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Improving timing and grooving of the rhythm section of your band

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by dezspet, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. dezspet


    Mar 21, 2007
    I'm playing in a funky band for a year now. In the beginning I thought I had to pratice a lot to be as good as the other musicians in the band, but now I came to the conclusion that they are not as demanding as I thought. Besides basic things like band dynamism, not playing too much on your own instrument for the sake of the band sound, etc. the main problem is timing and grooving. The drummer has a strong tendancy to play faster and speed up the songs, mainly during gigs. In rehearsals it's 95% OK. Besides that the guitar payer sometimes play behind us. I really want to improve the timing of the band, and I have to admit that I need to improve as well, so my question is simple: give me some good tips, lessons, practice methods which we can do together in order to have a better timing and feel of groove.
    We play some challenging things like Cosmic girl, My baby loves U, Love can keep us together (JTQ), etc., where it is not a big deal to play everyones part, but to have good timing and groove together - i find it difficult. Also, a problem, that the others do not feel, that our groove is not that good.
  2. Mo'Phat

    Mo'Phat Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2003
    San Diego, CA, USA
    Have drummer and bassist-only practices. If the drums and bass are tight, many sins can be forgiven. If you two are loose, then the band sucks.

    Put a click track or a drum machine with just a click tempo through the PA and you and the drummer play to the click. Go from quarter note, then half note, to whole note clicks so you don't rely on the click so much.

    It's really all about the two of you...the rest of the band will groove if you do.
  3. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Playing together with a metronome can be quite maddening, because it will clearly reveal your weaknesses. I have played with drummers who put a click in their headphones to help maintain a solid tempo. Weaker drummers will freak out at teh idea, tho.

    Individual solo practice with a met will also help, especially if the ultimate goal is to abandon a click.

    another thing that improves one's sense of rhythm is really learning rhythmic notation and learning to understand the subdivisions of the beat. It improves the rhythmic accuracy awareness tremendously, and I think is the primary reason any bassist should learn notation. Deep awareness of difference between an 2 eighth notes and a dotted eighth + a sixteenth can make the groove...
  4. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    Long Island, NY.
    One thing I`ll note is that some people are just naturally gifted at keeping a rhythm and keeping a tempo. A band I was in at one point were trying drummers out and part of our process would be for me to try and throw the drummer off. I remember one guy we had come in that wouldn`t budge no matter how much I`d try to lag or push the tempo, and at the end of the song he atucally told me I couldn`t keep a beat lol. Then we had some people come in who couldn`t keep a tempo even if the rest of the band was perfectly spot on.

    All I can say is do some serious bass/drummer only practices with a click track and make sure both of you practice with a metronome religiously. It`ll definantly help make you two tighter.
  5. In addition to bass-and-drums-only rehearsals, I believe its very important for the bass and drums to have good communication and check each other during the song. For a while I put my vocal mic facing the drums just so I could have my eyes on the drummer all the time, even though it meant facing away from the audience. Don't be afraid to walk right up in front of the drummer and emphasize the beat.
  6. dezspet


    Mar 21, 2007
    Thanks guys for the tips. Once again, the main problem is, that the drummer speeds up a lot of songs during gigs. We practice with metronome (click) and the two of us sometimes and it's working very well. But during the gigs I can hardly controll him. It must be a kind of emotional thing, so I really don't know how to avoid it.
    Do you pratice songs on rehearsals in very different tempo sometimes, especially much slower than the original? Does it make sense?
  7. jellymax


    Nov 29, 2006
    SF CA
    try recording gigs, then play back with the drummer. he first must realize it is
    a problem before he can fix it. even then it will not get better overnight...
  8. Fred19137


    Jan 23, 2009
    active musician
    he needs to go through calming exercises before gigs. I have a CD that I listen to (it is meant for performers) and you close your eyes and focus on just one body part for 20 seconds at a time and afterward I was so relaxed I couldn't feel anything and I felt like was spinning in mid air. and I wasn't high. bad ass! he should do something like that. BUt developing a connection with your drummer is critical. I play just him and me for at least 3hours a month if not a lot more! It makes him need you and rely on you for the beat which with out practice is easily forgotten. People like to try to establish their meaning as being in a band and as a tendency drummers try to take all of the beat for themselves. let him know why you are there as well. establish yourself. if you don't feel you are good enough then what are you wiating for be practicing as much as possible!
  9. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Cali Intergalactic Mind Space - always on the edge
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    How about giving the drummer a click track through headphones at the gig?
  10. jruberto


    Dec 23, 2008
    Denver, CO
    Staff Producer / Audio Engineer: Blue Tower Studio, Denver, CO & Mighty Fine Productions, Denver, CO

    Also, it's practicing slowly with the metronome that gets you there. I promise you it's harder to play most stuff slow, since it reveals the subdivisions and makes you play them spot on. If you can't play that 16th note shuffle at 60bpm, no wonder it's all over the place when you try to play it at 90bpm.

    And speeding up on gigs, that's a tougher one to manage. Jitters / anxiety / excitement / adrenaline is a part of the experience, especially when you are new at it. Let him know (all of you) that it's a problem and that he needs to work on it. It will get better as he gets more experienced. If he's already "experienced", well, then I don't know what to say. But if that's your only problem with your drummer, consider yourself lucky. :D LOL, j/k
  11. Knifedge


    Jan 24, 2009
    I had this problem with a drummer in my last band, but he wasn't 100% of the cause.. the cause was a guitar player who pushed the tempo more and more as he got drunker. Drummer would get caught up in the tempo increase, I tried to bring it down, it never worked. Everyone was blaming the drummer for the problem, I had a listen to some of the recorded tracks, and actually sat down with the drummer to have him concentrate only on me when we played. Result was that the tempo was perfect after that, and the guitar player had a "bad night". Of course, we left that drunken band, formed our own, no tempo problem since.

    The best thing to do is to try to record a few songs live.. then sit him down, with metronome, and physically show him what is happening. My guess is that he is either not very aware, is drinking quite a bit, or is so thoroughly excited about playing that he forgets his part in setting tempo. I am sure if you show him, he will be more aware of it, and tries harder to subdue his runaway tempo problem in the next show.
  12. dezspet


    Mar 21, 2007
    I think it's the combination of the 3 issues you just mentioned. I will make a recording of our next gig and analyze it with him. Thanks guys for all the tips!
  13. Knifedge


    Jan 24, 2009
    Keep us posted... it's great to hear happy endings :)
  14. I've had this happen a couple of times, and the truth is bass is the backbone of most music. If you want to keep them from rushing, forcibly slow down the tempo even if that means playing noticably behind the beat. Unless your band doesn't have ears, they should slow down to compensate.

    I'd suggest adding practice with a metronome to your practice routine to develop an unmovable sense of time.

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