Stage Etiquette

Neil

Senior Member
Hi Guys,

When the band and I are on stage I occasionally get the over emphasised mouthing of 'Faster' or 'Slower'...or on some occasions both from different band members....which is..confusing. Which personally I find embarrasing and not very professional.

I've mentioned this at meetings etc and have suggested that we either have a signal or people play to the tempo we're at and 'grin and bare' it for the duration. Most of the songs in the set list, I'm not actually starting and I'm merely coming in at the tempo set by others. This is made worse by us not to having a set tempo for each song, the tempo is usually determined by the other members for what is comfortable for them to play/sing and I've noticed that this tends to change week in week out.

How do you guys manage it? Does it wind you up or am I over-reacting?
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...

Totally understand your situ and perhaps there's a touch of over reaction here.

Even if you arent starting the song, it really is your responsibility, as the drummer to push or pull the tempo to the right levels. Finding yourself and the band locked in a bad groove and 'baring it' isnt acceptable and should be dealt with very quickly by you.

Question to really ask the band is - who decides..?

..and yes, it is unprofessional to be prompting each other about tempos onstage. Everybody keeping an eye on everybody else usually helps. You can often read body language, and expressions to see how the others are feeling the groove or tempo and everyone is locked in together.

...
 

Bonzo_CR

Silver Member
Best way to sort this out IMO is to use your practice time to have the band agree and note which tempo works best for each song (I use a cheap electronic metronome with a small flashing light for this) and then use it when counting off each song. I can check tempo during the song by looking at my flashing light again, in case we're speeding up or slowing down. This becomes second nature after a few gigs. Do this a few times, and the band will soon trust you as it's timekeeper.

Even with this setup, it's still possible to get carried away from time to time, and then yes, a subtle sign for 'faster' or 'slower' still works! Our singer uses a low pumping fist for 'faster' and a single hand pushing downwards for 'slower', they work reasonably well and aren't so obvious to the audience. And no, he doesn't need to use them very often :)
 

Travis22

Senior Member
I agree with Aydee. If you aren't starting the song and it's a little off in terms of tempo, you should be able to get it where it should be once you come in. Not to say you should come in dragging or rushing, but gradually get the tempo where you know it should be.

If it starts WAY to slow or fast, then I would stick it out instead of trying to make that major of a change on stage. And of coarse, you not starting it would make it not your fault. But like always, it's a band effort and you all really need to work together on it so that when you are on stage there isn't any "major" tempo issues.

Then of coarse there's that mighty ol' click track. Even if you don't use it when performing, having it there for refrence during practice will help you and your band pound the correct tempo(s) of your songs into your heads so that it is second nature after awhile.

And I'd also tell them to stop mouthing stuff to you. That's more unprofessional on stage than a song being played at the incorrect tempo IMO.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
...

. Finding yourself and the band locked in a bad groove and 'baring it' isnt acceptable and should be dealt with very quickly by you.
.
Abe's absolutely right here, it's up to you to correct any fly away bandmates. That said, it must be done in a way that the audience doesn't pick up on. Just slowing or speeding to suit is much worse than going with the show IMO.

Here's me pulling our key player back into the pocket, from his key intro into the opening groove, just enough to establish the vibe. Most audience members wouldn't notice the change. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1knIpx6NdfI Notice how I use groove breaks to gradually pull things back. In other words, I'll crash/fill, then come out the other side just that little bit slower. Never make uncheduled in groove tempo changes.
 

specgrade

Senior Member
Next time it happens just stop playing and yell "WHAT???" "WHAT ARE YOU SAYING???" "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!" They might get the hint.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Here's me pulling our key player back into the pocket, from his key intro into the opening groove, just enough to establish the vibe. Most audience members wouldn't notice the change. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1knIpx6NdfI Notice how I use groove breaks to gradually pull things back. In other words, I'll crash/fill, then come out the other side just that little bit slower. Never make uncheduled in groove tempo changes.

Hey , did I miss this earlier? Nice and controlled, Andy, ya sneaky pro..


Right, guys let me ask you this....

Does your band play the song the same way on two different days? at different venues? What if its in a bar that has 12 sleepy people or in a theatre with 500 semi drunk party animals?

Do you play the same song the same way? Same tempo, same dynamics?

...
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Neil, it sounds as if you need to take over the count offs. I have this same issue, and most songs that are too this or too that ...guess what...I don't start them. I decided that in the future, I will ask them if they would let me count them in. I really have no intention of taking no for an answer, tempo is our responsibility, and as long as I do it respectfully, it should go fine.

Abe, the answer is yes in my case. The song is the song no matter who or where. Whether it comes out that way is another story, but that's the intent. If you mess with things, the song loses it's original vibe that made it great in the first place. You don't want to mess w/ the recipe. Of course sometimes the other players get it in their crawl that they want to try stuff jumped up or slowed down, then you have to just roll with it, whatever.
I wanted to address what The Mist said about playing live w/ click tracks. People with bad time can't play to clicks because they aren't attuned to dividing time up evenly, or even thinking in those terms. (hard to imagine, right?) It's a hard skill to learn. I have a guitar player in my band, good as he is, is challenged rhythmically. If there's a 1 bar rest in a song, and if I wasn't tapping on my thigh, he'd be lost. Forget it. He knows this and says that he doesn't think like a drummer. Very revealing.
Good musical time is the very foundation of well executed music. It seems like if you know your time, meaning the perfect tempo, played in a steady meter for a song, (a tall order, without a click) that's one of the major things that seperate the pros from the rest..
 
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DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Had the same problem years ago....

Simple solution play with live click tracks. So when their amateur brains complain then just blame it on the click...lol

I have found that most guitar players and singers have absolutely no sense of time. Every member in the band has to have rhythm not just the drummer. Only so much the drummer can do if the rest of the band is speeding things up...you have no choice to follow them.

I play right on with clicks and the dopey singer still says it's too slow or too fast. hahahah it cracks me up
These are my thoughts too.

Use some sort of click to at least count off the songs. At minimum, use a click in rehearsals to get everyone comfortable with the correct tempos.

And be prepared for guitarists claiming the metronome must not be working right!!

It's a bit of an adjustment getting used to working with clicks, but it ends a lot of stupid arguing.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Hey , did I miss this earlier? Nice and controlled, Andy, ya sneaky pro..


Right, guys let me ask you this....

Does your band play the song the same way on two different days? at different venues? What if its in a bar that has 12 sleepy people or in a theatre with 500 semi drunk party animals?

Do you play the same song the same way? Same tempo, same dynamics?

...
The truth Abe? No, but of course, we should. Audience reaction plays a big part in how you feel, & that in turn, plays a huge part in how you perform. If anything, I tend to concentrate on tempo even more at the bigger/more rowdy gigs. Probably because I expect a band reaction to the crowd vibe.
 

alex19

Senior Member
maybe im going against the grain here, but i think your all at fault ( ok in this situation the drummer a bit less). how i see it you havent practised enough. if there are certain songs that are iffy, concentrate on those songs. just because you are the time keeper (as drummers are) then why should you have to correct their mistakes? i find it highly unprofessional and inconciderate to start a song and think "drummers problem now, he will have to fix it"


mistakes can happen and this is not a problem really, but at every gig, bit wrong IMO.

as as for the mouthing of faster/slower, id punch them personally.



our singer uses the pumping fist if its slightly off. very rare he uses it though

another thing, when on stage, the adrenaline is pumping and naturally you want to play as fast as your heart beat. resist this and put as much concentration into your timekeeping as you can.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
To be fair, when someone else starts/counts the song, and it's wrong.... not the drummers fault. The guy starting the song has a big responsibility. I think a lot of people don't understand just how much the tempo affects the feel....That's why the guy with the best tempo sense should always count the songs off. I hate adjusting to a too fast tune.
 

alex19

Senior Member
yeah i agree with that.but at the same time, i still think the rest of the band members should know the tempo of the songs, especially if they're starting them off.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
yeah i agree with that.but at the same time, i still think the rest of the band members should know the tempo of the songs, especially if they're starting them off.
I agree with you in principle, but in reality, in my experiences, maybe 1 in 25 guitarists have a great sense of musical tempo/meter. It's kinda a given, something drummers have to keep in check. If the rest of the band is trying to speed up, me I'd rather stand my ground and make them come to me rather than let the tempo run away like a train down a hill without brakes. That sucks to have to play like that, but it doesn't sound as bad from the audience as it feels onstage. (Listening to the recordings proves it. You do record, right?) On the other hand if you just let them have their way...you're kinda guilty too, because no one has the power to control the flow like the drummer. If they say anything afterwards, that's when I have no choice but to assert myself, and to point out the importance of tempo/meter. I have to make them understand that I'm on their side, and I'm doing what's best for the song.

I've gotten fired for asserting myself to a person who played things different from night to night. I was in the wrong for not understanding that this was his band and if he wanted to lay something way back, then he didn't need some know it all drummer trying to "correct" him. So it can be a risky conversation if there are fragile egos or single minded bandleaders.

This is what I said that got me fired..."Hey Joe, I noticed that you start the songs off at different tempos all the time. Do you want me to bring it back to where the right tempo is, or play it at the tempo you started it at?"

He said that the tempo basically didn't matter, it's whatever he felt. I probably said something to the effect that I thought tempo was crucial to feel, but I'd do it however he wanted.

I never got called back for rehearsals/gigs after that. I'm pretty sure he felt that I insulted him with the comment about bringing the song back to the right tempo. I guess I expect a little thicker skin from others because I have to call them like I see them. Big lesson learned there.
 
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eamesuser

Silver Member
Over reacting? It depends,I have played with band members that start songs to slowly and I have to speed them up,at another band members behest,and been told that I have time problems by another band member,defended myself,and nothing was ever said to the guitarist that started tunes to slowly.I have been in bands where they know certain band members may have time issues with certain songs and the others or leader knows it,and just looks over at me to correct it and I do.but when you get one person telling you to speed up and another to slow down in the same song you are in an impossible situation and generally have a power battle going on,and if neither of the two combatants are going anywhere sometimes you will be considered at fault, so when that happens I address the situation and ask what can I do to help,but make sure they know the impossibility of my situation when this comes up.Depending on the reaction I get I decide whether or not to continue playing with band or not.
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
I've recently started a punk/jazz project with a pianist. We're writing as a 2 piece at the moment so tempo is a very crucial thing. While writing we first agree on what tempo we like the song at, usually we start with foot-tapping then I count it on my hats while I find the tempo on my metronome that matches. This method seems to do the trick because she has a great sense of rhythm and starts most of the songs off.

When we're playing too fast of too slow (usually my fault) I just pull out the metronome and play a few bars to the tap to remember the timing. The result of this has been a huge improvement on my part with staying on time and in rehersal the songs are played with a lot more consistency. The real test will be when we start gigging.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I get the tempo for a song by singing (in my head) a choice part of the tune that's easy to grab the tempo from, then nodding my head to it, then putting a count to my nods.

I could use a metronome, but I don't want to have to rely on one, I'd rather develop my own sense of tempo. Plus it's one less item of gear to deal with lol.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
I did a casual once with a drummer who had marked down every song's tempo and would look at the set list, set a metronome, listen to it, put it down, and only then count off the song. Good thing it was a casual in a small place and someone else's gig. I would never tolerate that in a real band. Perfect way to kill the vibe unless you have the most glib frontman ever, and even at that it's still too much break between songs.

I've been on drum gigs with folks who either started songs way off tempo or couldn't count out evenly. If I can lay in an opening fill to establish the real tempo (and downbeat) then I'll do it. Otherwise it sounds way to disruptive to me to have noticible tempo changes in the song. Maybe you can push something too slow a bit. But if it's off to the races, and there isn't a dynamic drop in there somewhere, it kills the song to drag it back. I just go along with it. One of the worst was a harp player who played some guitar and would try to start out Europa by just playing the intro line with no warning or count off. A guitarist with time can get away with this. I've done it tons of times, and have played drums behind others who left no doubt where the 1 was. But this guy was all over the place. So I would pound out a really obvious 2 beat fill to bring everyone else in as close as possible to where I thought he was going to land.

As for the signals, IMHO I think that any kind of adverse faces, movements or comments on stage are unprofessional. Again, you can relate speeding up a little with motions that look like you're really in to it. But any dramatic body language to slow something down makes the band look small time (which they may be, but there's no need in advertising it to the whole place).
 

alex19

Senior Member
I agree with you in principle, but in reality, in my experiences, maybe 1 in 25 guitarists have a great sense of musical tempo/meter. It's kinda a given, something drummers have to keep in check. If the rest of the band is trying to speed up, me I'd rather stand my ground and make them come to me rather than let the tempo run away like a train down a hill without brakes. That sucks to have to play like that, but it doesn't sound as bad from the audience as it feels onstage. (Listening to the recordings proves it. You do record, right?) On the other hand if you just let them have their way...you're kinda guilty too, because no one has the power to control the flow like the drummer. If they say anything afterwards, that's when I have no choice but to assert myself, and to point out the importance of tempo/meter. I have to make them understand that I'm on their side, and I'm doing what's best for the song.

I've gotten fired for asserting myself to a person who played things different from night to night. I was in the wrong for not understanding that this was his band and if he wanted to lay something way back, then he didn't need some know it all drummer trying to "correct" him. So it can be a risky conversation if there are fragile egos or single minded bandleaders.

This is what I said that got me fired..."Hey Joe, I noticed that you start the songs off at different tempos all the time. Do you want me to bring it back to where the right tempo is, or play it at the tempo you started it at?"

He said that the tempo basically didn't matter, it's whatever he felt. I probably said something to the effect that I thought tempo was crucial to feel, but I'd do it however he wanted.

I never got called back for rehearsals/gigs after that. I'm pretty sure he felt that I insulted him with the comment about bringing the song back to the right tempo. I guess I expect a little thicker skin from others because I have to call them like I see them. Big lesson learned there.
i think i may have just been very lucky with the bands ive been in. ive had to pull back a song or speed it up on a couple of occasions, but most of the time they go a grand job.

as for the band that never called you back to rehersals, it doesnt sound like you lost out and he was a bit of a pratt!!!
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
If I can lay in an opening fill to establish the real tempo (and downbeat) then I'll do it. Otherwise it sounds way to disruptive to me to have noticible tempo changes in the song. Maybe you can push something too slow a bit. But if it's off to the races, and there isn't a dynamic drop in there somewhere, it kills the song to drag it back. I just go along with it.
Agree. I prefer to commit to a tempo, even if it's fast unless there's a break to allow an easing off without sounding odd. In my experience, a song that speeds up gets a better audience response than one that slows down.

If I'm really getting carried away (seems to happen if the crowd is way on-side) I have no probs with someone looking at me - without scowling - as a subtle reminder not to speed things up any more. The hard part is knowing whether a non-scowl look is a reminder, or from curiosity, amusement or a simple "hi".

Bermuda's comment in another thread about playing time feeling slower than listening time really struck a chord with me. I mentioned it to the rest of the band so they won't drive me should I start a song at a seemingly lazy tempo while under the influence of adrenaline, since chances are that it will be fairly correct. A shared understanding with these things is good so everyone is on the same page.
 
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