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Playing in front of the beat

Discussion in 'Ask Anthony Wellington [archive]' started by mikepcann, May 27, 2011.

  1. mikepcann


    Dec 14, 2010
    Mono Artist
    Hey Anthony, I hope that all is going well.
    I was playing at a jam last night and i asked the drummer after what he thought. He said it was good but that I play in front of the beat. I was not really aware that I played in front of the beat. So my question is, how can I become more aware of this, and how can i take more control of that so I can play in front, on or behind the beat when I want to.

    All the best,

    Mike Cann
  2. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Hey Mike,

    Sorry I'm just getting to your post. I've been extremely busy. I'm actually typing this while someone is driving me to a gig.

    I'm a big advocate of practicing with a metronome. I think doing that addresses all kinds of issues. But I find that most musicians don't practice with a metronome.

    And in your case I advocate that you practice slowly. By my 'observation', most groove players play on or slightly behind the beat. I dint think this was by design. But playing behind the beat gives a laid back feel. I've listened to so much 'groove' oriented music that I naturally play behind the beat. And I've noticed that most Rock and Fusion musicians play on or in front of the beat. Doing that works in those settings. But playing on top of the beat in a 'groove' setting tends to make the music,...uh,..,not groove.

    I think you can practice playing in front of, behind and on the beat. A metronome and/or drum machine is great for that. But you can get it from what you listen to also.


    "Smells Like Funk"
  3. jaysbassspace

    jaysbassspace Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2010
    Hoboken, NJ
    Hi Anthony, can you give some examples of songs where the bass player is playing in front of, on top of, and behind the beat? I think this is an often misunderstood topic. Thanks!
  4. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yeah maybe if you played w/ a metronome and played the last 16th note in a beat and then the second 16th note of a beat. Then you would develop a finer sense of that area around the beat.

    I will play behind the beat during parts of a bar during rehearsals if I want to tell the band that we're speeding up unintentionally. It works better than glaring or eye-rolling.
  5. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    Could be wrong but if you play in front of the beat it actually "feels" like your pulling the band along,,, if your on top of the beat, it "feels" a bit robotic, and if your behind the beat, it "feels"
    as if your pushing the band foreward,, gives the song for lack of a better word a"pulse" and is actually the hardest to get a grip on and maintain, unless your drummer can do it too.

    I know you didnt ask for all that , but if you dont know what to feel for it could be harder to find, now you know, good luck.
  6. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    And here I was thinking I was just getting old and slowing down :) I'm a groove player :)
  7. Lichtaffen


    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Are there any exercises a drummer and bass player can do to help them learn to play behind the beat better?
  8. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    I used to be a strictly on the beat player till i started learning disco and r/b bass lines the one song that gave me my aha moment was ,-funky situation ,-by i believe,- the commodore's
    Listen to it and breathe with it first, sounds funny but worked for me, good luck.
  9. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Maybe a little off topic, but Anthony talks about playing on different parts of the beat here:
  10. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    That was awesome easiest way ive ever heard this explained,, should be stickied somewhere.
  11. jaysbassspace

    jaysbassspace Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2010
    Hoboken, NJ
    I like that video / exercise but I don't think playing a 16th note before or after the 1 is the same as playing ahead of or behind the beat.
  12. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    It doesnt exactly to me either i was applauding the teaching concept of the time ruler thingy,dodnt mean to confuse.
  13. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Sorry guys! I didn't know that there was a new Talkbass app. I just thought they were working in the old one.

    There are some famous recordings of the R&B artist having his band play behind the beat. It's almost like they were trying to see how far they could take it before it fell apart.

  14. Here's how I think about playing in front or behind of the beat: When I play in front of the beat, I am listening less to the drummer but rather allowing him to listen to me, and I am one who is controlling the groove. In a sense, the drums are draped over the bassline. When I play behind the beat, instead I am listening much closer to the drummer, and I am allowing every single beat to happen before I play my notes, perhaps focusing on the snare on 2 & 4. The bassline would be draped over the drums in this example.

    Whoever makes the first sound in the beat controls the tempo, and in most situations the drums high hat and snare are the first heard instruments because they are so high pitched.

    Is the music about the drums and/or the vocals? Then play behind the beat. Is the music about you and the bassline? Then play in front of the beat. It's all a matter of understanding what styles of music in which the bass functions as the front of the pocket. Most dance music has the bass behind the beat.