How much does your BPM vary?

Earthmover

Junior Member
I recently listened to a couple of recordings we did as a band with no click.
I then tried to follow the recording with a metronome. Best I can tell, I started one song at 138 by 2nd verse I was at 135 then finished the song about 137.
2nd song was a little better I stayed around 98/99 with a lot more complex structure and fills. Its also hard to be exact using this process.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
A few BPM variance is pretty good over the course of a song, and unnoticable unless you're comparing it to a click (in which case even 1 BPM off is unacceptable!)

The beauty of ProTools is being able to instantly a/b the starting tempo with the ending tempo. If there's no apperciable difference, then it's fine. If the artist producer demands it be exact, then they'd use a click anyway. I've ben recording with one of my groups, and most tracks were cut without a click. I was the judge as to whether the tempo varied, and was pleased that my time was very constant. And, I have to credit that with my years of working with clicks, and learning where my weak spots were, and correcting them.

Bermuda
 

Earthmover

Junior Member
Thanks for the responses, and I realize that small fluctuations are unnoticible. I also know that in the big picture it probably doesnt mean much, but it could! I was wondering more if anyone has actually done this or something similar to check your timing without a click and how much variance there was. Just curious.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Yeah, I've checked this. My conclusion is "too much" :)

Do a Google search on echo nest bpm explorer. The author of this site wrote some software that will let you upload a music file and it will graph the drum part and show you how much your tempo fluctuates over the course of the song.

The same author did the same thing for commercially available music. Search for "in search of the click track." You can enter the title of pretty much any song you've ever heard and it will graph the tempo from a database. The author originally did all this to try and figure out which drummers used click tracks.
 

NUTHA JASON

Senior Administrator
a very gradual change in bpm over a whole song is not such a problem unless you plan to chop the track up and do some arrangements with it.
this gradual change can actually add a sense of driving excitement to the end product - provided the start and end tempos are not too drastically different and the change is gradual. the real problem is when tempo slurs noticebly - especially when a drummer slows down to cope with a difficult fill or speeds up to play a chorus groove that they are very confident with. it is these micro tempo adjustments that are rarely if ever acceptable.
j
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I think it's a great skill when a drummer can lock in and hold it there until the end. A few BPM variation without a click is about as good as can be expected.

In my trio band, the leader...his time is as good as it gets. He is the only guitar player I know that practices to a metronome...Sometimes he gets too Nazi with it though. An example: When the bass player takes a solo, playing with the meter, ever so slightly, and only when the soloist themselves go there first, is awesome. This is where we disagree on time.

Not too long ago, the bassist was taking a solo, it was just her and I, no guitar, and she got to a very delicate passage in her solo, so I lowered my dynamic, and ever so slightly, held back the time just a tad, for effect at the very "trough" of her solo. She actually was in control of the solo feel, I was just mirroring her as best I could. She made her solo breathe, and I just went where she was headed. I liked the effect, it was very gentle and loving in a way. So I was feeling all warm and fuzzy. Well the leader started moving his guitar neck to "metronomic" time, like I was dragging. Now remember he was laying out at this point, it was just the bassist and I, and she didn't have any issues with my support. In that case, sometimes time sounds good when it breathes. As soon as she left that delicate place, naturally I upped my dynamic slightly and returned back to a non stretchy meter. I basically ignored the leaders "correction" attempt. He wasn't playing, so I did what I felt was best, and he didn't agree.

Ever hear an unaccompanied piano player play with the time? You know when they hold notes or chords for effect? To me, not only is that totally legitimate, it indicates a high level of time feel control. Sometimes to create an effect, the time has to stretch. When the full band is playing, in my world, stretching the time isn't practiced, god forbid, but if I'm backing a soloist, meaning it's just them and myself playing, then stretching time....ever so slightly.... can work well to create moods, but only if the soloist goes there first. I don't dictate the soloists time feel in that situation.

But back on topic, I never actually measured myself. What I do is on every song, when I get near the end, I mentally compare the ending tempo to the starting tempo, from what I remembered the starting feel to be. I work on my meter with a metronome enough to feel that I am steady enough for my purposes. There's no huge variations.

Metronome practice really smoothed me out and I think all musicians, not just drummers, should practice to a met until they understand exactly what steady meter sounds like.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
If I was taking lessons, I would want my teacher to be able to play their butt off by themselves and especially with others. But I think that you can be a fine teacher without being a good player. The performance aspect is a different aspect from having great technique for instance.

I am a walking example that groove can be learned. But first you have to want it bad and be concerned with it. I didn't have groove my whole life. My whole life! I wasn't really thinking about it until about 2005, I just didn't get it yet. Finally about 2008, it started happening for me, coincidentally, right about the time I joined Drummerworld. I also attribute it to being in a certain band around that time that played songs that needed real groove. When I joined that band in 2007, my groove wasn't there yet. By the time that band broke up in 2010, I finally had a handle on what groove is. When I experienced the first gigs where I found my pocket...that was it. I was hooked bad. Now I am just trying to get deeper and deeper into that pocket because it feels so f****ing good.
 

TTNW

Pioneer Member
Ever hear an unaccompanied piano player play with the time? You know when they hold notes or chords for effect? To me, not only is that totally legitimate, it indicates a high level of time feel control. Sometimes to create an effect, the time has to stretch. When the full band is playing, in my world, stretching the time isn't practiced, god forbid, but if I'm backing a soloist, meaning it's just them and myself playing, then stretching time....ever so slightly.... can work well to create moods, but only if the soloist goes there first. I don't dictate the soloists time feel in that situation.

But back on topic..
Yes to this. You have to let the soloist be the timekeeper if they're going to lead. Most of the time, I have to lay down a solid tempo and let the soloist go but we have a few spots in a couple of songs that our lead guitar player does what he wants with the time and it was difficult for me at first because it wasn't prearranged or anything so it just took me a while to know where he was going to go with the tempo.

We do Maggot Brain and he slows the tempo down twice during his impossibly long (10 minute) solo. Lucky for me, he always does this at the same spots in his solo, so it really shows how he feels the tempo and likes to control it. It sounds great to me.

The other day, I was in my practice room and an acoustic version of Black Hole Sun with Chris Cornell playing guitar and singing comes on. He messes with the time feel in this song relentlessly. It was almost impossible for me to play along to it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SWssDUUUAw

I don't think this was the same version but he does it a couple of times on this one too. It was really drastic on the version I heard.

I've gotten better over the years and I've been recording myself weekly for over a year now.

My BPMs vary probably more than they should but hey, I'm human, not a robot.

I play "Slow Ride" to a click and I'm solid as a rock. It's the song that's messed up. ;-) KIDDING!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Good example Phillippe. I can hear how he lets chords ring out at the end of some phrases for effect. Totally legitimate, advanced even. Easy to do with no drums too. When drums are included, the drummer has to be able to mirror seamlessly by listening, or know where he is going to stretch the time, or both.
 
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