezmer, Blue Grass, Country & Western, Rock, Funk, Blues, get the picture. They all groove; they just groove differently. Emotionally, it's about how I feel. Technically, it's about where (and when) I put the beat. For Reggae I have to play behind the beat. Lay it waaaay back mon! :D I try to keep a good Jamaican frame of mind. Blues is not so laid back but it's still behind the beat. Jazz is more on the beat (Check out Ray Brown. I heard him at Catalina’s Bar & Grill in LA. His time was dead center. Always!). Latin is almost always on the beat. It's dance music; can't lag or waver here! (Here’s a thought. My bass line is behind or ahead…I see several pissed percussionist…20 pissed ladies…In high heels…not a pretty thought.) Rock is more on the beat. C&W is almost always dead center on the beat. Much of Stevie Ray Vaughn's music I hear as way ahead of the beat. (I know I haven’t mentioned where the strong beats are located.)


    Here's a trick that works for me. I always use body movement when I play. Some say I'm dancing; others say I'm throwing a fit. Hey, if I don't feel it why would my audience?

    Here's how I do it. If I want to play behind the beat...I lean back. If I want to play dead center...I sit/stand straight up. If I want to play ahead of the beat...I lean forward. I find it very difficult to play a good reggae groove when I'm sitting straight up or leaning forward. Weird. I know. But, hey this is what works for me on EB. It’s a little more difficult on DB.

    Just my experience and $.0.02.

  15. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Playing behind the beat has nothing to do with having good time, that being said your time may still suck and there is only one way to fix that..
    Having good time will never change..Keeping good time WILL change with the musical situation. I think you need to go on a full-blown Bluegrass Bender, listening to nothing else for a while. Try to catch a live show to watch how the UBist pulls the notes out of his/her bass.
    Lastly, once you've gotten comfortable in your overalls and flanel, suggest that the group try practicing one song with the metronome, just to see what happens.