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playing ahead/behind the beat - microtiming

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Fliptrique, Mar 5, 2005.


  1. Fliptrique

    Fliptrique

    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses, Taurus Amplification
    hi,

    I`m currently in a middle of a discussion with a lot of experienced musicans (country finest etc.) - could you guys share you opinions about playing "behind the beat" etc. - I`m pretty sure I hear it in a lot of tunes, and I`m really love it, the problem is that the pros im discussing with say that either you play tight, or not, and no such thing as "behind the beat" exist, and the whole thing is just, well... stupid... what do you think? have you ever made the concious effort to play a little bit behind the drummer?
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I'm not sure I've ever met a pro musician who didn't acknowledge the concept of playing on top of, ahead of or behind the beat... That's odd...

    You can certainly play around the beat - behind it sounds relaxed, mellow and soulful, ahead sounds more punky, energetic, driving etc... in situ. I tend to think more about the 'feel' that I'm aiming for than the specifics of the nature of my relationship to the beat, but the end result is the same - to play ahead of or behind the beat. It's more leaning towards a particular edge of the beat. The pulse of a piece of music is not a fixed rigid thing - it's fluid and open to interpretation. Have a listen to any stuff by The Wailers, or most of the tracks and Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key of Life and you'll hear lots of people with different interpretations of exactly where the beat falls all playing together and making a truly glorious noise.

    Good question!

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  3. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Go check out D'angelo's Voodoo, the grooves on that album are phenomenal, they are so laid back, riding the beat so far back, you nearly fall off.
     
  4. Fliptrique

    Fliptrique

    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses, Taurus Amplification
    Thanks a lot guys,

    unfortunately, i`m not good enough to just prove I`m right, and play some stuff tight and behind the beat (yeah, it came to this - they offer a contest "yeah right, prove it"), and all the examples I gave don`t seem to have any impact. I`m a bit confused :D
     
  5. Hello, I'm sorry to hijack the thread, but I have a serious (related) question.

    I'm a bassist of like over 2 years and my biggest struggle is with tempo. I've been practicing a ton with a metronome lately and I can now hear the differences in tempo while I'm playing.

    When I play with my jazz band, in particular, this issue is at it's biggest. To try to keep at a steady tempo/drive the band, I try to play ahead of the best (I guess that's what it would be called) and with a lotta force (I hit the strings way harder than normal), with all this going on, we still manage to slip behind in tempo, especialyl witha particular drummer. I figure I used to play laid back, and that style doesn't work with this drummer...

    So what's the question? It seems like the only way I can keep this drummer and myself in decent time is when I drive like no other (to the point where playing bass is a chore to drive), should I be able to play laid back or directly on the beat and keep a steady tempo? Is the drummer at fault for the terrible tempo issues or me? How do you keep good tempo (between you and the drummers) if you're playing laid back?

    Sorry for the lotta splain'/mutterings, I really appreciate the help!
     
  6. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    It's typically a lot easier to keep time the faster you're going. But not really, if you can't do it slowly you can't really do it fast either, it's just harder to hear that you're off time when you're playing fast. Really the only way to get better at it is to practice. Specifically, practice working at really slow tempos on the metronome. Metronomes have a good and bad reputation in regards to practice tools. There was a big thread about that in this forum recently. My personal opinion on the matter is that they are enormously useful, if you know how to practice with one. You can't just turn on a click and half assedly feel your way through it and think you'll get any more solid time. You really have to explore the metronome, understand it, feel the pulse before you even start playing.

    I do a lot of metronome practice without my bass on. Sight reading rhythms and stuff at various metronome settings. It's been invaluable, my reading has improved, but also, my ability to feel time has improved so much. I've started to gain awareness to tempos and have started the ability to feel a specific tempo before I even hear the metronome. Which is still very undeveloped, but it's an amazing feeling and it's really helped with my playing and understanding of time/rhythm/feel.

    One of the goals of metronome practice, is to be able to feel the different between say 64 and 65 BPM, or 98 and 99 or 103 and 105..etc.

    Time is malleable, and you can drag, rush, lock in...etc. as much as you want, but only if you have a fundamentally strong sense of time to begin with. otherwise, it will just sound like you can't keep time at all.

    At least, that's my opinion on the matter, I'm sure other people have other stuff to say on that.

    As far as metronome practice, as with all practice, the key is not so much what you are doing, but that you are doing it consistently and thoroughly. Consistency is paramount though. Set up a metronome practice regime and stick to it everyday. I have one that covers the whole metronome in a months time, it's pretty decent, you can do whatever you want though, just really explore the metronome, and everything you can do with it.
     
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    This article by Ed Friedland about working with a metronome is a great place to start working on developing your internal clock - the trick is to get used to what speeding up and slowing down feels like, not just how it happens in relation to another musician. Playing ahead of or behind the beat is all about where you place the beat in relation to someone/something else. Playing with steady tempo is more about your own relationship with time. Ed's exercises work on both those aspects.

    Yet more evidence that Ed is one of the - if not 'the' - finest bass tuitional writers in the world today.

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  8. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Rhythm is usually the most challenging aspect of music and I’m glad to see you guys are taking it so seriously. There are many different ways of approaching rhythm in various styles of music and I agree there are styles that involve playing ahead or behind certain beats, depending on your frame of reference. However, I think sometimes these fluid time concepts tend to cloud the issue a bit for those folks who are trying to get a grasp on what rhythm is all about. If you want to be a general all-around player (as opposed to having expertise in what particular kind of feel) I recommend focusing on just playing good, clean, solid metronomic time. That’s a big enough challenge and if you can get it reasonably together it should give you a good understanding of when and why to vary from that pulse.