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How to "lead" from the bass...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by WashburnAB95, Apr 3, 2014.

  1. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    It is funny how you never know what you have till you loose it. My previous main group was soo talented. I never realized untill after I have played with a couple other groups. Previously in my playing experince I was the less experinced player in the group so it was very important for me to learn to follow. I have gotten very good with this role.

    Fast foward to now... In my Church group I am the most experinced with the music we are doing. My natural tendency is if everybody else screws up I just follow them off the cliff. However I think it is time to step to a new role.

    I need to figure out how to get the band to follow me on bass. I am often hearing them stray from where they should be and I don't know how to pull them back in line. I have tried playing louder, this just results in nobody being able to hear and it gets worse. I have tried to play with a more distinct attack and a more "groovy" rythem,this isn't appropriate for all songs though and besides I like to play with a light. Sometimes I will just cut way way back and let everybody else in the band hear each the really well and that helps some...

    In our group the leader and rythem guitarist and occassional keyboardist is really solid. The lead guitar player is good but is new to the music. The drummer is the weak link. Nothing personal but he is just simply new to the instrument.

    How would you approach this situation?
  2. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Do two rehearsals a week - one without the drummer, one with. Get everybody else solid, teach them to listen to each other, and then the drummer can follow the rest of you. Don't be exclusionary: you want to support the beginner, but you need to have the infrastructure in order to do so.
  3. Hey there,

    This has been a lifelong quest of mine also, not that every group has been in a constant struggle to execute tunes properly.

    Leading from the bass is not unlike leading in a work environment where you're not the boss (assuming you're not the bandleader). Your closest co-worker in the band is the drummer, and the product the two of you create comes from a shared responsibility.

    Sometimes a struggling drummer will respond to some friendly coaching from other rhythm section members, but the key is to really take an interest in them, show them you care about your shared work, really look them in the eyes on any tricky parts, and then debrief both the good stuff and the bad.

    Be specific with areas that need improvement, talk through them in the simplest way possible, and remember that the worst time to try and educate them is when they are in the middle of jamming. When the train wrecks do happen, do not be afraid to debrief the situation and ask everyone why they think it went off the rails. Just the simple act of daring to debrief a bad situation generates necessary feedback and can be a strong learning/leadership moment.

    Asking the question is much more powerful than just telling them what you think. It is almost guaranteed that they will be able to identify some of what's going wrong, and every solution that they come up with for how to improve will be defended--because they came up with the data. People tend to defend their own data...

    At first it might be uncomfortable, and it's easy to comment too often, making the situation less pleasant. After a few good saves though, the two of you might really become a force that transforms the band.

    It might be as simple as a listening/monitor issue, but it's probably more fundamental than that, musically. If you can become a life raft for the drummer at first, he/she should fall into the old habits less often...because you are the leader they look to now to keep them on task.

    Then again, it might be a hopeless case, unable to resuscitate. In the very rare case these days where I've got to play with a drummer who really is in their own world, a click track and IEM's are my best friend. The drums get turned nearly off in my mix, I dial in to the click, and leave the rest--since the click (and any backing tracks) is/are non-negotiable, there can rarely (if ever) be a train wreck if I do this, even though the groove may suffer to some degree.

    All the best,

  4. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    Our drummer has been out of town for two weeks. During this time the addition of a click track has helped us. We do have a great drummer, however like in most bands the vocalist and lead guitar do tend to speed up. A click track keeps us from starting the speed up.

    We play from fake chord which as you know does not list a bpm. And in the past we would spend a lot of time discussing how fast a specific song should be played. I was amazed how easy it is to find the acceptable bpm for the songs we will be playing. Just ask google.

    This weeks selections:
    Did you feel the mountains tremble --- 103 bpm.
    God of Wonders --- 80 bpm.
    How great is Our God --- 76.
    I Exalt Thee ---82 bpm.
    Oh, Happy Day --- 100 bpm.
    Alleluia, He is Coming --- 120.

    We each have a personal Aviom sound mixer, which by the way is great, so we all can adjust the drum beat and volume of each instrument in the band through our ear buds. But as each can adjust their own Aviom, I suspect some are not turning up the volume of the drum beat, Once we get the click track into the Aviom system I trust this will help even more. I welcome the click track for it's steady beat.
  5. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    I think I figured out a significant issue. We are rehearsing in a garage. We have a pa to use but we really don't want to be too loud. Every time the drummer would play loud and full... he would loose the beat and spead up.

    I don't know if he is just physically unable to hear when playing loud... or if he is concentrating on his playing so much he is unable to listen.

    One suggestion I am going to offer is "Make sure your snare hits and your bass hits are loud, distinct and well placed. Play just about everything else as quietly as you can." Maybe this will bring some dynamics into his playing and help him listen also.
  6. Good observation about your practice environment!

    It's a good bet that your drummer can't hear anyone else properly at full volume, since that's when he tends to speed up.

    In a live setting, the rule of thumb I was taught is that if you can't hear everyone else in the band, you're too loud. Stage volume is the enemy of the band's ability to hear itself.

    All the best,

  7. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Bi-weekly disciplined rehearsals, set lists for rehearsals with titles, keys, tempos. Charts, be they lead sheets, NNS charts, lyric/chord charts, tab whatever, for all songs for everyone, in pdfs that every player/singer is responsible for having ready at rehearsals in order in a book or ipad. Then, take charge with keeping the focus.
  8. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    I am all for a low stage volume... however when you have drums you have to balance everything to them. It takes a great drummer to play consistently good AND quiet.
  9. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    Particularly for the type of muisc we do and considering we often have a handfull of vocalist... I am all for a vocal pratice and a band pratice or soemthing like that. As it is sometimes it is hard to get everybody to commit sometimes. I will suggest dual pratices. Something in our favor is we are building ourrepertoire slowly so maybe this will all come along with the fullness of time. My last group we would often do 3 brand new songs every week. It was probably tough for the congregation to hear so much new music but... it sure has made me a better player and I have learned how to catch on to new stuff quickly.
  10. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    With a inexperienced drummer, tempos will drift and esp faster when louder. Even experienced players have to work at being quiet when playing fast.
    I would think you need to play at the volumes (and tempos) in your performance. A click track as annoying as that can be might reveal an awful lot.
    I grew up playing drums, but when I picked up keyboards and went to record I found my sense of time had gone very elastic. I'm getting that under control on bass.

    Is tempo the only problem going off the cliff or are members getting lost in the songs. Worship can be tricky with the fluid changes the worship leader calls out.
  11. AndrewFord


    Aug 11, 2012
    Los Angeles area
    Endorsing Artist: Line 6, TC Electronics, Yamaha, Elixir Strings
    First of all, you did not say if you were officially leading, the group does not need to follow you if you are not music director or leading in some other capacity. Once you have established that then you can control dynamics, change arrangements, discuss wrong chords, control volume and point out time issues. That is a leaders role and it is the perfect time for you to learn some of those skills. An inexperienced drummer is an issue that is not easily dealt with, he needs instruction, patience, experience, time and self dedication, no easy fixes
  12. gearhead1972


    Feb 21, 2012
    Kent NY
    I started doing this with a drummer recently. Get with the drummer and get him to agree, when either of you sense the rest of the band straying out into left field you look at each other and mouth the words "on the one". Once we communicate this with each other he makes distinct cymbal crashes, and I do a more pronounced stab on the root at the one beat. It usually takes the band 2 times around to catch on and get back on track.
  13. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef Formerly "thebrian" Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    "A band is only as good as its drummer". If you do start practicing twice/week, I would suggest making one of the weekly practices just you and the drummer. That will force him to get used to playing to you (as opposed to the band as a whole), and not get distracted as easily if/when the lead guitar, keyboard, etc.. rushes or drags the tempo, or slips out of "the pocket". Ideally, the drummer should follow the bass, and the rest of the band follow the rhythm section as "one".
  14. AndrewFord


    Aug 11, 2012
    Los Angeles area
    Endorsing Artist: Line 6, TC Electronics, Yamaha, Elixir Strings
    Although this happens in some cases and vice versa bass player following the drummer, I believe ideal is to have each solid in his own right and listening intent to the other so that they are indeed playing as one.
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    answered your own question.

    the most reliable way for people to step up and correct their own short comings is for them to discover their shortcomings on their own.
  16. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef Formerly "thebrian" Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    Of course, I just meant that ideally, this drummer (not being very solid in this band) should concentrate on playing to the bass for the near future to get the pocket and so the tempo gets stronger and more consistent, and not get distracted by a lead guitar pushing the tempo, etc.. Once the drummer is solid on his own, then the band should all be able to listen and play to eachother equally without timing issues.
  17. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    We have a leader who plays guitar and keyboards and sings. I don't want to administer the group that is not my role at all. I want to learn to lead with my music.

    I don't want to be the coach I want to be the leader on the field.
  18. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    For the music we do the guitar player often is supposed to lead rtyhmicly and with tempo. Our leader is skilled enough to do this. However with a full band it is often very difficult to hear acoustic gutiar well.

    I wish I could be a setting where the drummer actually lead. However with Church music that is seldom the case.
  19. AndrewFord


    Aug 11, 2012
    Los Angeles area
    Endorsing Artist: Line 6, TC Electronics, Yamaha, Elixir Strings
    Well, hate to tell you this, but the best leaders on the field, Tom Brady, Lebron James, etc. are like a coach. They are equivalent to the music director. But good luck in your endeavors
  20. Ironbar


    Aug 24, 2013
    Portland, Oregon
    I have the same problem sometimes with the fellow I play with. I try to lay down the beat with my bass, but without drums in the mix he has a tendency to go off on tangents.

    This past Sunday we had a drummer in the mix for the services, and MAN was it nice to play with a defined, steady beat!