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setting the tempo for a song

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Funkateer, Dec 6, 2003.


  1. Funkateer

    Funkateer

    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    My band is getting ready for its first gig. One problem we have is getting the tempo for the song right. Seems like whoever ends up counting it off never gets it right. What techniques do you use to get tunes off to a good start at the right tempo? Especially when there is an intro.

    The only trick I have been able to come up with is to 'fast forward' to the first chorus and mentally check the tempo before counting it out to rest of the band and getting into the intro.
     
  2. VellaBass

    VellaBass

    Aug 29, 2003
    London, UK
    You could get a cheap click machine, get the drummer to listen to it at the right tempo and count you in.

    A slightly wackier idea - if there is a DJ playing before you start, ask him to play a disc which is the same tempo as your opener immediately before you come on. You just need to tell him how many beats per minute your song is - a good DJ will know what you need.
     
  3. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Get a better drummer
     
  4. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Most cheap metronomes have a mode that is silent but flashes a blinking light. I've seen some very good players use these to set the tempo for a song...
     
  5. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Covers or originals? It shouldn't matter each song has it's own tempo and just by practicing it shouldn't be a problem duplicating it at all... I don't get it, what's up with the drummer?
     
  6. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    The drummer sets, and keeps the pace, at least good ones do.
     
  7. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It doesn't have to be the drummer who sets the pace - figure out who's best at it. Get to know yourselves and the set of songs and address your weaknesses - for example, do you normally come in too fast or too slow? Are you sure it's the wrong speed and not just the wrong feel?

    Wulf
     
  8. Do the count-off yourself. Everybody knows that bassists are the best when it comes to setting the right tempo. Hooray for us! :p
     
  9. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    I agree only if your drummer is new to drumming. But eventualy the drummer needs to step up to the plate and set the tempo. I am an ex drummer and had to play metronome bass because our drummer is still inconsistant. It get's us through but when his tempo is consistant it's night and day, it allows me and my guitarist to really lay it down and jam, it gives us somewhere to fall back on if we get off track and that's how it's suppost to be. But if I keep doing this for my drummer he will never develop natural tempo on his own which is essential to drumming in my opinion, and he is getting a lot better. If a drummer can't keep a steady tempo and recodnize tempos for songs then just get a drum machine and push play.
     
  10. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    Make your drummer do nothing but put on head phones and play the songs on your setlist untill he gets the tempo of each song engrained in his very soal, worked for my drummer!
     
  11. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    I disagree with this, the main job of the drummer IMO is to be the clock, the rest is almost just details. How is anyone supposed to lock in with a rollercoaster beat?
     
  12. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Alexandria,VA
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Turn on your mental CD player and think of the song you are going to play in your head, and then tap out the tempo with your foot. After tapping it out, then do your count in.

    If after counting in properly, you still have problems with the tempo of the song, it's time to look at the band.

    1) Drummer - very likely culprit since he's the timekeeper of the band. Maybe he's getting too much of someone, or not enough of someone in the monitors. Maybe he/she needs some practice.

    2) Bassist - are you behind the beat, or ahead of it? Maybe you are rushing/dragging the song causing the drummer or other musicians to change tempo?

    3) Singer - Is the singer missing cues? A singer comeing in at the wrong time, is a great way to ruin a song.

    4) Guitarist, Keyboard player, etc. Is the rhythm guitar or keyboard accompaniment, clashing with the groove that the rhythm section is playing?

    It all starts with the drummer. Sometimes a drummer might try to feel what the band is doing, and make adjustments. This may or may not work.
    Example - Drummer plays at 120 bpm, guitarist strums away a little slower at 115 bpm. Drummer then slows down to adjust to the guitar player which causes the bass player lose his lock with the drummer. Once the bassist notices, he/she makes adjustments that throw the singer since the backing band has changed the tempo of the song. Drummer notices that the song is dragging, so he picks up the tempo, causing more problems.
    To avoid this, the drummer should be the clock that the rest of the band references to. The drummer's beat is the truth, and the rest of the band needs to listen to that. Once a song is counted in, the drummer has the role of protecting the tempo. The band should adjust to the drummer, not the other way around. If the drummer can't protect the tempo, it's time to get out the metronome,beatbug, etc.. and get some practice in. If you can't lock in with the drummer's tempo, then you need some practice.
     
  13. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I'm not suggesting that keeping the beat is an optional extra for the drummer but I think it's quite reasonable for the duty to be shared around. That's certainly been the way the bands I've played in have worked. If the song begins with bass, that's my one to lead in.

    IMO, that's the way it should be. Even getting beyond setting the tempo, timekeeping is too important to rely on one person to do it all - the "pocket" is not created by any one instrument but implied by mutual agreement.

    Wulf
     
  14. I've worked with a couple of people who count off, "1,2,1234..." then take off at a completely different speed. It's as though they aren't internalising the tempo as they say the numbers.

    I'd second the plan of singing the chorus, or first verse in your head first then count off. Pick the person who can do this best and then get them to help count in *with* the drummer. Who says the drummer has to count in? You don't get symphony orchestra percussionists giving it "4 sticks...". Except if they're playing marimba, etc. ;)
     
  15. RicPlaya

    RicPlaya

    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    I see you point Wulf, the pocket anology makes sense. Ultimately it's everyones responsibility to keep tempo. And certainly if the bass starts the song you are setting the tempo. But... you must have a steady drummer. The drummer is the tempo keeper sort of speak. If you get four or five people setting the tempo your in for a rollercaoster ride. The tempo must be "established" first and foremost. It doesn't have to be the exact BPM as the original. Once the tempo is established by the drummer then and only then can the pocket be found and kept consistant by the whole band. I'm a drummer so I am biased, but I make it my responsibility to controll and establish the tempo. Like I said before in my first response I had to keep tempo with my bass when my drummer started out and we never found the pocket untill our drummer became more consistant with his tempo and timing.
     
  16. If there's a bass-only or guitar-only intro, the drummer can hardly be blamed if it starts off too fast or too slow.. and another thing, this is about setting the tempo, not keeping the tempo. I've experienced alterations of my sense of tempo depending on my mood, how tired I am etc. For instance, the same song might seem pretty fast sometimes, but quite slow other times.. Maybe that's just me though :p
     
  17. Whoever starts the song needs to practice starting off the song at home until they have the tempo burned into their skulls. Simple as that. No excuses for starting a song off at the wrong tempo. The tempo of a song shouldn't be treated as an after-thought in practice...

    Also, it's important to keep in mind that when you're playing a show you'll tend to play faster than at practice. It's pretty typical behavior to play faster when you're nervous--you're trying to burn nervous energy. You should bring it up in practice so that everyone's conscious of it and makes a concerted effort to keep the nervous energy in check, or at least focused somewhere else.