Problems recording with a specific bass player in the studio

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
Hey all,

I ran into a new problem and wanted to see if you've run into this. I'll share my fix but thought it might be an interesting topic.

I've had a couple of projects with this bass player recently - I really enjoy this person as a human - we've traveled and have two projects that we are the rhythm section for the start touring in 2022 (and have had some shows).

but...

We just recorded together and every time there was a click involved...tempo was ALL OVER THE PLACE. Slowing down - speeding up...just a total wreck haha.

Now - I've done a lot of studio work and a click has never been a problem for me - so I don't mean to point fingers but....how I managed to record the tunes together that were giving us troubles was by literally turning her mix 100% off in my in ears during the session and just playing knowing the bass line in my head.

I doubt there's ANY way to bring this up to her - but have any of you ran into this particular problem with a bandmate and how did you approach it?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
I would want to put something like that, along with a sample of what you are referencing, in an Email so he can digest it by himself before he speaks to you next. To save his face. Just use "I"statements no "you" statements. I feel the tempo wavered. I didn't feel connected. It felt off to me. Did things feel off to you?

Go from there...or not?
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
I can recall only one time when I ran into this issue in the studio. A singer was providing reference vocals while I laid down drum tracks, and her timing was shaky in the presence of the click. Even the engineer picked up on it. We made your exact adjustment, excluding her vocals from my monitor so I could lock down with the click unimpeded. It worked like a dream. This was a one-time project, so I never had to raise the issue with the singer. I suppose a conversation might be in order with a full-time bandmate, but treading lightly is important. Judgement should be avoided. Focusing on overcoming the problem as a unit is the most productive approach.

You probably already know what I'm about to write, Nick. You've been well around the block as a drummer, but I'll mention it anyway. Some singers/musicians tense up when recording. They might be great in practice and on stage, but something about the clinical nature of the studio gets inside their heads. They just aren't comfortable there, especially if they don't record very often. Relaxation is critical to optimal performance, timing included. Your bassist might be on edge once the tracks start rolling. I really don't know. It's just a possibility.
 
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NouveauCliche

Senior Member
I can recall only one time when I ran into this issue in the studio. A singer was providing reference vocals while I laid down drum tracks, and her timing was shaky in the presence of the click. Even the engineer picked up on it. We made your exact adjustment, excluding her vocals from my monitor so I could lock down with the click unimpeded. It worked like a dream. This was a one-time project, so I never had to raise the issue with the singer. I suppose a conversation might be in order with a full-time bandmate, but treading lightly is important. Judgement should be avoided. Focusing on overcoming the problem as a unit is the most productive approach.

You probably already know what I'm about to write, Nick. You've been well around the block as a drummer, but I'll mention it anyway. Some singers/musicians tense up when recording. They might be great in practice and on stage, but something about the clinical nature of the studio gets inside their heads. They just aren't comfortable there, especially if they don't record very often. Relaxation is critical to optimal performance, timing included. Your bassist might be on edge once the tracks start rolling. I really don't know. It's just a possibility.

Yea - she's 24 too and kind of this jazz hot shot so I doubt she gets corrected a lot and probably doesn't have THAT much experience in the studio. I know it flustered her a lot.
 

Al Strange

Platinum Member
I’ve asked for the instrument at point to be turned right down or taken out of my cans altogether in the past…that way I can nail the track to the click and they can punch in/fix their parts later. The producer can diplomatically work with them to correct any problematic sections, or replace them altogether!!

I helped an indie band record some demos at a beautiful residential rural studio in Herefordshire UK. It was a great session but it was clear that their bass player was struggling. A plan was concocted that I would offer him a lift home with me (I was due to go home earlier than everyone else after finishing my drum tracks) but I had to pretend that I didn’t have enough room in my car for his bass. The bass player was grateful for the lift home and the band was grateful that his bass was left behind so the guitarist could redo all the bass parts after we left!! 😂 (y)
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
Yea - she's 24 too and kind of this jazz hot shot so I doubt she gets corrected a lot and probably doesn't have THAT much experience in the studio. I know it flustered her a lot.
Given that she's a young bassist, and you're a more experienced drummer, you might have some leeway to raise the topic with her. She could, in fact, be thankful for your guidance, especially if she's already aware that her recording performance was less than superb. Again, I'd focus on solving the problem together, offering her as much support as possible. After all, what's good for her is good for both of you. You have to play as a team to make things work.
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
. . . but I had to pretend that I didn’t have enough room in my car for his bass. The bass player was grateful for the lift home and the band was grateful that his bass was left behind so the guitarist could redo all the bass parts after we left!! 😂 (y)
Ha! Your a slickster, Mr. Strange. If I ever ask you for a ride home and you reply, "Sure, but I don't have room for your wallet in my car," I'll know that my currency will soon be depleted." :D
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Hey all,

I ran into a new problem and wanted to see if you've run into this. I'll share my fix but thought it might be an interesting topic.

I've had a couple of projects with this bass player recently - I really enjoy this person as a human - we've traveled and have two projects that we are the rhythm section for the start touring in 2022 (and have had some shows).

but...

We just recorded together and every time there was a click involved...tempo was ALL OVER THE PLACE. Slowing down - speeding up...just a total wreck haha.

Now - I've done a lot of studio work and a click has never been a problem for me - so I don't mean to point fingers but....how I managed to record the tunes together that were giving us troubles was by literally turning her mix 100% off in my in ears during the session and just playing knowing the bass line in my head.

I doubt there's ANY way to bring this up to her - but have any of you ran into this particular problem with a bandmate and how did you approach it?

Exactly how you did. I turn down/off anyone that isn’t groovalicious. Of course, having independent control of your monitor mix means you don’t have to sneakily get the engineer to do it for you. I’ve read about Josh Freese making this requests, but bring careful to not say anything over the mics, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Additionally, I have asked that the click be “doubled” to playing 8th notes. When there is less space between clicks, it can help a shaky player stay “on”. It becomes even more obvious when there is a timing error, and then more effort to address these errors usually happens.

As far as what to suggest to your bass player, it really depends. She will need to be in a headspace that is ready to accept advice. Mentioning her strengths, first, could help. Another idea is to offer to practice with her, if you’re willing.
 

Lefty Phillips

Well-known Member
I've experienced this sort of thing with singers, some really good singers, even, but not a bassist. It's usually "studio nerves", which can take years for some people to overcome.

I'd like to know more details about the gig, but it's not extremely unusual for drummers to record their parts to a click, and let everyone else lay down tracks after. I wouldn't describe it as common, either, maybe just a bit unusual.

Once the drums are tracked, she can take her time getting the parts right, and spend some time listening to the results on the monitors, which might help her figure out the problem on her own.

Does she keep good time when not recording?
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
Additionally, I have asked that the click be “doubled” to playing 8th notes. When there is less space between clicks, it can help a shaky player stay “on”. It becomes even more obvious when there is a timing error, and then more effort to address these errors usually happens.
That's a very good idea. Deviations are more exposed in tight rhythmic space.
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
I’ve asked for the instrument at point to be turned right down or taken out of my cans altogether in the past…that way I can nail the track to the click and they can punch in/fix their parts later. The producer can diplomatically work with them to correct any problematic sections, or replace them altogether!!

I helped an indie band record some demos at a beautiful residential rural studio in Herefordshire UK. It was a great session but it was clear that their bass player was struggling. A plan was concocted that I would offer him a lift home with me (I was due to go home earlier than everyone else after finishing my drum tracks) but I had to pretend that I didn’t have enough room in my car for his bass. The bass player was grateful for the lift home and the band was grateful that his bass was left behind so the guitarist could redo all the bass parts after we left!! 😂 (y)

That is freaking hilarious.

Whatever it takes to get the job done hahahah
 
We just recorded together and every time there was a click involved...tempo was ALL OVER THE PLACE. Slowing down - speeding up...just a total wreck haha.
I remember Questlove saying that he often recorded to loops instead of just a click.
Could it help her to give her a shaker or drum loop instead of a click, so that the time and subdivisions are clearer?
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
I've experienced this sort of thing with singers, some really good singers, even, but not a bassist. It's usually "studio nerves", which can take years for some people to overcome.

I'd like to know more details about the gig, but it's not extremely unusual for drummers to record their parts to a click, and let everyone else lay down tracks after. I wouldn't describe it as common, either, maybe just a bit unusual.

Once the drums are tracked, she can take her time getting the parts right, and spend some time listening to the results on the monitors, which might help her figure out the problem on her own.

Does she keep good time when not recording?

We've actually had a couple of instances where she feels like the time was off and because she's kind of a hotshot people were looking at me haha.

I'm like "guys I've done specifically this for 40 years" haha.


She's got an amazing swing but it seems like when you straighten things out - her tempo wants to dip.

Or - it's possible that we are both pretty sensitive players when it comes to listening and feeling a band and we are *both* over compensating and keep dropping to help the feel until we like 10BPM off. I've thought this might be possible too
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
I remember Questlove saying that he often recorded to loops instead of just a click.
Could it help her to give her a shaker or drum loop instead of a click, so that the time and subdivisions are clearer?

This is a good idea - I tried to program a click that felt more like a part instead of a BEEP BEEP BEEP - that sort of seemed to help.
 

Lefty Phillips

Well-known Member
We've actually had a couple of instances where she feels like the time was off and because she's kind of a hotshot people were looking at me haha.

I'm like "guys I've done specifically this for 40 years" haha.


She's got an amazing swing but it seems like when you straighten things out - her tempo wants to dip.

Or - it's possible that we are both pretty sensitive players when it comes to listening and feeling a band and we are *both* over compensating and keep dropping to help the feel until we like 10BPM off. I've thought this might be possible too
The suggestion to double the tempo of the click might do the trick, as might using a loop. I certainly prefer loops to that horrific computer beeping noise in my headphones.

For players who swing hard, playing straight can be a real challenge, just as swinging the beat can be a real challenge for players who usually don't. I'd still like to know if she can keep good time when the red light is off, but it IS entirely possible that you two are pulling each out of time, also.

Recording drums in isolation, and then bass, will help clarify for everyone that the whole issue, all issues really, are entirely the drummer's fault, especially the weather.
 
She's got an amazing swing but it seems like when you straighten things out - her tempo wants to dip.
She probably noticed it herself that the click didn't feel comfortable when recording. So since you don't want to create extra stress, confronting her with a LiveBPM diagram is probably not a good option. :D
Maybe she feels more at ease (for now) at slower tempos, so maybe work on slower songs first and see how things develop?
 

beatdat

Senior Member
I had to pretend that I didn’t have enough room in my car for his bass.
Didn't he notice when getting in your car that you were pretending?

What did he say?

How did you respond?


Does she keep good time when not recording?
Good question. If she can, maybe try taking the click out of her monitor mix.
 

A J

Well-known Member
My reply might seem sort of abrupt, but.... You asked.

In every successful band I've ever been in, it is perfectly acceptable to shout insults, criticism and harassing comments to the other band members. On Tuesday we had practice. I'm the percussionist. I made a HUGE screw up in the middle of a new song we were learning. The drummer and bassist both turned toward me and started laughing.

That's the kind of band I want to be in. If you feel like you have to walk on egg shells, there's a problem.

My advice: Be direct. Be polite. Be funny. If your bassist can't handle a little criticism or you don't have the ability to communicate criticism, you ain't goin' nowhere.
 
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