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  #1  
Old 02-13-2019, 09:56 AM
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Default Jazz band playing to a metronome

Hello DW,

It's been a couple years since we last spoke. Hope you all are doing alright!

I've been playing drums off and on (non-professionally) for 40 yrs and this is the first time a band leader has made the entire band rehearse with a metronomic click (smartphone app plugged into a guitar amp which isn't loud enough to always be heard).

This is a jazz combo with between 5 and 8 players playing everything from jazz ballads, to fast bebop, and some latin and funk. However the bebop is primarily where he uses it.

My research says that music needs to breath and the correct use of metronomes is to spot check but not play-along. An example of this is in the Woody Shaw composition "Zoltan" which was recorded on Larry Young's "Unity" album:

https://youtu.be/_vVHT-wSLik?t=009
- 118 bpm - marching snare rhythm
https://youtu.be/_vVHT-wSLik?t=029
- 120 bpm - 8 bars, Afrocuban rhythm
https://youtu.be/_vVHT-wSLik?t=036
- 117 bpm - A section 16 bars, Afrocuban rhythm with horns (melody)
https://youtu.be/_vVHT-wSLik?t=053
- 120 bpm - B section 8 bars, swing
https://youtu.be/_vVHT-wSLik?t=101
- 118 bpm - C section 8 bars, Afrocuban rhythm (melody)
https://youtu.be/_vVHT-wSLik?t=109
- 117 bpm - A section 16 bars, Afrocuban rhythm (trumpet solo)

I used the metronome app for Android and used values that held true for 8 bars or more.

So, it is apparent to me that a spot check at the Afrocuban sections A and C would have been a more effective use of the metronome than a play-a-long approach. The tune would not sound as refreshing had the swing been reduced to the same tempo as the other non-swing sections. Perhaps I need to repeat this exercise for the other tunes and show it to him to convince him it isn't an effective tool for the way he's using it. Matter of factly, it's counterproductive since when we find ourselves getting off the click, we have to skip time to re-align, instead what real live playing calls for - listening to your fellow band members to realign.

Any thoughts?

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Old 02-13-2019, 10:30 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Metronome for jazz band? That's the first time I've heard about it. I wouldn't mind if it was just being used as a training/practice tool, then dispensed with when the band knows the music already. But if this goes all the way to performance, there's something wrong here. Its either the director doesn't trust his own tempo, or is channeling "Whiplash" too seriously.

Last edited by makinao; 02-13-2019 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 02-13-2019, 03:43 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Hopefully the click is a short term tool to give everyone a reference for the bebop tempo. Given how it is being fed through a guitar amp, I am guessing that is the case.

Have you asked the band leader?
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Old 02-13-2019, 03:49 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by sumdrumguy View Post
Hopefully the click is a short term tool to give everyone a reference for the bebop tempo. Given how it is being fed through a guitar amp, I am guessing that is the case.

Have you asked the band leader?
I have not. I'm trying to get my ducks in a row before going into battle LOL.
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Old 02-13-2019, 04:02 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by rhumbagirl View Post
I have not. I'm trying to get my ducks in a row before going into battle LOL.
Hopefully it won't be a battle :) That said, noting the tempo shifts for a few more songs is a good idea.

You could open the conversation, in private, with a crack about how cool it would be if there was a Jazz setting on the metronome app. Something that breathed with the song. Mention that you look forward to running through those songs off click.

If their answer implies that you'll be using it live, bring out the song data.

I can see you using a metronome as a reference to count in. Once the song starts, it's time to swing!
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Old 02-13-2019, 09:56 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

I mean I don't even think there's a way to be diplomatic about this. A metronome/click has no place in a bebop combo.
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Old 02-13-2019, 10:18 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

At first I thought you were posting examples there! Had it going in the background and was confused.

It's possible the leader is less worried than some might be about sounding like "authentic jazz", and possibly just wants strict meter. Hopefully not, but there really isn't any rulebook saying you should never use strict meter in any formats. I used to turn on a click when I was first looking at the basics of jazz patterns and it never really hampered the ability to put notes where they're supposed to be... Just sort of takes away some of the "feel" tools you might have with stretching bars and what not
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Old 02-14-2019, 07:22 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

If your combo can handle fast bebop with a click, then it will certainly be able to allow some “breathing” when playing without a click. Plenty of msicians will argue that the music should “breathe”, in order to excuse a sh***y sense of timing. By putting on the click at rehearsal, the bandleader is setting up the expectation that individuals should practice with the click during personal practice. It’s an effective strategy. How else would you motivate such a group?

Also, the “breathing” may not be a priority at this point. Maybe the ensemble has a member or two who are dragging or rushing, and need to be reined in. Whatever the cases, get that guitar amp closer to you, and/or play more softly, so that you can hear it. The metronome won’t do your band any good at all, if you as the drummer aren’t hanging with it. Do not follow or flex for anyone else; stay on that click, even if the rest of the group descends into chaos.

(The world is littered with musicians who haven’t spent nearly enough time practicing to a metronome.)
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Old 02-14-2019, 10:24 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by 8Mile View Post
I mean I don't even think there's a way to be diplomatic about this. A metronome/click has no place in a bebop combo.
Yeah, agreed.

Personally I have recorded with a number of jazz and bebop combos in the studio. I always insist on doing it live in the same room where possible. In the past, certain (slightly square) members have noted the tempo changes through the tunes and suggested metronomes and clicks. My response was that if I wanted it robotic I would have tracked the tunes individually rather than as a band.

The push and pull of a tempo is a natural and welcome part of a band performance and I wouldn't change it.
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Old 02-14-2019, 01:20 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Some further facts (that might go to the root cause of our tempo slowdown):

Bass player is less experienced and may be dragging. The band leader also isolates players or selections of players with the metronome to determine who is dragging.

The drumset is not mine and the group is still new enough that I’m still fine tuning it. It is a ImperialStar 5-piece (22,10,12,16) with one of the toms (10) set aside. The heads are all stock clear heads and tuned high. The hardware is workable.

The first 4 rehearsals I brought my own cymbals - 20” Meinl Byzance Dark Ride, 17” K Custom Dark Crash. By the 5th rehearsal I decided to bring my own snare - 1980s Tama Artwood 6.5x14 with Remo Ambassador Coated batter - and boy did that make a difference.

We just had our 6th rehearsal and I’m noticing how boingy the bass drum is. Going to put a Evans EMAD-2 on it or replace the drum with my own. That in itself could be enough volume in a fast tune to keep the band from hearing each other and hence cause tempo slowdown.

I also tried out a 20” K Custom Dark Ride which seemed much more compatible than the Byzance (particularly the crash capability with the stick shoulder). I’m thinking of adding a 19” K Constantinople Crash Ride as well.
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:57 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

I studied jazz years ago under trombonist legend Ashley Alexander (ex-Maynard Ferguson and Stan Kenton, full time jazz educator by the time I got to him), and every now and then he’d pull out a metronome and have the band work on their time with it. He did it even more old school by using one of those old blinking light ones and turning out the room light so we could all see it, which gave no one the excuse that we couldn’t hear it. It was hard but we learned a lot. He understood that yes, time breathes, but you should also be able to breathe with the metronome too. Everybody’s time must be solid. Look at the Yellowjackets when they were heavily sequencer based - they treated it as the fifth member that played in perfect time - and collectively their time never waivers.

So, I say try it and see if you can’t make it musical. Bring in your own recorder and record the band doing it, and when you’re not doing it and if you can hear a huge difference, maybe the director has a point. There are probably many examples of “breathing” in jazz, but there’s a difference between breathing around a tempo and being completely out of control. Make sure you guys aren’t the latter first before arguing that you must “breathe”. Maybe you guys are “hyperventilating” ;)
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Old 02-14-2019, 03:48 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhumbagirl View Post
Some further facts (that might go to the root cause of our tempo slowdown):

Bass player is less experienced and may be dragging. The band leader also isolates players or selections of players with the metronome to determine who is dragging.
This band is gasping, not breathing. The bandleader is wisely using a metronome to make the band tighter, and keep the group from slowing down. The focus is on players and sections with timing issues. Practice the material with a metronome yourself, to make sure that you're not contributing anything but super solid time-playing.

Those who are disparaging metronome use here, seem to be talking about live performances and recording, not rehearsing. Huge difference.
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:52 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by brentcn View Post
This band is gasping, not breathing. The bandleader is wisely using a metronome to make the band tighter, and keep the group from slowing down. The focus is on players and sections with timing issues. Practice the material with a metronome yourself, to make sure that you're not contributing anything but super solid time-playing.

Those who are disparaging metronome use here, seem to be talking about live performances and recording, not rehearsing. Huge difference.
Yea, I think we figured that's what the OP was afraid of, is that they'd want to use it for performing.

To be frank, there are certain genres that have a legit distaste for strict meter... A part of the music is the way parts get stretched/compressed in ways that just don't match metronome beeps.

Lastly, it sounds to me like the leader in this case is addressing sort of a weird situation where a player or two in the ensemble is having the bad sort of dragging issues... I think usually at a high jazz level these kinds of players would simply be replaced until they can sit with the room's tempo and not pull on it... Without a click to show them. I agree that it's a good learning tool regardless the genre, but that learning should not be in the presence of other musicians during rehearsal.
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Old 02-15-2019, 08:34 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Quote:
Originally Posted by “Dr_Watso”
Yea, I think we figured that's what the OP was afraid of, is that they'd want to use it for performing.
Nope, only for rehearsal. I would shoot the bandleader if he tried that at a performance. But I think is, and what someone else here alluded to - is if the band leader decided to use the metronomic-play-along during rehearsals all the way up to - but not including - the performance. Which was and is IMHO still unacceptable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by “Dr_Watso”
Lastly, it sounds to me like the leader in this case is addressing sort of a weird situation where a player or two in the ensemble is having the bad sort of dragging issues…
That could be. What I need to do is rule out that it isn’t me. And I need to first get the right drums/sound in there. And I need to try the metronome practice at home. Note that the band leader has been urging us to do this at home for a few weeks now, but only one tune out of a dozen have the tempo marking. That’s not an excuse in and of itself, but it is an interesting note.

Quote:
Originally Posted by “Brentcn”
Practice the material with a metronome yourself, to make sure that you're not contributing anything but super solid time-playing.
I think I will do that. With the end game of playing better solid time during rehearsal and gigs. And NOT the end game of playing to a click during metronomic-play-along rehearsals. Which is what I think you are saying: i.e. the band leader is trying to make the play along as uncomfortable as he can, so we’ll be motivated to AVOID that in future rehearsals.

Quote:
This band is*gasping, not breathing.
I love that! LOL

Quote:
Originally Posted by “Bo_Eder”
He understood that yes, time breathes, but you should also be able to breathe with the metronome too. Everybody’s time must be solid.
So let me do my homework and report back. I actually have been recording with my H5 handheld. I haven’t had a chance to listen to Tuesday’s rehearsal due to work commitments, but it’s the first rehearsal where I think I got the gain settings right. Since I don’t know what I sound like with the terrible bass drum, I’m going to wait before I post some live samples.

(1) practice with metronome
(2) fix the bass drum issue
(3) observe the bass player and what he’s doing, not doing

Quote:
Originally Posted by “8Mile”
A metronome/click has no place in a bebop combo.
Thanks for the support. But before we get too bombastic with our purist intentions (he he), I need to rule out myself as a source of the drag. And I need to fix the drum sound/tuning first. But yes, I have a ton of stuff to say about “time” and “groove” and my perspective on what it is and how it works.

Quote:
Originally Posted by “Dr_Watso”
It's possible the leader is less worried than some might be about sounding like "authentic jazz", and possibly just wants strict meter.*
That’s possible. But a quartz crystal clock is unforgiving on the slightest deviation of time. It’s compounded as more deviations happen and pile up onto each other. Spot check on the other hand, achieves the same result - that the band lost bpm over a certain section or period - and now let’s go find out who’s dragging to address it. The band leader is happy letting us play to the click through the _entire_ tune, through all the section changes, solos, as if the goal is to play like that. But no one is able to really play what their heart tells them because they’re worried about not hitting the click on 2 and 4 on each and every bar. Furthermore, he’s spending a significant part of our rehearsal time on the play-along, sometimes up to 50% (one hour out of two).

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Old 02-15-2019, 09:17 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by Mighty_Joker View Post
Yeah, agreed.

Personally I have recorded with a number of jazz and bebop combos in the studio. I always insist on doing it live in the same room where possible. In the past, certain (slightly square) members have noted the tempo changes through the tunes and suggested metronomes and clicks. My response was that if I wanted it robotic I would have tracked the tunes individually rather than as a band.

The push and pull of a tempo is a natural and welcome part of a band performance and I wouldn't change it.
Thanks for the support! One thing I forgot to add is that the bass player might be dragging everyone down by playing too on top of the beat. Ie, he never shifts his walking bass line to the "ah" of beat 4, so that could be contributing to our "feels like we're fighting each other" feeling. Playing the "ah" occasionally, not all the time, it creates anticipation and hence drives the groove/tempo forward.
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Old 02-15-2019, 03:18 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Regarding the bass drum, is it ported? If so you could bring in some damping materials to reduce boing rather than investing in an emad for a drum that is not yours. I use an Evas EQPad. It comes with adhesive velcro strips, but you dont need to use it. Works well.
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Old 02-15-2019, 03:32 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Check the tightness of the reso head. My thought is it is really tight, thus making it boingy. Detune that sucker to JAW. Boingness should be reduced to thud. If it is still too boingy, put a small blanket/towel in it.

As for the click, do you regularly use one on your own or no? If not, it's a great tool to use. Learning to play with a click is easy. Just put it in your ear and forget about it. You will find it. If you already use one regularly, forget what I just said. :)
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Old 02-15-2019, 04:19 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Letting just over the speakers for the whole band is a bit weird, but you wouldn't have to change it much for me to imagine a situation where it was valid. There are so many factors involved.

I peobably wouldn't use it like that, but necessary and the time available justfied it I might find a way to work on general time with a click.
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Old 02-15-2019, 04:23 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by rhumbagirl View Post
Note that the band leader has been urging us to do this at home for a few weeks now, but only one tune out of a dozen have the tempo marking. That’s not an excuse in and of itself, but it is an interesting note.
If I tell an advanced student "practice with the metronome", it's assumed they know how to find the tempo, and that good metronome practice would mean playing the song at a variety of speeds: song tempo, slower, faster, etc. The goal is not to learn "a song at one speed", but to develop control of the content.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhumbagirl View Post
Thanks for the support. But before we get too bombastic with our purist intentions (he he), I need to rule out myself as a source of the drag. And I need to fix the drum sound/tuning first. But yes, I have a ton of stuff to say about “time” and “groove” and my perspective on what it is and how it works.
Excellent idea. It's really difficult to tell if you're contributing bad time, when others may also be doing the same. Our natural tendency is to flex with the other players, for the sake of "togetherness".

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhumbagirl View Post
But a quartz crystal clock is unforgiving on the slightest deviation of time. It’s compounded as more deviations happen and pile up onto each other.
In practice, it doesn't work this way. If, for example, a musician speeds up for a moment, and gets ahead of the metronome, then they may also slow down, to line back up with the metronome. The errors don't compound, instead they cancel each other out. With practice, deviations become smaller, and the corrections become smaller, too. The overall time-playing gets smoother.
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Old 02-16-2019, 04:26 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by brentcn View Post
This band is gasping, not breathing. The bandleader is wisely using a metronome to make the band tighter, and keep the group from slowing down. The focus is on players and sections with timing issues. Practice the material with a metronome yourself, to make sure that you're not contributing anything but super solid time-playing.

Those who are disparaging metronome use here, seem to be talking about live performances and recording, not rehearsing. Huge difference.
Agreed 1000%

Everyone can think they have a good sense of time, but not everyone's sense of time is the SAME time.
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Old 02-16-2019, 06:34 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

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Originally Posted by “Brenton”
In practice, it doesn't work this way. If, for example, a musician speeds up for a moment, and gets ahead of the metronome, then they may also slow down, to line back up with the metronome. The errors don't compound, instead they cancel each other out. With practice, deviations become smaller, and the corrections become smaller, too. The overall time-playing gets smoother.
Agree, but I was trying to illustrate how a click would sit if overlaid on top of Zoltan or other live recording. It explains how a band leader can put his metronome on visual only, stick it on his music stand so only he sees it, and count off the tune, only looking down every now and then to see if the band was still on 2 and 4. Not that he’s using it in that regard necessarily. I would imagine he would be expecting a shift of time (we’re off of 2 and 4, but we’re still at the same tempo), not an expansion of time, which would be indication of tempo drag.

So, for live acoustic jazz groups, the conclusion I’m hearing is:
(1) Use a metronome at home, not at the rehearsal
(2) If the band leader uses a metronome at rehearsal for play along for the entire band, he’s trying to send a message about what we should be practicing at home. It’s a disciplinary measure. And if the band is made up of high level players, he’s probably sending a message that we SUCK.
(3) Someone in the band is dragging so badly (gasping) that (2) is necessary.
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Old 02-16-2019, 06:48 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

I really don’t see an issue with using a click at a rehearsal, in jazz or anything else. I’ve done so myself, and wouldn’t hesitate to use one if I were leading a rehearsal. Even a group of very good players might use a click, to tighten up a section, or to refine the group’s sense of groove.

Turn the click off, take a short break, and the band can get back to breathing again. You’re not going to “erase” the ability to add emotion or passion, no matter how much you practice or rehearse with a click.
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Old 02-23-2019, 09:09 PM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

So the band leader used the metronome for most of last rehearsal. The prior rehearsal I got a recording but the gain (handheld Zoom H5) was off and so too distorted to post. So the gain is ok this time, no distortion, probably just needs some normalization. Also, a EMAD head on the bass drum and I'm using my TAMA Artwood snare, along with the aforementioned cymbals.

Lady Bird
Desafinado (without metronome)
Desafinado
Girl From Ipanema

The Desafinado without the metronome is slightly faster than the other one with. In addition, all the takes with metronome make it difficult for me to accentuate the end of phrases for fear of losing the metronomic click (can't hear it).
Attached Files
File Type: mp3 Lady Bird - 2019-02-19 - metronome.mp3 (8.64 MB, 38 views)
File Type: mp3 Desafinado - 2019-02-19.mp3 (5.65 MB, 38 views)
File Type: mp3 Girl From Ipanema - 2019-02-19 - metronome.mp3 (8.71 MB, 19 views)
File Type: mp3 Desafinado - 2019-02-19 - metronome.mp3 (8.93 MB, 14 views)
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Last edited by rhumbagirl; 02-24-2019 at 08:11 PM. Reason: Wrong file for Desafinado metronome
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Old 02-24-2019, 09:01 AM
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Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

The time sounds fine on the one without the click. There can't be more than a couple bpm of drift by the end of the tune. There are many professional recordings with more variance than that. The band did come in slower than the tempo he counted off, but you basically held it once you established it. There are other things happening keeping it from grooving super well, but.... whatever he's hearing that he doesn't like, clearly he doesn't know how to fix it.

Just keep recording your rehearsals and encourage the others to listen back to them. I don't know what the situation is, what makes this guy the leader, and how much you feel you have to humor him rehearsing this way. I think it's a waste of time.

When playing with a group, time does move around a little bit. Some measures rush or drag slightly, and then the music goes right back to grooving along the way it was. It happens all the time. The extremely stupid thing the metronome does is to demand that you go back to where you would have been if that measure hadn't rushed. It's a totally unnatural dynamic musically.
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Old 02-24-2019, 09:09 PM
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Posts: 286
Default Re: Jazz band playing to a metronome

Quote:
Originally Posted by toddbishop View Post
The time sounds fine on the one without the click. There can't be more than a couple bpm of drift by the end of the tune. There are many professional recordings with more variance than that. The band did come in slower than the tempo he counted off, but you basically held it once you established it. There are other things happening keeping it from grooving super well, but.... whatever he's hearing that he doesn't like, clearly he doesn't know how to fix it.
Thanks Todd! Agree totally. Although I think the issues with tempo/groove - that may have got him on this metronome thing - is in the swing songs where the bass player plays too on top of the beat (ie not hitting the ‘a’ of 4 occasionally). As for the bossa novas, besides the fact that we were thrown these songs without any prior headsup to practice them, it almost feels like if the band is going to do long solos over the form, then there ought to be some fluctuation in tempo to allow the groove to transition to something more improv-capable.

Actually, every one of these tunes we had no warning, just deviating from our normal set list to go play random standards out of the real book. One or two takes and that was it. I haven’t played a bossa with a group in almost a year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by toddbishop View Post
When playing with a group, time does move around a little bit. Some measures rush or drag slightly, and then the music goes right back to grooving along the way it was. It happens all the time. The extremely stupid thing the metronome does is to demand that you go back to where you would have been if that measure hadn't rushed. It's a totally unnatural dynamic musically.
Agree. I am trying to nail down WHEN that drift tends to happen, with a theory that it’s during transitional portions - ends of phrases/sections - in which case, the learning is not to depend on metronomic time, but to be able to _resume_ the time/groove _after_ the transition, which requires _listening_ to your fellow band mates (isn’t that why we play live anyway?). And all that seems doable because of _feel_* and how we associate tempo with groove.

*I don’t think we as drummers/musicians just send faster neuro twitches to play faster tempos. We adjust our technique in how we play, and we use a slightly different set of muscles in our hands/feet/body to adjust to that. So yes, every style/groove/tempo has a feel to it that can be associated with parts of a song. Parts of a song to return to after a transition.

Rhumbagirl
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Right handed, traditional grip, jazz player
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Last edited by rhumbagirl; 02-27-2019 at 04:13 PM.
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