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In Front, Behind, Or Right On?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by ImAGoodDuck, Feb 7, 2005.

  1. It is just before a festival that I work at with a vocal jazz group and some of the judges will come in and listen to us just because we want the help. So one of the judges who I respect a lot and I am not downing her at all, said to me "You need to right play on the beat and let the drummer play back". I listen to some great players and have talked to great players and they always say you need to play back on the beat. She also said that I should take that over to the band and play right on it. What do you guys think? I will go with whatever you think is right and I respect her a lot but she is a singer lol.
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    How'd I get involved in this?

    Anyhow -- I agree that feel is where it's at. It's grooving or it isn't, and dat's dat.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You heard the one about the singer comes into a jam session wants to do LUSH LIFE? Piano player askes her what key, she says "G". Piano player says, in a shocked voice, "G!" Singer says, "Why, is that too slow?"
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm in such emotional distress after about the 3rd singer that I think I go into shock as I really don't remember much. It seems that I start playing the gig and then -- all of a sudden -- I taste blood from my bottom lip and and faint crowd noises echo from a distance as I try to re-bag my bass with one hand as I stare indisbelief in the handfull of hair in the other. I can't seem to reach all the way to the top of the neck to get the bag on as my shoulders are all hunched up and I can't get my back straighter than about 45 degress at the waist. Crazed middle-aged women with teased hair, smelling faintly of white wine, are asking me for my number....
  5. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    LOL Ed.... yeah, G is waaaay too slow for most tunes.

    I too used to weep about playing with singers, but look on the bright side: They bring out our lesser-known survival instincts, ie, being a hella good sight-transposer. If it weren't for vocalists, we may never know the full extent of our ability to play in god-awful keys. :rolleyes:

    In some styles it may be appropriate to play behind the beat, but I prefer to play on or slightly on top of the beat. Sometime using more or less legato-ness (um, it's a technical term) can make your playing feel more up or down or bouncey or whatever. Definitely experiment. Also, glue your ear to the ride cymbal for a while and if it's still feeling odd, tell your drummer to go practice! Seriously though, I agree - you should talk to her/him and play together with a metronome and without and make sure you both have the same understanding about where each other is playing.

  6. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Ray, I'm SO gonna come and check out the "open mic" in the fall LOL

    In Cyprus, the only tune that's ever called is SLUMBERTIME....

    I especially like the part when the singer decides to change keys every 7 bars.....but that only happens when it's been played rubato (cause you have to - she got no time LOL)
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    How many chick-singers does it take to sing 'My Funny Valentine'?
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    All of them, apparently.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I keep telling this one - bassist i know was in the house trio at a session, singer comes by wants to do OVER THE RAINBOW, they settle on a key and she starts "Some..where over the rainbow..." only instead of hitting the octave on WHERE she hits the major 7th. And does that EVERY time. So the band "modulates" with her.
    He said that by the time she got to the last A of the last chorus she was completely out of her range...
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    THAT is poetic justice!
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    ...and yes, F#- is a great key for 'Invitation' -- and I really loved it as a ballad...
  12. I used to have a tendancy to play behind the beat on almost everything, but my big band leader has me play ahead of the beat on almost everything but ballads, on which I am allowed to play behind the beat. He comes from playing trumpet in a funk band in his early years so what can you do. I agree with him that on the fast, jiving tunes that ahead of the beat is the way to go.
  13. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    I think what part of the beat you lay in to depends completely on the other musicians. Most folks I know strive for that on-top-but-not-rushing thing, but sometimes I like it more relaxed.

    Singer joke:

    So this jazz musician dies and goes to heaven. He sees an old buddy and says "how'd we get here? I figured we'd be in hell with how we lived". His buddy says "No man, turns out that God really digs jazz, everyone is here. Every night there's a huge jam session with Bird, Trane, all the greats are there. There's only one bad part".

    "What's that?" He says.

    "We'll, God's got a girlfriend...and she's a singer".
  14. If someone is telling you to play ahead, on top of, or in front of the beat, it is likely because you tend to drag. Which could be a result of misconceiving where the beat in in the first place. Or it could be because the drummer or the rest of the band is dragging, and you're going along with it. Therefore they are counting on you to keep the tempo up.

    I NEVER try to play ahead of THE BEAT. Sometimes I wind up playing ahead of THE BAND, but these are two different things. When the tune is counted off, I try to accurately internalize that tempo before I start playing. When the tune starts, either everyone is conceiving the tempo in a compatible enough manner for a groove to develop, or not. If not, adjustments must be made. Who is supposed to adjust - you or someone else? That depends. In any event it is crucial that an accurate and convincing countoff is conveyed, because the less ambiguity the better.

    I NEVER try to play behind the beat. If someone is telling you to lay back and play behind "the beat" it is likely because you are rushing. Playing back on a ballad is a very dangerous situation. There is nothing worse than a dragging ballad.

    I've said it before. The beat is the beat is the beat. You either are on it or not. There was a thread a while back, with a similar topic, where someone made a post that resonated with me. It went something like this: Unless you can similtaneously convey or tap to yourself the actual beat IN ADDITION TO whatever you're trying to do AROUND it, you got no business trying to play AROUND it. Why would you want to do that anyway?

    Understand that all of these comments have to do with playing time, and do not necessarily apply to soloing.
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm much in agreement with what you say, but I'd like to interject again my contention that the direct path to 'keeping together' all the above is to make every thing that you play feel good. No matter if it's a bouncy feel, a durge or a mambo. If it ain't dancing in your ears, hands and heart you have no hope of the tempo staying steady.

    I'll submit, as a well-worn example, the metronome or drum machine that keeps incredible time, but has no feel. Why seek to replicate what a machine can do, when what makes it special is the human 'feel' element?

    When the leader counts it off, you should be grooving before you play the first note. Stay in that groove until it's all over. This means AFTER the last note.
  16. Absolutely with everything you say. The trick is, figuring out how to learn or teach how to make it feel good. You can't put it into words. IME you have to give yourself completely to the music - total immersion with listening to recordings that "have it", and playing with others who "have it". Slowly it begins to sink in, until it becomes an integral part of your being, at which point you can start to let it come back out of you. The deeper you immerse yourself, the more powerful your feel.
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Careful - this is a family website here, pal. :eyebrow:

    But agreed on most of your points. It's not so much a matter of "finding the groove", or "playing the groove"...it's more like becoming the groove. While teaching today, I had a student with good time but who is still only in the beginning stages of learning to play with a strong feel. We recorded each of us playing a walking line on minor blues with the 'nome, then listened. I asked for her impressions, and she said that while both lines were dead on with the click, mine seemed to push forward while hers seemed to pull back. That's the mystery, isn't it? Fortunately, she's working on a Sam Jones line lift that she has to play with the record over and over. I bet she doesn't pull back after a month of that! :D
  18. be the groove...
    the groove.

    nnennenenenenenennee... :cool: