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  #1  
Old 01-29-2013, 10:18 PM
peety777 peety777 is offline
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Default How tight should a drummer's time be?

This is for playing without a metronome. For example say a song should be played at 100bpm, what range should a good drummer be able to stay within? Eg + or - 2 bpm. That is just an example. Many thanks
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:26 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummers time be?

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This is for playing without a metronome. For example say a song should be played at 100bpm, what range should a good drummer be able to stay within? Eg + or - 2 bpm. That is just an example. Many thanks
The straight answer is, & the one most will avoid, there is no tolerance, but deviation is completely acceptable if it's intended. This includes decisions such as increasing a couple of BPM in a guitar solo /last chorus/etc, or dropping a few bpm in a refrain/planned rall/etc.

In the real world, if it feels right, then it's ok by me :)
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:29 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummers time be?

But no deviation is basically impossible if that makes sense!
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:39 PM
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:41 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummers time be?

I think this may be a little different depending on genre.

In a jazz setting (what I listen to), the music needs to and should breathe which means there's a range of movement. Not saying it'll end up half the speed or double the speed it began at, etc.... but there's movement and it needs to be there to make it human. There's a push and pull element within the context of the music among the different soloists and each each member of the rhythm section.

The expectations are different though in a more pop / rock / country setting.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:46 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummers time be?

Depends.

Sometimes, like during a rudimental solo, meaningful time shifts add to the performance. Other times 0% deviation from the starting tempo is best.
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:55 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummers time be?

It depends on the genre and the band's angle.

I think it's fair to say that requirements for tight time in pop and rock have become much more exacting, partially due to drum machines, partially because increasing numbers of graduates of music school moved into rock. A lot of music that was popular in the 60s and 70s would be considered far too loose to be accepted today (just as so much of popular music today would have been rejected back then for simplistic songwriting and repetitiveness).

As a rule of thumb, the tighter your time, the more bands will be prepared to play with you.
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Old 01-30-2013, 03:39 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

Super tight.

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Old 01-30-2013, 03:51 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

I don't think there should ever be leanience on a drummer's time. But then again, my expertise (if I have one) is pocket. If you're playing something experimental, mess around and do what you want, but when you're playing with a straight forward band, play it dead on, or at least as close you can. Nothing irritates me more than a drummer who speeds and slows down, especially when he does it to the extent the other guys can't follow. Sometimes I think a lot of drummers have no clue what a metronome is.
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Old 01-30-2013, 04:13 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

The answers here are always skewed towards pop/rock drumming. The tolerance varies according to musical style.

Even in the pop music world, the world's best studio drummers all play with a click track. What does that tell you? It tells you none of those drummers have perfect time without it. So, yeah, there's a tolerance.

But the margin for timekeeping error is pretty small if you want to make it at the highest levels. And if you want to work a lot, having great time is essential.
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Old 01-30-2013, 05:00 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Originally Posted by 8Mile View Post
Even in the pop music world, the world's best studio drummers all play with a click track. What does that tell you? It tells you none of those drummers have perfect time without it. So, yeah, there's a tolerance.
I think in many cases its not a question of avoiding audible tempo changes, but to allow hook-up of sequencers, effects and to copy/paste sections of a song to another location.
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Old 01-30-2013, 05:10 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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I think in many cases its not a question of avoiding audible tempo changes, but to allow hook-up of sequencers, effects and to copy/paste sections of a song to another location.
Yes, no question. I'm just saying, a drummer whose time is 100% perfect could be tracked and become the grid for everyone else.
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Old 01-30-2013, 05:46 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Originally Posted by peety777 View Post
This is for playing without a metronome. For example say a song should be played at 100bpm, what range should a good drummer be able to stay within? Eg + or - 2 bpm. That is just an example. Many thanks
My personal feeling is a bit on the extreme side, I think that somewhere in the range of plus or minus 10 bpm is fine for most "real" rock... Jazz can go even further as long as the change is somewhat gradual over the piece. The caveat is that the whole band still has to be together, which brings me to the main point: The bottom line is that it shouldn't disrupt the fee l or the song in any way. For example, if you're playing a fast part, and start dragging it half way through that part, this is a lot more disruptive to the flow than say, slowing a bit for an open or light section of a song.
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Old 01-30-2013, 06:32 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

I'm of the opinion that any drummer should make it a point to get his time as close to perfect as he can. It's not open to question. It is part and parcel of what a drummer is expected to do.

What good does it do to to think about variance where time is concerned? For a drummer, good time is everything. It's impossible to possess perfect time, but it is essential to have good enough time to be able to play comfortably with a click track, and it really isn't that big a deal, playing to a click.
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Old 01-30-2013, 06:38 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

Well ideally you need to be within 5 milliseconds of exact, this has been proven by scientists somewhere to be the cutoff that humans can differentiate. What that means in real life idk, but I would be very surprised if a 2 bpm change gradually over a song could be noticed, maybe even 3 or 4 but thats getting to where some will notice.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:01 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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I'm of the opinion that any drummer should make it a point to get his time as close to perfect as he can. It's not open to question. It is part and parcel of what a drummer is expected to do.

What good does it do to to think about variance where time is concerned? For a drummer, good time is everything. It's impossible to possess perfect time, but it is essential to have good enough time to be able to play comfortably with a click track, and it really isn't that big a deal, playing to a click.
A few thoughts on this.

A) Drummers shouldn't be singled out. All musicians of every type need to have a good sense of time and pulse. The idea that everyone should key off the drummer who has some responsibility above everyone else where time is concerned has always seemed very odd to me. Everyone needs to feel it. Treating the drummer like a fancy metronome is a dumb way to go about music in my opinion.

B) The ability to play to a click track does not mean you have good time or know how to make music feel alive or good. We often program our drum machines these days to make errors, because it feels better and more human for many styles of music.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:30 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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A few thoughts on this.

A) Drummers shouldn't be singled out. All musicians of every type need to have a good sense of time and pulse. The idea that everyone should key off the drummer who has some responsibility above everyone else where time is concerned has always seemed very odd to me. Everyone needs to feel it. Treating the drummer like a fancy metronome is a dumb way to go about music in my opinion
But drummers are singled out, and don't kid yourself. As to the rest of this, I don't know what you're talking about because I never asserted any of that.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:38 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

I subscribe to the try to get it right mentality. In the manufacturing industry there is a handful of comparisons that get thrown out as examples of close enough:
Consider that if 99.9% was good enough, then …

Hospitals would give twelve newborns to the wrong parents daily.
Footwear companies would ship out 114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes each year.
The US Postal Service would mis-handle 18,322 pieces of mail every hour.
The IRS would lose two million documents this year.
Publishers would ship 2.5 million books with the wrong covers.
Two planes landing at Chicago O’Hare would be unsafe every day.
315 entries in Webster’s Dictionary would be misspelled.
Doctors would write 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions this year.
880,000 credit cards in circulation would have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
103,260 income tax returns would be processed incorrectly during the year.
5.5 million cases of soft drinks produced would be flat.
291 pacemaker operations would be performed incorrectly.
3,056 copies of tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal will be missing one of its four sections.

I think the more important aspect is the reason behind the variation. As folks have said, reacting to the vibe of a song is not such a bad thing. But if the variation stems from not being able to play the part consistently, or if fills or other parts cause the time to go off, then the tolerance needs to be tightened, and the parts worked on so that any variation is in service to the music, not an excuse for slipping. Obviously, anyone who's heard me play knows that I have a long way to go towards this goal. But I keep it out there as something to strive for. The better I get towards it, the more people want to play with me.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:22 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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But drummers are singled out, and don't kid yourself. As to the rest of this, I don't know what you're talking about because I never asserted any of that.
I didn't think you made any assertions, and I wasn't arguing with you. And I don't kid myself. If someone tells me I'm the time keeper, I tell them they are wrong. Everyone touching an instrument, or even singing needs to keep time. The same time as me. Following each other around doesn't make good live music in my opinion.
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Old 01-30-2013, 11:59 AM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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.... If someone tells me I'm the time keeper, I tell them they are wrong. Everyone touching an instrument, or even singing needs to keep time. The same time as me. Following each other around doesn't make good live music in my opinion.
Absolutely 100% correct. There's nothing worse than playing with others who don't understand this.
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  #21  
Old 01-30-2013, 12:53 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

Great discussion so far! What i'm really getting at is if i'm playing with a band at a gig and I can't use a click (for various reasons) and say the song is 100BPM, how close should a good drummer be able to stick to this tempo? (you can measure it using the LiveBPM app or similar) Hope that makes sense?

Thanks, and let the discussion continue!
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Old 01-30-2013, 01:44 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Originally Posted by peety777 View Post
Great discussion so far! What i'm really getting at is if i'm playing with a band at a gig and I can't use a click (for various reasons) and say the song is 100BPM, how close should a good drummer be able to stick to this tempo? (you can measure it using the LiveBPM app or similar) Hope that makes sense?

Thanks, and let the discussion continue!
Record your performance, & use that to improve. Measuring live bpm is viable, but to me, it has little value outside of curiosity. Keeping good time is all about listening, then internalising that pulse. In a live performance context, relying on a machine to tell you if your time is out isn't helping you appraise the important factors. In most genres, a bit of push & pull is desirable. It builds tension/propagates release/adds excitement/delivers mood. It also makes music real. Personally, I see little value/pleasure in seeking to reproduce a perfect studio take on a live stage, otherwise, what's the point in live music! It needs to breathe, but that's no excuse to be sloppy. In the end, it's all about the vibe, & if a song ends up 5bpm faster at the close than it did at the start, but the vibe is superb, then as far as I'm concerned = job done!
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Old 01-30-2013, 02:44 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Record your performance, & use that to improve. Measuring live bpm is viable, but to me, it has little value outside of curiosity. Keeping good time is all about listening, then internalising that pulse. In a live performance context, relying on a machine to tell you if your time is out isn't helping you appraise the important factors. In most genres, a bit of push & pull is desirable. It builds tension/propagates release/adds excitement/delivers mood. It also makes music real. Personally, I see little value/pleasure in seeking to reproduce a perfect studio take on a live stage, otherwise, what's the point in live music! It needs to breathe, but that's no excuse to be sloppy. In the end, it's all about the vibe, & if a song ends up 5bpm faster at the close than it did at the start, but the vibe is superb, then as far as I'm concerned = job done!
If I could have worded it so well, this would have been my reply also.
I've recently been recording some stuff to click track in the studio and do find it seems to rob some of our material of its emotion. There are some songs that obviously suit a very strict BPM blueprint but others definitely suffer as a result. for want of a better way of putting it, I think it is just as important a skill to be able to play outside of the rhythm as it is to be able to maintain it to the millisecond.
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Old 01-30-2013, 02:54 PM
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elastic time is great ..... can cause beautiful tension and release if every player in the room is riding the same wave.

what you want to avoid is one guy in the room dragging or pushing ....or a player rushing a beat within a measure and not giving the note it's value to give it that uneasy record skipping feel

playing to a click in no way shape or form means you have "good time"

it means you are playing to a click ....thats it

I have 9 year old students who can play to a click

does this mean they are ready to track a record?

I hear guys all the time who think they sound good because they were "playing to a click" ......when in reality they sound like they are chasing a chicken around a farm

if you are in a situation where a click track is involved......the true art is to play "with" the click....not "to" the click.

the click is the nucleolus.....you need to be the cytoplasm and cell membrane that flows around it to make music sound natural

as Elvin Jones once told me seconds after he pushed the sticks I was holding down firmly to the snare drum with his enormous hand......" stop thinking about beats per minute and play f***ing music please."

Elvin did not allow a metronome in the drum studio when I was there .......he always said....." your time is fine ......play music, feel music "

Last edited by Anthony Amodeo; 01-30-2013 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 01-30-2013, 03:02 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

Both of those are great points. The liveBPM app is good because you can set it and analyse your performance after but I see exactly what you mean in terms of speeding up or slowing down slightly as a band. This is great!
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Old 01-30-2013, 03:10 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Originally Posted by Anthony Amodeo View Post
as Elvin Jones once told me seconds after he pushed the sticks I was holding down firmly to the snare drum with his enormous hand......" stop thinking about beats per minute and play f***ing music please."

Elvin did not allow a metronome in the drum studio when I was there .......he always said....." your time is fine ......play music, feel music "
So, so awesome.

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Old 01-30-2013, 03:42 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Originally Posted by Anthony Amodeo View Post
as Elvin Jones once told me seconds after he pushed the sticks I was holding down firmly to the snare drum with his enormous hand......" stop thinking about beats per minute and play f***ing music please."

Elvin did not allow a metronome in the drum studio when I was there .......he always said....." your time is fine ......play music, feel music "
Elvin such a badass. You are a lucky sob, you know that?
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Old 01-30-2013, 04:43 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

I'm a big believer that all musicians should only be using a metronome for reference. It's far more difficult to keep time solid without hearing a constant click; having a metronome that clicks X bars and rests Y bars really helps.
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Old 01-30-2013, 05:41 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

Metronome work should be done in the woodshed to get your inner clock developed.

The truth is, the audience don't give a shit if you are playing a particular song perfectly at 100bpm. The lament wants to feel and enjoy the music. Nobody driving on the way home from a performance ever says "wow that band tonight played perfectly in time"

It is YOUR job as the drummer to play good time - so to answer your question, how tight? very tight. That's your job. Develop the skill. Have the click click click pulse running through your brain and body when the metronome is not there.

I believe the time to work this stuff out is NOT on the bandstand. When you are on stage your job is to feel the music and play it in good time....ebbing a flowing with the other musicians if necessary, and giving them the solid foundation to work upon.

Do your homework at home. When on stage, just do.
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Old 01-30-2013, 05:49 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Originally Posted by peety777 View Post
Great discussion so far! What i'm really getting at is if i'm playing with a band at a gig and I can't use a click (for various reasons) and say the song is 100BPM, how close should a good drummer be able to stick to this tempo? (you can measure it using the LiveBPM app or similar) Hope that makes sense?

Thanks, and let the discussion continue!
Like Tony just related: It's not about BPM and how many numbers it moves or doesn't move. It's about the music feeling good. Doesn't matter if you were 100% time accurate if the song didn't feel good.
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Old 01-30-2013, 06:21 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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And I don't kid myself. If someone tells me I'm the time keeper, I tell them they are wrong. Everyone touching an instrument, or even singing needs to keep time. The same time as me. Following each other around doesn't make good live music in my opinion.
Absolutely, time keeping is everyone responsibility within the band, usually the drummer count the song off, but not always.

Quote:
Originally Posted by peety777 View Post
What i'm really getting at is if i'm playing with a band at a gig and I can't use a click (for various reasons) and say the song is 100BPM, how close should a good drummer be able to stick to this tempo? (you can measure it using the LiveBPM app or similar) Hope that makes sense?!
Practicing with a time reference is crucial to develop good timing, but in a live situation, you shouldn't focus on bpm value and how close enough you are to the original tempo, you should focus on making the music sounds good.

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Originally Posted by Anthony Amodeo View Post
elastic time is great ..... can cause beautiful tension and release if every player in the room is riding the same wave.
Totally agree, it's what makes the music alive.

To rush and drag a little in the appropriate places within a song is even desirable, the key to elastic time is accuracy of the execution of the music, if everyone is together it will be almost unnoticeable.
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Old 01-30-2013, 06:55 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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as Elvin Jones once told me ......" stop thinking about beats per minute and play f***ing music please."
Just thought I'd join the chorus of praise for this.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:14 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

+1 On this.Like I've said before,it's about the the music,the feel of a tune that matters.Just play it and everything will take care of itself.

Music should be organic,played by humans and if the time is slightly flawed,then so be it.

The reason clicks are used in the studio so often is because of production bugets and plug-ins.Time is money,and running over buget is a huge no-no.Getting it right, in as few takes as possible is the golden rule.

Like Elvin said "play MUSIC......FEEL MUSIC.......and don't let music become a slave to any single aspect like BPM.

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Old 01-30-2013, 09:05 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

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Originally Posted by Anthony Amodeo View Post
elastic time is great ..... can cause beautiful tension and release if every player in the room is riding the same wave.

what you want to avoid is one guy in the room dragging or pushing ....or a player rushing a beat within a measure and not giving the note it's value to give it that uneasy record skipping feel

playing to a click in no way shape or form means you have "good time"

it means you are playing to a click ....thats it

I have 9 year old students who can play to a click

does this mean they are ready to track a record?

I hear guys all the time who think they sound good because they were "playing to a click" ......when in reality they sound like they are chasing a chicken around a farm

if you are in a situation where a click track is involved......the true art is to play "with" the click....not "to" the click.

the click is the nucleolus.....you need to be the cytoplasm and cell membrane that flows around it to make music sound natural

as Elvin Jones once told me seconds after he pushed the sticks I was holding down firmly to the snare drum with his enormous hand......" stop thinking about beats per minute and play f***ing music please."

Elvin did not allow a metronome in the drum studio when I was there .......he always said....." your time is fine ......play music, feel music "
Abso-f'n-lutely!

Unfortunately most contemporary music has relegated itself to the impossible chase of playing perfect time.... I'll stop my rant here before I get banned from this place....

You are one of the truly fortunate to of had your time with Elvin. I always love the stories you post. Someday I'm getting my but there, buying you the food and beer and listening to more.
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:31 PM
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

There's plenty of bands who don't play their own songs at original tempo when they play them live (often they play them a bit faster). Why? Because the recording is a moment in time, and the song keeps evolving past that point quite often in popular music (and especially in genres other than pop or rock),

Usually if there's something in a live production (like video or a sequenced track) that requires perfect time and tempo, there's a click -- and usually if you're at that level of live act, I would think everyone on stage has the click in their ear (the drummer almost certainly does).

Many times to start a song I will lock eyes with the bass player or rhythm guitarist and we will begin nodding together silently. Without playing, we are already setting up the tempo and groove in our heads. Then I click my sticks to that, and off we go. It may not be right on the exact tempo we recorded the song at (or the original artist did), but it lends itself to a musical performance of the song (and oh yes, my +1 on what Elvin said -- brilliant).

I want organic feeling to my music, I want time to be able to flex and breathe without dragging or rushing too badly; that's the musical equivalent of trapeze without a net, and sometimes we fall. But the experience is far more meaningful, and maybe a little edgier.
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  #36  
Old 01-30-2013, 10:45 PM
peety777 peety777 is offline
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

This is really good, getting far more discussion than I thought. What I take from this and everything on this forum is invaluable, so thank you very much:) Not to practicing locking int he music and letting it feel amazing! Peace!
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  #37  
Old 01-31-2013, 06:44 AM
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Aeolian Aeolian is offline
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

Remember that many of the folks saying to let the song breathe, are people who have put in hours and hours with a metronome getting in control of what they are doing. I have a friend/mentor who's constantly telling me that. But in other conversations he'll admit there was a time 30 years ago when he was studying with Chuck Brown and doing rudiments on a hi-hat cup with a metronome. There is a difference between woodshedding and live performance. In one you are trying to develop the tools, in the other you are using them. Just be clear what your goal is. There's nothing wrong with switching on the liveBPM app while practicing or at a band rehearsal just as a check to see if you really have internalized the time. If there is a variance, you should know whether it was deliberate, you got dragged off by something someone else was doing, or you lost it on your own. If you thought you were on the entire time and things were going great, then it's back to the woodshed. Your time is not as good as you thought. If you sensed some feeling of struggle or uncomfortableness then you were probably at odds with someone else's wayward time and gave in to it. And of course if you felt it speeding up or slowing down and it felt like the right thing to be doing at that point in the song, then you are golden. You are doing what the "feel" players are advocating. Just be honest with yourself about what you are doing and why.
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Old 01-31-2013, 09:27 AM
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Davo-London Davo-London is offline
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Default Re: How tight should a drummer's time be?

I play mostly in worship bands and each leader is different.

I follow the leader so they don't look stupid. This can mean the timing is all over the place.

After a song I asked: "you really slowed that down"! And the leader said "yeah I meant to"! So that's OK.

Other leaders look at the drummer and say the tempo is too high or low, but with absolutely no concept that they slow down at the end of each vocal line.

You have to be a bit thick-skinned rather than explain how useless they are in front of the band. One day my patience will blow though ...

In truth you should never notice the tempo as a listener. If you do there's something wrong.

Davo

Last edited by Davo-London; 01-31-2013 at 06:20 PM.
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