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!  

Keeping steady rhythm in ballads

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Dmitriy_Kudrin, Apr 16, 2004.

  1. Hello, I play jazz mainstream, usually in duet with guitar\sax players, so keeping time is extremely important (as it always was :))
    I'd like to ask you guys how do you approach time keeping especially in slower tempos? I mean how do you prefer to count (half-feel or subdivided notes)? And also what's better - to tap your feet(if so - how exactly) or just relax and try to develop your inner feel of rhythm without unnecessary emotions?..
    ok, i hope i've explained idea..

    thanks in advance,
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Time is time is time, it's ALWAYS there. You just got to tap into it.

    In my experience the best way to develop a good, deep sense of time is to work with the metronome. When you are doing scalework, when you are doing chord work, when you are practicing improvisation. I would stay away from foot tapping, you're just dividing your attention. You want to drive the car, drive the car. Don't drive the car and try to spell the words on the sign backwards at the same time.

    You want to develop the ability to hear the time, hear the harmony, hear the melody and hear your line (solo or accompaniment) ALL at the same time. There are a few ways I work on that, it's kind of a lot to go into on a board PLUS it's not really like a "Do this and you will suddenly be able to play perfect time". There are no shortcuts, you just got to put the work in.

    Where you at? Europe, more eastern? Oh, just checked yer profile. You do know that's kind of a bad joke, right?

    Guy asks a tenor player "Hey you ever play with a Russian bassist", guy says "No, most of them drag the uptempos"

    Russian/rushing - hope it translates.
  3. You have to develop your inner clock to the point where you feel the pulse instinctively, you always know where the beat is whether you're playing on it or not. This, IMO, is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING for a bass player in any musical style. You must be able to maintain good time and rhythmic feel. THEN you can work on playing on back/ top/ front of the beat, syncopations and other rhythmic embellishments.

    ALWAYS practice with a metronome. Use it different ways- set it to click on every beat, on 1 and 3, on 2 and 4, once per bar, faster, slower, etc. Any foot tapping or other physical manifestation of the beat is merely a byproduct of feeling the pulse.

    Don Thompson's one of my heroes, he doesn't tap his foot at all.

    Oops, Ed was posting while I was typing. Ed knows. Listen to him.
  4. IMO the thing to develop is an ability to hear a beat in space - ie can you play just off beats, or three beats over two and as complicated as you want. Another valuable poser is this, can you start off with three beats to the metronome in your head then walk in four. There are endless combinations but the idea is to have a strength of pulse that will not be distracted. You have to feel the beat - if you have to count it you're lost and so is the time. Just an idea - don't know what others think of this.
  5. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Just like any part with studying music, you have to internalize it. When you are playing you aren't thinking, "Well I'm going to play a chromatic line based off an augmented arpeggio off the 2nd of that E7#11 chord." You aren't thinking, "Beat one goes here. Beat two goes here..."

    You think about all of that stuff when you study it. I personally see value in foot tapping. I felt that there was a bit of a gap between going on with my internal pulse and what happened on the outside, so foot tapping for my bridged that gap for me. It helped me feel the metronome rather than count it. But I feel that most people's difficulties (I'm going off of a guess here) come from trying to make what is going on the inside come out. It is in transferring the signal. Our bodies are the ultimate rhythmic machines with our various steady patterns like our respiratory systems, heartbeats, etc., but transferring our internal pulse to something a bit more tangible is what gives us the troubles.
  6. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Yep, the metronome is the most important tool available to me in learning to tow the line with all tempos.

    You play with the metronome long enough, your going to hear it while you play even if it's not there at the time - like hearing everyone else's parts and using the music to count your rests rather than consciously counting the measures and ignoring what's going on around you.

    Alone with the 'nome, if I'm playing a 40 bpm tempo, it's not as much fun setting the metronome at 40 bpm as it is 80 bpm and living with the in-between click. It helps me to anticipate and be there spot-on for the next beat more consistently, and I don't feel like I'm cheating. I feel like I'm doing what is possible to get things the way I want them.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Hey if it worked for you I guess it worked for you. Club date piano player I work with pats his foot. The funny thing is, though, his foot's time is no better than his time is.

    The point I'm trying to make is - why not make your instrument the interface between internal and external. Maybe it's just because I am slow, stupid and uncoordinated, but if I have to make the choice between doing ONE thing and doing TWO things, it's gonna be easier to do ONE thing.
  8. Ed's post has reminded me of a player I admire who seems to unconciously set up the rythm in his arms - they move and flow over the bass with grace - kinda like Tai Chi. If your right hand is permanently held to the side of the fingerboard then this can't apply of course.
  9. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Depends. Actually, IMHO, metronomic time is not the most important thing when playing ballads, although it's important that you don't rush or drag the tempo too much.

    A sort of "modern" way to play ballads popularized by Miles second quintet and like Bill Evans trios is to give the slower numbers (i.e ballads) a rubato feel. In practice this can mean that you don't have to play a constant time all the time, and not even imply it at all at times.

    Depends on what you want though... if you wanna play it straight practice slower tempos with a 'nome and pay close attention to where you're placing the notes in relation to the beat and time. Record yourself to notice smaller and bigger tendencies towards dragging and rushing.

  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There's a difference between breaking up the time and abandoning the time. No, you don't have to play constant quarter notes or constant half notes or whatever, but that's a LONG way from saying "rubato feel".

    GLOVE, do you think that Dmitri, who is looking for a way to work on his time feel on ballads playing in a situation with a guitarist or saxophonist, is being well served receiving advice that he doesn't "have to play a constant time all the time, and not even imply it at all at times." ? Is that going to get him to a point where he will feel confident about his time, that his time will get stronger?

    I mean on the talk bassin TB/DB thing on that ballad I'm playing (SOME OTHER TIME), nobody is nailing down the quarter note. But it's NOT rubato, you start a nome, it stays in the MM (pretty well) for the whole tune (except for the beat we drop in the pianist's solo, but me and Chris knew we were dropping a beat).

    Sorry, I disagree.
  11. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Disagree with what? That playing a ballad with a rubato feel isn't a good idea? And absolutely no offense to you Ed, but my reference for a playing a ballad does not exactly come from the TBDB sampler (as great as it is).

    As I stated in my earlier post, if our russian friend wants to work on his time, he can do some heavy practcing with the metronome. I was just offering advice that you don't have to play steady time (and not a steady metronome value) in a ballad. This is quite common in "European" jazz (read ECM if you want to) ..which I don't know how familiar you're with...

  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    So your advice to someone who asks "how do you approach time keeping especially in slower tempos?" is to say - you don't HAVE to keep time? OK, sure that's an option.

    And if somebody is having trouble with the bridge to HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES telling them that they don't have to try to come up with a line through the harmony is an option.

    It's just not going to help them WITH the harmony. Just like not playing time in a ballad is NOT going to help him play time in a ballad.

    ECM, sure. What specific records you have in mind?

    eg your earlier Bill Evans Trio reference, why don't you do the metronome trick with, oh let's say, DETOUR AHEAD or MY FOOLISH HEART off of WALTZ FOR DEBBIE, see how rubato they're treating that.

    Or even Bill's version of SOME OTHER TIME off EVERYBODY DIGS BILL EVANS.

    Rubato is an approach, one of many. And one that you can pull off more convincingly if you can nail the time when and where you want to.
  13. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Yeah it is, and I was pointing that out.

    This has nothing to do with what I said about playing a ballad rubato. I never said you shouldn't be able to keep time, or even state it obviously if you want to.

    There's lots of this kind of playing. Something with Bobo Stenson trio for instance. They have a few records on ECM, with Anders Jormin on bass.

    Hmmmm.... well, playing Rubato isn't about playing time man ... do you mean that being able to play a certain steady time will make rubato playing more convincing? If so, perhaps you're right.

  14. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Just different strokes for different folks. I had troubles having a very solid pulse of rhythm going through me, which I couldn't really get grounded through my instrument, but foot tapping was the path of that. It really isn't any harder to play while tapping my foot because it became second nature. Now, I feel that I don't really have to tap my foot (no ones time is ever perfect, though), but it was a useful tool in developing my sense of rhythm.
  15. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Ed, I wouldn't poo-poo foot tapping because my belief is that it puts you, the whole you, more in touch with the pulse of the music. Having said that I see it more as a reinforcement than a distraction. The more of you that gets with the music, the more of you that's with the music.

    To the original poster:

    The thing that's to allow you to keep a steady rhythm in a ballad is the same thing that's going to allow you to solo effectively on a ballad, and that's knowing the tune and knowing how it should feel. This comes from playing, listening, singing and if you can dancing, yes, dancing to ballads(with a hot babe of course). The more you have the tune internalized, the more you will be with the tune. In a duet situation you and the other person are in a bit of a dance because you both bring in your own concept of the tune and whether or not you gel or not is a matter of how both of you negotiate. If one party decides one thing and the other doesn't go along, you can hear that. Your better off slowing or speeding up together than you are if either one does it or not the other. To me this is more of the psychology of playing and has nothing to do with any metronome work you may do.

    My two cents...
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Wow! A lot of emotion in this thread.

    The ultimate answer, of course, and has been hinted at, is to make it feel good.

    To practice it, use the metronome, don't use the metronome, whatever. They're both good ways to practice. Feel, feel, feel. It should be the musical parallel to Real Estate's "Location, Location, Location".

    Further, depend on you own feel. Listen to what others are doing, but remember that they aren't infallible either. Make your part feel good enough that other want to / have to get into your groove.
  17. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Lots of folks find a slow tempo easier to deal with if they hear (internally, with a 'nome, whatever) pulses within the beats. Feel 'em as quarter note triplets, for example.
  18. What percentage of your playing time is spent playing regular time, and how much is spent playing rubato? 90/ 10?
    Which is more difficult, and thus requires more practice?
    What was the original question at the top of this thread?

    Lovebone, you got a brother named Bruce?
  19. Good point on the 90/10 thing. However, I believe they are equally difficult. Playing rubato requires that you manipulate the time, not abandon it. The more people in the ensemble, the harder this is. Prolly why conducters were invented.

    Oiginal Poster: On keeping time in ballads, do what my former college orchestra conducter used to tell us: SUBDIVIDE, SUBDIVIDE, SUBDIVIDE! So you are simultaneously feeling the beat, and whatever smaller note value is happening at the time, i.e. eighth note triplets, sixteenths, implied double time two-feel. Listen to recordings of great drummers and their brushwork on the snare. While the overall sound is like white noise (shhhhh) you can also hear regular pulsations within that sound on the beat and in between the beats. Kenny Washington's work on Bill Charlap's CDs is a good example and the snare drum is really audible.

    In addition to practicing with the metronome, a good way to improve your time is by playing with people whose time is as good or better than yours. Playing on a regular basis with people who have worse time than you will cause your own time to deteriorate.
  20. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Nice advice from T-Bal, and as far as...

    :rolleyes: First off, we were talking about BALLADS here. Not uptempo swingers, and IT IS common to play ballads rubato. I guess it depends on what your influences and references are, but saying that playing a ballad with a steady pulse is "harder" than playing a ballad with a good rubato feel, is not true IMO.


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.