keeping time when drummer throws an awkward fill

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by AndyPanda, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. I'm a recent convert to bass but been playing horns and keys for years in bands. I have been lucky to work with really good drummers in the distant past -- but as I get older and the drummers get younger and insist on double kick rolls any time they can squeeze one in I have found myself relying more and more on locking in with the bassist instead of with the drummer. Awkward fills where I have no idea where the one is going to come back - I just watch the bassist.

    So now that I'm practicing bass along with recordings and drum tracks and metronome etc. - I'm wondering about how I will hold down the roll of a bassist in a band if a drummer does some awkward fill that trips me up. And wondering how you seasoned bassist handle keeping time like that.

    One of the recordings I like to play along with is Cold Sweat by James Brown and during the drum solo when James says "double up on it" (no idea what he expects to happen there), Clyde moves the snare hit from 2 to the and of 2 and it just messes with my head. I know it's coming (it's a recording after all) so a couple bars before that fill I have to block out everything else and focus.

    I don't know if this a fatal flaw and I'll never be able to be a bassist or is there some tricks you guys can suggest to help hold time when the drummer does something odd.

    Just for fun, I looped that section and I found that practicing over just that awkward bit that trips me up is helpful. But if I have this much trouble when I know it's coming ... how am I going to handle a real drummer when the band is counting on me to hold it all together?
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  2. Learn to play the drum patterns yourself by tapping the table or your leg. Practice them at will when listening songs.

    It’s so rare I wouldn’t sweat it. Count the beats out loud to help. Then imaging hearing the beat counted out LOUDLY in your head only.

    Be patient with yourself.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
    Eli_Kyiv likes this.
  3. JTE

    JTE Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Practice with a metronome clicking only on 2 and 4. That makes YOU responsible for 1 and 3 and if your time is off it will be painfully obvious to you. You need to keep time yourself (everyone in the band keeps time, not just the drummer) so when someone does something unexpected or "awkward", you know where 1 is
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  4. I hear the bassist staying steady with the beat in here regardless of what the drummer is throwing out. When something like this tries to throw me off, I generally count strict time in my head in order to avoid running astray of the beat. When it happens unexpectedly onstage and it truly is a timing error, I exaggerate my body movements to help bring everyone back. But JTE is correct to say that everyone needs to be aware of where the beat is all the time, and be keeping their own time.
    Eli_Kyiv, HardNHeavy, MVE and 10 others like this.
  5. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Find the "one" in the next measure, and pound it. My drummer doesn't go off the rails, but the BL sure does, and the drummer and I respond in unison ... it's always "back to the one".
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    A very great drummer once told me-
    He is not responsible for keeping me in my place. I am supposed to know where I all times. Count.
    Find your internal drummer.
  7. Practice exercising your internal clock. A good way to do this is to put on a song you know well and play along with it. A few bars in turn the volume down on the recording while still playing along. After a minute or two, turn the volume back up and see where you are in relation to the recording. If you have good time (and if the band on the record does), you should be in unison. If not, practice until you get it down. Locking in with a drummer is key for a successful rhythm section, but the responsibility lies equally. The drummer's primary function is to keep time. Better to have a no frills, solid timekeeper than a flashy show off who's all over the beat. If you are the anchor, he may have to rely on you to find his way back. Be that anchor regardless. Fire him after the gig.
  8. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    some of the best drummers I know do overly complex fills (during rehearsal, not performance), just to see if we are all paying attention and are able to follow along. it helps all of us not be so lazy and dependent. groove, feel, and time are at least equally as important as theory to a bassist (imo). some people count to keep on time, some people just feel it. Whichever one you are, make it work. It's as important as hitting the right note.
    gebass6 and dkelley like this.
  9. Ross W. Lovell

    Ross W. Lovell

    Oct 31, 2015

    For a short while, I'm not a patient man, we had a drummer that would throw a fill that only Neil Peart coukd carry off. Why, I never found out? His drumming was rock solid most times, but every now and then he must of felt that wasn't enough and started to add the ridiculous fills that did not fit and were not executed correctly to the point he'd say sorry. He still would do this from time to time. When he pulled this at an event, he was let go.

    Wasn't sure if he was showing off and we did not care. No time for that crap.
  10. PrimitiveMan

    PrimitiveMan Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2009
    San Francisco, CA
    It's just a matter of practice, you'll get it with time.

    I try to feel the beat in my body, sway side to side, bop your head, tap your foot, whatever helps you feel the pulse

    I second the practice with metronome on the 2 and 4. Also try to find the lowest BPM you can groove to and play like that. Once it feels comfortable lower it again. It helps your internal clock once your playing with a really slow metronome (like 30bpm and below).

    In response to the loop you included I didn't find it awkward. But I've definitely lost the one before when playing with some high level jazz drummers. But I keep practicing so it doesn't happen again!
    Mpcorb and Garret Graves like this.
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Supporting Member

    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    You always must be self reliant when it comes to rhythm. Never "rely" on anyone else to know where the beat is.

    If a drummer consistently loses or shifts the rhythm, or places it in a dangerously precarious or unknown place for everyone else in the band, during a fill (or whenever), then that drummer, quite simply, is no good, and needs to go. It's job #1 for a drummer to NOT do that. Mistakes are made...but if its a consistent problem, then it's simply a shortcoming in the drummer's musical skill, and it can't be tolerated, for the good of the band.

    That said, sometimes it is better to follow someone else's rhythmic mistake, depending on whether that mistake carries the rest of the band with it. If the drummer, or even the singer sometimes (as has happened to me before), jumps a beat or half a beat, then everyone else jumps it too...especially if that singer is "playing the role" of solo artist with a backing band (i.e. the King or Queen who can do no wrong, and who fully controls his/her band). Even if you're the only one who played the song "right" during the jump/skip, your insistence on doing so actually made the song sound just go along with the mistake instead. It's about making the song sound as good as you can, not about being right.

    When the Stones toured in '69/'70, apparently the sound systems and venues of the day were so ill suited to their stage volumes (rows upon rows of new Ampeg V series amps) that each member could mainly only hear himself. Yet they [usually] kept it together, even in their altered states...because they were skilled and experienced – good, pro musicians, even at a young age. It was not known as their best and tightest sounding tour, but they still pulled it off without consistently jacking up songs completely. Knowing how to stay in rhythm and in tempo without hearing anyone else is a fundamental skill that every professional gigging musician needs. Don't ever "rely" on anyone but yourself.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2019
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  12. aprod


    Mar 11, 2008
    Jab O is still in time even though he changes it up slightly. Just count through it 1-2-3-4.
    lat likes this.
  13. dBChad


    Aug 17, 2018
    Tavares, FL
    You and the drummer are a critical team called the rhythm section. If you two aren't in lock step, the whole band will sound bad regardless of the level of talent of any or all members (I exaggerate, but not much). On the songs where he wants to do an award fill, work out exactly where it's coming, so it doesn't throw you off when he plays it. Eye contact is a great way to get on the same page; he should be handing the back beat off to you for his fill part, and you should be handing it back when he's done. Eye contact can get you both on the same page.
  14. dan1952

    dan1952 Commercial User

    Jun 27, 2012
    Anderson IN
    Artist Endorsement with Supro Huntington Basses / Owner, Dan's Music, Inc..
    My brother saw the Stones on their first US tour with Mick Taylor, and taped the show. On the tape, on Street Fighting Man, you can hear Keith and Charlie get turned around, hitting the backbeat on 1 and 3, while Taylor and Wyman are on 2 and 4. Taylor turns WAY up, and hits the 2 and 4 till the others find it. Pretty fun to hear!
    RiffwRiter likes this.
  15. IamGroot

    IamGroot Inactive

    Jan 18, 2018
    Drummers dont throw you anything.

    You should own the time internally. Otherwise, you are on shakey ground.

    Where you and the drummer meet is , to some extent, a matter of personal taste.

    If the drummer throws caca, duck. Ignore it and hold down the groove while he baits.

  16. The Brian Haslip (Hideaway) protocol.
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  17. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
  18. dan1952

    dan1952 Commercial User

    Jun 27, 2012
    Anderson IN
    Artist Endorsement with Supro Huntington Basses / Owner, Dan's Music, Inc..
    The drummer I usually work with has time like a clock (years of working with tracks or a click). We trust each other and are locked in. He likes to do crazy fills, ritard, and other creative stuff.
    I go with him, and we end up on 1 together!
  19. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    It's up to "you" to learn/lock with the kit. Our drummer occasionally sputters/fills at the most unsuspecting times (and he hears from me after the gig), but IMO it's up to "us" to lay it down solid...
    unfortunately, if the kit is "off" "we" are off regardless...unless...unless "we" are locked up tight with any other rhythm instruments etc.
    If it helps, keep it as simple as possible when those "times" come...lay off the razzle dazzle until it comes back to regular/normal time.
    Knowing how many energy drinks, or other libations, they have had before gig time helps LOL.
    Playing along to/with Danny Carey kills me at times, but has helped me become a better prepared player in those fizzy times.
    Good luck.
  20. IamGroot

    IamGroot Inactive

    Jan 18, 2018