Questions about tempo, rhythm, beat, and being in the 'pocket'

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by addicted, Mar 21, 2017.

  1. addicted


    May 23, 2012
    I have few doubts and need bit of discussion about keeping tempo.

    Before I took up bass 5 years ago, I was a drummer and I had been doing it for 5 years. When I was a drummer I felt like I had less difficulty in keeping the tempo and I was able to get the groove. Probably it is because my right hand keep knocking the hi-hat to keep the tempo constant. When I took up on bass, I started to realize more importance in keeping the tempo & rhythm and I also realize how difficult it is to keep a constant tempo and getting the right groove. This is especially reflected when I tried to record song covers. When I replayed my recording, I can hear my basslines sometime are not 'in the pocket' thus affecting the overall groove. Sometime I thought I am on time but turned out I played a bit too fast. My recording tells me that I am on time when I played slightly slower than what I thought the tempo is.

    My questions are:
    1. Is it really easier to keep tempo as a drummer since we have that right hand on the hi-hat thing to keep the tempo constant?
    2. How to keep tempo when playing bass? How to practice? I looked up online and saw few creative tricks using metronome such as make it silent for a few beats. But I am open to more suggestion.
    3. Are we supposed to play the bassline slightly (as in very slightly) slower when we record? Or is it just my sense of tempo needs more practice?
    4. (maybe unrelated to the whole tempo thing) When I am practicing to speed up my playing, I often see how people starts slow then increasing the metronome bpm when he/she feels comfortable. Question is, how do you know you feel comfortable with current speed? I can play a lick comfortably in say 80 bpm but at 90 bpm I start to struggle. Is the speed jump supposed to be effortless once we are comfortable with current tempo? Or we are supposed to struggle until we reach that 'comfortable' phase?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    Keeping a good tempo and making groove, while playing melody on a bass guitar is not a simple task.
    My view is that I must have have groove when I play by myself. And, I must have a good tempo playing alone. Than comes the hard part - playing with human drummer, that sometimes rushes or drags.

    My advice is to practise with metronome at very various tempos, and try to cover it perfectly. IMO playing fast is not important, because you can always simplify your bass line, and play less. Playing "in the pocket" is much more important and valued.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
    Spin Doctor likes this.
  3. dhbailey52


    Feb 20, 2017
    I don't think that keeping the tempo is easy for everybody who plays drums -- I've known plenty of drummers who gradually speed up without knowing it. And I've known plenty of drummers whose tempo is rock-solid and never changes unintentionally. It's the musician more than the instrument.

    Regarding practicing on bass to keep the tempo steady -- you mention being comfortable at 80 but not at 90. Don't jump from 80 to 90. Go from 80 to 82, then to 84, then to 86, etc. And don't raise the number until you're just as comfortable at the new speed as you were at the slower speed.

    Playing "in the pocket" will of course change from style to style -- sometimes you need to push the tempo just a bit (bebop) sometimes you need to lay way back (Basie band slow tunes).

    The suggestion to use a metronome app where you can silence it periodically is a great one -- do it at a comfortable tempo so that if the metronome were constant you would have no problem being accurate, then set it to randomly stop for a few beats here and there and you should be able to be accurate during the pauses and still match it when it resumes after each pause.

    In my opinion, though, nothing beats working with other musicians and recording the practice sessions so you can all hear if the tempo changes unintentionally. Sometimes it's such a subtle change that you don't notice it while it's happening but it can be glaringly obvious on playback.
  4. Metronome has been mentioned...

    Came to bass from rhythm guitar and thought my internal clock was pretty good. We only had a drummer in that band when we had a "paying" gig. The more I played with a drummer my opinion, about my internal clock, changed... Metronome or drum track. Drum track is what I needed.

    We've not talked about timing and locking with the drummer for awhile. Listening and watching the drummer's kick drum foot pedal did more for my timing than anything I had used before. Looking over and seeing if I was still with his foot pedal was reassuring.

    My point; drum tracks over metronome every time.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    1. No.
    2a. You listen and lock in with what you're hearing.
    2b. Too wide open a question. There are whole books about it. People spend their whole lives figuring it out.
    3a. No.
    3b. Yes.
    4a. If you don't know when you feel comfortable you have bigger issues.
    4b. No.
    4c. We aren't supposed to do anything. Each person is different.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    It's worth considering that time / groove issues can come from several places: Poor ear for tempo, Poor physical execution, Over thinking, Poor rhythmic awareness

    Poor ear for tempo
    when a player simply can't keep an accurate beat in their head.
    The cure is putting in time with the metronome.
    Probably not your issue, since you claim no trouble with the drums...

    Poor physical execution
    When a player has not practiced the part they play enough, and struggles to get the fingers in the right spot at the right time.
    The only cure is more practice with the part. I'd bet this is part of the issue for you.

    Over thinking the execution
    Similar to poor physical execution : they players mind is focused on what finger goes where and when, instead of focusing on the other elements of groove.
    Same cure: more practice, plus keeping awareness of the other elements of a groove

    Poor rhythmic awareness
    The player simply doesn't know their eighth notes and sixteenth note figures, resets and ties, etc...
    They have no idea which rhythmic subdivisions they are trying to hit.
    You can't hit a target if you are ignorant of the target. (except by accident or habit)
    The cure is to practice reading rhythm.
  7. Oddly


    Jan 17, 2014
    Dublin, Ireland.
    This is gonna sound like a stupidly simple suggestion but ... have you tried tapping your foot to keep time?
    Andre678, Rip Van Dan, Eikari and 3 others like this.
  8. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Super basic but it works. My fingers will sometimes want to rush, whereas my foot tends to keep steady time regardless. When you talk about recording, could it be that you're experiencing latency issues with your DAW?
    bfields and Oddly like this.
  9. addicted


    May 23, 2012
    Actually I do. Tapping foot comes naturally for me when listening to the beat of a song.
    Oddly likes this.
  10. addicted


    May 23, 2012
    how do I know it is DAW latency issue? I am using Garageband for recording. Enough RAM memory to execute a recording.
  11. addicted


    May 23, 2012
    I guess from the comments around, I would have to practice my riff/licks more until I feel totally totally comfortable executing it.
  12. addicted


    May 23, 2012
    When I rethink of the several possibilities above, I would say maybe I am the 2nd and the 3rd.

    However the issue with tempo....I do tend to rush sometimes when I play bass. Especially when I get too much into the song. Still trying to keep a constant pace when playing a song.
  13. TrevorOfDoom


    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    1. Nope. I have better meter than some drummers I know.
    2. Metronome!! Don't start with the tricks, just start with it always on. Run scales at slow speeds (~60bpm) to feel and hear all the space between beats. Play basslines you know by heart at different tempos. You can even sleep with a metronome under your pillow, just set it to a different tempo every night.
    Then start using the metronome tricks. Have it beat only on 1 & 3, then just 2 & 4. Then just 1, just 2, just 3, just 4. Or try and put the metronome on the upbeat, the Ee or And. Subdivision is the best way I know to get and keep solid meter.
    3. Nope. You need more practice.
    4. Play the lick slower. 60 bpm. Really listen to what you're playing. String noise, sliding into notes, poor executions. When you have it absolutely perfect at 60 bpm, bring it up to 70. Same thing. Then 80, then 90.
    It's easy to play things fast because the speed helps mask "or justify" poor technique. Playing things slow forces you to become aware of every aspect of your playing.
    Mystic Michael and Oddly like this.
  14. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Do an internet search for "latency with DAW" and you'll come up with lots of information on the subject.
  15. TrevorOfDoom


    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Not to speak ill of OP, but I've never met a drummer who didn't think they had perfect meter. The best most solid drummers I know are very aware of their imperfect meter and never stop working on it.
  16. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Both those things can't be true.
  17. TrevorOfDoom


    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Fair. I'll preface it this way, IME, the best drummers are aware of meter issues, while most of the worst think they already have perfect meter.
    What I rather mean, is that no musician is ever above metronome work. Ever.
    tfer likes this.
  18. Don't anticipate the beat! The drum plays ON TOP OF the beat, and we play in the back pocket of that - which is to say, still part of it, but like a billionth of a second behind the drum. You don't want to take away from the percussive attack of the drum - you want to sound like your note came from the drum. YMMV and of course it all depends on everything, but practicing that with both metronome and drummer has led to some pretty legendary jams personally! :cool:
    bluejack likes this.
  19. addicted


    May 23, 2012
    I won't say I have the perfect meter or that I am a human metronome. But at least I am doing better than when I am on bass.
  20. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    Converting from guitar to bass made my tempo better, and made me a better listener while playing. Made me focus on what the melody is as well as listen to what the drummer was doing. And, for me to stay with the groove, I need to move my body to the beat. To make playing and learning bass more enjoyable, I play along to songs I like. This helps me learn technique, and helps me develop better listening skills. Once I can play the song, I record myself with the song to see what areas I need to work on. And then, I listen to the isolated bass track to see how clean it is, and if I'm giving each note its value.