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Old 12-04-2008, 09:06 PM
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Default "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

hi guys this might sound a bit of a n00bish question but what is playing ahead of or behind the beat precisely? I'm guessing it pretty much speaks for itself but that as a concept i don't really get. I mean isn't drumming supposed to be ultimately down to making sure everyone else in the band plays on the beat, so therefore if you play in front of or behind the beat, so will everyone else or am i missing the point completely? If so what IS the point i seem to be missing?
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Old 12-04-2008, 10:15 PM
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

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Originally Posted by eddiehimself View Post
hi guys this might sound a bit of a n00bish question but what is playing ahead of or behind the beat precisely? I'm guessing it pretty much speaks for itself but that as a concept i don't really get. I mean isn't drumming supposed to be ultimately down to making sure everyone else in the band plays on the beat, so therefore if you play in front of or behind the beat, so will everyone else or am i missing the point completely? If so what IS the point i seem to be missing?
I think there are at least a few threads on this but I'll comment. Both have more to do with "feel" than tangible, measurable specifics. "Ahead" of the beat (to me) means you're pushing the tempo a bit and therefore pushing the band along. Think of it as being slightly ahead of a click, if you're playing to one. It "feels" as if you're rushing the beat.

Of course, the same for being "behind" it. I've been "thinking triplets" more lately which I feel helps me stay behind the beat a little. For example...if I'm counting in my head while doing singles, I'll try counting them as triplets (with the "middle" note missing). This gives my feel an overall swingy, loose feel that sits slightly behind the beat.

Listening to different drummers with these characteristics is the easiest way to understand. I've heard folks here say that Buddy Rich "pushed" the beat a little while drummers like Ringo or Bonham sat slightly behind the beat.

When you hear people refer to "pocket" it's usually in reference to a feel that sits a little behind the beat...with very tight time.
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Old 12-04-2008, 10:48 PM
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Drummer Karl Drummer Karl is offline
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

Quite often playing behind the beat is confounded with getting slower...as for playing in front of the beat it`s just often vice versa.
Though it has to do with feel, not neccessarily with the tempo, at least not consciously.

Playing in front of the beat means to push it but without actually getting faster. You just extra-push it and these are just miliseconds which decide whether you play in front of the beat, on top of it or behind it.
This depends on the musical situation and on the musician.

Imagine that you play a straight swing for the big band. You might wanna push it and play in front of the beat to drive the whole thing. In my opinion the smaller the Jazz setting, the more you get the opportunity to relax and lay back a bit...if there`s no intention to extra-push it. The swing gives a good example, too:
Some drummers play it wide and open, others play it with little air...

If you`d like to I can recommend to listen to Billy Higgins here. Especially on the tune "Do I Crazy?" with John Scofield you hear this wide behind the beat-swing which almost creates a Latin feel sometimes.

http://www.drummerworld.com/Sound/bi...nsdoicrazy.mp3

Then listen to this version of CTA by the Brad Mehldau trio with Jeff Ballard on drums. Completely different world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLQYw...eature=related

In the end playing in front, behind the beat or in between that depends on the whole band as well and surely mood and athmosphere aren`t unimportant.

Hope that helps a bit,

Karl
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Old 12-04-2008, 11:21 PM
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

Also, if you play "just" ahead of the beat, it will make the group sound like it's chugging ahead or driving. If you play a little more than "just" ahead of the beat, it will sound as if the whole band is laying back. Same with behind the beat. Playing just behind the beat will make for a laid-back groove, but if you play farther back, it will make it sound like the group is driving the song forward.

There is a LOT of room to play around with this concept. I would recommend playing with a metronome and practicing playing ahead of, as well as just ahead of, as well as far ahead of, the click. Same with playing behind in different degrees. Then, play along with some recordings or with a band, and try out these different placements. You'll be surprised how much control over the feel you really have.

In simple rock or blues gigs, where you play basically the same tired beats over and over again, switching the feel will make every song sound fresh in its own way. Very important to do if you depend on call-backs and referrals for you livelihood...
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Old 12-04-2008, 11:35 PM
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

Is everything behind the beat when you play behind? What I mean is, do you play with the hihat on the beat and the kick and snare behind, for example?

It seems like if you're whole pattern is behind, the rest of the band will just slow down with you. I'm a new drummer and I have no experience playing with a band so I'm just trying to envision what happens.
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Old 12-04-2008, 11:59 PM
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

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Originally Posted by spazdr8cr View Post
Is everything behind the beat when you play behind? What I mean is, do you play with the hihat on the beat and the kick and snare behind, for example?

It seems like if you're whole pattern is behind, the rest of the band will just slow down with you. I'm a new drummer and I have no experience playing with a band so I'm just trying to envision what happens.
Not necessarily! You can play a backbeat w/ the snare on 2 and 4 and just drag those snare notes ever-so-slightly...while everything else carries at a "normal" pace.

Another example is ghost-notes on the snare, while grooving...you can make a beat "drag" or "rush" by placing them behind, on, or ahead of the accented notes.

Like Caddy said, there's a lot of room to play w/ this.
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Old 12-05-2008, 12:08 AM
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

Grab a metronome or some form of click track and play at 110 bpm. Once you get comfy, try playing on top (push it), right on and behind (drag every beat a millisec, but stay with the click). You will find this helpful in endless musical styles and situations.
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Old 12-05-2008, 05:36 AM
Ekim Ekim is offline
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

In my 2nd band situation (very short-lived) I had one song where the band leader played something and told me a basic idea for a beat and I started playing. But I was feeling a Bonham-esque / Kashmir thing and he didn't like it one bit. I guess he wanted it dead on top or ahead of the beat. I couldn't make it work and it got frustrating for everyone involved.

So there's a lot to this concept, especially if you're taking other players into account.

I feel as though copping the feel of the drummer in certain songs helps get the concept solidified in your brain. Playing Bonham / Led Zep helps you get behind the beat. Playing Kenny Aronoff beats in some Mellencamp songs ("Justice & Independence" comes to mind) helps you get the idea of being ahead of the beat.
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2008, 09:34 AM
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Default Re: "behind" or "ahead of" the beat

Thanks guys i've got a lot of useful advice from this thread.
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