1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

how do you play behind the beat

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Dead Ed, May 12, 2011.

  1. Dead Ed

    Dead Ed

    Nov 24, 2010
    Portland, OR
    Hey everyone. So I'm in this band, and there's a song we're doing where the drummer wants me to play with him behind the beat. I understand the concept, but the song is pretty fast (quarter note = about 200 so we're talking milliseconds here) and I can't seem to stay behind the beat. I looked around a bit, but can't find any great tips on technique. Does anyone know of some good ways to practice playing behind the beat? Thanks.
  2. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I'm not sure that you really set out to learn this; you just sort of turn out that way (or not).

    I started playing bass in '80 and in '92, I bought a double bass. Dropped R&R like a stone and ended up in a ten-year jazz phase. All of those horn and keyboard solos must have leaked into my brain, because I turned into a behind the beat bass player. Not to say that I can't keep on it if needed (and I did when actually playing jazz on double bass), but in an improvisational setting now on fretless electric (which I prefer), I find that, unless I concentrate, I drop behind the beat just a hair to fill in things after the drums, not always with the drums.

    In some ways, band members will hate you for this, but since the drummer is asking, throw all of your perceptions out of the door, and start by just trying to counter the drums. Play all of your notes when the drummer does not. Then, shed this for a while with the drummer and gradually work into playing with him, but not quite with him, if you follow. It's not a syncopated 16th thing just off the drums; it's a controlled drag that mirrors all of the band but from far enough away that the speed of light actually affects when the mirrored image reaches your ear. (I don't mean this literally.) One of the key aspects of playing just behind the beat is that you have to be able to complete a half-verse or half-chorus behind the beat and then bring it back to on the beat when moving to a transition (i.e., verse to chorus, chourus to Middle 8, etc.). If you can't make a distinction, then it all sounds the same and just totally off altogether. Much like good doesn't exist if evil doesn't exist, behind the beat doesn't fall correctly behind the beat unless you get on the beat at other times in the song. If you can't do that, it all just sounds wrong and sloppy.

    I realize that this sounds like a baked hippie yammering away, but it's really what my ear tells me it is. You won't find this in books; it's an acquired style that either evolves or doesn't. That's my take anyway.

    Edited to add: Oy; I just noticed that you posted that the drummer wants you to play with him behind the beat.

    That's just ugly. Behind the beat is a very personal thing if you're going to make it sound acceptable. Locking in with another's perception of what behind the beat is a daunting task. Keyboard and sax or trumpet/'bone; that's one thing. But for the rhythm section to synch a behind the beat groove. Man, get to know each other really well.
  3. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    What helped me (on sax) was to woodshed. Nobody else in the room, just the metronome and myself.

    Start at slow tempos, and not going at a fast pace until it worked at a half that speed consistently, and then raising the speed 5-10% at a time. Some things can't be hurried/performed well-without lots of slow practice.
  4. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I really did yammer on too long in my previous post. Having given this some thought, my take is that at 1/4 note = 200, a behind the beat concept might be so subtle as to be indiscernable to the ear.

    I'm wondering if "behind the beat" is not really what the OP wants. Listen to Sinatra singing standards, and how he drags his lyrics for the first part of the phrase and then makes up some ground by finishing the vocal line just into the II V or whatever transition the band is doing. That's a classic behind the beat style, and something horns can emulate.

    Doing that in a rhythm section is an entirely different animal. Perhaps some more info from the OP on the style of music being played and the areas that are slated for behind the beat playing would be useful.
  5. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I am interested in this too guys. Perhaps a sound clip of playing behind the beat can paint a thousand words ? ;)
  6. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Interesting idea but i am confused as to what you are getting at but here is the simple way to learn and see it as well as feel it.

    The beat is represented by ^ so that is where the beat falls.

    So using the word beat to represent time on the beat look and plays as


    In front of the beat is


    behind the beat is


    Which leaves us off beat or in between the beat which is


    These are the 4 main simple timings of dealing with the beat, on, of, before and after.

    The thing to understand is that if you do not represent the count correct and come in correct any one of these will sound on beat because the time between them is the same from any beat, it is the time against the count that is different. In beat displacement or sycopation it could read to be on the beat then in front, then behind, then in between


    but so long as the drummer stays on the beat to make the listener aware of the change, or the music has set up the beat to allow the listener to feel through the changes...this also applies to the players as well they need to be aware or where they are in relation to the beat, or they just sound wrong or out of time. getting the count in is very important to establish where 1 is.

    Hope this has helped?
  7. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    200 beats per minute? It would be hard for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section to play behind the beat at that tempo. If you can do so, I'd let the drummer's kick drum lead the note (that's assuming you're playing with his kick). At 200 bpm it's probably going to be hard to differentiate, so you might try just playing more sparsely on the bass part. If you're both playing a lot at a fast tempo it will tend to "feel" more frantic and on top of the beat.
    Wow, behind the beat at 200 bpm? Must be laid back Punk Rock or Thrash Metal!
    On slower tempos, the best way I know is to find some players you like who play behind the beat (I like New Orleans bassists and Muscle Shoals players like David Hood for this) and play along with their recordings as well as listen to them a lot. It rubs off on you.
  8. Listen, Play along, and record yourself playing with music that involves playing behind the beat. Like Reggae. Or some d'angelo:


    As well as stuff that falls ahead of the beat. Such as Punk, Red Hot Chilli Peppers. To get a nice bit of contrast.
    In the link above the bass is so far behind the beat, it creates a flam effect with the drums.
    I think you have to feel and not think this kind of thing. It's hard to get and easy to lose...
  9. Dead Ed

    Dead Ed

    Nov 24, 2010
    Portland, OR
    Thanks for the replies everyone. To answer some questions the song is a a ragtime/rock song with a driving verse to create a sense of doom. The chorus is mellow and drops into half time to give a nice sweet feel, and we are all on the beat at that point. The reason the drummer wants me to be behind the beat with him during the verse pattern is it makes it sound less like punk and less like we're rushing while keeping that intense drive. I know it works too, because I can hit the sweet spot, I just can't seem to stay there. The rhythm of my line during the verse pattern is bassically 1-3-1-3-1-a-3-1-2-3-4. I'm playing staccato quarter notes. I'm going to check out the music suggested and work slowly with the metronome for now, but any more suggestions would be great. You folks rock.
  10. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Playing "behind the beat" is easy. Just smoke or ingest massive amounts of Marijuana, and then try as hard as you can to stay right on the beat.

    If that doesn't suit your lifestyle, then you can try this as an alternative. Visualize, in great detail, your favorite sexual activity, while you are playing, distract yourself.

    Good luck........
  11. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    Emphasize the back beat then you'll be more in the laid-back feel of the groove and the pulse!
  12. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    This is a concept I've been struggling with myself for years. I originally started as a jazz nerd on electric bass. Over the years I've become a doubler on upright, and I'm very happy with my jazz/swing 'feel' (soloing on the other hand...). I also do a fair amount of work with rock, R&B, and funk bands, and for the most part the bandleaders are 'content' with my feel. The most consistent comment I get is that I need to play more "behind the beat" in those styles, and sonofagun if it isn't hard for me to cop that feel :)

    Fergie, your illustration is about the best I've seen for communicating the concept. I'm definitely going to get my friend Roland* out and start working on that kind of vocalizing, eventually adding the bass, to see how THAT feels. If you have the time/inclination, I'd love to see a video of you and a metronome that demonstrates where you're putting the "click" in relation to the syllables. I'm 95% sure I'm with you, but there's always that nagging 5% :)

    Also, +1 to whoever for suggesting D'Angelo. Pino gets SOOOO behind the beat on Voodoo, it's just insane. "That's not a groove, it's a ditch!"

    *Roland, my fine battery-powered friend, has impeccable time. His feel is kinda rigid, and he doesn't ever fill. :D
  13. Rocker949


    Apr 20, 2005
    Great topic
  14. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    As sleepless mentioned, this is an example of when vocalizing during practice can really help...

    A. Vocalize a note (maybe 1/4 behind the beat) without playing it on bass, and continue for several measures (or the entire song);
    B. Next, vocalize it while playing bass.

    If you're falling behind, or stumbling-you've got to start at a slower tempo! When kids learn to ride a bike, it's easier to begin-closer to the speed of a human walking than at break-neck speed...
  15. waynobass


    Feb 27, 2008
    I don't understand this concept. If the drums and bass are behind the beat, then who is on the beat? The guitarist? Why wouldn't he slow down too to "catch up" with you?
  16. THORRR

    THORRR Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    Parker, Colorado
    Develop a case of the hiccups.:D

    seriously . . . .

    . . . . . no . . . . .SERiously :rollno:
  17. SuperBassSam


    Feb 9, 2009
    Dorset, UK
    I just listened to that d'Angelo song someone linked and a flamming effect is definitely how I would think about/describe it.

    In that song, I would play a ghost note on the beat and then play the fretted note where you want the note to fall behind the beat, although I can imagine it being harder when you are less behind. Does anyone else know of any good songs demonstrating a player behind the beat?
  18. Actually seems to me the bass is pretty straight on the beat, but the snare is early a 32nd. And there's some exaggerated 16 shufflin' going on in the drumbeat.
    [edit] Listening for the 2nd time, the snare is also normal but its the kick just before the snare that's essential for this feel. You can hear it well at the very end of the song.[/edit]

    Playing behind the beat is more about phrasing I'd say, not all notes are late. Just certain ones to give it a more 'speech' like quality like horn players and singers tend to do. So don't practise 'playing behind', but try to find the most musical way to phrase a certain melody/bassline. Often it means playing notes that get accented 'wider'.
  19. T-MOST

    T-MOST Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    NJ via NYC
    Playing behind the beat isn't easy. Some people can hear it naturally but most people have to develop the timing. Work on it with a metronome a run some scales. The idea is to be able to fall on and behind the beat at will.
  20. Dead Ed

    Dead Ed

    Nov 24, 2010
    Portland, OR
    This is more difficult to describe than I thought. :) So the drummer is on the beat keeping the right tempo except on the downbeats, thus the guitar player is staying on tempo, but the song doesn't feel rushed. Since my line is mostly downbeat accents I need to be tight with the drummer to maintain that feel. I know what I need to do, but I've never really tried to do this before so falling behind the beat I've strived so hard to hit during my bass career is totally counter intuitive to my sense of feel. I'm working at it as hard as I can though, and I really appreciate all the great info you're all giving me. Keep it comming!

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.