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why do we lock to the kick drum?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jj.833, Sep 12, 2019.

  1. You guys got it backwards. Historically, it wasn’t the bass mirroring the drums, it was the drums mirroring the band.

    Picture, if you will, a little country duo—bass and guitar. So the bass is booming away on cut time downbeats, and the guitar is chucking the upbeats. Along comes a drummer. He just wants to match, so he lines up bass drum with the bass, and the snare with the guitar. And the two-beat was born. Then the bass player dies. So a new bassist comes along. What does everyone tell him? Just match the bass drum.

    I swear it happened just like this.
  2. It depends in whether you want to move people, inspire them to move with the music. If you do, you lock in with the drummer. If you don’t you’re usually left to playing in your bedroom.

    Locking in with the drummer, most often with the bass drum, is what anchors the music for listeners. It’s a frame of reference. When the bass and drums are not in sync the rhythm is unclear. You won’t see heads bobbing, shoulders rocking or dancers on the floor.
    Bboopbennie and DJ Bebop like this.
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You are probably not wrong.
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Listen to Motown and how Jamerson rides roughshod over the drums a lot of the time, then tell me you'll lose the dancers.
    Nashrakh, BillMason, LBS-bass and 7 others like this.
  5. grinx


    Mar 24, 2003
    Raleighwood, NC
    I'm freaked now
    I don't know if I have ever been on The One
    I have a feevuh and the cure is being on The One, at least Once in my life

    Is there a video definition of this anywhere?
  6. Kickass


    Jul 20, 2012
    Scottish Borders
    It doesn't take kindly to PAs but works in sessions and busking.
    DJ Bebop, mrm56 and Jebberz like this.
  7. I like a lot of the replies in this thread. I feel the important thing is to lock to the drummer, to the whole kit. The way to do this, in my opinion is not just to match downbeats, but more importantly the subdivisions of the beat, the nuance of the swing or the razor straightness of the drummer’s subdivisions. The way to do that is to key on the cymbals and feel his backbeat.

    Once you are locked like that I try to drop the fattest funkiest ones I can.

    If for a given song the kick and bass are supposed to align, then each musician comes up with complimentary parts that, when played together while rhythmically locked, automatically lead to the kick and bass playing together.

    Leave some “breathe” in it, where bass might be slightly behind the beat and drums slightly ahead and now you have a real funky pocket. Or you both play right on top of the beat. Or however you approach it that works for the tune and your band.

    The one thing I feel is a mistake is to try to explicitly follow the kick drum. That just makes you late to the downbeat.

    Key off the subdivisions and backbeat and the amount of swing therein, drop your own fat “one” and it should all end up groovy.
    KarateChris and bolophonic like this.
  8. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    It keeps the bass away from the melody?:bassist::woot::cool:
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    And while we're at it, what's all this about the one? That is for playing James Brown-style funk, and not for every kind of music. Plenty of great songs don't always emphasize the one. Some like the one emphasized so little, like in a lot of reggae, they made up a new name for it..."one drop." You guys need to stop taking things celebrity musicians tell you as gospel throughout the entire music spectrum, because it's not.
  10. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    True! The only good thing about bone-headed rules like "locking" is that they are not actually true.
    hintz, JimmyM and DrayMiles like this.
  11. Honkey tonk

    Honkey tonk Turn it up Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2019
    Lower 48
    if done right, makes the kick and bass sound as one , power
    root ...

    Definitely not for every situation
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  12. DeepThoughts


    May 18, 2019
    The Valley
    Other than Reggae and afro-cuban music where they anticipate the 1 ( the and of 4)? What music (style/idiom) doesn't emphasize the first beat of the bar? Celeb musicians?...lol I think that minimizes James Brown's enormous contribution to American Music. Should we disregard what Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker said as well?
  13. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    I don't "lock" to the bass drum. I "lock" (meaning tempo and style) to the drummer's dominant hand, which is usually the right hand (the one on the snare and the ride cymbal).

    The bass drum sets a beat, not the style or tempo. It is actually more simple than discussed above: if the bass is playing a different beat than the bass drum, it blurs the beat and makes the rhythm sound spongy instead of defined. As a bass player, it is our responsibility to have constructive dialog with the drummer to make sure the bass drum beat fits the song and our bass line fits the song coordinating with the bass drum.

    That does not mean we slavishly play every same beat as the drummer, but it must coordinate to give definition and life to the song.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  14. Juststanley

    Juststanley Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2014
    That's where the magic happens ! If you have the magic...the rest of the band can play whatever and it'll sound good...in my opinion, of course !
  15. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
  16. A perfectly cromulent explanation
  17. Well, it kind of works out this way. I have played many years with the same drummer so we know each other's approach very well. He is like a clock with his time and though we don't intentionally lock in all the time, it sort of flows that way. If one of us can't nail the feel, we rely on each other usually starting with the kick. Once we get the feel, we can go off a bit. For some songs however, the kick and the bass do need to lock up. They become one instrument.
    Kilgore777 and JimmyM like this.
  18. Had to happen sometime...
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    At least in rock (not as much in jazz), the kick drum is the pulse of the song. The bass also provides this - rock is dependent on the rhythm.
  20. enjoi1018

    enjoi1018 Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2011
    Auburn, AL
    When a bassist really (and I mean REALLY) locks in with a kick, it can sound like a mega punchy bass note as opposed to two separate instruments.

    There have been some recordings I’ve listened to while tone chasing where I was trying all kinds of things to get a super punchy tone like I was hearing, and it turned out to be this exact scenario (Jon Fishman + Mike Gordon of Phish come to mind).
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2019
    wesonbass likes this.

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