Wrong Tempo - Commit, Stop or Adjust On The Fly?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by Smallmouth_Bass, Jul 31, 2021.

  1. Stop and start again.

    3 vote(s)
  2. Commit to it and play the whole tune.

    63 vote(s)
  3. Adjust on the fly.

    150 vote(s)
  4. Quit playing and join TalkCarrot.

    3 vote(s)
  1. So, taking a cue from another thread at the moment, I was wondering how you guys approach playing live when the tempo is really off (too fast or too slow)? It could be the drummer counting it off too slow, the guitarist starting an intro too fast or any other method that gets it too far off.

    Do you stop and start again?
    Do you commit to the wrong tempo and play the whole tune?
    Do you adjust on the fly?
  2. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    We use a click. IEM’s obviously. Keyboard player has it for every song in his computer. He uses MainStage. Same tempo every time.
  3. My preference is to adjust on the fly, but it really depends on the drummer. Some are hard to move and some take it as a source of pride to commit to the existing tempo, even if it is way off. I don't even care if it's a drastic adjustment, I'd rather hear and play the song in its proper tempo range than slug through it like molasses or play the chipmunks ska version.
  4. I had a drummer that had a metronome on the side and checked before the beginning of every song, but it turned out to kill the flow of the show. I know they have apps now that you can program the tempos, so it would probably be quicker.
    Eli_Kyiv likes this.
  5. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Unless it's REALLY off, I stay with it, and push or drag the tempo where it needs to go. Fortunately, I have drummers that listen (and watch) me, and vice versa.
  6. 4SG


    Mar 6, 2014
    Adjust on the fly. Once in a while during a gig the tempo of a song will be off, for whatever reason. When that happens, the band needs some system of communication--even gesticulation or just meaningful eye contact--to get it together with the drummer. Under no circumstances would I want to kill the song and start over. Can't imagine how that would go down with an audience.

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
  7. Never stop a song, if it falls apart try to figure out how to keep it going, you’d be surprised what can be pulled off. Live tempo (without a click) always seems to be a little fast. Chalk it up to nerves.
    I have adjusted the drummer, the drummer has adjusted the band, singer has adjusted the band and we’ve all just played it fast depending on the day.
    MonetBass, mexicant, fhm555 and 6 others like this.
  8. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Own that sucker. I hate hearing bands speed up or slow down. You need to figure out how to play it like you meant it, and then maybe you'll be a little more careful next time. Or else decide you liked it that way.
  9. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    It depends on the gig and whether or not the song works in the new tempo. There are some frontmen who can get away with stopping a song and re-starting. They can make it part of the show and there’s no harm done - but in my experience such frontmen are rare. I don’t like abrupt changes in tempo. The audience can feel it and it just doesn’t sound good. If the song works in the new tempo then I would just go with it. If an adjustment needs to be made then I prefer it to be made smoothly.
  10. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    It comes up when he swipes his iPad to the next song. Everything is automatic and almost instant.
    SemiDriven likes this.
  11. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Where I would make an exception would be if the vocalist is struggling. He or she is working with breath and that doesn’t always work with a different tempo.
  12. juggahnaught


    Feb 11, 2018
    Seattle, WA
    If it's too slow, you can generally push the tempo in a few ways. All at once or over time.

    If it's too fast, it's probably best to commit unless it's physically impossible. Dragging the tempo back to the right speed is more noticeable and more jarring and often just feels like the band is running out of steam.
  13. I kind of expect that most songs will be a little faster live and that's okay. My most painful moments have been the opposite; when they're too slow. Especially if it's a ballad.
    retslock likes this.
  14. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    That’s not okay with me but many here seem to think it is. Being “live” shouldn’t matter. There are better ways to project energy than speeding up.
  15. I find it usually depends on the song. Some play better to a wider range of tempo possibilities, while others really need to be spot on.
    retslock likes this.
  16. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    Experienced cover bands I played with would adjust on the fly and speed up or down. But trully good bands would make that tempo their own and make song sound good. Subtle changes in playing so it fits.
    Last year I sat in with a band and played "Valerie", they started it in half time by mistake, so we changed it to regge and it turned out great.
    Engle and LBS-bass like this.
  17. SemiDriven

    SemiDriven Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2012
    Milwaukee, WI
    Sigh, bite my tongue, and commit.

    Usually our drummer or BL (rhythm guitarist/vocalist) starts us out. Some nights, our tempo is way too fast on some songs and dragging on others. Bugs the tar out of me.

    If I try adjusting the tempo, there's a 25% chance the rest of the band will follow. Of course this means the band will be out-of-sync until we decide (or not) to follow a more suitable tempo.

    The kicker is we all know what's going on. We talk about it in rehearsal. I stop songs in rehearsal if the tempo needs adjusting. I even have a tempo app that displays the BPM on my iPad.

    Tomorrow, I will be bringing the iPad to our afternoon gig in the hopes that our drummer (and I) can attempt to better control the tempo via the BPM app.

    Here's hoping!
    Smallmouth_Bass likes this.
  18. SemiDriven

    SemiDriven Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2012
    Milwaukee, WI
    Tell us more about this magic! :wideyed:

    Edit: Oh MainStage. That's an add-on for Logic? Do you have to have Logic in order for MainStage to work (I'm guessing yes).
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
  19. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    No wrong answer, really. The right crew should be able to adjust on the fly. The right crew should also be able to play a song a little slower or faster than intended with conviction. My instincts are never to stop a song but even that is not a gigantic deal if you don't make it one. (Can even be a bonding experience for the audience - helps them feel like they're experiencing a real live show, not a programmed sequence.)
  20. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    AGCurry, dan1952, MarkA and 2 others like this.