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Walking ahead or on top of the beat

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by fdeck, Mar 22, 2013.


  1. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    A bandmate has noticed that I tend to play slightly ahead of the beat when playing a walking bass line. A couple of indications suggest that I'm not rushing, per se:

    1. Bands that I play with don't speed up

    2. When I play by myself, I can hold myself pretty close to a metronome marking with the metronome turned off

    So far this bandmate is the only person who has ever complained, but I'd like to know if there's an exercise that would help me get myself on top of the beat if I wanted to play that way.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. bkbirge

    bkbirge

    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Play to a slow metronome and practice hitting the attack just a split nano after the click. Ultimately it's a feel thing and some people play naturally ahead, on, or behind the beat. But with practice anyone can play all 3 of those feels. I naturally play behind the beat and when I meet a drummer who plays ahead I have to consciously force myself to go there.
     
  3. I think your band mate may be saying to you that you aren't swinging. Let me guess- you are thinking in terms of 1, 2, 3, 4. You are supposed to be swinging, and that means laying down 2 and 4 big and solid. Practice down tempo, until you can create a good swing feel that does not rush. Find some swing beat drum samples, where the drummer plays laid back and lock in with that.

    There is a difference between pushing and rushing - pushing means you are ahead of the beat, but playing in time. Rushing means you are picking up the tempo. Pushing means you are playing with tension, so learn to relax. Easy does it. Use tension as a tool, to push the beat when you need to.

    try plucking the string with the side of your finger, like an upright player does. Pull the string from the knuckle, not the end joint of the finger. It will give you a fatter tone, too.
     
  4. OmNomNom

    OmNomNom

    Jul 10, 2011
    Wilmington, DE
    Well.. this IS the upright forum.
     
  5. Go watch a vid of Ray Brown......
     
  6. JoeWPgh

    JoeWPgh

    Dec 21, 2012
    Ideally, you can play on, ahead, or behind the beat. Each will work differently with different players and with different material.
     
  7. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Thanks for the tips so far, and I look forward to hearing from more folks! I'd say that I'm pushing and not rushing. I'll definitely go back to Ray Brown -- full circle -- he was my original archetype when I was just learning jazz.
     
  8. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Learned this from pianist Michael Kanan some time back. Practice walking a blues, rhythm changes or another such simple tune with the metronome clicking on the "and" of each beat (so like a medium slow or slower tempo, at least at first). Then have it be on the "and" of just beats 1 and 3, then 2 and 4, and eventually on the "and" of only one beat (switching it around every now and then). Where you play (or the way you feel the "and") should be straight, so keeping things very even, making sure it all lines up.. but what you play can still swing or contain such triplet skips or swing feel normally found when walking a bass line anyway (make sense? The point is to make sure everything is very even, whether the straight offbeats or the triplet subdivision in swing feel). I feel this not only solidifies one's time keeping/feel big time (here the player is responsible for nailing the downbeat and not turning the beat around.. which one runs the risk of doing if they feel the "and" as if it were part of the triplet swing feel) but it also solidifies feeling the beat right in the middle, which I think would then help one eventually have the flexibility to play on, just ahead of or just behind the beat (all still very even, of course) depending who they're playing with. And of course, you could eventually practice soloing over the blues or rhythm changes the same way with the metronome. Anyway, just my .02 cents.
     
  9. ugly_bassplayer

    ugly_bassplayer Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    Québec
    Ray Brown was the type to play way ahead of the beat, not always but ...... If you listened to a lot of his playing & tried to emulate, dont ask why you play that way.....:)
     
  10. ugly_bassplayer

    ugly_bassplayer Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    Québec
    There is a huge difference between playing in front of the beat & rushing.......:)
     
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I'm too lazy to dig this up but but there's a youtube where he says he does not do this and his aim is to always play on the center of the beat. I guess it's maybe peoples perception that he plays in front of it.
     
  12. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I definitely emulated Ray Brown. We had some Oscar Peterson records in the house, and I spent hours just playing along to them before I really even understood the concept of chord changes.

    I'm open to the possibility that my "problem" is more a matter of someone else's perception / taste, but it's gotten me curious enough to be worth analyzing and practicing a bit.
     
  13. I'll go out on a limb here and also suggest that the person who said this to you could be talking out of their arse. I know it's not always the case, but many times when someone is having problems with time they like to project it on the rhythm section players. I'm not suggesting you don't take what they say into consideration, just saying that if only one player is saying this, take it with a grain of salt. One could go insane listening to all the non-sense that some people spout when it comes to the we they think others should play.

    In terms of playing ahead/on/or behind the beat PC on Kind of Blue is great for right down the middle playing, Relaxing is great for a more ahead of the beat feel. I like Phil's metronome exercise and will take that on for myself.

    Good luck and have fun!
     
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    What's going through your head when you play? I don't mean what the blonde at the bar looks like naked. I mean how do you conceive of time? And note choice?
     
  15. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I also agree with Mike. Guys that are not team players often have problems.
     
  16. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I wonder if playing in a way where the peak of the swell (not the same as the attack) is centered on the beat. It could sound like you're pushing to someone else when you're not actually trying to.
     
  17. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I'm a firm believer that the attack should be where you want the pulse. If the swell of the note is louder than the attack then you need to change strings.
     
  18. ugly_bassplayer

    ugly_bassplayer Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    Québec
    I did not say he always plays in front.
     
  19. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    The particular band where I received this comment, it's a big-band with a fairly challenging repertoire. In some cases I'm hanging on by my teeth, trying not to get lost in a dense chart, dreading the looming 8th note soli with the trombones, or thanking the heavens that I brought my earplugs.

    Someone mentioned the tradeoff between using your available brain cells for conception versus delivery. When the tune isn't quite so dense, or is one that I've read before, then I start thinking about many things including my time, technique, and intonation. I'll have to see if I play differently in a combo setting, next time it happens.

    I don't have formal training in jazz, so my time has to come from listening and playing, and to be honest, I don't know enough theory to put into words where my note choices come from. I tend to rely on a mental map of the melody and harmony that I form, either by knowing the tune, or by listening closely while the melody is being played.
     
  20. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    To me Oscar often sounds on the verge of falling over he's so on top of the beat. He's the pusher. Maybe that's where you internalized the feel.
     

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