Why are some guitarists so hard to play with?

Channing

Member
I'm in a band and I love playing with the guys in my band, but sometimes when I try to jam with other people it's just impossible to make it sound like music. I'm not sure why though. I think maybe some of them have no rhythm, or they aren't able to follow me and are expecting me to follow them instead. Also played with a keyboard player who, it was actually impossible for me to feel any kind of rhythm in what he was playing, it just sounded like arrhythmic nonsense, but then he suggested a beat for me to play and I played it and he was able to lock in with me. It's bizarre to me how common this seems to be, and these aren't novice musicians but more like people who usually do singer/songwriter type stuff and play their own instrument and sing as like a solo act. I'm not sure what to do about this other than trying to force them to play with a metronome.
 

Audiopat

Member
I've had this before, specifically with singer/songwriters. I know exactly what you mean. It's as if they have their own sense of when they will speed up or slow down, and the drummer be damned.
 

Channing

Member
I've had this before, specifically with singer/songwriters. I know exactly what you mean. It's as if they have their own sense of when they will speed up or slow down, and the drummer be damned.
There's that, but there also seems to be an inability to listen to the drums. I jammed with this guitarist who, we could stay together for like 16 or so measures and then we would get off time of each other by a beat or half a beat, and the guy made no attempt to get back into time with me. I had to figure out how to get back in time with him, or else he would just literally keep playing everything one beat off of what I was playing pretty much indefinitely. It was bizarre. Most people, if you're not playing in time with each other, it feels wrong to them and they'll kind of pull back and listen for a little bit and then lock back in. It's like if someone were playing in the wrong key for an extended period of time and didn't notice.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Perhaps they are so focused on what they are doing it becomes like tunnel vision. Everything else is tuned out.

Biggest problem I've had with guitarists are the ones who can't play the same riff consistently. Always wanting to stop and start over, just to have to stop and start over again. I know it's just them needing to practice more, but you do that at home, not when you are jamming.

I used to work (my job, not musically) with this guy who was a fantastic soloist. But that's what he wanted to be. The man couldn't write or play a rhythm to save his life because he never learned the basics. But he could solo all day long.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
There are many guitarists, with a wide range of skill levels, and relatively high expectations, and most the time they have the most , politely, audible equipment. There is also the sort of insular guitar ensemble mentality, where guitarists like to play with other guitarists, because they all make the same mistakes at the same time.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
There's a huge difference between musicians playing together....and musicians playing simultaneously in the same room. Listening is the difference. Your guys aren't listening to anyone but themselves. It could even be that they are oblivious to anyone else but themselves. That can't work in an ensemble situation, period. I don't know it's something that can even be brought up, it's like saying they're ugly or something. Unless they are really open minded, can take constructive criticism, and who are willing to try your suggestion, and instantly do it. Ha ha ha. That's mainly a drummer skill, not a guitarist skill in my experience. Sorry guitarists.
 

Channing

Member
There's a huge difference between musicians playing together....and musicians playing simultaneously in the same room. Listening is the difference. Your guys aren't listening to anyone but themselves. It could even be that they are oblivious to anyone else but themselves. That can't work in an ensemble situation, period. I don't know it's something that can even be brought up, it's like saying they're ugly or something. Unless they are really open minded, can take constructive criticism, and who are willing to try your suggestion, and instantly do it. Ha ha ha. That's mainly a drummer skill, not a guitarist skill in my experience. Sorry guitarists.
I think if they want to keep trying to play music with me, it's going to have to be addressed though. The faster tempo stuff is the worst, because it's harder for me to get back in with them if we fall out. If we're playing at like 80-100 bpm it's really easy and hardly noticeable, but at something like 130 bpm it just sounds like chaos and I have a hard time hearing where their 1 is. I think in that situation I'm going to suggest that we play the same thing, but at a slower tempo until we can get it right, and then try speeding it up. Maybe that will instill some listening skills.. I don't know how to actually say, "you have to listen to me." Seems that should be obvious.
 

Peter256

Junior Member
It's a concept called "rubato". Listen to the way Willy Nelson sings on slow tunes. You wouldn't follow his styling as a drummer. You have to set a solid time and let him weave in and out of the time. Yeah, it's hard and I don't like it either. If everyone in the band plays that way at the same time then it's just a mess. But just the soloist, there is a justification. Yeah, not very "rock and roll". https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo_rubato
 

Channing

Member
It's a concept called "rubato". Listen to the way Willy Nelson sings on slow tunes. You wouldn't follow his styling as a drummer. You have to set a solid time and let him weave in and out of the time. Yeah, it's hard and I don't like it either. If everyone in the band plays that way at the same time then it's just a mess. But just the soloist, there is a justification. Yeah, not very "rock and roll". https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo_rubato
I've played with guitarists who did solos and did stuff like this. It's not what I'm talking about here at all. When someone's playing a guitar solo, I usually just set a solid groove and then let them do whatever. In that case the whole rhythm section is together and you just have one person playing something different, and it still sounds like music. I'm more talking about someone trying to play rhythm guitar and it's out of time with the drums, and it leaves the bassist wondering who he's supposed to follow. And it sounds like noise.
 
I’ve been a musician all my life . Woodwinds from age six through high school . Drums since age 12 ( 52 now ) , but a 15 year or so break from the kit . But not from the bagpipe band I’m in . I’ll be the first to say I was never the best musician or drummer, but my timing was/is always spot on . The constant speeding up and lagging behind always drives me nuts .I feel your pain.😩😤🤬. I started ( jokeingly) wearing one of these t shirts to band practice lol 😂

CDCD376C-D0AA-41D3-B154-F29F74DF8368.jpeg
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I have the opposite problem: a good friend of mine is a guitarist who plays alone 90% of the time. He strums 8th notes constantly, no rests, no whole notes, just constant strumming with an occasional accent to imply the beat of the tune. We tried forming a band and after 6 months I told him to stop playing 8th notes, just play like the original recording, or even less. Nope, he couldn’t do it ‘cuz it’s his strumming that keeps him on tempo. His accuracy of tempo is excellent, but his style (crutch?) is not enjoyable nor musical to perform with.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I’ve been a musician all my life . Woodwinds from age six through high school . Drums since age 12 ( 52 now ) , but a 15 year or so break from the kit . But not from the bagpipe band I’m in . I’ll be the first to say I was never the best musician or drummer, but my timing was/is always spot on . The constant speeding up and lagging behind always drives me nuts .I feel your pain.😩😤🤬. I started ( jokeingly) wearing one of these t shirts to band practice lol 😂

View attachment 86963
OMG I want that shirt! That's awesome!
 

Peter256

Junior Member
I've played with guitarists who did solos and did stuff like this. It's not what I'm talking about here at all. When someone's playing a guitar solo, I usually just set a solid groove and then let them do whatever. In that case the whole rhythm section is together and you just have one person playing something different, and it still sounds like music. I'm more talking about someone trying to play rhythm guitar and it's out of time with the drums, and it leaves the bassist wondering who he's supposed to follow. And it sounds like noise.
Yikes, time to find a new rhythm guitarist.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
As a writer/guitarist, I can offer a few insights....

Most writers already have a pseudo-idea of the drum rhythm. Sometimes a drummer will counter with their own completely different idea and make things awesome, but learning to accept that input is a real challenge. Sometimes it's.... "Shame on you for not hearing the imaginary song in my head"

Guitarists, like singers, have a full range of tools that can muck with timing. Swells, fades, tremolo, vibrato, etc. While drummers are handed a mechanical pencil, electrified instruments and vox are handed a set of water-color-paint.

I took up drums several years back in in effort to reduce my dependency on studio drummers and found that it has really tightened up my timing.... on the guitar..... which I've been playing for almost a half century.
 

Timmy

Member
Once, a VERY long time ago, I set in to practice with a rock band. They were terrible. They were only concerned with how they looked. I ended up with blisters on all of my fingers. lol Anyway, there were some unbelievably hot chicks there. I thought they were WAY out of my league. One of them came over and started hitting on me. Changed my life from that moment on. I guess I can thank them for that. lol
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Quite simply many guitarists have no sense of tempo or rhythm. They're so into learning chords, and licks, and solos, etc, they forget to ever practice just time.

It's Eddie Van Halen syndrome. Guitar players get so in awe of Eddie's solo abilities, and they study his solos and licks, that without realizing the reason Eddie Van Halen is one of the world best guitarists is he is amazing rhythm guitar player as well.

I know several guitar players who can play just about anything under the sun: Metal, jazz, classical, etc, they have amazing chops and can do mind-boggling solos. But ask them to lay down some simple chords over a 4/4 beat to a click track, and they can't. It's so sloppy it is unusable.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
It sounds like they just aren't very far in their musician journey yet. Even guys who are great solo players have to put in time playing with others or they won't be great at it.

All you can really do is try to tell them what they're missing; like listening to you, and fitting their parts into the time. If they are going to refuse to do so or try to work on it, things won't really get better.

In a jam setting I usually just default to following them and then don't seek out further jams with those individuals. I'd rather we all at least play the same time, even if it ain't in-time.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I don't really think this is only about guitar players. It's just people who are untrained, unaware or simply not used to playing with others in this type of situation.

Another thing would piano players who's left hand seem completely unaware that there's a bass player in the band.

As a guitar player I've met plenty of bassists and drummers who couldn't keep time worth shit, as well.
 

TMe

Senior Member
A lot of musicians don't put much effort into listening while they play. All their attention is focused on their own part.

If musicians spend some time with a metronome, that forces them to LISTEN. It might not do much for their timing if they don't use it much, but even a bit of metronome practice will improve their listening skills.

Some people won't practice with a metronome because they never play quietly enough to hear a metronome. They need a drum machine played through an amp or PA. A laptop or even a cell phone can be used for a drum machine.

That's not helpful for jamming, but if you're learning a song with a band and the timing sucks, try putting a drum machine through a PA and asking the band to play along with that. Doing that even a few times can make a big difference. If you make a recording of them doing it, you'll have a nice steady version of the song you can practice with later. The more I practice with such a recording, the more solid my time gets, and that rubs off on the rest of the band.

Unless I'm the culprit, in which case practicing with the recording is a good way to sort out my own tempo issues.
 
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