Off-Time Guitar Player!

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by thrash_jazz, Jan 31, 2002.

  1. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    So I was playing at an open stage the other day and jamming with this singer/guitarist that I'd played with once or twice before...

    The guy is a decent player and stays on the beat, but he screws up his strumming rhythm a lot, the end result being that if I stick to the original rhythm, it sounds like a mistake on someone's part.

    What is the better choice for all here? Do I follow his errors and make him sound better (if we were to both do it, it would sound okay, but not if only one of us did)? Or, should I keep the foundation steady? Obviously, my role as a bass player is to keep things as steady as possible, but isn't it also to make everyone you're playing with to sound as good as possible?

    Like I say, it's the strumming rhythm that keeps changing, not the beat. The music is really simple - acoustic alternative-folky kinda stuff. Just wondering if anyone else has been in a similar situation...:confused:
  2. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    I would get him to pay attention, if you follow him he will just change to some other off flailing, you don't need that. Your role is what you want it to be, if you insist on being a "foundation", I think you need to do that. On the other hand, you could write some melody to go along with his twitching, since he's already playing a rhythm, such as it is.
  3. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    I've a similar problem, I occasional gig with a singer/songwriter guitarist who is technically incredible (think Nick Drake multiplied by 10) and he's also an incredibally groovy/funky player...the problem is until recently he never played live..he's used to playing on his own in his room and the end result is that he's used to playing to his own internal rhythm/sense of time which makes it 'challenging' to say the least to accompany him.

    To make it worse he loves writing in funny/strange time signatures (his current favourite is 7/4..however its his 'own internal' 7/4) and the amazing thing is he cant understand how mere mortals like the rest of us cant 'hear/relate' to his timing..(we recently recorded a cd, and having a 'little' studio experience myself I begged, pleaded and cajoled him into putting down a click track so the other session guys could follow him...he was having none of it as he said "No, I dont want mechanical sounding playing I want the guys to be loose and play spontaneously"::rolleyes: ...which is kinda hard to do when you cant read minds..the end result?: he ended up playing most of the tracks on his own because it was physically impossible to play in time with his original track).

    In fairness he's getting a little better at it now and I've learnt to 'compensate' for the times when his timing goes a bit wonky (the trick is to watch and listen like a hawk when we're doing live gigs and I generally find with a few well placed downbeats I can bring him back on time)
  4. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    That's basically what I do - listen and try to anticipate any weirdness! It's just that I was thinking hey, maybe if I kept the same pattern going, the guy might realize that he's off, but this never seems to happen...

    Murf - "wonky" is the perfect term for it!!! :p
  5. I was in a band once with a drummer who would occasionally do a wacky drum fill that would put him off time. Initially I would just stay in rhythm in hopes that he would eventually lock back into the groove. Sometimes it worked but often times it didn't.

    Finally our guitar player came up to me and said, "If the drummer goes out of time, just try to follow him because most of the time he doesn't even realize he's out of time."

    So after that everyone in the band tried to follow the drummer where ever he may have lead us and, although we did go out of time occasionally, we eventually got so good at covering it up that no one hardly noticed.

    I guess what I'm saying is, if you can't fix it, try as best you can to cover it up. ;)
  6. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I played another open stage yesterday with the same guy. The interesting thing is that there was a drummer this time!

    There were random flailings on the part of the guitarist once again, but instead of following him I stayed with the drummer... heh hehe. Thing is, he didn't get back on track... it got WORSE!!! :eek:

    Somehow, nobody in the audience noticed that his downstrokes were coming on the upbeat...
  7. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Yes, this is an open-mic-only situation, so, unfortunately, a metronome isn't an option, although I wonder how much it would help him. Apparently he's been jamming with this drummer for a while, and I've jammed with him a few times now, and it's always the same mistakes.

    Last time, with the drummer present, it got to the point where I had to choose between going with the guitar and going with the drums. I saw no way to bridge the two, as they were off from one another in quite a bad way. On the spot, I chose to follow the drummer, because it was the guitar player who was off, and to follow him would have messed up the groove.

    In my experience, many solo acoustic guitar players are notorious for having bad time, but they usually settle down when playing with a rhythm section. Not so in this case...

    No problem Ed, I am willing to "grin and bear it". After all, there is no joy greater than playing. I was simply curious about what others would do in this situation.
  8. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    :D yer damn right, (bear in mind though that this is the same guy who wouldnt use a click track in the studio "because I dont want the music to sound mechanical:rolleyes: so the chances of getting him to practice with a metronome are somewhere between slim and none.

    tsk..guitarists ;)
  9. BillyBishop


    Feb 7, 2001
    Kill him and eat his flesh...

    Off time guitarists always have the best flesh...
  10. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Yes, I'm with Billy on this one. Also, it cleanses the gene pool a bit.
  11. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I dunno; I'm not sure if I'd rather eat the drummer's skins :eek: :eek: :eek:

    If we killed the average guitar player and freed his ego, that would feed a starving nation for a year :D

    Seriously, the guy has now gotten a bit better after realizing he was a bit off (I didn't even have to tell him!). 'S better these days.
  12. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    No matter how much you polish a turd, it's still a turd (see my signature quote anyway).

    You said in your post that your job is to make everyone else sound good. I disagree. Your job is to do what you do to the best of your ability. It's the other guy's job to worry about himself. Have you ever recorded a jam session and played it back to this guy? If he actually listens to the recording and doesn't see the problem, it may be time for a little heart to heart. If he still can't get his **** together, start looking for someone else to jam with.

    I worked with a band one time that recorded every gig and every practice, made copies and handed them out to each band member. The "leaders" of said band never said a word to anyone about their performances. What was supposed to happen was, you would listen to the tape and critique your performance. It was up to you to realize what you were doing wrong (if anything) and make the appropriate changes. If you couldn't do that on your own, you weren't going to last long in that band. My guess is that either this guitarist can't change his playing or he doesn't want to. If you're serious about what you're doing, what you want to do and where you want to go, either of those two things are grounds for his dismissal.
  13. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    When my current band started recording a demo the guitarist refused to use a click track. I kept telling him without a click track we would sound very unprofessional, mainly because he's always in a hurry to get to the end of a song. So I let him record himself without a click track, then I turned the click track on (we used Cubase) and he finally realised how bad he was rushing. Practices can be a battle sometimes with me and the drummer fighting to keep the tempo constant while the guitarist runs off. But I've noticed considerable improvement on the part of the guitarist in the last couple months. I guess the moral of the story is let the guy know how you feel, but be patient.

    By the way, if you get this guitar player dude a metronome, that's only half the battle. Actually getting him to use it is the other half. I know plenty of people who have metronome's but for some reason never use them.
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