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!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Locking In With The Drummer

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bassnat, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. bassnat


    Jan 31, 2011
    I am often amazed at how oblivious a drummer can be to what a bassist is playing. It seems that many producers and leaders expect the bassist to lock in with the drummer rather than the drummer to lock in with the bassist. Comments? Happy New Year!
  2. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    Yeah more so than the other players bassist and drummer are a team ,,, the engine that drives the locomotive,,,we should actually be listeneing and locking in to each other.
  3. steelbed45

    steelbed45 TRemington Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2011
    Nolanville, TX
    If I play out, it's the local dive bars. To that end, I've run into several drummers who follow the guitarist or vocalist, and simply look right past me. Since a lot of the drummers I play with show up and "fake" it through the material, if there is going to be any lock on, it's going to have to come from myself. It is what it is, but I would certainly expect more if there was a leader or producer involved.
  4. sedan_dad


    Feb 5, 2006
    It's like a 3 legged race. Unless you're in sync , you're not going anywhere fast.
  5. Brent Hahn

    Brent Hahn

    Jul 25, 2009
    As a bassist, I expect that, too.

    Might seem odd, but learning to play with a click made me better at locking with drummers. At the risk of getting all Zen on you, for me the way to lock to a click is to "be" the click -- to develop the feeling the energy coming from you is what makes the click, well, click. And the same works with live drummers, except that you have to learn to "be" them while also sussing out their rhythmic idiosyncrasies.
  6. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    I'm a drummer and a bass player. It's a two way street.

    Of course, much of it depends on the stage mix. You have to hear each other to lock.

    I was a drummer in a band for several years where I could Never, Ever hear what the bass player was doing. Half of it was because of the mix, and the other half was the way the bass player played. He never pedaled, he never created a pulse. He was always flying all over the place. He basically sounded like someone who stuttered. Notes never placed in time.

    I learned early in that band - to give up on the bass player, and lock with the rhythm guitarist. :)
  7. To quote my drummer:
    "The band plays the music, the drummer plays the band."

    With that said, I have the pleasure of knowing this guy for 20+ years so locking in with him is like putting on a pair of old comfy shoes. I always considered locking with the drummer, being in the groove, in the pocket or what have you to be my job. It starts with the drums but it doesn't stop there. I learned early on that open ears are one of the most important tools a musician can have.
  8. tbirddad


    Feb 22, 2006
    I have to agree with the OP - but, that also allows you to shine as a musician. Since so many drummers are oblivious (for many reasons, perhaps monitoring issues or just not playing with a quality bassist) it's your chance to humble yourself and lock in with what he is doing. There is nothing wrong with being a musical chameleon and being a truly supporting part of the musical puzzle. Learning to do this has kept me busy and continually recommended when other bassists whom I know who are technically superior are sitting in their proverbial basements. I continually get a positive response from drummers - usually something to the tune of "playing with you is so easy - how come?"
  9. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    I've recently learned that it's easier to lock in with some drummers than others, and it's easier to lock in on simpler music most of the time. I play in two bands right now. One band plays a lot of progressive rock, and it took the drummer and I about a year to lock in with one another. The music is hard, so learning how to synch up took longer. He's an absolute beast of a drummer, too, and I know he was trying just as hard as I was.

    In the other band, we play much simpler music and it's way easier to lock in with the drummer. It's mostly him. He's nowhere near as good as the other guy technically, but he has a natural ability to lock with you. Well, so long as he isn't thinking about it. The minute you say, "hey, we lock in pretty tight!" he'll listen for it and, poof, it'll be gone.

    Once the drummer and bassist have figured each other out, it goes a lot easier and the band can purr along. It's a real pleasure to play with both of those guys because of how tight we can be.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I assume it's my job to lock in with the drummer. I'm not sure what the problem is in the original post. If the drummer comes your way, fine...but I always lock in with him. We have a good drummer with a steady beat, so it makes perfect sense to sync with him. Yes, it's kind of a two-way street, but I've always used the drummer as my reference.
  11. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    Try "locking in" with a drummer that follows vocals and then ,,, the singer changes phrasing and then drummer loses him ,, and then drummer tries to find singer while bass dude tries desperately to hold it all together,,, if a drummer has no idea where the one is and cant stand on it,, i sure cant lead him to it ,,, if he is too interested in singing even when he aint,, singing,,, play yer damn drums,,,,listen to the bass as he is trying to listen to you " drummer",,,thats all it takes. End of rant,,,ok disagree its expected.
  12. Ditto, and I respect it as his turf. Exception is when he needs to lean on me for a moment to join back up after slipping, like if he throws a stick or when we get kind of loose and weird and experimental and it throws him off. Then I'm happy to oblige, and I try to be very count-explicit for a second to help him get back on the train.
  13. I've played with 100+ drummers of all kinds and it is interesting that it's easy to lock in with some drummers, hard with others. And it has seldom to do with their abilities, as long as they can lock in a tempo, if not it is hopeless.

    So for those drummers that know how to keep tempo, then I think it has to do with their busy-level, very busy drummers are just hard to sync to. Also drummers that have unexpected changes in their drumming. That is fine if you rehearse with them but if it's ad hoc patterns you are just lost. The more predictable the drummer is, the easier it is to lock to him. Also helps to always listen to what the drummer is about to do next and quickly adjust.
  14. Familiarity, complexity of the music, and whether or not the two are even listening to each other has a lot to do with how good and/or easy it is.

    I like to lock on to what a drummer is doing, and be in sync with it, but not totally dependent on it for my own sense of timing. To be in sync but steady on my own as well.

    That way, if he goes off on something unexpected, it won't cause my playing to go to ****. And if he makes a mistake, or gets lost, my steadiness can help him recover, if he's paying attention.

    I'm getting ready to get with a drummer and start something, and the first thing we agreed upon was that the two of us would get together first, and learn how to lock and groove with each other, before we even add anyone else.
  15. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    The drummer is the canvas for the band to paint on, it's everyone's job to sync to HIS time. He's the basis for everyone to follow, if someone falls out of line, they sync back up to him. Don't expect to be able to stay in time by listening to the whole band, because someone's probably going to be off.
  16. I don't dispute that. I just see both sides. Of course I, and everyone else should be in sync with the drums. But what if it's the drummer who flubs, or somehow loses it? S**t happens, after all, even to drummers.

    I feel that, as the bassist, I should be able to carry the tempo on my own, at least long enough for the drummer to recover. If we both go down, the trainwreck's not long in coming for the rest.

    Perhaps I've just evolved this view because when I first became a bass player, over from guitar, it was because we lost our original bassist and drummer, so guess who became the next-in-line time-keeper? It wasn't the guitarists.
  17. Rageadon


    Dec 31, 2012
    I like when the drummer lock to me and not the other way, but in my band the drummer tend to go solo with some heavy death metal dubble pedal ****, locking with that aint easy from a indie-rock bassist !
  18. In the band I'm in my drummer, Tom, is real easy to lock in with. He's been playing for the better part of 25 years, and he's like a human metronome. Our band plays Tom Petty's music, which isn't complicated, but he and I lock in together really well. I think it's all a matter of simply listening to each other, getting to know all the little things we do, and locking in on those things. The rest is timekeeping.
  19. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    I have a simple rule for drum drummers. I am the absolute ruler of beats one and three. They put it where I say. In exchange, they have full authority over beats 2 and 4, and I will place those beats wherever they want.
  20. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I do a fair amount of side man work. I consider it my job to make the situation sound good, so I try my damndest to get a stage spot where I can hear the kick. Then I do the locking... In my regular gig, I know the material better than the drummer. He's still a newbie. Guitarist is the 'leader' and we look to him for cues. I play a little sparse and give the drumer some room. Once in a while I step in and force him somewhere. I'm looking forward to when he's fully 'there' as it will make my job a lot easier.

    Ultimately, it's our band. It is everybody's job to make it work. I may be more fortunate than many as my bandmates 'get it'.