Playing songs at different tempos

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
My main band has a leader. He dictates the tempo and feel of the songs. I count off nothing, it's all him. Some songs he keeps pretty much the same tempo all the time. Other songs...depends on his mood. He has impeccable tempo and meter, so this is a good thing for me.

It also reveals my flaws. The other night, we played the slow 12/8 song, "Guilty" by Bonnie Raitt. We do this song all the time, usually at the same tempo all the time. The other night, he started it noticeably faster. Not bad faster, just faster. At the end of most songs, I try and compare the ending tempo to what I remembered the starting tempo to be. The point I'm trying to make is by the end of the song, I had slipped back to just about the slower tempo we always do it at. Listening to the playback the next day, I saw where I started laxing off the tempo. (it was during a non scripted bass solo) Little by little, by the end of her solo, it was slow.

I have a favorite speed for most songs I do. No problem if I am setting the tempo. But in the band I'm in, I don't set tempos or feels. And he calls tempos that frankly, you have to be on your toes not to wander. This guy notices the slightest variation. I am not faulting him in any way, his timing is impeccable. I am noticing that I have trouble doing songs at speeds other than where I think they should be. I have a comfort zone for songs, and I find myself wanting to drift to those zones, even if they aren't started that way. Any suggestions?
 

Liebe zeit

Silver Member
I don't see any other way than to a) become the band leader, or b) practice your grooves at slightly different tempos, say up and down 10bpm.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
Not easy Larry, especially because you're used to playing a song at a certain tempo with the same act. I think it's only flagging up the fact you care about the feel of the music you're making, rather than the detatchment of a journeyman.

Strangely, maintaining a tempo that I'm uncomfortable with is something I'm quite good at. I'm pretty sure it comes from getting the starting tempo badly wrong when it's my responsibility to start the song, then learning to live with it as the better option rather than being seen to drag or rush in the correction. So what I'm coming to is, I think it's a practice thing. Respectfully suggest to the leader that you'd benefit from the band rehearsing a few tempo variations in certain songs, so that when he takes a decision to start a bit faster or slower to capture/maintain a mood, you're already there & consistent. If you always play a song at the same tempo, the pull to keep it there is very difficult to resist. You're essentially fighting against a skill that's taken years to hone, & that's the ability to be a consistently performing tempo setter.
 

B-squared

Silver Member
If you play like I do, you have to do it at the newer tempo (the one you're unfamiliar with) a few times to get it right. Unless you use a tick track or have a metronome right in front of your face you aren't likely to get it right the first time.

I know all the old adages about how we drummers are the keepers of the tempo and it's always our fault if it isn't right. I respect rather rigid thinking that to a certain point; however, what I think non-drummers don't understand is that if all there was to it was tempo, drum machines would sound good. I don't see too many bands using drum machines.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
I don't see too many bands using drum machines.
Depends on the music you are going to see. There in not a drummer to be had on any of the hip hop, rap, or RnB albums that have dominated music sales for the last 10-15 years. I don't paticulary care for that music, but it is the biggest thing out there.

Now back to Larry's question. I have a hard time when the tempo of a song is different than what I am used to. Since the song already feels wrong, it's hard for me to tell If I am making it worse or not. If the song is too fast to begin with, it's hard to tell if I am speeding up.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
You're essentially fighting against a skill that's taken years to hone, & that's the ability to be a consistently performing tempo setter.
This really put it in perspective. It's really a lack of focus on the new tempo, and a laziness for the old tempo, which I got. I have to realize a song is faster than I am used to and keep a vigilant watch on the tempo. Makes getting into the zone a little tougher when the conscious mind is always intruding.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I think this issue is common with players of all instruments, unless they're like your bandleader and have impeccable time.
 

Toolate

Platinum Member
There was a thread that talked about a device that could count time (and show you) by locking in to your kick or snare or something. Like a metronome in revrese. I have never gigged but it sounded like a great idea to have live feedback on this.

Does this thing exist? Might have been a an App.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I used to play drums for alot of show choirs (I admit it), and consequently, you get used to playing everything at break neck speeds. It's a skill I don't admit to, because I'm a proponent of "there's a certain tempo for every song". There's a reason the original artists did their songs at certain speeds. Tempos are just as important as keys, I say. Sure, if someone wants to go faster or slower, I'll hold it there, but it's obvious where the songs wants to lay.

I think you're in a tough situation. If the leader wants it there, I'd just lock it there and wait for the three or four minutes to pass so we can get to the next tune. But audiences notice when things are at the wrong tempo and key and from my experience they don't want to tolerate that too long.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
There's a reason the original artists did their songs at certain speeds. Tempos are just as important as keys, I say. Sure, if someone wants to go faster or slower, I'll hold it there, but it's obvious where the songs wants to lay.
I like that comment about tempos and keys. And some songs have more wiggle room between the original tempo or key than others. So much depends on the players' styles and sounds, especially in the non pro ranks.

Our singer sometimes will need a song transposed and sometimes another player will need a tempo varied. At practice I'll mention that a tempo was too fast or slow and a few times our singer's replied, "But it's within tolerance". ie. not a deal-breaker.

It depends how pro you are. Things are much more precise these days. In the 70s, many, many live versions were faster than the studio takes. Top bands, too. Sometimes the extra energy was an improvement, sometimes not.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Just a thought Larry, did the band leader notice you slipping back into the usual tempo? I bet the audience didn't :)
Oh yea. At the end of the song, just about the same time I realized I had slowed down, I could tell he realized it to by the frustration I heard in his rhythm strumming. he was in a sour mood that night anyway, and when he is like that, he has no patience for bad time. I heard his "message" that the song ended up much slower than it started in the urgent way he strummed his rhythm chords in the last minute of the song, as if to say, we started this way faster....

Hey, I did a fail. Not the end of the world. Something I do NOT want to happen again though. This guy keeps me on my toes, and I am grateful for that. It all boils down to a mental slippage back into my tempo comfort zone. It's a tendency that I am just starting to realize, the first step in correcting it.

As long as mistakes are corrected and not repeated, that's the main thing
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'm a proponent of "there's a certain tempo for every song". There's a reason the original artists did their songs at certain speeds. Tempos are just as important as keys, I say. Sure, if someone wants to go faster or slower, I'll hold it there, but it's obvious where the songs wants to lay.

I think you're in a tough situation. If the leader wants it there, I'd just lock it there and wait for the three or four minutes to pass so we can get to the next tune. But audiences notice when things are at the wrong tempo and key and from my experience they don't want to tolerate that too long.

I wouldn't say the song was at the wrong tempo, that song has a range of tempos where it would work. We always play it at roughly the same speed, slower, except for the other night. I subscribe to the certain tempo thing for every song too. But one has to be flexible too, lesson learned. And vigilant when outside my tempo preferences.


I like that comment about tempos and keys. And some songs have more wiggle room between the original tempo or key than others. So much depends on the players' styles and sounds, especially in the non pro ranks.
Me too, I like Bo's comment too. Some songs do, and some songs definitely do not have wiggle room. That one did, it was all my bad. Great musical time, for me, is something I really have to work hard on. There's a joke somewhere in the previous sentence lol.
 

TTNW

Pioneer Member
I would just practice this song a bit playing along to that nights recording of it.

Shed that 10 or 15 times on your own at the faster tempo and you should be able to get comfortable again whether he goes for the older slower tempo or the faster one.

This happens to me quite often. We play that old song Magnolia and sometimes JR our guitar player and singer starts a little too slow. I usually just try to adjust to him, since he started the song off but it feels terrible and drags. Our lead guitar player has a great sense of tempo and feel whereas our other guitar and bass player have to follow me or they wander.
.
This probably happens to a lot of people.
 
T

TFITTING942

Guest
Iv'e seen Rush live quite a few times and even though I like to swear they play exacltly how they recored, their tempo sometimes is very quick live. Often very obvious. The crowds still cheers though so in the end, who really cares? Play it how you start it and move on.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
....

Not sure how I'd feel if I were you, larry. Most of my playing is me counting off the tunes, even with a band leader .Also, I don't know if it's just me but I believe, at least as far as bar/club gigs go, each gig has an energy of its own and where in the set list you play a song determines the feel and tempo for me. I don't mean huge degrees of variation, but subtle shifts, pushes pulls etc ( wiggle room ? ) . I find it energising and preferabe to playing a song in 1 particlar way, every time. Thats for the superstars with hits and fan bases.

...
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
So OK I need the ability to ignore deeply programmed, "did them 1000 times before" tempos and instantly feel it differently, without error, while having complete amnesia when it comes to the old warm and fuzzy tempo. How hard can that be?
 

rock fan

Junior Member
I think its the drummers role to firstly know the bpm and also count in the rest of the band.The drummer is the pulse also not very good ( my opinion) that speed or song differs at different timesi.e 1 night song say 140bpm then next night same song 160 bpm .It seems as your friend enjoys the control can you live with this or are you getting frustrated? if frustated you may have a decision to make?
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Hey Larry,

I find 2 main things involuntarily direct my tempo within a song.


1) What I am listening to within the song;

Most drummers lock in with the bass player, but when the bass player is moving tempo or throwing some tempo illusions of "in front" or "behind" the beat I can find myself moving actual tempo.


2) How I feel about what I am playing;

When Im bored I can find myself slowing down. When im a bit amped up, I find myself speeding up.


Try varying who/what you listen to in the song...maybe take all indications by listening to the master time keeper and ignoring others until the feel of what you are listening to feels nice and solid.

I would also suggest trying to keep emotional commitment low while developing/changing how you are listening...as that will make it easier to avoid the associated tempo change.

In the end, i love Gavin Harrisons mantra...play with a metronome when practicing and record it....then take the time to listen to it at slower speeds to pick out the things you dont like...rinse...repeat.


BTW, your honesty about such a central subject to drumming is inspiring!!...must drive you nuts! I understand the feeling...my timeing is less than sterling...something I dont work on as it tends to mute my creativity as my attention gets split to attend to timing along with content...and I am content obsessed!

Nice thing is, it can be improved with relative ease...where appropriate content creativity is a bit more difficult to improve easily.


Edit: oh, and improper nutrition/hydration will send me into rubber temo land in an instant...if not after a couple hours playing...drink something while playing(well, between songs, usually : ) with proper electrolytes...Potassium as well as Sodium...no drugs/alchohol, of course.
 
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