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Live performance and timing...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by misterk73, May 11, 2003.

  1. misterk73


    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Just played a small gig on Friday that went well, but ...

    If we, as a group, have consistent trouble maintaining tempo throughout the course of a song, is having the drummer play to a click track a good solution? (Or is this a crutch we/he shouldn't need?)

    There are a few things I see as contributing to our problem, but it all comes down to everyone pushing and pulling each other in ways that inevitably lead us to speed up by the end of the song. I have a pretty good sense of meter, but I can only play behind the beat -- in an attempt to reel everyone back in -- for so long before it starts to sound like a mistake. I have no doubt a lot of it can be attributed to nerves and excitement, but I feel like it's something that's really limiting us right now.

    Any other thoughts besides the click track thing? Anyone else actively deal with this problem or do we just need to "relax, already"?

  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    It helps to identify where, exactly, in the songs the speeding up occurs and to bring this to the attention of everyone in the band. For example, a lot of drummers start to play faster on louder sections of the song. If you have a better sense of time than the drummer, you should bogart and request that the drummer follow your tempo.

    Maintain eye contact with the rest of the band; swearing helps too if you have long-haired shoegazer types who refuse to look up or open their eyes. If worst comes to worst, you can make like Mingus, ie. stop playing and grab a beer at the bar across the street.

    A click is a fine solution, so long as the drummer can keep with it. Some drummers can't.
  3. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I've dealt with this issue for what seems like my entire life. A portion of it comes from excitement, but a larger part comes from confort zones, in my opinion. Every person has his/her own comfort zone (tempo) that s/he is most comfortable playing at. This is the tempo that we usually write in and practice at. Problems occur when people with different comfort zones meet up in the same band and are unable, or unwilling, to adapt. We recently replaced the drummer in my band largely due to this reason. He had spent his life playing in punk bands and wasn't able to adjust to the "behind the beat" feel of a jam band. I have rarely seen musicians who have been able to change. If you're aware of this issue and capable of change, you will ususally do so on your own after the problems pops up once or twice. A chronic tempo issue usually means a chronic problem for the band. :(
  4. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Do you have problems with tempo in rehearsals or was it just at the gig?

    If the rehearsals sound dodgy, work with a metronome, etc will help - if it's just in the live setting it's probably a side effect of the adrenalin (or alcohol?)... in that case, relaxing and working out who might be best to follow for the tempo might be required.

  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    playing along with a metronome, for an entire band, is a very difficult thing to do. i think it also takes tons away from the life and feel of a song - too much concentration going into following the beat.

    my suggestion and experience - have everyone in the band (especially the drummer and you) practice on their own with metronomes. A LOT! the most solid drummers I know practiced constantly with a metronome and i can't tell you how much doing so has helped my timing. the more you do it the more it gets ingrained in your being.
  6. misterk73


    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Hey, guys. Thanks for the input. (Good stuff!)

    We got a soundboard of the show and having just listened to it for the first time, I hear a few problems:

    1) The drummer has a tendency to start rushing almost immediately after the start of the song. He'll eventually settle into a solid tempo before too long, albeit one slightly faster than the one we started at. If I can catch him at the beginning, we're usually OK, until...

    2) We have an instrumental jam or solo that peaks by the end. Inevitably, it seems that we confuse intensity with both volume and speed. Because things can get pretty loose during those portions of the songs, I'm finding it difficult to find any one culprit for this...Another listen or two and I might have it figured out.

    3) The guitar player and keyboard player have a tendency to rush repetitive licks and non-chord riffs -- maybe this is also what happens during the peaks of solos/jams. I think it may be because they're not actually hitting the individual notes, but "rolling" the progression or using hammer ons -- great stylistic technique, sometimes, but you've still got to have timing.

    4) I've got my own issues, of course, but am having a harder time identifying much more than non-tempo-related screw-ups -- botched notes or transitions and the like. Another listen or two and maybe I'll be able to move beyond that stuff to more general and tempo-related self analysis.

    To combat this problem, I think I've decided to have the entire band sit down together and listen to the recording. Then we can talk through some of this stuff -- and other issues -- and see if awareness and practice doesn't cure the problem.

    (BTW, metronomes are totally necessary, I agree. I only started using one about six months ago -- actually, I only started practicing on my own about six months ago, despite having played bass for a few years -- but it's done wonders for my tempo awareness.)

    Any further thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

    Thanks again.
  7. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    A couple of thoughts following your comments on the recording:

    1. Try playing the intros to songs - probably about twice as much as it normally takes the drummer to speed up. Your aim is rock solid tempo throughout (record and check back to see if you drift at all). If your drummer can learn to internalise the tempo before the song starts then that should help... or is it the other instruments rushing and causing him to speed up?

    2. Take some songs you're very familiar with and try them with 'quiet intensity' and 'slow intensity'. That way, the group is learning a wider, shared vocabulary.

  8. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Do the others in the band realize that they're speeding up?

    If so, then they should be working to solve this on their own. Practicing on their own with a click track is something they might do, or perhaps even at rehearsal, but I wouldn't recommend it at a gig.

    If they consistently can't tell that they're speeding up/slowing down, you have bigger problems...
  9. misterk73


    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Good suggestions (from everybody -- thanks!).

    Regarding that question, I think both things are at work, but at different times. At this point, I'm thinking the drummer is trying to shift every song towards his "comfort zone" at the start. I think the rest of us then tend to get a little sloppy and overexcited when we jam...
  10. misterk73


    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    I think we've all been aware of the problem to a certain extent, but we've also been focusing lately on teaching the keyboard player our music -- he's new to the group -- plus writing/learning new material. Now that we're done cramming for the show and everyone's "caught up," so to speak, I think I'll be able to convince them to work on this aspect of our playing.
  11. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    There's nothing wrong with a slight, VERY slight, tempo increase during a powerful part of a tune when being played live, but if your drummer can't keep the tempos fairly uniform, then one of the following must happen:

    1. Your drummer will have to learn to do his job with his instrument.

    2. Your drummer will have to be replaced.

    3. Your drummer will have to play along with a click track, which is in itself NOT easy to do live, especially if you are trying to keep songs flowing together without a bunch of energy-killing dead space in between songs while the drummer dials a new tempo into his machine. Not good, but it will do in a pinch IF he can do it responsibly.
  12. GrooveSlave


    Mar 20, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    I've just been through this same problem. We still have it to some extent but, a couple of things made it a lot better:

    1. Groove Guide.
    This thing kicks butt. I'm not associated with them, I'm just very happy to say it helped. My drummer now KNOWS that he is keeping a steady beat and plays with more confidence. He also has the freedom to vary the tempo just a bit for intensity. Nothing but good stuff to say about this product.

    2. Everyone plays with a metronome on their own time.
    When you practice together the time and groove just keep improving as each individual improves and learns to interact with the group better.

    This of course assumes motivation on everyone's part to improve the groove. If members are not motivated - I suggest finding new members. It's easier in the long run.

    3. Rhythm section only practices.
    Get with the drummer and just the 2 of you work on grooves, time, whatever specific issues you may have in certain songs. Become the groove police. It is a great service to your band and you already are showing tendencies in this direction. Go with it.

    I actually had my drummer admit that he wasn't listening to me until he could only listen to me. Practicing with just to 2 of us made a huge difference.
    You can work out little things to do together to enhance the song and it will also cement the forms to the songs better in both of your minds - a good thing.

    You should also play with a metronome together. It will help you both.

    4. Drum and bass jams.
    Spend about 15 minutes of your rhythm section practice just jamming and interacting with one another. You don't have to worry about pitch and blending with other instruments. You get to cut lose. It will help you both.

    I repeat that this assumes proper motivation on all parts to groove. IMO, groove is the most important and intangible aspect to music. If it doesn't groove, it's not good and conversely, the harder it grooves the better it is. (Please don't flame me, because I realize that there are other important aspects to music.) You are totally correct to focus on this aspect of the band and will only improve the whole band by working on this issue.

    You may encounter resistance on metronomes, but I advise you to push through it and become a slave to the groove. I have, and it has made all the difference to me.


    :D :bassist:
  13. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    How can you tell when a drummer is at your door?
    The knocking gets faster.

    Every drummer I tell this joke to says "Ouch!". It's a problem just like guitarist's whose volume gets louder.

    There's been some good advice, and I offer some more:
    Practice with no PA. Make sure everyone's volume is at a point where one can sing with no microphone and be heard (not loudly, but be heard). It makes you play with intent, and gives you a chance to hear each other, and work on the quieter range of your dymanics. Most bands have the loud part of dynamic already figured out. This can be difficult at first, but the results are worth it.

    Watch for your pitfalls. Looks like you have been doing that already. Another place where drummers have a hard time with speeding up is during fills. An example of this is when a drummer goes from an eighth-note beat and then throws in a sixteenth note fill and has to go back to the eight-note groove. This is something that is remedied through practice. In the meantime, since you have found the parts of your songs where the band speeds up, have the drummer play a simpler or slower fill to keep the tempo steady.

    Relax. Do you start performing right after the you have your stage and rig set up? Take 5 minutes after the stage is set up to catch your breath, calm your nerves, and then jam your ass off.. Are you rushing to rehearsal, or have other things on your mind while practicing? Take 5 and relax, unwind with your bandmates and then jam your ass off. Are you guys stoned? Sure it's fun to play high, but if you're so stoned that you can't pay attention then you can't pay attention to the things you need to improve, or the cool things your bandmates are doing. It's up to you determine if your buzz is getting in the way.

    Practice. The solution to most of our problems in bass and life are due to a lack of practice. Don't practice till you get it right, practice till you never get it wrong. You have to concentrate on what you are doing, so you can get to the point where you don't have to any more. Music is a combination of discipline and creativity. Without one, the other cannot exist, yet they can compete against each other. Enough of my wise-guy Yoda wanna-be crap. Practice and jam your ass off.
  14. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    If you know the music,you won't speed up and you won't slow down.
  15. The drummer I'm playing with now used to play in a band with a sequenced bass part and he had to play to a click track. He did this for several years. He has the best tempo and timing I've have ever or will ever work with. Your band will never get tight until you solve this tempo problem.
  16. Dman


    Jan 25, 2002
    I hate to say it but a drummer that is not a solid player will have to be replaced. I play in a pro band and we had the same problem with our drummer.

    I gave him a chance to fix it but it is not my job to teach a drummer how to play.

    I hired a new drummer 2 weeks ago and things are so much better now.

    I am still friends with to old drummer I just told him that i dont think he had enough experiance to play in this band and he understood that and was ok with it
  17. misterk73


    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Just wanted to pop back in and thank everyone for their input and suggestions. The band and l sat around and listened to the recording together a few days ago and everyone was really open and communicative and not defensive about anything. We're aware of the problem(s) now, and they'll hopefully resolve themselves with some practice and heightened awareness. Tonight, for example, we played everything at half speed in order focus on playing with intent and precision. It seemed to work pretty well, and actually created a really cool vibe in some of the tunes that we usually seem to race through. It'll be interesting to see where this goes, to be sure...
  18. Excellent Advice!!!!
    I am continually amazed at how many drummers do not have a metronome.
    The best lessons I ever got were just clapping along with the metronome. If you clap in time the sound of the metronome will disappear completely. If you can hear the metronome than your not in time. It is the most revealing test of time. Excercise's like clapping on the third click only etc. will really improve your sense of meter.
    I try to get the guy's in my bands to play the song a tad slower then where you think it should be on the gig and it really helps. The adernaline rush tends to rush the tempos.