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How do you get to the back of the beat?


NickT

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My new project is to be able to place my notes at the back, the front or in the middle of the beat as I so choose.

 

How do I go about practising this skill? The only thing that has been suggested was by a drummer. He suggested, play with the click and move as far back as you can without sounding out of time. Then stay there. Then do the same thing the other way.

 

I think this is working. I can feel a tension when I place my notes, that disappears when I concentrate on landing on the click. I think that my practice is working, but it seems a little "hit and miss". I'm worried that maybe I am feeling some tension in the timing, simply because I am hoping to.

 

Does anyone have any exercise to develop this control that they know will work?

Free your mind and your ass will follow.
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Yup, the drummer pointed you in a good direction. Another metronome trick that may work for you:

 

Play a typical swing on one note for a dozen measures: a1 a2 a3 a4

Switch to 1e 2e 3e 4e for a dozen. Eventually work your way to alternating measures.

 

This was given to me by a sax instructor as an excercise to even out 8th notes, cause it's a sin to swing Bach suites. But it will also help you develop a better feel of "ahead & behind" the beat. Or drive you insane.

- Matt W.
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A few suggestions:

 

Try flamming the notes so the metronome click is the first hit of the flam and the bass note the second hit.

 

Relax, lean back, play deliberately sloppily and flop along just behind where you'd normally play.

 

Listen to lots of reggae - note how the drummer tends to sit ahead or on top of the beat apart from the kick on 3 grooves where the kick sits back with the bass. Follow where the bassmeisters like Family Man place their notes, so slow and smooth and as far back as possible. Smoking certain illegal substances can help.

 

To play behind think in long slow relaxed notes regardless of how busy the bassline is. To play ahead think in short staccato busy notes even if you're just playing whole notes.

 

Behind - think dope. Ahead - think coke. All over the place - think alcohol (why is this drug so unconducive to good playing?)

 

One thing I've found is that if you have to consciously think about shifting your placement around the beat your bassline won't groove. Practice as many cunning exercises as possible to develop your ability to move around the beat without having to think about it.

 

We used to work on this in my old band and I never really got the hang of it then (but I did stop myself always playing with top spin and learn how to play ON the beat) but since then I've gradually internalised those skills and can lay back when it's needed without realising I'm doing it.

 

Alex

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Listen to as much funk as you can.

 

I'm listening to "Shack-Man" by Medeski Martin and Wood right now...and Chris Wood lays way back most of the time. The first tune, a cover of "Is There Anyone Who Love My Jesus" has a bassline so far behind the beat it's crazy.

 

When this record came out I played along with it a lot...the basslines are mostly simple (except for the upright stuff), so you can concentrate on getting the feel right without worrying about chops.

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Originally posted by BenLoy:

Listen to as much funk as you can.

I think I might make that my signature.

 

Alex

 

P.S. The above is the correct bass answer regardless of the question but you may find some small anomalies with Tower of Power and laying back: Rocco and David Garibaldi are THE masters of pushing the beat funkily.

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Play with about 50 different drummers. Lock in with each one of them. Notice where they put the beat. Some will be ahead, some will be behind, some will be dead on.

 

See if you can move any of the drummers. Can you push them without speeding up? Can you hold them back a little bit? Can you make them speed up? Can you make them slow down?

 

If you can do any of that, you'll be getting somewhere.

 

More later.

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I've been scratching my head over beat placment for years. I find for me it's a "feel" thing. There's no rules or formulas, but there are definitely experiments! I'll try a few different things until it feels right. And hope the band leader doesn't try to mess with it.

 

When I want to play behind the beat, I think "lazy". Or I think of the pulse "triggering" my note, so there's a slight response lag.

 

When I want to play ahead, I think "driving". I'm up there pushing and my notes "trigger" the pulse. So I need to let the note out slightly before the pulse, just like you need to hit the shutter on a camera slightly before the moment you take a picture.

 

The metronome exercise is cool. Eventually, you'll probably have to internalize it, so you eminate the pulse and play off it simultaneously.

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I remember some previous posts about using metronomes and switching them so they click every other beat, like 1 & 3 or 2 & 4.

 

My metronome can be set to a different click sound on the first downbeat of the measure. I generally use it for 2, so it 's a bit like a snare hit after I smother 1 with a bass note.

 

When you move into the pocket, you will feel tickling against your feet. That is pocket lint... keep going deeper, deeper, until the lint consumes you. Then, you are in the pocket.

- Matt W.
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Man, when you get good at playing ahead or behind, the songs start groovin' big time. I was never aware of this for many years, and some songs I would copy from the album, my band would play it, and I could tell I was the one not making it groove, but I didn't know why it wasn't working. They would come out ok, but nothing really in the groove.

 

I don't even remember how it came to my attention, but when I learned to play ahead or behind, my playing went to the next level. I was a very happy little camper.

 

Keep on groovin', NickT. Lay it down in that big, Phat Groove!

Bassplayers aren't paid to play fast, they're paid to listen fast.
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