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How can I get my bassist to better understand time and subdivisions?...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by miko, Mar 28, 2002.

  1. :confused:

    drummer question:

    i have the good fortune of playing with a very gifted bassist. he has a great ear, learns songs quickly and has a really nice feel.

    problem is, most of our music is in odd-time, and even though he can hear musical phrases, he doesn't really understand that we're playing in 6/8 or 7/4 or whatever at any given time. he definitely perceives things as common time, even though he plays things correctly. i'll see him counting 1-2-3-4 when the measure is really 1&-2&-3&-4&-5&. he gets through it, but he's not thinking about it correctly.

    i know in the final analysis, if the music sounds good, what's the problem... but for a drummer, this is nervewracking, as it's all about the time. as an example, in one groove we play, the notes he hits and the notes i hit on the bass drum are supposed to be a 16th note apart; that's the whole basis for the groove. he tends to fudge this part, and it makes the tempo drag, because he tries to catch up to make up for the difference. the tempo isn't the issue; what he really needs to understand is that the space between the two notes we play is different. i tried to get him to understand this, and introduce him to the concept of note values and subdivisions, but he gets all discombobulated. i think he's one of those guys who believes that knowledge stifles creativity.

    i would love to be able to sit down and show him how to distinguish between an eighth note and a sixteenth. i just think he'd get ticked-off.

    is there an easy, bassist-friendly way of doing this? i dread the day when i have to break down the partials of a triplet so that he gets it.

  2. Jason Carota

    Jason Carota

    Mar 1, 2002
    Lowell, MA
    I think the best way, as you said, is to just sit down and show him the difference. Maybe try it when it is just the two of you practicing/jamming or whatever. If he does eventually get the concept, it may open up a new world of rhythmic ideas for him.

    Personally, I wouldn't get ticked off if my drummer pointed out something that wasn't working correctly (I just wouldnt help him break down his stuff after ;) ...just kidding.) But, thats me. If you are good friends with the bassist, or if you are just on good terms with him, hopefully, he won't be mad.

    Hope this helps :cool:
  3. ChenNuts44


    Nov 18, 2001
    Davenport, IA
    i wouldn't get mad if a drummer tried to correct something. i've done the same with drummers and it was no problem. it's got to be done eventually, right? why not now? peace
  4. A bassist with poor time? That's like a declawed cat, except taller and not as cute and furry. :D

    I've been through the same thing in reverse with my drummer... I just had to show him. Some people just learn more easily by example rather than explanation. You might try asking him first if he'll let you show him.
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Personally, I would appreciate someone showing me what I'm doing 'wrong'.
    I have played with a couple of rhythm Yodas...rapping with them after rehearsals was a God-send for me. Face it...as players, we all have certain tendencies. How better to break free from the SOS factor than to pick the brain of someone better versed in, say, rhythm/time.
    Anyway, I say, break it down to the component level; sketch it out on paper AFTER or prior to rehearsals(you don't wanna waste the others' time or appear to be 'lecturing' someone in front of a crowd)...most bassists I know are pretty humble & are open to others' ideas.

    On paper, suppose your kick = BOLD
    & the bass = the Underlined beats-


    On paper, it's easy to see the bass' note is displaced to the "e of 3"(KICK = Beat 3).

    Also, I would attempt some displacement exercises-
    1-TOGETHER, play one of your patented 2-bar grooves.
    2-Have the bass displace his line/rhythmic figure by an 1/8th note(Bass begins on the "& of 1").
    3-Displace the drums an 1/8th note(bass returns to 'normal')
    4-Both bass & drums play displaced.

    Try other stuff where the bass stays in "4" while the drums play in 3,5,6, or 7.
    (BTW, for this sorta madness, it helped me A LOT when the drummer kept his ride in 4!). ;)

  6. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    When you sit down to talk with him, you should ask him if he has a metronome, and if he doesnt you should convince him to buy one. This will help charge his internal clock and help get in on the right path to counting everything proporly.

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