Adjusting tempo

Wavelength

Platinum Member
Adjust over time. Especially if the song becomes impossible for the soloist to sing / play, it's important to not commit "just because".
 

Netz Ausg

Silver Member
It depends - if it's live with a crowd who are digging it then let it run. If it's unplayable for yourself for others, too fast to dance or just sounds ridiculous then reign that beast in!

Situation dictates, as with most things musical.

I generally don't try to pull in back within a few bars, it has to be gradual or the crowd will notice what's occured and you will all look like fools!
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Commit to it or adjust?
Both, I think, Pol.

Depends on the song. Some songs ( e.g Stevie Wonder's Superstition ) just dont work in the wrong tempo so ideally, I look for an opportunity, say at the end or begining of a bridge or a chorus to accelerate or deccelerate.

Other times ( e.g Meters Cissy Strut, Miles Davis' So What ) I can have fun with some songs in many different tempos ( ...... tempi?....... )


...
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I try and adjust too. Just the other week, a song was called, which is in straight time, and a guitarist asked if it was a shuffle, and the other guitar player wrongly said yes, and played the song as a shuffle, which was awkward, so after a verse I started straightening out the ride pattern, hoping everyone would get on board. Well, I got "the look" from one of the guitarists, who said it's a shuffle, to which I replied "It's supposed to be straight" as I fell back into a shuffle. Yes I try and adjust. That said, sometimes the others don't know what's happening. There's also a point at which you have to stop adjusting and try and re establish a groove at the different tempo.

You really have to take each situation differently. As I play in the house band of a blues jam once a week, I've had to suffer playing behind my share of hosers. It's all good though, I actually learn a lot from the difficult ones.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yeah Larry, it's a tricky game, especially trying to get everyone on board. They never seem to adjust all together, more that they fall one by one like dominoes. In your example the "domino" was superglued upright to the table.

I've done both and just wondered what the "pro" thing is to do.

At band practice, if we start slow I usually try to stick to it because - the way I reason - if we can get the groove sitting slow at practice there's less chance of playing it adrenally fast at the gig. That's my theory of the day anyway ...
 

diegobxr

Silver Member
just wondered what the "pro" thing is to do.
Polly, I guess the real "pro" thing is to start at the right tempo! Isn't it? Haha.

For the rest of us mortals however.. I'm not sure. Part of my job in the band is being the timekeeper, therefore, I usually stick to the tempo... unless I get "the look", like Larry said, from another band member. There I'd adjust gradually.

(If "the look" comes from two or more band members then I'd adjust quicker).

Haha cheers!
 

BillBachman

Gold Member
Commit, otherwise the whole rest of the song sounds wrong and is a total let down. Otherwise you're waving a giant flag that says "We screwed up!" That's been my experience.
 

denisri

Silver Member
Interesting to see we all deal with the same band issues! Depends.....some of the time I would commit to it. If it's real bad I'll end the song at the first reasonable place. Denis
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Both, I think, Pol.

Depends on the song.
This for me too....with the addition that it also depends on how much eye contact I can make with the others. If all those subtle nods of the head or raised eyebrows are noted and understood and I can get all/most on board, then we'll (hopefully) lock in and adjust. If not, let it roll.

I've always found starting too slow is a hell of a lot easier to speed up, but starting too quick is more difficult to pull everything back.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Polly, I guess the real "pro" thing is to start at the right tempo! Isn't it? Haha.
That may sound like a 'snappy answer', but it's true. Bands go to various lengths to assure that bad tempos aren't called, including having the drummer set a metronome and get mentally comfy with the tempo for a few bars before counting off. Obviously that means establishing tempos in advance, and bands will often do that.

Those who want it to be completely organic and play it the way they feel it at that moment, often suffer the consequences of a song that is too rushed or drags. A certain amount of leeway may be acceptable on most songs, but there is always a point at which a song is simply too fast or slow to sound good anymore. Either the song just doesn't work, or the players can't play well at a certain tempo, or both.

It's not about playing to a click, or having to be perfect. It's an understanding that most songs work best in a narrow range of tempos, and caring enough to play the songs so they sound good to the listener. Some 'artists' have decided that listeners are just sheep and don't know whether something is played well or not. Listeners may not always know why something doesn't sound right, but they definitely know when something doesn't feel right.

Bermuda
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Great question/thread idea.

I use a metronome to make sure I kick off tunes at the right tempo in an effort to avoid this. But last night during band practice, the guitar player kicked off a song a little too fast and I just went with it. At the end of the song, he mentioned to all of us that he noticed it seemed too fast.

I am very reluctant to change tempos once a song has started. Not sure if that's correct or not, but that's me.
 
M

mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
I had a horrible experience once with a Big Band when the conductor counted off the last tune of the night much slower than we had rehearsed. I was playing too quickly because my view was obscured (because somebody had decided to adjust their seat without asking me) and as a result of not being able to hear the band well, I was out of time for the first ten bars. It was a total car crash and unfortunately the conductor didn't notice the problem and the band were following her (for once!). There was quite literally nothing I could do except wait for a phrase ending and adjust quickly but that isn't easy when you can't see the downbeat from twenty feet away!

In conclusion, adjusting tempo only works if your band is awake and sympathetic. It's easier with better musicians but with better musicians (and conductors) these things don't happen nearly as often. I was absolutely fuming after that gig and I never bad-mouth a conductor but I did express myself extensively in Anglo-Saxon terms afterwards.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I had to do a block part recently with some guys..nice guys, but musically, not super seasoned...some tunes were counted off noticeably fast. I kind of disregarded the count and started playing it where I knew it wanted to be. In that situation it was OK for me to do that.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
I see my job as the time giver. No sense in keeping the time all to myself! Give'em what they need, I'll say!
Agree with this wholeheartedly. The notion that a drummer is some kind of grunt holding down some kind or robo-mechanised thing called time just so that others can make " happy MUSIC" on top of that, is ridiculous.

If other musicans cannot adjust to too fast a start or something that drags, despite 'hints' from you, than I say just shoot them and find new people.


....
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yeah. Here are a couple of total let downs played by a bunch of screw-ups:

Little L by Jamiroquai.
A great example, Wavelength. Yeah, he screwed up lol ... a pro, but he screwed up.

Loved the look on the bassist's face at the start (panic) then later (amusement). The backup vocalists were laughing too. Do you think the drummer's refrain before ramping up the tempo for the second time was arranged or a one-off thing to mask the speedup?

Both examples lend credence to the comment about it being easier to speed up a too-slow tempo than the opposite.

Interesting that two highly seasoned pros, Jon and Bill, are inclined to stick with the starting tempo to give the best impression of credibility in the face of human frailty ... "hey, I meant to do that ... the vibe was right to pump things up / take things down" :)

There was a time when I had a 'nome with me at gigs and practices and I'd set the tempo before starting up. But it just added an extra delay between the songs so I went organic ... I admit to a touch of bravado :)
 

MattA

Senior Member
Yeah. Here are a couple of total let downs played by a bunch of screw-ups:

Little L by Jamiroquai.
I love the confused look on the guitarists face when he hears the initial temp. Good to see they could have a laugh about it (after he brought it up to speed). Not a filthy glare in sight. I guess they have to contend with it a loss less then your average garage band.

In that example I think he did the right thing in bringing it up. That song would lose too much of its appeal left at the slower speed. Not always the case though, if it's a little less dramatic a difference in tempo then leaving it is fine.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
Not sure if this counts as a thread hijacking, but...This comes up a lot playing in church. A lot of songs begin with just vocals and maybe guitar or keyboard. Sometimes you can go all the way through the intro and verse at a slow tempo and it sounds fine. But then you hit the chorus and the rest of the band comes in and it is obvious the tempo is too slow. One song this happens to all the time at our church is "Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble." That into and verse actually sound good sung really slowly. Every time we do that song I end up going over the same thing with the keyboard player and lead singer. I tell them to think about the tempo they want to sing the chorus and then start the intro there. If you start thinking about the intro, you will start it too slow. I tell them to think about the part of the song where the tempo is most important. A little tip I picked up in a Steve Gadd interview. If they do start it at the wrong tempo at practice I might keep it there even though I am getting looks just to hammer the point that it needs to start at the right tempo. During the service, I will gradually speed it up. But then there are the songs that I gradually speed up when I don't intend to, but that is another thread. lol !
 
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