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Who Sets the TEMPO

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Daddy-R, Feb 25, 2020.

  1. Daddy-R


    Sep 24, 2013
    West Memphis
    I'm probably wrong. Playing over 40 years but that means nothing. I always felt the DRUMMER set and kept the tempo in line and the BASS set the groove. I'm in a yuppie band and the drummer is always consoling me to keep the tunes from running amok; I tell him it's his job. Any advice?
  2. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    What do you mean by "running amok"?
  3. byacey


    May 16, 2008
    Alberta, Canada
    The lead sets the tempo. Drummer and rest of the rhythm section hold it there unless the lead wants to change it.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i always felt it was a shared responsibility. a smart player would make sure the other cat was an expert. sounds like you both have doubts about one another. :D

    you can't groove if you can't keep a tempo, together. my advice for your "yuppie band": take lessons from each other, together. neither one of you is apparently a strong enough player for the other to 'lean on' in moments of 'need'. it's something you have in common so i'd think that the two of you could fix it with each other's help! take the lead and book an appointment to work on stuff.

    if it was me = i'd just play with the best possible cats and do what they do. easy peasy. :D

    good luck with your tempos and your time, together! :thumbsup:
    Andre678, Samatza, fishdreams and 4 others like this.
  5. dramatwist


    Sep 27, 2019
    Keith Richards.
  6. It really depends on the people involved. The drummer I work with most often is a human metronome. He counts off almost everything we do because he never gets it wrong. But I know another drummer who isn't as experienced and sometimes it's better with that guy for whoever is singing the song to count it off. That guy takes a metronome with him and has the tempos written down on his set list so he can get them right.

    So that's setting tempo. Keeping the tempo is up to everyone. A drummer can hold a steady beat but if the rest of the band is rushing and ignoring him it's just going to make the drummer seem late. Everyone has to do the work of staying in time. When I'm working with people who drag, I will stomp my feet and make exaggerated motions to try to get them to stop dragging, but it seldom works. Bottom line is that everyone needs to pay attention to tempo.
  7. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    It's shared responsibility, but IMHO there is nothing you can do to hold the tempo back if the drummer decides to run away with it, and refuses to accept any responsibility for time.

    Ironically what you need to do is the opposite of what you will probably do. If the drummer thinks you are dragging, he/she will push the beat ahead and this will often cause the tempo to increase. You would think that if you pushed the beat the drummer would perceive you as rushing and pull back, but usually they just go with. If this is your situation there is nothing you can do.

    What this seems to indicate to me is many drummers like to play tunes at a faster tempo than they are counted off at. There have been many times where I was playing a bassline in 4 like Johnny Be Good or Roll Over Beethoven that eventually get so fast that I have to start playing in 2 :mad:. And of course the drummer really thought it was grooving.

    For about 6 months I was in a big band where the leader insisted time was the responsibility of the bass. Of course time was all over the place and the drummer rushed like crazy. The band leader kept getting on me, and there was nothing I could do to hold the drummer back. Eventually things changed and he started getting on the drummer. At that point time started settling down a bit again.

    The problem with saying the bass owns time is it's not very clear where the ictus is. Since drums are a percussion instrument you hear the attack and the ictus is very obvious. With bass where people perceive the ictus can change depending upon where that sit in relation to the polar pattern of you bass speaker and also how you have the mids and treble adjusted. If they are in front of the speaker and you have the treble cranked up, players will perceive your ictus towards the front of the beat. But if players sit to the side of your speaker or you use a fairly dark tone, they will perceive your ictus way behind where it actually is.

    Some players don't even really listen for you ictus. One of the last drummers I played with insisted that I use a big fat bassy sound. He wasn't keying off my ictus at all. Instead he was keying of the way the notes bloomed.

    In order to maintain a good feel and a constant tempo, you and the drummer must agree on the size of the pocket. The pocket is basically the difference in where you place the beat versus where the drummer places the beat. The pocket should be constant within a section of a song, but may vary significantly from one song to the next. You may play ahead of the beat in one song and behind the beat in the next. Agreeing on the size and shape of the pocket is challenging and complicated by the fact that the drummer may not perceive our ictus where you are actually placing it due to the reasons I covered earlier.

    In one way I would say the pocket can actually vary within a section of a song. The idea I am thinking of has to due with the rhythmic symmetry of measures. With some styles of music everyone plays right on the beat and all beats are perfectly even. With other styles the rhythmic symmetry may be slightly out of round. For example it's common and creates a really deep settled, groove with some styles if the drummer lays back a bit on the snare hits (beats 2 and 4). Course laying back might mean the drummer just doesn't rush beats 3 and 4. So the pocket may vary a bit within a measure, but the symmetry of each measure should be consistent.
    Geri O, BassikBrad, byacey and 3 others like this.
  8. Everyone.

    Unless you can’t. Then, everyone else.
  9. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I sing a few bars quietly and let the drummer cue off that when I'm singing lead. I'm fortunate that my drummer keeps good time.
    s0c9 and Zbysek like this.
  10. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Whoever is loudest.
  11. Matty Koff

    Matty Koff

    Aug 21, 2014
    You can't hold no groove if you ain't got no pocket.
  12. TreySonagras


    Aug 11, 2013
    Anyone can establish the tempo but certain instruments can do a better job of keeping the tempo. I have always felt the bass player controls the tempo and groove and the drummer controls the style.
    In any ensemble the higher sounding instruments need to lock in to the tempo of the lowest sounding instrument. I teach my student groups that a runner will go whatever speed his feet are going. If his head gets too far in front of his feet there will be a problem.
    Mr Cheese likes this.
  13. Bassist and drummer.
    gorneyg likes this.
  14. alembicguy

    alembicguy I operate the worlds largest heavey equipment Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    The drummer then I will correct him when I come in.
    bass4more, red_rhino, 4001 and 6 others like this.
  15. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    Elementary school kids unlucky enough to pick drums end up spending an hour a day keeping time.

    Dunno what you guys saw, but my drummers tests were all precision's and time based play tests.

    No pitch, no scales, nothing but mechanical progression.
    jjfret likes this.
  16. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    I never do that as it sounds terrible/unprofessional, IMHO. If the drummer sets the wrong tempo, so be it...
  17. Exactly. Even with the all the best intentions and discipline in the world if the drummer wants to run away with it, there is little you can do, IME.
    jimfist, Tampabass, Koog and 2 others like this.
  18. MTN.bass72

    MTN.bass72 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2010
    Blue Ridge, Ga
    In my opinion, whoever starts the song sets the tempo...

    If the drummer starts, I.E. with clocks, or beat... everyone else follows suit..

    If bass or guitar start with a solo Intro...
    Yep, everyone else follows suit..

    Then, it's the drummer that should be keeping time... and the bassist to pull him or her back if things start getting a bit wonky
    B-Lo likes this.
  19. 9Thumbs


    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    It's like drag racing, whoever is the fastest wins. When a song has been played too fast and no one slammed on the brakes, we all give the drummer a sad look, knowing it wasn't his fault, he IS absolutely steady. Sometimes it is a good thing "Wow! That song really moves when you slow it waaaay down"
    BillMason likes this.
  20. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yep. Drummer. You're right. He's just wrong.
    wheelsup247, lermgalieu and s0c9 like this.

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