Adjusting the time for other players


"Uncle Larry"
So, is it better to be the time and let others come to you if there is wacky meter going on by the others?

Or is it better to compensate for the players whose time isn't developed?

I'm with #1 all the way. It's their issue. That sounds harsh, but them adjusting to me sounds much less disruptive IMO than me adjusting for them.

My primary concern is for the music and audience first, not a fellow musician who might feel butthurt if they are the ones who can't hang.

Unless it's just such a clusterfk that it's the better option from the audiences perspective, me adjusting to them. People tap their feet and the drums. It's not something to be messed with. IMO adjusting to the others is a last ditch resort only.

Any thoughts?

No Way Jose

Silver Member
My objective is to make other musicians sound good. That often means that I adjust to a guitar player or keyboard player.


Junior Member
I agree, developing solid time should be a priority for ANY musician. It still blows me away how some players buy into the myth that they don't have to address their own time issues, I've played with guys that complain about tempo constantly but can't hang with a metronome...……'s nuts!


Senior Member
Well, the singer in the originals band I play in sings out of time with his guitar, so it can be a bit of a nighrmare locking in with him. There was one gig during which he had a bit of a meltdown and if I hadn't adjusted the timing just for him, the whole song would have fallen apart.


Well-known member
for me, it is a combo of both...

at practice, we work together to identify problems and define things, and I am always the one they are supposed to listen to and trust

live is another thing, and our main guitarist - and band leader - will often times "clam up" a bit and loose confidence live. The bass player and I know that it will happen, so many times at gigs, we adjust quickly.

but I always set tempos and start songs off
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I guess it also depends on whether you regularly play with those people or if it's a jam session. I can get carried away or drop the time but when I feel that the band is all over the place and that I'm right, I might wait for an opportunity to play a short and easy fill with a clear quarter note pulse to re-establish the tempo and where "One" is.


Senior Member
I play to a click in my band, so the band knows to stay with me and we'll get home. It's metal, so it train wrecks quickly if people start adjusting randomly.


Gold Member
I’ve tried it both ways and prefer #1. I no longer have patience “discussing” a proper tempo. I bring a metronome to rehearsals and if someone objects to a tempo, they must give the band a tempo value and lock into that.

During a gig, if the tempo ain’t right, I’m the guy bandmates look at to move it in the right direction.


"Uncle Larry"
Tempo adjustments fall into a different class than meter adjustment in my life. Tempo adjustments can be done smoother over the space of a few bars without jerking the time suddenly, like a quick meter adjustment does. It's less noticeable IMO to increase the tempo gradually than slowing the tempo down from a "too fast" start. IOW, if the tempo isn't right from the get go, it's better to err on the side of starting a bit slow than too fast. JMO.

What I try and do is make my tempo and meter sound SO appealing, that the rest of the band will naturally want to board my ship.

Steve Gadd said once...tempo is an agreement between players.

When there's disagreement, me no likey.

I've come to realize that when my bandleader thinks I'm dragging, which yes I am guilty of here and there, but mainly I'm pretty sure it's more of a tempo disagreement. I'm feeling it differently. We don't always see eye to eye when it comes to tempo, and he starts 95% of the songs. On a few songs, he likes it MUCH faster than I would play it if I had the tempo control. I admit I have a hard time with playing a song with what I consider a "wrong" tempo feel.

A good example is The Band's "The Weight". I feel this as a fairly slow tempo'd song that isn't rushed in any way..

My bandleader plays it at least twice the speed of the record and I have a hard time with it. I mean I can play it, but it feels all wrong to me.

The little fills Levon puts in don't feel nearly as good at twice the speed.
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Platinum Member
If a musician can't keep time are they even a musician worth bothering with in the first place?

Real schoolboy stuff that drags your band down. Sadly there's lots of drummers that have lousy time so this debate isn't as straight forward as it seems.

Unless somebody else is bringing a song in, it's the drummers time you go by.


Senior Member
For me, it depends mostly on how loud the band is. If I'm playing brushes while accompanying acoustic guitar, the time can be quite flexy bendy and I don't have a problem with that. If we're playing above 120 bpm, the drum kit is a freight train. Get on board, get left behind or get run over.


Platinum Member
My philosophy is: I, the drummer, am responsible for time. I will follow the click. You will follow me. If you can't follow me, that's your problem.

Seriously, I was the time Nazi. It was my job to locate, identify, and correct any tempo issues. In the studio, songs didn't pass until I went through it. If anything was off, I would tell the offender. No one ever got butt hurt, we all wanted the best finished product possible. The same went for me. If something was wrong or off, they would tell me. I would then identify the issue and fix it.

This whole tempo drift thing makes me sad. By all means, drift a little and let it breathe. But stay in the same gear.

With all the modern technology, the grid, everything having a built in click, and the accessibility to all of it, I would think in the overall scheme of things musicians time would be better on average than say 40 years ago. This doesn't seem to be the case.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It depends.

Whatever makes it sound less like a trainwreck.

If the the drums are the dominating instrument, sure, but if it's just plin wrong I won't insist on not turning the beat around just to be a dick. Making the singer, or any soloist, look stupid when it can be avoided by using your ears is not professional.

Yeah, sometimes you have to play a song in a empo the leader wants that doesn't feel right to you. That's the job. If it helps, write a tempo chart and bring a metronome.
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Junior Member
So, is it better to be the time and let others come to you if there is wacky meter going on by the others?

Or is it better to compensate for the players whose time isn't developed?
I don't believe that Uncle Larry is talking about tempo fluctuation. The way I read it, it seems like the intent of the question is, if someone completely drops a beat or comes in at the wrong time or rushes or drags to the point that they are not longer playing in the same relation to beat '1' as the rest of the group, who should move? Should the drummer remain rock solid and try to keep the rest of the ensemble together until the offender has figured out what they have done and come back in correctly, or should you adjust to the person who is off for the sake of just moving on and completing the song?

Generally in these situations, for the sake of the performance, you have to adjust to the person who is off. They may or may not even understand that something doesn't sound or feel right, but if they couldn't come in on the right beat and they don't even realize that they are now on the wrong beat, they will most likely not have any clue that they are off or what they would need to do to get back on the correct beat.

Every situation will be different but I've seen many times when a singer comes in wrong and most everyone in the band immediately corrects to them as quickly as possible. This is your best case scenario so if it happens this way, I'd just go with the flow, reestablish the groove and carry on. In cases like this, I would adjust as quickly as I could, along with everyone else. If you don't, even though you as the drummer may technically be playing on what was previously, theoretically beat '1', it will now be YOU who sounds off from everyone else.

If you find that half of the band went with the offender and half are still on the original line, you have to find the smoothest, most basic fill you can play that will get you out of the ongoing train wreck and reestablish where beat '1' is for everyone. This would generally be something very sparse that establishes the correct down beat and feel in an obvious way but that also organically flows out of the insanity of the dumpster fire you are trying to exit. If you do it smooth enough, most of the audience won't even know and you can salvage what's left of the song and your pride. Someone has to take charge in those moments and it usually will have to be the drummer. You can be the hero in that situation and your group members will be glad that you had the steady hand and cool head to realize what was going on and to find a way to navigate through it and salvage the performance.


Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Steve Gadd said once...tempo is an agreement between players.

Did he mean that the bpm would be agreed on and played the entire song, or that it's OK to vary the tempo within the song.?

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Steve Gadd said once...tempo is an agreement between players.

Did he mean that the bpm would be agreed on and played the entire song, or that it's OK to vary the tempo within the song.?
I assume the second more than the first, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he meant the statement to cover both.


"Uncle Larry"
Steve Gadd said once...tempo is an agreement between players.

Did he mean that the bpm would be agreed on and played the entire song, or that it's OK to vary the tempo within the song.?
Can't really say John.

I play some songs with my band that I don't agree with the tempo, and it's not the ideal situation for me. I take what Steve said as being this, but his statements can be taken in different ways.