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Singers With Bad Rhythm - How to Deal?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jaywa, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    It seems like frequently I'm in situations where the lead singer isn't really that good with rhythms. The two most common issues are 1) rushing the lyrics ahead of the music and/or 2) not nailing the syncopations i.e. singing everything too "white" (if I'm allowed to say that here).

    Where I get into trouble is that I'm the kind of player that listens to what everyone else in the band is doing and tries to fit in to what they're doing. This works fine when everyone is on the same page rhythmically, but if the drummer is dead-on while the singer is off, then sometimes I'm not always the best at just ignoring the singer and focusing on the drummer (though I'm getting better through practice :meh:).

    Anyone else had the same experiences? What's the best way to deal with it (and please don't just say "dump the singer" cause that's not my call).
  2. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I think you answered this yourself...learn to focus on the drummer and try to ignore the singer more. The cover band I just joined, the drummer is pretty good and is usually on. But the two guitarists can get off the beaten path and if I listened to them, I would too, but I have alot of experience so I can easily stayed focused on the drums.
  3. Joel S.

    Joel S. Reserved for future witty use...

    Jul 9, 2008
    Dump the singer. :)

    Or buy him/her a metronome and tell him to practice.

    Seriously, off time singers can ruin songs, if he/she can't get better I'd either quit, or bring the problem to the attention to the rest of the band.

    And what jgroh said, pay attention to the drummer.
  4. ric1312

    ric1312 Banned

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    If he is just singing this can be fixed in couple of practices, even easier if you are doing covers.

    1. Give him a copy of the the cover songs and tell him to practice. and tell him to not just pay attention to the singing but the how the singing fits into the rhythm of the song.

    2. Most importantly tell him to pay attention to the beat, not just parting it out and singing lyric thinking verse chorus. This is very important for singers. Delivering a vocal melody well is all about rhythm and space. Tell him to pay attention to the spaces.

    If you get him to pay attention to the beat instead of parts and clap/tap a foot/headbang with the beat the problem may clear up rather quickly.
  5. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Good points, keep them coming.

    I think the problem with a lot of singers -- especially those who have had some sort of formal training -- is that they are so focused on the "tone" of their voice and being in perfect tune that they neglect the rhythm aspect. Personally, I don't have problems with a guy (or girl) being a little sharp or flat every now and then as long as they have the rhythm and phrasing down cold. The Spin Doctors singer is a great example of that, so are David Lee Roth, Steven Tyler and Anthony Kiedis. It's the other way around that gets wonky.
  6. Man you must be stuck with MY old singer! Good luck! Seriously, we had to simplify and 'dumb-down' a LOT of syncopated parts because the guy just could NOT stay on meter. But his pitch was awesome... So weird to be that good at one thing and so bad at another.

    Maybe that's what you guys will need to do: Simplify and strip down parts so you sound 'together'. Always 4/4, no odd meters. It sucks to have to do that, but it works...
  7. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    pineapple express
  8. Wow, so I am not the only person that this has happened to! This happens a lot with singers who started out doing karaoke, because it's all recorded music tracks, and the little bouncing ball on the words is merely a suggestion. Even if they are sloppy with their phrasing in relation to the rhythm, the track keeps going.

    So they try to do the same things with a band, and things get messy unless you can mentally tune them out.
  9. Had a singer with that problem. The issue was he sang the cover songs the way he knew them in his head and did not listen to what the band was doing at all. So he had no concept of what the songs felt like and where he should be singing in relation to what we were playing. Basically, singing it karaoke, ignoring anything the band is doing.

    We just kept telling him to feel the song, relax and open his ears and it'll come together. By the time it started to come together (a few weeks) we mutually agreed to part ways.

    Like you, I try to listen to what everyone is doing. As a keyboard player I try to listen to everyone equally. As a bass player I focus on the drummer so regardless of who's off whether it's the singer or the jaw harpist, at least the rhythm and meter is still tight.
  10. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    I think it's a very common issue, I know of some more experienced singers that still have some timing issues. I have a feeling that these problems often can be corrected at least to some extent simply by making the singer AWARE of that there IS a problem that can't be neglected.

    I've personally been suffering from poor timing, but it was more back in the days when I played guitar and sang lead. I was never aware of how important timing really was, so to say I "suffered" from isn't really correct, I thought my timing was decent. However, it wasn't until I got aware of that my timing really needed improvement that I started to improve. Suddenly I also began to recognize what a groove really is... :)
  11. GregBass1979


    Feb 26, 2008
    It's still worse when a singer sings flat all the time..:eyebrow: being a guy with perfect pitch, I come home with headaches alot:atoz:
  12. Joel S.

    Joel S. Reserved for future witty use...

    Jul 9, 2008
    I have no idea what your talking about, I just "read" your avatar and figured I would agree with the content of your post.
  13. The title of this thread is redundant. Shouldn't it just be labeled, "Singers...how to deal?"

    :D ;)

    When it's not your call, you just do your thing and make the music thrive. Which may likely mean bending to the singer...making the "talent" sound good means the band sounds good, regardless of what's happening underneath the vocals.

    When it is your call, be positive, be constructive, but be firm. Treat the singer no differently than any other player who's rushing, lagging, missing hits, whatever....
  14. Etbass


    Apr 26, 2007
    Cooranbong, NSW
    What do ya reckon of trying to record one of your sessions?
    Everything shows up in a recording - there's no way somebody who is out of time will miss it.

    Even if you just do it on your phone, record it, and play it back to them.

    If your singer doesn't get the point, then that's the time to start being a bit more direct and hard. Pistol. Kneecaps. Put one and two together. It's not attempted murder - just assault.

    Anyway, good luck.
  15. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Do you want an answer that actually address the core of the problem? Or just an answer that you're prepared to accept? :eyebrow:

    Sorry, but having a solid rhythmic sense is a fundamental part of being a competent musician. Notice that I didn't say a "good" musician. I mean it's essential merely to function at a basic level.

    It's the singer's job to make sure he's singing his parts correctly - and to make the necessary corrections if he's deficient. If his deficiencies have been pointed out to him and he still isn't taking measures to correct them, then it boils down to two very simple options for you - take it or leave it... :meh:

  16. sedan_dad


    Feb 5, 2006
    Look for another singer.
  17. SwiftyTom


    Oct 7, 2011
    Might as well resurrect this thread to have a little pointless rant about our singer..... My band wants to start playing Losing My Religion, one of our guitarists even bought a mandolin for it, we can play it pretty nicely now....but she just refuses to even try, saying it's too hard to fit the rhythm of the vocal. Seriously, is it that hard?

    And another one in the queue is I Miss You by Incubus. Same deal. Sooooo difficult to fit the words in. Sigh.
  18. I know I said this on another thread, but you should always record rehearsals. Then you can play a song where the singer is particularly bad, and if he doesn't hear it himself, just point it out to him - recordings don't lie. Most people want to improve, so constructive criticism should be encouraged. In my current band, we always have a sit down after rehearsal with the sole purpose of trying to iron out any problems.

    Still, at least his pitch his good. I have perfect pitch as well, and off pitch singers do my head in something shocking (as do out of tune instruments).
  19. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Zombie thread alert! Jaywa, in the four years since you've posted, you've probably addressed the problem by sending your singer to rhythm college, right?
  20. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    No I addressed the problem by switching bands.


    Unfortunately, current band has the same issue though not to as bad of an extent.