Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

How to be rhythmically "solid"?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by SirFunk, Sep 8, 2005.


Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. SirFunk

    SirFunk

    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Hi, I was just wondering if anyone had any tips on becoming rhythmically "solid" I often find that when i'm playing gigs i randomly mess up, play notes late in the beat or off the beat alltogether, I can always recover, but it just sounds sloppy.. I'm not really sure why i do it... do you guys tick off 16th notes in your head or something while your playing? I think i might get caught up in the changes/melodic ideas/harmonic ideas too much and lose my rhythm.

    any ideas?
     
  2. Practice with a metronome. Lots. All the time.
    Set it to play four, or 1 and 3, or 2 and 4, or just 1, fast and slow, every combination you can think of. You have to develop your 'inner clock' to the point where you don't have to think about keeping good time, you just do it. You have to have a strong, flowing pulse in your playing, whether you're playing on or around the beat. Listen to guys like Ray Brown and Percy Heath that do it (did it) particularly well.
    I use a Seiko electronic, I turn it on and stick it in my jeans pocket to mute it a bit.
     
  3. SirFunk

    SirFunk

    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Yeah, it's odd though, i don't *think* i have much trouble keeping time when playing classical music, just jazz/funk/rock... I feel pretty good 95% of the time, but i just have brain farts, or something, and i flub a beat or two, but it can ruin a whole song. (ruin in the recording sense, not the live sense)
     
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    +1 Good stuff. What's also a bit more fun is to practice with a drum machine, which are far more programmable than most metronomes. Not too many seem to click on 1 and 3 or 2 and 4.
     
  5. Ben Rose

    Ben Rose

    Jan 12, 2004
    Oakland
    It sounds like you might be talking about something that's not directly a time issue. (Not that I disagree with the advice given). Do you read alot ("alot" or "a lot",..much?), or play unfamiliar tunes on the gig? I sometimes get caught somewhere in an awkward position to make the next change smoothly. Try thinking in advance of the bar you are playing. Practice playing through changes while thinking or reading one bar into the "future". Try and extend this to two bars or more. Not only will this help smooth out the stumbles, it should also help you make a more flowing line.
     
  6. SirFunk

    SirFunk

    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE

    I think this is morelikely the problem. Although i'm sure practicing with a metronome will be useful. I do read a lot, but I don't think i flub up on tunes that i know better (or have memorized)... I also think it might be a concentration thing. I tend to get bored of my bass lines quickly, and then try something new and that's when i mess up. Anyone have any tips for that? Maybe i should meditate?
     
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Two things from me:

    One) The clicker can be a good tool to work out subdivisions so that they are even, and syncopation so that it doesn't do it's thing, but ultimately I think it develops into a crutch. We've gone around about this before at TB so you might try to look up the old thread. The ultimate answer is feel. If you make everything that you do feel good it will then, well, feel good. And sound hip to boot.

    Two) You could have a number of things going on, but your description sounds familiar to me. I used to fight with some of the same issues (and more). I found my problems to be mainly tension-based. They could also be a result of ill-preparation -- having material that escapes you as you don't have the chops to cut it. By chops, I mean the well-roundededness of good, solid practicing of ears, mind and hand.

    The 'getting bored with bass lines' bit will also go away if you study item One, above.
     
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    IME, I think good time equates to being able to have a good feel for it, in the sense that you feel the beat - kinda as if you were dancing. You'd look like a total dork if you had to THINK about where you were going to place your next step. Good dancers don't think about dancing, they just do it.

    In martial arts, we used to go by the idea that "if you have to think of a response to a punch, then you're already too late". Or rather, the follow-up punch is probably landing on your face in the middle of your next thought. So the idea would be to practice to the point where you didn't have to think about it, to where the proper response would unconsciously come out of you.

    I tend not to flub up on things I know because I've practiced them enough so that they're in my system physically - I don't have to think about execution. If I have to think about execution at the time during performance, then that tells me I didn't practice enough.

    So for me to exhibit good time, well I'd have to practice the art of playing with good time. Personally, I like playing with a metronome with the beats clicking on 2 & 4. If I can make those mechanical clicks SWING with my playing, I'm know I'm on the right rack. I'll then try to keep that groove going until I can do it without any conscious effort. Easier said than done.
     
  9. SirFunk

    SirFunk

    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Yes, I've thoguht about this a lot before... but how do you practice feel? There must be more to practicing feel than just playing bass lines over and over, i've probably played a couple million charts in the last 11 years i've been playing... and obviously my feel still sucks.
     
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Just practice it. Play simply and/or repetitively and make it feel good. When you get on gigs, put the groove as the center of your 'universe' and observe it all from afar. If, when you're playing, you feel tempted to do anything than for any other reason than you're hearing or feeling it (to be hip, show off, think that you should be doing something), edit it out before it 'hits the presses'.

    In my AT studies I found that his 'Quickening of the Mind' stuff is an amazing way to really get yourself together on this.
     
  11. SirFunk

    SirFunk

    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    AT ?
     
  12. Huh? All the metronome knows is 1, 1, 1, 1 ...

    Think of it this way: You set the 'nome for 80 bpm and let it run. You then practice relative to that. You can play 4/4 at 80, you can play 4/4 at 160 with the 'nome hitting either 1 and 3 or 2 and 4, you can play 4/4 at 320 with the 'nome only hitting 1 (if you're able), you can play 3/4 at 80, 3/4 at 240 hitting only 1, etc. See what I mean?

    IMHO, playing with good time is the most important fundamental for a bassist. To me this means the inner clock thing, being able to maintain a constant tempo, or metre if you wanna call it that. Feel is something applied to that pulse, whether it's straight 1/8's or swung, ahead/ on/ behind the beat, heavily syncopated, triplets, 5 over 4, whatever. Seems to me if you don't first have that pulse, if you don't always know where you are in relation to 1, 2, 3, 4, your feel is gonna suck and you'll have problems playing with others. Yeah, sometimes you have to adjust your playing in keeping with what's happening around you on the stand, but that should be a conscious thing, not an unconscious rushing or dragging. This being my belief, I have a hard time seeing how practicing with a metronome could "develop into a crutch".

    What am I misunderstanding, Ray?
    I assume AT= Alexander Technique.
     
  13. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    whenever I'm listening to a pop song I like I invariably start banging my hands on the table. That's the way it's been for me since I was pooping in diapers two weeks ago (just kidding it has been months since then)

    you may accelerate your progress on getting "in sync" with rhythms by just doing something percussive between using the bass when you work with the metronome (required study for those who know...the rest are either the extemely lucky few or the majority who won't make pleasing music ever).

    In the world of percussion for the most part all you get is a snap and that's it. You screw the timing on that and it's very easy to hear (if you can hear and can distinguish...if you can't that's a whole nuther ballgame), and when you get it right you can get it just as right on the bass too.

    Just a thought-train suggestion I don't really do this sort of thing in an official practicing manner. I punish myself in practice by focusing on intonation and trying to get my scales right with various tempos and bowings these days...
     
  14. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Nah man if you've got enough cash to burn you can get a fancy nome that pops out different pitches to indicate different rhythms...or download a free version of some software synth that lets you jack around with stuff and play it through your computer speakers.

    Sure the nome only knows what you "tell" it to begin with but these days you can tell it to do lots more tricks

    I had this really great band director as a kid who could snap his fingers so that he could make different pitches come out it was really cool but pointless for this thread LOL
     
  15. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    I'm a big believer in a metronome or drum machine, but Ray's point is valid. I want to use the metronome to establish discipline, but leave enough space to let you develop feel. I like to practice with the metronome on 2 and 4. I usually use a drum machine so that I can listen to snare hits rather than clicks. Much easier to live with for a long session.
     
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    By AT I meant Alexander Technique.

    I suppose that there are different approaches fro different folks. By 'working on my inner clock' I was failing, however. A dear (and ornery) friend of mine (Israeli, and this will make you giggle if you know the groove) told me, "You have so much over most of the bass players in town, but your time-feel sucks".

    This got me to thinking about the whole thing, as so much of my playing is drummerless and with people that don't play those situations with the care that they should. They go on playing with a feel as though Elvin Jones was on my side of the stage. In other words, they will lay the entire responsibilty of time and groove on YOU. Kinda treating you like a metronome, now that I think about it. Although I love playing drummerless duo and trio, I found that 7 or better out of 10 times, things would always tend to slow down. Determined to fix this, I started on the topic of this thread.

    What I had learned from AT was the difference between focus and concentration. When I started getting a handle on that, I experimented with making the groove my focus and observing everything from this perspective. As an example for movie goers as to what it feels like, it's kinda like the one character in the movie Dreamweaver (Stephen King, maybe three of four years ago). The one character could see the way to any location that he wanted by waving his finger in a circle. Graphically this was displayed in the movie as a kind of vortex/funnel where the center, which was the way, was clearly in focus. The wall were swirling and out of focus. This is how it seems when I drop all considerations of time and just focus (not concentrate!) on the groove.

    As I get better at this I am starting to get different sorts of compliments -- and more of them. Now instead of "great solo" I'll get "man, that **** was swinging". I also find that tempos generally stay or speed up a bit, and that I'm getting more calls.
     
  17. One aspect of keeping time that hasn't been mentioned here is developing some sort of "body english" that locks into the basic beat. Like pumping your legs, rocking back and forth, whatever.
    In my experience, it's been much easier to stay with the beat if I have myself moving along with it as opposed to trying to hold it all in my head.
     
  18. Ray,

    I don't know anything about AT except what's been mentioned on this board, but I know exactly what your talking about concerning the focus v. concentration thing.

    The minute I start concentrating on a certain aspect of my playing (especially during a gig) is the minute the whole thing goes down the crapper. I'm not saying that I'm particularly skilled at the focus thing, but I know when its happening, and thats when I do my best playing.

    I used to do a gig where the TV, with closed captioning, was constantly on over the bar. My gaze would inevitably fall on that damn TV, and it would be almost as if I were listening to myself from another place in the room. And I'll be damned if that isn't when things would really lock in.
     
  19. Ben Rose

    Ben Rose

    Jan 12, 2004
    Oakland
    Good post, Ray. I have recently playing more gigs in an effort to correct my over-dependence on drummers for time and feel. I used to fall strictly into the "my time is only as good as the drummer's time" camp. At first, I wouldn't even notice if something was slowing down until we got back to the head. Gradually, I have become more sensitive to the variations in time. However, I can still get away with missing too much sh*t from an accuracy standpoint because as long as the drummer and I don't stumble at the same time, the groove genreally keeps going.

    I've played 4 drummerless gigs in the past few weeks and they are forcing me to play with much more rhythmic clarity and focus, but the big surprise is my total lack of confidence in my own time-keeping ability and in the time-keeping abilities of the other musicians (who are much more experienced that I am). If they displace the melody, I immediately adjust thinking that either they or I have turned the beat around. When playing with a drummer, I ride it out with the feeling that "Either they're turned around, or they're not, but I'm staying where I know it is until they either come back or I'm forced to move." And normally, the drummer and I exchange a glance before we move to compensate. That sense of confidence is completely lost in this new situation. Not sure what to do about it except to play more in this format until I grow some gonads. I have another one coming up tomorrow night.
     
  20. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Personally, I avoid anything like this. Rocking, dancing, or tapping your feet to keep time IMO is a bad habit. Eventually, fast tempo's will be limited by how fast you can tap your foot or move your body, not to mention that it becomes a distraction from what you need to be doing: playing bass with good time. If I'm dancing, it's an expression of me feeling the beat, not because I'm trying to keep my time going. Subtle difference.

    To add to Ray's comment: As much as y'all hate Band-In-A-Box, I like playing with it and and turning all the instruments off except for the piano comp. If I can make that piano swing, then my time probably is pretty good. And since the computer doesn't slow down on me, anything that goes wrong is my fault.
     



Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.