Tempo difficulty

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I think I am noticing myself having some problems with tempo lately, and even losing the pulse a bit. For those that don't know me as a drummer, I think timing and feel are important and I put time towards practicing them.

Here is a random video of me playing a song to give you some idea (I know it's not brilliant but it's the last thing I filmed) https://www.facebook.com/DreCor/videos/vb.502228760/10155540718028761/?type=2&theater

Some scenarios...

Playing with sloppy musicians makes me really question my own time keeping and they have the power to pull me all over the place, or at least it feels like they are making me speed up/slow down. It's possible I'm staying solid but my mind assumes the tempo of the distracting musician (e.g musician who is pushing/dragging the tempo) and lets that become the "master tempo"' momentarily. When I watch playback of gigs it's not as bad as it feels up there on stage but then I don't film everything, so there might be instances where I am losing it as much as it seems.

Sometimes I want to tell other musicians that they should practice their part with a metronome because I think their shoddy timing is making my job harder and causing me to speed up/slow down. But I don't. I think if I conveyed this idea to a group of musicians they might say that I should have a strong enough inner pulse to not be phased by what's going on around me. I might counter that I am sensitive to what's going on musically and that is what helps me gel with an ensemble.

I think it's possible that all the focus I put into timing has made smaller changes in tempo seem bigger, as though I'm hearing in a higher resolution, and am much more alert to minor changes compared with the average muso.

A few months ago I played mustang sally with a singer, which has that basic 1 bar + 3 count rest. The singer accentuated his words differently, or was maybe half a beat out and instead of just counting the 7 beats and coming back in with the snare accent, I decided that he'd made a small pause or was doing something avant garde, I made an adjustment so that the drums/band would come back in as he said a particular word and it didn't pay off... we came back in at different times and I am pretty sure that I copped the blame for that one.

And the last one I guess is probably common, it's time to count off a song and they haven't given me a set list so I have about 2 seconds from the time they tell me the song title to remember how the song goes, figure out the tempo and count off the song. Then the guitarist looks around and says "slower!" And the bass player says "faster!" and I want to tell them both to stop bullying me because the tempo is close enough and it's more important that it's consistent.

I think there's 2 possibilities... maybe I have too much confidence in my time and perhaps I've regressed... or it's possible that my practice has resulted in a deeper understanding of rhythm/tempo where I am able to play, perceive and react to more complicated accents/timings and that flexibility is alienating me. It's also possible that it's in my imagination, or I'm blowing it out of proportion, and the loss in confidence is actually making it a reality.

And, sorry to add another point, but I know this will be brought up - someone is surely going to say my standards are too high, and music should have an elastic tempo. I agree it should have an elastic tempo but there's a limit and I think people are overstepping it. If I am indeed too anal about tempo, I don't think I can willingly change that about myself.

Has anyone experienced anything like this?
 
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alparrott

Platinum Member
I think I am noticing myself having some problems with tempo lately. For those that don't know me as a drummer, I think timing and feel are important and I put time towards practicing them.

Here is a random video of me playing a song to give you some idea (I know it's not brilliant but it's the last thing I filmed) https://www.facebook.com/DreCor/videos/vb.502228760/10155540718028761/?type=2&theater

Some scenarios...

Playing with sloppy musicians makes me really question my own time keeping and they have the power to pull me all over the place, or at least it feels like they are making me speed up/slow down. It's possible I'm staying solid but my mind assumes the tempo of the distracting musician (e.g musician who is pushing/dragging the tempo). When I watch playback of gigs it's not as bad as it feels up there on stage but then I don't film everything, so there might be instances where I am losing it as much as it seems.

Sometimes I want to tell other musicians that they should practice their part with a metronome because I think their shoddy timing is making my job harder and causing me to speed up/slow down. But I don't. I think if I conveyed this idea to a group of musicians they might say that I should have a strong enough inner pulse to not be phased by what's going on around me. I might counter that I am sensitive to what's going on musically and that is what helps me gel with an ensemble.

A few months ago I played mustang sally with a singer, which has that basic 1 bar + 3 count rest. The singer accentuated his words differently, or was maybe half a beat out and instead of just counting the 7 beats and coming back in with the snare accent, I decided that he'd made a small pause or was doing something avant garde, I made an adjustment so that the drums/band would come back in as he said a particular word and it didn't pay off... and I am pretty sure that I copped the blame for that one.

And the last one I guess is probably common, it's time to count off a song and they haven't given me a set list so I have about 2 seconds from the time they tell me the song title to remember how the song goes, figure out the tempo and count off the song. Then the guitarist looks around and says "slower!" And the bass player says "faster!" and I want to tell them both to stop bullying me because the tempo is close enough and it's more important that it's consistent.

I think there's 2 possibilities... maybe I have too much confidence in my time and perhaps I've regressed... or it's possible that my practice has resulted in a deeper understanding of rhythm/tempo where I am able to play, perceive and react to more complicated accents/timings and that flexibility is alienating me. It's also possible that it's in my imagination, or I'm blowing it out of proportion, and the loss in confidence is actually making it a reality.

Has anyone experienced anything like this?

Or possibly, playing with musicians with sloppy time is getting in your head.

Back to the shed with a metronome and playing along to click tracks. Get your confidence back.

In the rehearsals, get the correct bpm set and note it in your set lissts, so that you can pre-set a metronome to get a good count off. Or use Bermuda's trick and sing a bar of a song with similar tempo.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'm surprised to hear you say that you can get pulled around by the distracting musicians Andre. You know better than that. Is the video you posted an example of others pulling you? Because I didn't really hear it. (I wish you played a rim click though :)

Tempo/meter....when it comes right down to it, if this isn't happening, the drumming isn't happenin., (and I'm not referencing your vid) It's that important. It's so fn important. People feel songs differently from night to night. Tempos can vary, but meter...the goal is rock steady, front to back.

I start only 3 songs where I actually count off, or do some sort of pickup. The other 99% of the songs we do, there's usually 4 bars of just guitar, then the bass player and I (or is the correct term me?) fall in. The reason I'm telling you all this is I notice tempo variations from night to night, depending on mood. Because I'm not setting it, I'm observing it for 4 bars. Sometimes it's too slow, and I try and s l o w l y bring the tempo up to where it works best. Tempo/meter is different for everyone lol. But at the end of the day, the drummer really needs to know where the song should sit. That's our wheelhouse. The meter is beautiful in my band, because the leader has the best tempo/meter sense I ever heard out of a guitar player in my little world. It's amazing to me how time is way down on the list for a great deal of guitar players.

Last night I did a blues sub gig, (guitar/bass/drums/harp), and the guitarist's meter, noticeably wavers, usually dragging. I don't compensate my meter for him. It's the drummers job to keep that meter steady, the guitarist can catch up. It's the lesser of the 2 evils IMO. The drums should not adjust, it's a cardinal sin. I go with arrangement mistakes and even other's tempo miscalculations and try and roll with it, but meter mistakes I stand my ground, but don't overcompensate. I just don't let it affect me. In that situation, especially in Blues, where dragging the time ruins everything, it's where I default to.

So in short, with meter, stand thy ground is how I handle it. Everyone is depending on the drummer for time, usually. Adjustments are flat out not done, the time must go on regardless. No one can say you screwed up if you kept the time steady, no matter how bad it makes the others look. That's their problem. In that situation you are the only thing holding it together. If you adjust, you lose. Don't get led around. You cannot do the drums to anyone's vocal or lead phrasing, just forget about that. The Almighty Meter is who you answer to lol.
 
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Magenta

Platinum Member
Do you use Live BPM? That's been a life-saver for me. It doesn't set the tempo, it picks up on the tempo you've set, and tracks it so that you can see if you're speeding up/slowing down so that you can adjust accordingly, and when I've been accused of doing either of the above I've been able to show the graph which depicts how far (or not) I've varied from the initial bpm.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Playing with sloppy musicians . . . Has anyone experienced anything like this?

Yes. I bring my metronome to practice and it settles all tempo arguments for any tune.

While rehearsing with tempo-challenged peeps, I use earbuds with the click. I play simply so band mates can easily lock in.

Not infrequently does a band member stop in the middle of the tune and dispute the tempo. It always turns out that they're speeding up and/or slowing down. duh.

I have gotten the "oh god, not a click, it makes the music so robotic" excuse too. I say "too bad" and play to it.

I have had one guitarist/singer/friend actually buy a metronome and practice at home with it. Not only has his feel of tempo gotten better, he appreciates the right tempo for the song.

During performances, I set the metronome (Tama Rhythm Watch) to "Stage" mode. It counts off 2 bars, stops and advances to the next tune's tempo. This has worked very well for my current band (which is not tempo-challenged).
 
F

funkutron

Guest
I play to a click with my current band, and although it is sometimes hard to keep "back there" with it, I know that the discipline of it has made me a better player. With a click, you're always right, no one can say otherwise! Before I used a click, I would inevitably speed up a few points between the beginning and the end of the song, nothing all that noticeable, but rather "energetic"....now I can't do that. But having said that, a song like "Rebel Yell" (168bpm) or "Footloose" (174bpm) is better with a click, because those songs are so fast that bands tend to slow them down as they go, but generally I want to get ahead of the click. It takes concentration. Weed really helps me stay with the click, it "dilates time" so that you have more time between clicks it seems....gets you really "inside" it..
 

Frank

Gold Member
I didn't hear any issues in that video. Sounded fine.

You might be overthinking it. [occasionally happens to me, too]

I can say that I don't like playing with others with poor time, and in the lowly existence of my weekend warrior music life, I seem to have logged more time with bad time players than tight ones.

The current band I work with - the guitarist and bass player screw up their time whenever their part is hard or they are singing. They don't realize it, and I'm just dealing with it silently. Sigh. Now I'm depressed.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I think I am noticing myself having some problems with tempo lately, and even losing the pulse a bit. For those that don't know me as a drummer, I think timing and feel are important and I put time towards practicing them.

Here is a random video of me playing a song to give you some idea (I know it's not brilliant but it's the last thing I filmed) https://www.facebook.com/DreCor/videos/vb.502228760/10155540718028761/?type=2&theater

Bad video for this, the time sounds great here-- at least as far as your playing is concerned. You sound a little preoccupied with keeping the fundamentals together, in fact. I think you can listen more and phrase with the tune-- every section doesn't need to be one static volume. You've basically nailed whatever you're worried about nailing, and now you can play the music a little more.

Some scenarios...

Playing with sloppy musicians makes me really question my own time keeping and they have the power to pull me all over the place, or at least it feels like they are making me speed up/slow down. It's possible I'm staying solid but my mind assumes the tempo of the distracting musician (e.g musician who is pushing/dragging the tempo) and lets that become the "master tempo"' momentarily. When I watch playback of gigs it's not as bad as it feels up there on stage but then I don't film everything, so there might be instances where I am losing it as much as it seems.

Like you say, it's probably not messing with you as badly as it seems in the moment. Maybe you have to learn to not listen to everything-- at least not listen to everything as a statement of where the time is. Learn what it feels like to constantly/momentarily be ahead or behind because someone else is rushing or dragging. Interpret it is tension rather than as the time becoming uncentered.

Sometimes I want to tell other musicians that they should practice their part with a metronome because I think their shoddy timing is making my job harder and causing me to speed up/slow down. But I don't. I think if I conveyed this idea to a group of musicians they might say that I should have a strong enough inner pulse to not be phased by what's going on around me. I might counter that I am sensitive to what's going on musically and that is what helps me gel with an ensemble.

The only solution is to change your own playing or feelings, or get different players. You won't be able to fix their playing so their rhythm is better. Conversations about it are usually counterproductive, I've found-- with bad players the conversation is meaningless, with decent players it just makes everyone tense.

And the last one I guess is probably common, it's time to count off a song and they haven't given me a set list so I have about 2 seconds from the time they tell me the song title to remember how the song goes, figure out the tempo and count off the song. Then the guitarist looks around and says "slower!" And the bass player says "faster!" and I want to tell them both to stop bullying me because the tempo is close enough and it's more important that it's consistent.

Either:
a) Don't count the tune off before you're sure on the tempo.
b) Ask for the set list so you have a second to think about it.
c) Tell the guitarist or bassist to count off the tunes since you're getting it wrong so much. (It's going to be as wrong or wronger when one of them does it).
d) Tell them you have two people yelling contradictory commands at you on stage and you don't need that and they need to knock it off, please. Obviously they have a lot of contradictory ideas about correct tempos, which they need to work out between them.
e) Do a, b, and d.

I don't believe you need a mechanical aid. You know the music, you know the correct tempo-- just get this together within your own self.

I think there's 2 possibilities... maybe I have too much confidence in my time and perhaps I've regressed... or it's possible that my practice has resulted in a deeper understanding of rhythm/tempo where I am able to play, perceive and react to more complicated accents/timings and that flexibility is alienating me. It's also possible that it's in my imagination, or I'm blowing it out of proportion, and the loss in confidence is actually making it a reality.

And, sorry to add another point, but I know this will be brought up - someone is surely going to say my standards are too high, and music should have an elastic tempo. I agree it should have an elastic tempo but there's a limit and I think people are overstepping it. If I am indeed too anal about tempo, I don't think I can willingly change that about myself.

Has anyone experienced anything like this?

Too anal is when you start looking into infrastructure for mechanically perfect tempo at all times-- like you start wanting to use a click live. I think you might want to seek out some better players-- definitely be evolving the way you hear, and your concept of groove-- there's a way to make it even if everyone isn't perfect. See if you can figure out how to be comfortable playing good time when everybody's attacks aren't perfectly lined up.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'm surprised to hear you say that you can get pulled around by the distracting musicians Andre. You know better than that.... Don't get led around. You cannot do the drums to anyone's vocal or lead phrasing, just forget about that. The Almighty Meter is who you answer to lol.

But that's a very real thing when playing with others, assuming the drummer is listening and interacting... which he should. It's easy to get pulled when you're 'in' the song.

Most of my bands have one members who pulls, and I've learned how to work with them, basically by really sitting on the tempo. No more just playing along, I focus on the drumming, not the particular song. I don't prefer that approach, it's just part of 'playing well with others'. One bandmember doesn't play triplet stuff steadily, so I disassociate myself a bit, lock into my drumming, and force him to adapt. The correction has (unfortunately) never had a permanent effect, that's just how he plays triplets. Yet, everything else he plays grooves right along steadily, and I get to be more in the band on those songs. I've had to learn the difference to know which way the particular song is likely to go.

I play with some bands whose members are rock solid, and it both makes the gig a pleasure, and helps confirm that my time is pretty good, since I'm not straying. That's when I enjoy drumming most - when I don't have to over-think how I'm playing.

Where possible, and adjustment to the mix is also helpful. If the singer is the tempo culprit, bring them down in the mix so they don't compete as much with the playing. The same goes for any other players who make it needlessly difficult to stay in time. If the end result is that nobody is completely listenable without creating timing issues, then the drummer needs to find a new band (and vice versa!)

Bermuda
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
But that's a very real thing when playing with others, assuming the drummer is listening and interacting... which he should. It's easy to get pulled when you're 'in' the song.

Most of my bands have one members who pulls, and I've learned how to work with them, basically by really sitting on the tempo. No more just playing along, I focus on the drumming, not the particular song. I don't prefer that approach, it's just part of 'playing well with others'. One bandmember doesn't play triplet stuff steadily, so I disassociate myself a bit, lock into my drumming, and force him to adapt. The correction has (unfortunately) never had a permanent effect, that's just how he plays triplets. Yet, everything else he plays grooves right along steadily, and I get to be more in the band on those songs. I've had to learn the difference to know which way the particular song is likely to go.

I play with some bands whose members are rock solid, and it both makes the gig a pleasure, and helps confirm that my time is pretty good, since I'm not straying. That's when I enjoy drumming most - when I don't have to over-think how I'm playing.



Bermuda

I can so relate to this. You've articulated beautifully exactly what I'm thinking deep down in those kinds of scenarios.
 
F

funkutron

Guest
My bass player speeds up when he does a solo. He also tries to play too much, more than he is capable of without stumbling (bass player's disease!) He's too bloody busy! And since he does sound, he's the loudest thing in the mix! Go figure! So to keep him in line, I hit the snare harder. Then he comes up to me between songs and says the snare is too loud, it's killing him! I think I'm going to go BARMY!
 

jazzin'

Silver Member
Todd and Bermuda put it very well, and in some cases players (not so good) will think it's the drummers job alone to keep good time rather than everyone having, and keeping, good time.

I've found in these situations the best thing to do is get with whoever has the best time and lock in with them, which is not necessarily going to always be the bass player. That will create a good base that won't feel wonky for you and provide clearer groove for everyone else.

Also, I think there is a great deal to be said about not going into rigid time mode and allowing flexibility and natural movement within the time. It ends up sounding and feeling like you're fighting each other rather than conversing and working things out. Sometimes you've gotta be the guy willing to make concessions to make the music better, especially if you are playing with guys who won't, or can't, make these concessions for the better. I remember a great moment when I was still studying at uni and doing the wedding/corporate circuit lots and sometimes playing last minute gigs with guys I'd never played with before, some good, some not so good. I used to think that if the time felt awkward and wasn't sitting, I'd often bunk down and go into 'must lay it down, ignore everyone else, meat and potatoes, Billie Jean' kind of mode and this would actually make things worse. Time can be flexible, not rushing/dragging, but it can move naturally and if you go into overly rigid mode I certainly found that it can make the problem of awkward time much worse and you can start to over think it. This is not necessarily a tempo issue, but more of a feel/how you sit within the group, issue. Either way, it's important to the time overall.
 

drum4fun27302

Gold Member
I understand where you are coming from, as I have been in the same situation.
For me , it comes from practicing with the click on the "e" and "a" and made my tempo much stronger. What happens because of it is that it makes me feel the tempo changes in the band way more accuratly. It does the same when I listen to live music and/or older music that wasn't recorded with a click.I can feel the speed up/slow down much easier. I then pull out live bpm to double check and I'am right most of the time.

I came to realize that I am more atune to tempo changes and now that I know about it, I try to put it in the back of my head and not make it such a big priority. When I made it a big priority, it kinda ruined the whole music experience >
Now, I just "go with the flow"more, without being too anal about it and it makes the music breathe more. I am still aware of the speeding up/slowing down, I just "let it be".

It also helped me "figuring out" how some drummers play (different limbs volume levels AND most importantly, a pushing hihat with a laid back snare kinda understanding). I am not sure if I explain myself correctly, english not being my native language , but that's all I got!!!!
 
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