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Playin' behind, on top, and in front of the groove??

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by InfinityJaco, Sep 25, 2002.


  1. InfinityJaco

    InfinityJaco

    Jun 5, 2001
    Illinois
    Hey,
    this sounds pretty beginner-ish, but I never learned what this meant but i read it all the time in Bass Player Mag and am not too sure what it means. When you're groovin with a drummer, what does it mean to play behind the beat, on top of it, or in front of it? I think I know what it means, but am not too clear on it - is being behind it meaning accenting on say the 1-and, on top being on the downbeat of 1, and in front of on the 4-and? Something like that??
    Thanks
    chris
     
  2. Ironliftr3

    Ironliftr3

    Sep 26, 2002
    Atlanta
    Excellent question. I'm a beginning bass player, actually a guitar player trying to learn to be a BASS PLAYER, and not just a guitar player who thinks he can play bass. I was going to post the same question. Although I've heard/used the term 'groove' forever, I guess I never really understood what it truly meant. I read the definition of 'groove' as 'playing behind the beat'. I'd love to hear an explanation of this, as well as some examples.
     
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Wasn't there a really "funky" single called "Behind the Groove" by somebody improbably called Teena Marie?
     
  4. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    I'm not sure that I have a good or even close to official answer, except that in my mind "groove" involves locking in with the rest of the band, especially the drummer's kick drum. It would be easy to oversimplify this and say that everybody should always come back to emphasize and synch up on the one or some other arbitrary beat, but I think groove can be crafted with accents in any number of of places. In that way, groove can be about playing not only on the beat, but also behind and in front of it. It also becomes about coordinating your efforts with the musicians you're playing with.

    What does this mean for a bass player who is playing solo? ('Cause they can certainly groove as much, if not more than, a bassist in combo situation.) I have absolutely no idea, but I really want to see where this thread goes...
     
  5. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    He's not a bassist, but Tom Morrello from RATM (RIP, Rage, not Tom :) ). He almost always plays very slightly behind the beat. It helps give him a really unique sound too. I really think Tom would be a good guitar player who went bass simply because of he concerns himself more with the rhythm than the notes, which can lead to a few terrible solos, but a pretty damn cool song.
     
  6. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Well, er...no. Actually nothing like that. Accenting on the 1-and would be waaaaaay behind the beat.

    Think of a hitter at the plate in baseball, and he's facing a pitcher with a killer fastball. The pitcher throws three successive fastballs, all exactly 98 miles an hour, and exactly over the middle of the plate.

    On the first pitch the hitter swings too late (we're talkin' major leaguers here, so he's a nanosecond late), so he's slightly BEHIND the pitch.

    On the second pitch, the batter swings to soon, so he's AHEAD of the pitch.

    On the third and last pitch, the batter times it perfectly, gets right ON TOP of the pitch, tatoos it, and they're still waiting for the ball to land :D .

    The ability to play ahead, behind, or on top of the beat appropriately can be an illusive skill. There's a very fine line between playing behind the beat and dragging, playing ahead of the beat and rushing.
     
  7. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Here's my take. First, let's take a simple bar of 4/4, playing one note per beat. It doesn't matter what note, so let's write it like this:

    X   X   X   X
    1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &


    Now let's zoom right in. In the diagram below, the notes are sounded dead on the beat - perfect timing and all that:

      X
      1     &
    .............


    The little dots don't denote a particular note value... just think of inderterminate but even grains of time laid out in a line. Next, play the notes fractionally before the beat - nothing so obvious as a 16th note out of place, but just slightly ahead:

     X
      1     &
    .............


    That's going to push the music ahead as the listener hears the note an instant before expecting the beat - great for building intensity. Now play just after the beat:

       X
      1     &
    .............


    This time, everything sounds laid back as you relax and coast along behind the beat.

    The trick is to be consistent. Anyone can get each note anywhere in the vicinity of the beat - the art is to have enough control to deliberately nail the same spot any time (think of a Robin Hood film where he fires off three arrows, each one hitting in the same spot and splitting the preceeding shaft).

    The best thing to do is practise with a metronome. Once you can consistently nail landing dead on the beat, experiment with pushing and pulling ahead and behind the beat. As you get the hang of it, you'll then get a feel for how it works at different tempos, and how far you want to stretch in the 'time' of the song for a particular musical situation.

    Now that you're a rhythm-meister, chat with your drummer and jam around until it starts to click - nobody necessarily needs to play on the beat, but between you the group needs to clearly imply where it falls. If everyone in the band stretches the time as they please it will be messy - if you work on it together, you'll find that you've just passed Groove 101 :cool:

    Wulf
     
  8. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Much better explination Wulf, thanks. I guess the baseball analogy doesn't work "across the pond", eh? :oops:
     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    My Jazz tutor has mentioned this before and he reckons that most players have a natural inclination towards playing behind or ahead of the beat and aren't as precise as wulf ! ;)

    So mostly, wind players are behind the beat, but he reckons that band leaders choose rhythm section players for how they feel the beat - so if they are constantly fighting as to where the beat is it won't work; but if you get a team that feel the beat in the same place it can feel great - obviously you would prefer players who could all be 100% accurate about where they are placing the beat - as my drum machine can!! But in practice, it's may be more realistic to select players who have a similar idea of where the one is!! ;)
     
  10. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Craig,

    Baseball - that's the funny cricket type of game isn't it.. :D

    Did you notice how I carefully talked about 16th notes rather than semiquavers, in the interest of understandable transatlanticism (or whatever you want to call it) ;)

    Bruce,

    You could edit your statement to read "... aren't as precise as Wulf's understanding of the theory". I'm starting to hear time keeping much more clearly than in the past but I've got a long way to go before I could pretent to have mastered it.

    Wulf
     
  11. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    The easiset place to find Wulf's Push and Pull is by listening to drummers and more importantly the snare. A common trick is to pull the snare on a ballad. Casual listening will label it as feel. Listen closely and it's late. The trick is to make it late in the same place by the same amount every time.

    I know a drummer who pulls the kick and pushes the snare. He also pulls and pushes the snare all over the place but verse two is exactly like verse one. Tell him and it's "Did I?" I used to play with a guy who not only did it but could tell you how much in milliseconds.

    IMHO the 'groove' happens when the band are doing it together (as Bruce pointed out). This is probably why some bands/rhythm sections dont click and others do.

    Anyway finally a good example of pushmepullyou is on the Boxcar Racer album, Travis (if I can be so familiar) sounds loose in places and tight in others.
     
  12. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Maybe it's the differences in where the rhythm players think the 1 is that make a rhythm section sound interesting & click? Just a thought.
     
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Nope - I've heard loads of those and they just sound crap - most common cause of a train-wreck in Jazz! ;)
     
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I disagree. I think that the difference in where the drummer and bass player place the time is what creates the pocket. The key is that each player play consistantly in the same place.
     
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well we're actually agreeing then - so I was talking about rhythm sections where say the drumer and bass player have no idea of exactly where they are placing one, but it sure as hell isn't the same place!!

    Of course if players are confident enough to play around with this, knowing exactly what they are doing then that is interesting - but I was talknig about combinations where they just "hear" the one differently. ;)

    And Moley was talking about players who "think " the one is in different places - that just means trouble to me! If you know where the one is but like to play ahead or behind that's fine - but to "think" you know where one is and somebody else in the band "thinks" the one is elsewhere - then eventually you are not going to be on the same page!! ;)
     
  16. The Pocket - If you play bass long enough you will end up experiencing it and thats the best way to know what it is. My best deffinition is that its like hammering a bunch of nails into a piece of wood and every time you hit one its goes straight through and you'd be able to do it to the beat of your heart.

    Behind the Beat - This is tricky to explain using common terminology. If you're playing 4/4 try playing everything in time except for the 4th beat, in other words slow down on the third beat and let it linger so it kinda feels like you have to catch up to that last note. Just keep playing and the best way to really learn this is by jamming with a good drummer. Once you get good you can start trying to do it on the 2nd beat instead of the fourth, or both, or if you really want to get tricky...syncopate it and play behind the 1st and 3 rd beat. Youll find quite a few reggae bassists use this and it really gives a different charachter to any groove. Once you can play behind the beat youll know just how to play in front of it. But, first try to make sure you can play perfectly in time and hold things steady (thats what the bassists primary role is).
     
  17. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Sorry, Spear, this is not what is commonly referred to as "behind the beat". Please see Wulf's post.
     
  18. the previous reply was very close though in that his analogy was reggae. if you listen to a lot of old dub and early reggae, you will notice that the hi hat is commonly doing eight notes right over the beat. bear with me. on your metronome, the clicks are on the beat; but then there is the time BETWEEN clicks. this is all part of the beat.
    - think of the beat as a jelly-filled donut. the center of the beat is the jelly. sometimes you want the jelly. but sometimes you want to nibble around the outside and get some of that cake sugar all over your face. this is pushing or pulling the beat. back to the reggae analogy- with the hihat right over the beat, guys like aston 'familyman' barret often played on the back end of the beat. this gives it that lazy, laid-back (maybe stoned) feel. this is called pulling the beat or leaning back. the drummer can even be in front of the 'beat'-think jelly-and the bass on the back end. the important part is that the jelly doesnt move. the song doesnt speed up or slow down because you both know where the jelly's at. in other styles you can lean it forward, just dont lose the jelly!
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    NO - they're called sixteenths!! ;)
     
  20. Im sorry about my improper explanation and I have gone on to read wulfs post. But, what then is the idea of lagging behind the beat while managing to stay in time. Id like to understand where I went wrong in my understanding.