Trouble keeping time with vocals around

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by SwiftyTom, May 17, 2012.

  1. SwiftyTom


    Oct 7, 2011
    My newbie band has been around for about half a year now and only recently we've finally managed to get a singer, and I've ran into some unforseen trouble with that. It seems that on some songs, the vocal part throws me off my timing.

    For example - All The Small Things. Yeah I know, boring, super-easy bass part. I agree, and I use to ace it when we were playing just the 3 of us, me and 2 guitarists, plus a drumming machine. Really easy to steadily play the notes and switch on time. Now the singer not only sings it differently from the original (timing-wise), she also sings it differently each time. Pretty much random timing of the words. And that just throws me off, and I can't feel the bar changes anymore because I listen too much to the words. Like the part "Say it ain't so, I will not go...", it's supposed to be all eighth notes, 2x C, 1x G and 1x F, and I get lost, and usually switch one eighth note too soon or too late.

    So how to solve this? Try to focus more on my bass sound and block out everything else? Foot tapping? Counting 1234? Practicing the whole thing on my own hundred times in a row until it's completely automatic?
  2. Marginal Tom

    Marginal Tom

    Apr 28, 2010
    O'Fallon, IL
    Is it your fault, or is the singer coming in too early, too late or both? If she's coming in at the right time, even if her phrasing is different, you may need to tap your foot or follow the drum machine to keep the band together. If she's coming in early or late, then it's her fault, and she needs to fix it.
  3. SwiftyTom


    Oct 7, 2011
    Well, she does indeed come in too early or too late sometimes, like half a bar, randomly. But still I think I should still be able to completely ignore that and just play my own thing, right?
  4. ACalbass


    Dec 16, 2011
    You should not follow the singer to play your part correctly.
    In a sense,the vocals must rely on your timing,and not only that,the guitars too.
    I assume you should reconsider your roll in this band : you and the drum machine is where everyone base their playing and singing.
    If you are singing in your head the song lyrics while you are playing,starts by switching to hear the bass line instead.
    Your job is to NOT get lost,and must take all precautions to be steady and solid throughout the song.

    You remind me of a guitar player I know : he is playing the chords while in a bass solo,then he starts listening to me,to what I am playing,then he get lost,with the bad consequence that getting lost also fools me and can't guess where the chord changes are anymore,the result : a very bad mess.
    Stop listening to the vocals if is what confuses you.
  5. Nonprofessional vocalist do not, as a rule, sing on time. They do come in late or early, stop entirely between verses and take a breath, and in general sing as they please. Usually speeding up in the latter parts of the song is a problem. So you two need to talk.

    Most vocalists welcome a drummer and or bass for this reason. Speak to her, work it out. But, do not expect her to over night start singing on time.

    I think it usually revolves around a compromise. Look at some lead sheet music, you will find that each lyric word gets a melody note. Two syllable words get two notes, etc. That means if both of you sing together - you under your breath- and let the lyrics set the beat that may help.

    Have a friend that never sticks with a band. His problem? Singers not singing on time drive him crazy. You two work it out.

    Good luck.
  6. Don't follow the singer. Lock in with the drums. It's the singer's job to know and follow the arrangement. The drums and bass help lock things down as the foundation of the band. If anyone in the band can't follow the arrangements, then he or she needs to practice more between band rehearsals and/or gigs.
  7. SwiftyTom


    Oct 7, 2011
    Honestly I don't have a problem with her singing off time, I actually welcome it right now because it exposes this problem I'm having and I have to work on it, as it's a more generic one. So it's only a question of how exactly to solve this. We also have a new drummer now, after the one rehearsal we had with him I could already feel it's much easier to feel the tempo and the beat (compared to the drumming machine), so that should help as well.
  8. gearhead1972


    Feb 21, 2012
    Kent NY
    Yeah talk to her. Tell her that you will give her a nod when she is supposed to come in. But everyone is right, you and the drum machine need to keep the rest in check. You're adjusting to her, this makes her think she is doing it right, if you stay strict to the beat she will notice she is off.
  9. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    A common problem that goes away the more you do it.
  10. Agreed for a band setting.

    When you're getting paid to back singers, they're never wrong, and you're there to make them look good!
  11. OnederTone

    OnederTone Aguilar Everywhere Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2002
    Thornton, CO
    Wait, you talking about timing or firing a singer?

  12. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    You have to separate yourself from the singer. Many jazz singers sing off-time (Sinatra, for instance), even Willie Nelson. It's at those times that you really have to be part of the rhythm section. Listen to the drums. But, of course, even the drummer is having to concentrate, too, in order to keep straight. I know what you mean, though. It can feel tricky sometimes. More playing time will make it better.
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