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The Rushing / Dragging Thread

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Jefenator, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    I've been on TB for almost half a year now and I've noticed this topic doesn't get that much coverage.

    That surprises me because in my life as a performer, rushing and/or dragging is a major issue that rears its ugly head all too often. So I figured it's time to start a fresh thread to discuss and compare strategies.

    How do you avoid being the culprit? How do you deal with it when another player would inadvertently savage the tempo? Are there some drummers that just can't be held back (/ up)?
  2. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Yeah, I saw those in my search. ;) But I think my questions above are slightly different and there's nothing specifically devoted to the overall topic. (At least not in Jazz Technique within the last couple of years. :meh:)

    Also I guess I figured there ought to be at least one groove nuance thread for every 1000 about this gear vs. that gear. :p
  3. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    Hey finally a thread I can claim real expertise:crying:

    The best advice I give myself is to practice and be prepared.

    A good recent example of that is "A Night In Tunisia" if you kinda know it and a drummer counts you in a little fast locking in is really tough. Do a little time with the metronome, if it get's called again and your ready and locked in.

    Well that's one example but at least on a consistantcy standpoint it's my brain and not my fingers that are causing the isssues.

    EDIT: SOrry I thought this was specifically related to DB playing....
  4. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    There's a drum video by Billy Ward called "Big Time" that addresses the topic. It's very applicable for bassists. The duos with Andy Hess (formerly of Gov't Mule) alone are worth the price of admission.

  5. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Understood. (I wasn't meaning to be a jerk ;) ).

    Here's my rather newbie perspective. (I play in a trio that does old gypsy jazz/blues/etc, and we don't have a drummer).

    When I first started playing with my group, I was a little less confident, and I noticed that I was following more than leading when it came to timekeeping. Then I started to take to heart stuff I heard Ray Brown say. So I started doing a couple things:

    1) On new songs, during practice, I'd play a little louder than I would during a recording or performance, just so the other players can hear the bass clearly and follow it.

    2) I work with our songwriter, to make sure I have an idea of what he wants out of the song. That way, my lines are something he can latch on to as a part of his "ideal" song, instead of something that he's fighting.

    3) To me, keeping steady time feels a lot like singing harmony. You have to hear other people and mesh with them, but still be confident enough doing your own part. I noticed that the times rushing happens, are the moments when I forget to hold on to an internal idea of what the song is going to be.

    4) I like to do one-on-one practices with my other band members. I think it forces the two of you to tighten up, and listen more.

    Of course, all of this requires players who are willing to listen. I don't have much experience playing with drummers, but I would probably try to get some one-on-one practice time, and learn through discussion or practice to agree to some roles, methods of subtle communication, etc.

    I forgot to mention one other thing I started doing a while back. If I'm in practice and the other players lose their spot on a new song, I used to stop with them, and go back a couple measures and start up again. Now (unless we're recording) I'll keep going, or do a turnaround and repeat measures, so they have to jump back on. It really forces them to listen to the bass.
  6. mrjim123

    mrjim123 Supporting Member

    May 17, 2008
    I think it all comes down to your natural sense of rythm. You either have a good sense of rythm or you don't.
  7. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    No offense, but I disagree with this.

    I was a kid who couldn't keep rhythm to save my life, and every time I opened my mouth to sing I was off key. I've still got a ways to go, but I can keep pretty decent time now, and can sing on key, and harmonize on key.

    While I am sure there are some genetic propensities, for the vast majority of people hard work can get you there.
  8. philip sirois

    philip sirois

    May 29, 2006
    With all due respect, this is the lamest of responses. Your welcome to your opinion of course, but everything can be improved, period.
  9. John Wentzien

    John Wentzien

    Jun 25, 2007
    Elberta, AL
    Artist:TC Electronic RH450 bass system (original test-pilot)
    I worked with a drummer once that we nick-named "The Russian Dragon"
  10. klem.gote


    Jan 18, 2009
    New England
    Bass Player
    As a young (15) bass player I had the chance to work with some very good, older musicians, guys who grew up on Bird and Dizzy. Learned lots of tunes, the right changes etc., and was told to play "on top of the beat". An interesting thought, but at that age it only led to rushing. At 19 I got to work with a great musician, a teacher at Berklee in Boston, whose instrument happened to be drums. That's when I started to learn about time. Even today I get a lot out of practicing with a metronome, just playing time and solos over tunes, up tempos to ballads, latin, anything. You can learn and improve.
  11. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Yes, there are drummers and other musicians, including bassists, that can't be held back, or who drag to distraction. Playing in a group with players who have bad time can be very trying, tiring, and to be avoided.

    If you have to play with players that rub you the wrong way, in order to get through a gig, or a school band situation, for instance, grin and bear it or talk about it with them, and try to get them to match your "good" time. You can always just go with them if they won't budge which may be less stressful for you than constantly "fighting" their time.

    To avoid being the culprit, practice with a metronome, click track or a steady rhythm track at different tempos and time signatures. You'll probably find that it is very easy to get off the click, and practicing like this is a good way to understand what steady time really is.

    Now, this isn't to say that good jazz performances don't sometimes pick up in tempo, but they rarely drag.
  12. emilio g

    emilio g

    Jul 16, 2008
    Jersey City, NJ
    So in high school jazz band, I would drag a lot and generally played behind the beat. My first year I played electric, and came from listening to a lot of rock music where the bass was generally behind. I also had played snare drum in marching band...which responds A LOT faster than a bass.

    My second year, I switched to upright, and had the same issues because I was really struggling with upright technique.

    But by the end of that second year, I was consistently on top of the beat and driving the band pretty well at that point.

    Then in college my teacher told me to do the exact opposite. He said my playing was always on top of the beat and sounded anxious. So I had to re-learn to play behind again (especially soloing). Another teacher likes it when the bass player "plays on the front of the middle of the beat, but not on top of the beat". Yes, that's a direct quote.

    What all this taught me was having a strong internal sense of pulse is important, but having the control to play in it, or around it anyway you wish is just as important.

    But all that is assuming the band is listening to you. I've been on some gigs where the band is oblivious, the drummer is into playing too loud, the sound sucks and no one can hear you, etc. Its tough for a strong bass player to pull a weak drummer or piano player along for a whole night.
  13. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    I've got a steady gig with a group that drags pretty bad. Then the guy I work with the next most often is a notorious rusher. So sometimes I feel like I'm on the rack! :D Dealing with these guys is good exercise in some aspects. But I'm so ready to just relax and play music. Sometimes I still get to. :rolleyes:


    Tempo is very much a feel thing - I don't want to be a total nazi about it. I've had a couple of band leaders pop out the metronome in the middle of a tune, put it up to their ear, then turn around and scowl. I'm thinking: you'd better put that thing away before I grab it out of your hand and chuck it out the window. :p

    I think about how the count-in sounds and try and seal that in my head. One, Two, Three, Four vs. One Two Three Four vs. OneTwoThreeFour. I think about the melody. Is it relaxed, normal, brisk? To me, a melody has a totally different feel in different tempo ranges, so I try to recall how it started and keep that in my head throughout the tune.

    In other words: if it starts at 160 and ends at 176... who cares? But if it jumps a notch or more between funeral dirge / slow ballad / ballad / relaxed medium / medium / bright medium / up / smokin' fast and impossible... then we have a problem.

    AFAIC rushing and dragging are pretty much by definition failure to respond to one's surroundings and feel the music where it is. I think the two have the same root cause. The biggest rusher I've ever dealt with will also occasionally drag horribly. (When he's in a mood to pay attention and cooperate, he does neither and then it's a joy because he's actually highly fluent on the kit.)

    The very same person is also an avid metronome user. Therefore, while I think the metronome has some use in technical development, I'm pretty darn sure it's not the total solution.

    With each passing year, I find I'm a bit stronger and more able to keep the whole show steady. If a drummer has a weaker pulse but is at least listening, I find I can usually rein him/her in.

    Stronger or weaker, it's when they don't respond that it just plain sucks. (It always seems to come back to not listening.)

    I'm enjoying the discussion thus far. Still waiting for the little nugget of wisdom that will enable me to keep everything from going through the frigging ceiling, next weekend. ;)
  14. klem.gote


    Jan 18, 2009
    New England
    Bass Player
    I've gotten pretty stubborn when it comes to the time, and while it can be frustrating, it CAN be good training, in a masochistic kind of way. Obviously, working with better musicians is so much more pleasureable, you can make music instead of just sound. And better musicians tend to listen more to what's going on around them, not just time wise, but feel, volume etc. I've worked with drummers who were oblvious to what was going on. I'd get louder, then softer, trying to make them listen, no luck, they just keep sounding like they're building houses back there!! And while a metronome is not a cure-all it does help one gain control of the instrument, and control is "instrumental". Sorry. But it's true, without control, without good technique, there's no way to keep the time steady, on any instrument. As for the band leader with the metronome, I'd have thrown it out the window and hoped it hit his windshield!!! Or a banjo.
  15. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    There's your nugget.

    If this is a bread n butter gig, then you have to tread carefully.

    If not, I'd have a conversation, and if the guy didn't start trying, I wouldn't play with him any more.
  16. Reading the posts, I just have this to offer. The more you work on your time, the better you will become. The better you become, the better gigs and musicians you will attract and play with. There is so much on this site to help you in terms of exercises, concept and ways to use a metronome. It's really just a matter of how much time you are willing to devote to becoming a good timekeeper.

    Bassists can be just as bad, if no worse than drummers, sax players ect. We're just not as loud...... typically. :cool:
  17. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Sometimes it helps to have a talk - that's working a bit with the one group. Some cats have argued with 100 people before me and one more time isn't going to change a thing.

    I agree, first and foremost the best way to deal with the tempo butcher is to not work with 'em. (When they get tired of not getting the call back, maybe they'll figure it out... or not.)

    Alas, I'm not the band-leader type - I'm the hired gun. Issues of political expedience and/or financial necessity force me to contend with less than ideal lineups.

    Part of me also craves the challenge. 10 years from now I want to be that guy who can lock with anybody.
  18. klem.gote


    Jan 18, 2009
    New England
    Bass Player
    When I first started playing gigs at 15, I played some pretty good ones sometimes, and played some pretty bad ones too. I just felt fortunate to be out playing gigs and making s few bucks for my efforts. What I didn't realize at the time was that I was learning as much from the bad ones as I was from the good ones, because I was listening. I listened to the bad drummer, I listened to the pianist playing bad changes and droppings beats here and there, and I learned tunes that should never have been written. When I started working with some really good players I realized how much I'd learned from some of those awful gigs, and listening had become second nature to me, and it did help me be able to "lock" with different guys, in different situations, and do it comfortably.
  19. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    After you have put in the time with the metronome I think it comes down to confidence then. You have to be sure of your sense of time. Learning the nuance of locking with a drummer, pushing, laying back, etc has nothing to do with the consistency of your time feel. There is a drummer I play with often that has nicknamed me the 'time bully'. I asked him about it and said he meant it as a compliment. No matter what happens around me I lay it down. That doesn't mean not to let the tune breathe but you have to be confident enough with your time that if a tune rushes it is because of excitement not from lack of being able to lay it down.

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