Following Other Musicians and Deliberate Tempo Fluctuation

ghostnoted

Member
So I'm in a new band that's pretty garagey-rock with just Vox, Guitar, and Drums. While it's already challenging to not be playing with a bass player, I've been trying to get them to practice with a click and they are giving me a lot of flack saying that they used to practice to a click but it "doesn't sound right, waste of time, we are a different kind of band," etc. I think it's partly because their last drummer was not very good either and I think they've had to adapt.

They do have many deliberate points where the tempo increases and decreases, so I do understand it makes it hard to follow a click, but I think it would help improve the time a lot. They also have this notion that they follow the lead vocal more than anything, and while I understand vox are crucial for cues and things, they don't keep the actual time.

Also to clarify, this band isn't necessarily amateur as I've just played international dates with them, they are just going for a certain aesthetic.

I found this article about sacrificing your internal need to be the blatant timekeeper and instead keeping "band time." https://www.moderndrummer.com/article/january-2010-concepts-lead-follow/

Do any of you have any advice or references like this one that illustrate this concept more?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
... I've been trying to get them to practice with a click and they are giving me a lot of flack saying that they used to practice to a click but it "doesn't sound right, waste of time, we are a different kind of band," ...
It's important to understand that a lot of players who say this, simply have poor time and they're trying to rationalize it. Time doesn't always have to be perfect, but it should be steady enough so that listeners can't detect inevitable fluctuations. Trying to explain away egregious tempo changes is really just an excuse for having poor time.

The biggest problem with this is, everyone's version of poor time varies, and creates even more pushing and pulling than the change itself.

Sometimes the drummer needs to shove the tempo down the band's throats. Never apologize for keeping time, it's your job. And it's everyone's job to keep it easy to do your job.

...and while I understand vox are crucial for cues and things, they don't keep the actual time.
Eeek, NEVER try to follow the vocalist, unless they have a style that lends itself to fluctuation, like Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc. Are you playing with Sinatra or Dean Martin? Okay then.

Bermuda
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I think timewise there's a difference between what you need to be able to do just to be a competent drummer vs. what a rock band playing original music needs to do to sound good. You have to have really good time; bands can get away with some slop, especially if there's kind of a rough aesthetic. I've seen plenty of great live bands that didn't have notably great time. They were all about energy, and whatever they did that deviated from metronomically perfect time either didn't detract from that, or may have contributed to it. With them it came down to having good songwriting, a good sound, and charismatic performers.

My only concern would be if the band sounds good, and if I'm having fun playing with them. If not, I would find another gig. You're not going to fix them by making them play with a click.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
So I'm in a new band that's pretty garagey-rock with just Vox, Guitar, and Drums. While it's already challenging to not be playing with a bass player, I've been trying to get them to practice with a click and they are giving me a lot of flack saying that they used to practice to a click but it "doesn't sound right, waste of time, we are a different kind of band," etc. I think it's partly because their last drummer was not very good either and I think they've had to adapt.

They do have many deliberate points where the tempo increases and decreases, so I do understand it makes it hard to follow a click, but I think it would help improve the time a lot. They also have this notion that they follow the lead vocal more than anything, and while I understand vox are crucial for cues and things, they don't keep the actual time.

Also to clarify, this band isn't necessarily amateur as I've just played international dates with them, they are just going for a certain aesthetic.

I found this article about sacrificing your internal need to be the blatant timekeeper and instead keeping "band time." https://www.moderndrummer.com/article/january-2010-concepts-lead-follow/

Do any of you have any advice or references like this one that illustrate this concept more?
I think you should get a click that modulates tempo so that you can practice accelerando and decelrando without sounding like ritardando. One way to do it is to plan out the relation to the original click tempo. So like starting on the one flams here triplet on the up beat there by the four of the next measure filling in to the new tempo...
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
So I'm in a new band that's pretty garagey-rock with just Vox, Guitar, and Drums.
A lot of styles need precision, but garage rock is not one of them.

Outside of studio, metronomic time is ultimately about formality and correctness - good musical manners, making it easier for others to lock in and to play their parts. That approach works a treat in many musical styles but IMO garage rock is best when ill-mannered, informal, loose, dirty, and fun.

If garage rock bands can't play loosey goosey, then who can?
 

ghostnoted

Member
A lot of styles need precision, but garage rock is not one of them.

Outside of studio, metronomic time is ultimately about formality and correctness - good musical manners, making it easier for others to lock in and to play their parts. That approach works a treat in many musical styles but IMO garage rock is best when ill-mannered, informal, loose, dirty, and fun.

If garage rock bands can't play loosey goosey, then who can?
This is true, all of those basically describe the band. I don't want to use a click live with them to maintain to maintain that raw, loose sound, but I think it would help me lock in with the guitarist more in parts since we don't have a bassist.

I think you should get a click that modulates tempo so that you can practice accelerando and decelrando without sounding like ritardando. One way to do it is to plan out the relation to the original click tempo. So like starting on the one flams here triplet on the up beat there by the four of the next measure filling in to the new tempo...
So like a flam accent? Do you have it written out? My app has accelerando, but no decelerando. Can you suggest an app that has both or where you can have it continuously oscillating about a tempo. Now that would be cool.
 
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Morrisman

Platinum Member
As a part time orchestra conductor, my main job is to constantly vary the tempo to suit the phrasing if the music. I deliberately follow the same approach drumming for ballads and certain songs.

If you find it hard to keep time with the guitarist, a click won't help. Practice together, listen to each other, then try a go together with the flow.

And garage rock should be flexible and undisciplined. Just like most Rolling Stones songs.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
So like a flam accent? Do you have it written out? My app has accelerando, but no decelerando. Can you suggest an app that has both or where you can have it continuously oscillating about a tempo. Now that would be cool.
Not an accent flam just more like two notes close together. I do, but only for 12/8 to 4/4 , 12's to 16's in one measure. I like to accelerate and decelerate at the same time :)

I don't know of an app, I was just thinking outside the box. It would be cool.
 

BradGunnerSGT

Silver Member
So I'm in a new band that's pretty garagey-rock with just Vox, Guitar, and Drums. While it's already challenging to not be playing with a bass player, I've been trying to get them to practice with a click and they are giving me a lot of flack saying that they used to practice to a click but it "doesn't sound right, waste of time, we are a different kind of band," etc. I think it's partly because their last drummer was not very good either and I think they've had to adapt.

They do have many deliberate points where the tempo increases and decreases, so I do understand it makes it hard to follow a click, but I think it would help improve the time a lot. They also have this notion that they follow the lead vocal more than anything, and while I understand vox are crucial for cues and things, they don't keep the actual time.

Also to clarify, this band isn't necessarily amateur as I've just played international dates with them, they are just going for a certain aesthetic.

I found this article about sacrificing your internal need to be the blatant timekeeper and instead keeping "band time." https://www.moderndrummer.com/article/january-2010-concepts-lead-follow/

Do any of you have any advice or references like this one that illustrate this concept more?
How about using an app like LiveBPM to display the tempo where you can see it, and you push or pull the tempo until you get it where you want it without the rest of the band being "annoyed" by a click?
 

ghostnoted

Member
I can try it, but they might still think I'm forcing them to lock into a certain tempo. I actually downloaded it anyways for my own practice though.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The more I think about all this, the more it's apparent that the guys can't keep time, or they wouldn't resist and rationalize. Deliberate tempo changes are a creative decision, but the whole 'music has to breathe' thing is more indicative of a person who just can't keep time. Okay, some music does benefit from a little bit of natural ebb & flow, and it's normally imperceptible, and feels natural. Most music does not. And the instant the fluctuation is obvious, it's gone too far. It's a mistake. It's the result of players who can't keep reasonable time, and perhaps won't follow a drummer who can.

Is it worth leaving the group? Hopefully not, but it's definitely worth addressing the problem for your sake, the professionalism of the band, and the enjoyment by the audience.

Bermuda
 

opentune

Platinum Member
'band time' should still be 'good time'.
Slacking time might be their aesthetic but still, if you describe it as not sounding good, then it likely doesn't.
 

ghostnoted

Member
The more I think about all this, the more it's apparent that the guys can't keep time, or they wouldn't resist and rationalize. Deliberate tempo changes are a creative decision, but the whole 'music has to breathe' thing is more indicative of a person who just can't keep time. Okay, some music does benefit from a little bit of natural ebb & flow, and it's normally imperceptible, and feels natural. Most music does not. And the instant the fluctuation is obvious, it's gone too far. It's a mistake. It's the result of players who can't keep reasonable time, and perhaps won't follow a drummer who can.

Is it worth leaving the group? Hopefully not, but it's definitely worth addressing the problem for your sake, the professionalism of the band, and the enjoyment by the audience.

Bermuda
I have been thinking a lot about it too, and from a professional perspective, I'm trying to be open minded enough to be the kind of drummer they want. If I truly want to be adaptable and an intuitive player, I feel I need to be able to play with lots of personalities as well as different feels, click or no.

I also think back to this documentary I saw about Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers where they were describing Stan Lynch. They said one of the reasons he was such a great drummer was he was always watching Tom Petty and following him. When they toured with Bob Dylan, they constantly had to follow his lead from night to night because of all the improv the band would do.

My group's time isn't that bad, I just think they have difficulty describing what exactly they want. I don't think most of their songs actually fluctuate as much as they think. I'm used to using more syncopation too, so I've cut back on this and tried a simpler approach which helps because I think it's what they're used to and it's indicative of the style. I'm not exactly the most trained either (I had that 'proud to be self-taught' mentality for a while), so I'm always working on it too.

Ultimately, I've been able to play internationally and tour regularly with this project, so it's been really good for me career wise and I'd rather not quit if I don't have to. And hey, for being an engineer trying to be semi-pro drummer, I'm happy with it.

It'd be nice to be able to hear the band. Got any links to stuff they've recorded?
No recordings yet, but we do have some recording time booked this fall, so I'll throw up something eventually.
 
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