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Old 11-03-2018, 08:11 PM
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Default Singers timing

This is somewhat off topic but when I occasionally watch talent shows like the x factor or america's got talent, there are several instances of solo singers performing to backing tracks. And then the backing track will drop out while the singer continues and then the backing track comes back in and the singer is perfectly in time. This often happens on slow songs too where the gap is longer. I'm wondering how they find it so easy to not come in early or late.

If you think about practising drums to a song where the song drops out for a bar or two (and there's no click for support), or even a metronome set to omit beats, we all know it ain't that easy to come back in perfectly in time.

It's as though these singers don't need to think hard about the timing, it just seems to come naturally to them. More naturally than for a drummer. Thoughts?
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Old 11-03-2018, 08:57 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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It's as though these singers don't need to think hard about the timing, it just seems to come naturally to them. More naturally than for a drummer. Thoughts?
IEMs and click tracks, man.

The singers are usually wearing IEMs, and so it's very easy to have the click track in their monitor mix, where the audience can't hear it. Possibly, the click is only present when the rest of the track is silent.

But live, without click tracks, "singers" are notoriously terrible at judging tempo when the band is not playing. The ones who are good at it, usually have a good rhythmic foundation because of their rhythm training on another instrument.
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Old 11-03-2018, 09:24 PM
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IEMs and click tracks, man.

The singers are usually wearing IEMs, and so it's very easy to have the click track in their monitor mix, where the audience can't hear it. Possibly, the click is only present when the rest of the track is silent.

But live, without click tracks, "singers" are notoriously terrible at judging tempo when the band is not playing. The ones who are good at it, usually have a good rhythmic foundation because of their rhythm training on another instrument.
You're right brent, I don't actually know why I didn't think of that, I should know better than to not realise they'll have clicks in their ears.

You're not wrong about singing live. Our singer, who happens to run the band and get us all the gigs, is utterly shocking with timing, I'm constantly trying to hold him back, he just races away.
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Old 11-04-2018, 01:28 AM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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Possibly, the click is only present when the rest of the track is silent.
That's absolutely how it's done, and the same goes for other musicians who need to play through holes in a track. It's not unusual for multiple tracks to be used: stereo track to house, individual stereo mixes for the drummer and other players, and perhaps just a straight click for singers who need to wait out or sing through a hole. Tracks may also contain count-offs so everyone can start together without the drummer counting it off. In those cases where the drummer has to count off a track, they get a pre-count-off to do their audible count-off.

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Old 11-04-2018, 02:25 AM
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Default Re: Singers timing

Singers have a wonderful timing sense.

Every singer I've had the absolute joy and pleasure to play with...has always been completely spot on.

:P
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Old 11-04-2018, 03:55 AM
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Default Re: Singers timing

Larry, you're killin' me!

Singers' timing is hit & miss in my experience. I'm in certain bands with certain singers where I have to click my hat through the stops, just so the rest of the band doesn't have a train wreck trying to follow their tempo. At least that way, even if the singer doesn't follow me, the band is still together.

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Old 11-04-2018, 01:25 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

Which brings up the related topic of...do we adjust for the people?

I'm saying no. I had to adjust to a looper, and I hated it. The drummer shouldn't ever have to adjust, but sometimes it happens.
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Old 11-04-2018, 01:48 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
Which brings up the related topic of...do we adjust for the people?

I'm saying no. I had to adjust to a looper, and I hated it. The drummer shouldn't ever have to adjust, but sometimes it happens.
I have to adjust for our singer unfortunately as he doesn't listen properly and has a horrible sense of rhythm and timing. He seems to have a tempo in his head that is almost always faster than it should be, and he doesn't sit on the tempos that myself or the guitarist counts in. I can usually feel him pulling away within the first bar or two so I compromise a little. If I don't, he'll just continue singing ahead of us and it'll sound like we're dragging behind.
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Old 11-04-2018, 02:47 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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I have to adjust for our singer unfortunately as he doesn't listen properly and has a horrible sense of rhythm and timing. He seems to have a tempo in his head that is almost always faster than it should be, and he doesn't sit on the tempos that myself or the guitarist counts in. I can usually feel him pulling away within the first bar or two so I compromise a little. If I don't, he'll just continue singing ahead of us and it'll sound like we're dragging behind.
This is a tough situation. If you were his employer, would that be acceptable?

If you adjust, you violate the first rule in drumming, keep the time. It's a real dilemma you have.

If it were myself, I wouldn't want to adjust. Let him come to you. And I disagree, if he's rushing, the band won't sound dragging, because you guys are the majority. You guys are the ocean, he's the surfer. The people are moving to the drums, not the singer. His bad timing would come to the forefront. It has to get worse before it gets better.

The ocean is the guide, not the surfer. The surfer yields to the ocean, not the reverse. Tough love.

I wouldn't enable him to use a 12 step analogy.

How would he be with a timing conversation? Closed off? Defensive? Combative? Open minded?

If you keep going along with it, he will think his timing has no issues.
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Old 11-04-2018, 04:03 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
Which brings up the related topic of...do we adjust for the people?
The genre, groove, and dancers will determine that for each song.

I say that if people are dancing, or the song is grooving, the band must hold the tempo.

But some genres lend themselves to more flow or moodiness or expression, in which case the band should not step on what the singer's doing.

Sometimes following the singer is the right thing to do. Knowing when is why some musicians work more than others.

But when a singer should be keeping time through stops but don't, they need to be coached, or guided with a hat click, or replaced. The same goes for any musician.

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Old 11-04-2018, 04:12 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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This is a tough situation. If you were his employer, would that be acceptable?

If you adjust, you violate the first rule in drumming, keep the time. It's a real dilemma you have.

If it were myself, I wouldn't want to adjust. Let him come to you. And I disagree, if he's rushing, the band won't sound dragging, because you guys are the majority. You guys are the ocean, he's the surfer. The people are moving to the drums, not the singer. His bad timing would come to the forefront. It has to get worse before it gets better.

The ocean is the guide, not the surfer. The surfer yields to the ocean, not the reverse. Tough love.

I wouldn't enable him to use a 12 step analogy.

How would he be with a timing conversation? Closed off? Defensive? Combative? Open minded?

If you keep going along with it, he will think his timing has no issues.


You're basically right larry. And we've all had talks with him on this, but it's in one ear and out the other, lol. He just doesn't really get it. He's humble enough to accept advice in most cases and sometimes asks me if something he did was ok, but he can't seem to help rushing. I've been with the band 2 years now and the others told me he's always been like that. Because for a while I was just thinking well maybe it's me, maybe I'm just dragging. He's in his mid 70s and admits his hearing isn't all that, and is one of these guys that got into singing very late, isn't really a proper singer and has no real knowledge of musicianship, of how a band works together. He just wanted to form a band. I'm glad he did as he's prolific with getting us gigs. That's what he's actually very good at.

For the most part I stay where I am and he kind of sticks with it, but even so, when he's rushing instead of sitting on the time going on behind him and 'moulding' his words around the groove, it always feels a bit uncomfortable. If we're playing at say 125bpm, he'll sing a little ahead of us, so it's difficult to make it feel groovy. But I've gotten use to it. In the first set we play though, he doesn't come on, it's just myself, the bass player and the guitarist. We all sing (I recently started singing a couple of songs :D) and we all play a few numbers each and it's so easy, there's no one pulling us along, everyone just listens to each other.
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Old 11-04-2018, 04:20 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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But some genres lend themselves to more flow or moodiness or expression, in which case the band should not step on what the singer's doing.

Sometimes following the singer is the right thing to do. Knowing when is why some musicians work more than others.

But when a singer should be keeping time through stops but don't, they need to be coached, or guided with a hat click, or replaced. The same goes for any musician.

Bermuda
I agree with this Jon. We sometimes play Wild Thing by the Troggs. I have to guide the band with the hi-hat through the stops because the singer's timing and phrasing is somewhat wrong and it could easily be a trainwreck without me giving some reference to where 1 is.
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Old 11-04-2018, 04:28 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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You're basically right larry. And we've all had talks with him on this, but it's in one ear and out the other, lol. He just doesn't really get it. He's humble enough to accept advice in most cases and sometimes asks me if something he did was ok, but he can't seem to help rushing. I've been with the band 2 years now and the others told me he's always been like that. Because for a while I was just thinking well maybe it's me, maybe I'm just dragging. He's in his mid 70s and admits his hearing isn't all that, and is one of these guys that got into singing very late, isn't really a proper singer and has no real knowledge of musicianship, of how a band works together. He just wanted to form a band. I'm glad he did as he's prolific with getting us gigs. That's what he's actually very good at.

For the most part I stay where I am and he kind of sticks with it, but even so, when he's rushing instead of sitting on the time going on behind him and 'moulding' his words around the groove, it always feels a bit uncomfortable. If we're playing at say 125bpm, he'll sing a little ahead of us, so it's difficult to make it feel groovy. But I've gotten use to it. In the first set we play though, he doesn't come on, it's just myself, the bass player and the guitarist. We all sing ( I recently started singing a couple of songs :D) and we all play a few numbers each and it's so easy, there's no one pulling us along, everyone just listens to each other.
In my world, there is a top local singer, Georgie Bonds, who when I play with him...oh man do I feel he rushes, and drags. This might not apply in your case but it's worth mentioning...some singers count on the band to keep it spot on so they can push the feel, create urgency, or the opposite, milk the feel. My point is when I listened to the recording, what he did really worked. It was all in my head. The guy knew what he was doing. It depended on me not being pulled and holding tight though. You're a great player and I'm betting you already get this. I'm saying it to just clarify my own thoughts.

I get the difference between someone not knowing and a great singer who creates tension and urgency. Yours sounds like the former. From what you said about him, you have much more experience than him. The gigs are a good reason to try and work with this guy. If you could get him on the same page, then it would a much improved situation.

It's easy, he's a singer, just butter him up a whole lot :)
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Old 11-04-2018, 08:49 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

That's interesting larry about your Georgie Bonds, pretty cool. Good that you worked out what was going on, such is the advantage of being able to record gigs. I'm not sure if I've worked with someone like that, are there any recordings of him so I can hear how he sounds?

Yeah, I would say in our case, he's not creating tension. Very lovely guy though and we do have a good laugh together on gigs. Don't get me wrong, my timing is far from perfect and which is why I like to keep my eye on my liveBPM app on every gig, I can see my own fluctuations on bpm here and there. It's a brilliant app. As you're aware, great timing is a lifetime journey. Oh, I always butter him up, but it still hasn't got me more money :D
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Old 11-05-2018, 01:18 AM
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Default Re: Singers timing

Here's a clip of Georgie. Not me on drums. It's more noticeable during the chorus. He milks the phrasing on this particular song at times. It doesn't sound like that much out front, but the first few times I played with him, (he would sit in with my band) it was quite the adjustment for me keeping the time steady behind him.

I've never seen him play guitar. I thought I had the wrong guy lol. I know him as a singer only. I haven't seen him in 3 years or so.

https://youtu.be/XFH7LoVgsgs?t=329
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Old 11-05-2018, 05:32 AM
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Thanks for that vid, larry. I like his singing, he's very good. Yeah I see what you mean. I didn't notice rushing but more of singing at the tail end of the beats, almost going across the bar. I guess it's creating a laid back feel against the centred groove of the rhythm section. I can see how it would be easy to get pulled back and end up dragging but as you say, you've got to keep it sharp while he dances around the tempo. Our singer isn't in that league and definitely wouldn't be able to do that.
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Old 12-05-2018, 07:46 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

The problem I keep running into isn't so much an issue of tempo, but phrasing and where to accent the beat.

I play with a couple of female singers who actually have pretty good sense of time - in a BPM sense. But sometimes they have a lot of trouble figuring out exactly where the '1' is - they jump in on the wrong note. Or some have trouble making room in-between stanzas - they don't know to let the chord progression play out before beginning the new line; they'll just sing the lines back-to-back, and the phrasing gets out of whack with what the band's playing.

I chalk it up to singing alone a lot - at home, in the car, the shower, etc. - without accompaniment. They pay attention to the notes and key, but don't have a frame of reference for where those notes belong in the measure. I often find myself playing the part of a click track when they're learning a song, just playing a soft, simple beat with an exaggerated accent on the 1 to help guide them.

It can be a bit frustrating.
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Old 12-05-2018, 08:00 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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I chalk it up to singing alone a lot - at home, in the car, the shower, etc. - without accompaniment.
What do most singers grow up doing? They sing along to the radio (or phone or whatever). Which is fun, of course, but terrible for developing musicianship.

Practicing along with the song on the radio/phone/whatever, where the lead vocal is already recorded and present, is the real development killer for vocalists. Think about it: they're singing along, and if they get off track just a little, the recorded vocal is there to guide them back. They rely on it to sing along, and they're merely learning to follow somebody else on a vocal track -- while ignoring most everything else.

A karaoke track would be better, but it will still have backup vocals, and lyrics on the screen, that serve as a guide. The ideal scenario is to find a vocal-less recording. Or, better still, teach them to strum the guitar or plunk simple chords on a piano, while singing.
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Old 12-06-2018, 02:11 AM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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But sometimes they have a lot of trouble figuring out exactly where the '1' is - they jump in on the wrong note. Or some have trouble making room in-between stanzas - they don't know to let the chord progression play out before beginning the new line; they'll just sing the lines back-to-back, and the phrasing gets out of whack with what the band's playing.

I chalk it up to singing alone a lot - at home, in the car, the shower, etc. - without accompaniment.
Drives me nuts, ...some are not great at giving up room for the spaces, or waiting for the 1. And yes I think you have nailed the reason.
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Old 12-09-2018, 09:05 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

I think singersí poor phrasing comes from not really memorizing the songs, same can be said of any other band members with tempo problems.
I finally had a guitar player in my band admit that he didnít listen to the drums and couldnít figure out why his tempo was so bad. Now he listens and his problems have gone away.
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Old 01-24-2019, 06:56 PM
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Default Re: Singers timing

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Drives me nuts, ...some are not great at giving up room for the spaces, or waiting for the 1.
For some singers, I can never hit 1 at the same time as the singer, so I hit the cymbal on 4, and let the singer come in during the decay. That works. It gives the singer a bigger target to hit.
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