Slowing down a live song.

T

The Old Hyde

Guest
I need to vent but has this also ever happened to any of you. Last gig i get yelled to during a song to slow down. The song was Hush by deep purple and our lead guitar player starts it, not me. I just follow the tempo of the opening riff. We were going along, people were danceing and the bass amd rythm guys look at me and say slow down. Firt of all, i didnt start that speed and second of all, people are dancing and enjoying it, i cant change tempo at that point to where i think he wants it. grrrrr bass players are stupid!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
As long as you are completely certain that you didn't speed up, then I think you have every right to put it on the person who was responsible for the original tempo. I HATE trying to slow a song down, or speed it up mid course. The person who starts the song is responsible for the tempo and a precedent has to be set here so that is understood. Now if you knew the song was too fast from the kick off, the time to adjust it is the first bar of the song. Halfway through just sucks. As long as the song is working I keep it steady and ignore anyone who tries to ruin my high. I hate getting yelled at on stage too. I would calmly talk to this guy offstage about responsibility for tempo and professionalism onstage. He needs to be put in his place IMO, but in a nice, non-provoking, professional manner.

When I had guitar players who started songs, and didn't understand how to start a song off at the proper tempo, I would always insist on me discreetly counting them in.
 

MisterZero

Senior Member
Ya, on certain songs, I tend to speed up without even realizing it. The worst is Proud Mary by CCR. The singer counts in the 1,2,3,4....at a tempo, but then the train is off and running..and accelerating. Trying to slow down a song is hard, especially being the drummer. Being behind the drum kit makes you less visible to other members of the band. I tried slowing down this song before, and I couldn't get anybody's attention. Your bass guy was yelling maybe to make sure you heard him? I know a song we do, my guitarist can't play the solo at too fast a tempo. He'll look at me before the solo kicks in and nods if speed is o.k. gives the "no" head swivel if not. problem is: it's way too late too late.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
I need to vent but has this also ever happened to any of you. Last gig i get yelled to during a song to slow down. The song was Hush by deep purple and our lead guitar player starts it, not me. I just follow the tempo of the opening riff. We were going along, people were danceing and the bass amd rythm guys look at me and say slow down. Firt of all, i didnt start that speed and second of all, people are dancing and enjoying it, i cant change tempo at that point to where i think he wants it. grrrrr bass players are stupid!
Corrections mid song are a tough call. I've become quite good at it over the years, but I still mostly leave things alone once they've kicked off. Very rarely, I start a song at the wrong tempo. Not way off, but enough to annoy myself. Most times it happens, is when one of the other players starts the song. It only happens once every few gigs. Never any retribution or mid song face pulling. Just a quick smile, & move on :)
 

rtliquid

Senior Member
There have been times when I've been asked to adjust the tempo and I've obliged; gradually over several measures. Last week, we were playing Eagles "Take It Easy". The guitar player started it and it was already too fast. My bass player turned to me and said "faster". I smiled and said "NO!" and that was that.
 

sdedge

Senior Member
First off all ,i feel that every member off the band is responsible for his time en tempo.
Not only the drummers ,how ever most off the time drummers are made responsible for time and tempo .
So if the guitar player starts off the song to fast ,i just take that tempo en try to keep it that way.The only problem is that also your fills will sound to fast en sometimes thats is a killer for the song ,.not nice at all .
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
My job is to hold the tempo, not to adjust it. Except in egregious cases, I do my best not to budge, even if I was the one who counted it off too fast or slow (which rarely happens.)

It's always better to take an extra few seconds to establish the tempo, regardless who's counting it off. For bands that don't trust their judgement after the effects of alcohol, temperature onstage, and a getting tired after a few sets, there are discreet metronomes. Simply establish a working tempo for each song in rehearsal, and write the bpm on a list. Give one member - the drummer - the metronome, so he can count everything from that list, and problem solved!

With one of my bands, I use an iPad app that lets me punch-in tempos on a keypad. The advantage of the iPad is that the battery life is easier to manage than a physical electronic metronome, so there are no surprises or scrambling for batteries in the middle of the gig. That said, I still adore by Korg Beatlab. :)

Bermuda
 
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Stroman

Platinum Member
Generally, the only time I will change the tempo of a song once it's underway is if someone is struggling with their parts or the singer is having trouble with phrasing. Otherwise I try to ride it out, lol. Especially in a situation like you mentioned, if dancers are already responding to the groove, I probably would not change the tempo noticeably. It can really rob the energy.

The bigger issue is you need to talk with your bass player about professional behavior on stage, and discuss ways to prevent it from happening too often. Honestly, playing live in a bar setting, sometimes it happens, so you have try and minimize the problems associated with tempo issues.
 

Shedboyxx

Silver Member
I know I've been guilty of starting off things too fast or slow. But these days when tempo is critical, I bring a metronome and refer to that after a tempo has been previously established. That's just to start the song off but if there is a question about my tempo, I practice quite a bit with a metronome and don't have a problem sticking on some ear buds or headphones to keep us all honest. That way there's no discussion or second guessing. Most of the time players know I can be depended on so they don't question it and we can play (live) sans click.

If this is a one time occurrence then you could write it off while at least addressing how you were communicated to. If it's a regular occurrence, that's a different matter.

If so..
I would definitely record yourself with the band to see if you are the culprit or someone else is. If you establish that it's your issue then it's off to the woodshed with the metronome until you get more solid.

If it's someone else then it's time for a chat to agree on protocol.

I had a gig for about a year and a half with a great Irish singer who played acoustic guitar and mandolin. He liked my playing quite a bit - most of the time. However, he started kind of yelling at me on a few songs where he would start and then the band would all come in. It was either too fast too slow or too soft or too loud. There were no original recordings of these songs as he did his own versions. I recorded the band to listen for any issues and could find none.

At one point I was politely let go although on good terms with the inference that he wanted to try some other guys but would still call me. He didn't.
The bass player was a friend of mine. What I found out was that this was something he did with every drummer and the next guy got the same treatment. So did guys before me. This was the only gig I can remember being fired from. Frustratingly, there was nothing I could do about it. The call as to whether I was in the pocket, following well or in the right space changed every gig with the singer's mood.

For this gig I was dying to use a click but - you can see that wouldn't have worked out.

If you are being hired to play you have to do whatever. If this is a 'band', then you should take action to try to avoid the situation repeating itself.

Jim
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
My job is to hold the tempo, not to adjust it. Except in egregious cases, I do my best not to budge...
I'd like to add something here so that I'm not perceived as someone who takes glee, or arbitrarily shoves other players' tempo mistakes down their throats.

In most of my bands, the musicians I play with are experienced, and I don't cut them much slack. I hold those players to a higher standard, and there's no excuse for careless or recurring count-off problems. They expect the same from me, and they get it.

But one band is more of a casual situation, although a regular gigging, money-making band. The other players are good, but they're not pros. They're aware and concerned about tempos, and I do my best to nurture their growth and am not hard on them when there's an issue of any kind, although some things require some discussion at break time or perhaps later in rehearsal. Gradually, the band has become tighter and more consistent, and I know they appreciate the progress. The audience can tell the difference, too.

Bermuda
 

oldrockdrummer

Senior Member
I need to vent but has this also ever happened to any of you. Last gig i get yelled to during a song to slow down. The song was Hush by deep purple and our lead guitar player starts it, not me. I just follow the tempo of the opening riff. We were going along, people were danceing and the bass amd rythm guys look at me and say slow down. Firt of all, i didnt start that speed and second of all, people are dancing and enjoying it, i cant change tempo at that point to where i think he wants it. grrrrr bass players are stupid!
My guitar player loves to start songs off too fast, then he turns around and yells at me "Too Fast" and I always yell back "TOO LATE ! ". so now I always give him a click to start with
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
. grrrrr bass players are stupid!
I have a bass player who, after 1.5 years, still questions whether the click slows down/speeds up. He spent his entire life thinking he was a tempo god and has trouble accepting his mortality :)


Here is the deal. Not one of you really knows where the tempo problem originates. You say that the guitar player started at that tempo but that is only your take on it.

I started looking very closely at tempo over this past year and have learned that no one has perfect tempo but lots of people think they do. I'd suggest that you guy always rehearse with some kind of click. That way there is no conflict on how fast/slow to play a song.

We started doing this from day one and it helps settle all kinds of debate. We decide on a tempo and document it. I have a pad set up to start/stop a click of some sort (usually a closed HH or tambourine sound) while we play and, if there seems to be an issue, I can trigger it to see where we are.


As far as holding tempo when someone is fighting you, man that's a tough job. Our brains want to play along with something. When we identify a problem song, we just keep the click pounding away until we figure it out. It's also sometimes very hard for me to figure out who is pushing or lagging.
 

John T

Member
If we play a track that is started by myself or anybody else in the band that is the wrong tempo, generally i won't pull it back or push it on unless i hear the vocalist struggling with phrasing and we make it clear discreetly that this is our intention, In reality it doesn't happen that often and if it is a tad fast we all agree we would rather continue at that pace than make an obvious tempo change even if gradual for punters to notice and remark on. I care what people who come to see us think of us as a unit and i find it unprofessional and rude to be hollering across stage at band members, personally i wouldn't have it, we all have more respect for each other not just as musicians but as people and how we come across.
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
This is the biggest problem I encounter when I play in the Praise and Worship realm. There are two major problems that I can't seem to overcome no matter what I say or do. Keep in mind - for the most part, a guitarist or keyboard player start off the songs. We typically play 6 songs per night, from a catalogue of several hundred. So we may have not played a particular song for several months or even a couple years, and only rehearse it the hour before the service.

Problem 1: The tempo is almost never the same as when we rehearsed it. So the song is either going to be slower or faster than when we rehearsed (usually slower - seems like we speed through practice due to time constrainst before the service).

Problem 2: Verses are sung/played at a different tempo than the choruses. With this type of music, singing during the verses tend to be quiter, while the choruses tend to be louder and fuller. We have several people singing, some by people who are also playing instruments and some not. Some songs have complex harmonies. The biggest problem is when we transisiton from a chorus into the next verse, and the singers slow way down. If I keep the same beat, I get way ahead of them and it messes the entire sound out. Eventually they will usually catch up, but for a few measures it sounds like crap, and the congregation is singing along, so they get thrown off also.

These problems are amplified when we don't have the whole band playing on a particular night, or a fill-in musician is playing. Some of the singers come from a choir background, and don't understand the concept of keeping a set beat all the way through a song. And they sometimes let the audience and the feel in the room influence things.

I love when I play Praise and Worship and I've been doing it for over 20 years. But the tempo issue will likely never go away.
 
T

The Old Hyde

Guest
Corrections mid song are a tough call. I've become quite good at it over the years, but I still mostly leave things alone once they've kicked off. Very rarely, I start a song at the wrong tempo. Not way off, but enough to annoy myself. Most times it happens, is when one of the other players starts the song. It only happens once every few gigs. Never any retribution or mid song face pulling. Just a quick smile, & move on :)
i actually tried to slow it down for about a measure and no one else followed and it felt really bad so i changed back to the tempo we were already playing at. the bass player needs to get everyones attention for a full band tempo change or it wont work and ill mention that to him at practice. all of us that play can probably start and play a cover song at, or near the correct tempo. when you sing or hum a song in your head its not usually at double speed. when i count them in they dont say speed up or slow down, its just the guitar intro songs. he also went right in to Immigrant song by Zep after the ending of ( i forget what we played that night) a song and it was waaayyy too fast but i jumped in and we played it through. we start that song as one just like the recorded version but he threw out the riff and we went with it. no one at the gig thought it was bad and they went nuts for it (freakin Zep songs always go over big).
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
But the tempo issue will likely never go away.
That is not only why clicks and sequencers were invented, but possibly also why they are taking over. The tempo is always right.

There comes a time when a band can be so hung up on tempos that they suck the juice out of the music. It comes down to expectation management, which is easier said than done with 4 or 5 egos in the room.
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
That is not only why clicks and sequencers were invented, but possibly also why they are taking over. The tempo is always right.

There comes a time when a band can be so hung up on tempos that they suck the juice out of the music. It comes down to expectation management, which is easier said than done with 4 or 5 egos in the room.
Yup - and if we had a system of in-ear monitors we could use the click track. If not live, at least use it to train singers to stay with the tempo during rehearsal.
 

jodgey4

Silver Member
I know this feeling...I'm not perfect, but I try my best to hold tempo and not to budge. Practice with a metronome so when something goes wrong you can deflect any finger pointing :). I saw a video of some drummer who says if the band is trying to speed up, play the kick harder, and if they want to slow down, be more forceful on the hi-hats or other cymbals. That usually works pretty dang well. I've had directors count me off at the wrong tempo, and get mad at me for being wrong, even though I knew damn well it hadn't budged and that it was too fast. Just ignore it.
With regards to click tracks... I really don't like them. It does indeed take out the organic vibe.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
For me, it depends who I'm working with.

Last night, I was filling in for another drummer with some guys I know pretty well. In fact, their guitarist is in another band I play with. I play the role of sideman since it's not my band, but these are an easygoing bunch of guys, so there are never any incidents on the bandstand or anything like that. And all of them have very good time.

There was a tune I didn't start that came in a bit slow last night, near the end of our last set. I felt it was reasonable enough to maintain the somewhat lagging tempo rather than try to "fix" by speeding up. I thought it sounded okay, or at least was a viable "interpretation" of the original. And the guy's didn't ever give me a look to speed up or anything. But it's a judgement call based on circumstances. If it's half- or double-speed, I mean, you gotta adjust something.

My big thing is this: My time is strong enough that I will never take any s*** for timekeeping problems someone else created.

I am a tempo nazi in that way; I'll shut anyone down and shove down his throat any notion that I'm at fault when I'm not. I'm pretty easy to be around and quick to call myself out for mistakes, but I'm an arrogant, confrontational c*** in those situations. I make it hugely unpleasant. The musicians will either never bring it up again (even if they honestly think that I'm the problem) or hire someone else. Either is fine with me.

You gotta draw the line somewhere. Accepting blame for someone else's timekeeping problems is where I draw mine. Drummers get blamed for that way too often. I will never accept it.
 
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