Band peeps: Who’s primarily responsible for song tempo?

Me Again

Member
Messages
468
I’d consider this a dumb question, but recent events compel me to ask it, as I was told the other day that one band relies on its lead singer to establish and maintain the song tempo. Meaning that, if there are any variations in the song tempo, they consider it the lead singer’s fault (apparently from starting a vocal phrase a micro-second too early or extending it a micro-second too long). I totally do NOT get that concept; in every band I’ve ever been in, it was clearly the drummer’s job (assuming he/she starts the song) to get the tempo right and (regardless of who starts the song) to stay on the right tempo. How, really, could it be any other way?
Thoughts?
 

WordMan

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,625
The drummer should always be involved. The question is whether he/she is grooving with someone else, too. In the Rolling Stones’, Metallica’s and AC/DC’s cases, and my preferred approach, the drummer and the *rhythm guitarist* set the groove. ;)
 

MikeMcK

Silver Supporting Member
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4,587
*posts without reading OP*: drummer

*reads OP*: yeah, still drummer. best a lead singer can do is count you in. after that, all he/she can do is swing with it to make the band sound better.
That's the answer. Singer story (safe because I know he doesn't read TGP):

I work regularly with a singer who plays acoustic. Great singer, but he has a little LSD (Lead Singer's Disease) and wants to be in charge of everything. Now I firmly believe that you need a singer to have a little ego, but I digress. We both independently wound up on a series of Beatles-only gigs... fun stuff with good players and 5 vocals (think Rain and Paperback Writer).

First rehearsal he got all over the drummer calling tempos. Neither of us had met the guy but I thought his tempo was on point. Singer would insist on counting off, then when everyone came in at his tempo he'd get all over the drummer again.

Second rehearsal he starts with the same thing, but this time the drummer has brought a strobe-light metronome and made a list of the exact tempos of every part of every song and programmed them into the metronome. You might think this would make the sisnger back off and admit he'd been wrong, but if so, you don't know singers... at least some of them.
 

Me Again

Member
Messages
468
I’m especially interested in the part about who’s responsible for tempo variations in the song. Whatever tempo the song starts out in, right or wrong, isn’t it the drummer who everyone follows? That’s been my experience, at least...
 

Black&Blue

Member
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390
Even throughout the whole song?
Particular to the band I'm referencing, the rest of our 5-piece can keep up with anything. Our drummer is absolutely brilliant and cannot stand idly sitting back playing common time...we're all inspired, have a bond, and communicate at an almost psychic level...we also argue alot, and tend to get super high during Sunday practice (though we haven't been practicing regular in several months, just modest rehearsal stuff as needed)...but, that's the jazz (ish) community for ya!
 
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2,593
In my band there is a power struggle. The singer/front man likes to count things off, but often at the wrong tempo. Then the two guitarists will instruct the drummer how he should be playing at various points of the tune, but they usually disagree on the tempo. Naturally I (bass player) know the truth, but prefer to stay quiet, as I'm more or less a hired hand in this group. This doesn't happen on every song, maybe a third?
 

Steve Hotra

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,764
The pedal steel guitar player !! J/K

My experience is, usually the singer sets the tempo, but the drummer / click track keeps us together. If the drummer has no sense of tempo, doesn't know in advance of the BPM, then it can be a train wreck.
 

Giga

Member
Messages
475
Metronome light for us too. Drummer and singer could argue about it no end, terrible ! So I decided to put an app on my iPad and be done with it. The advantage of the light is that it doesn’t get distracting like a click when you get off the tempo somehow

Giga
 

Borealis

Supporting Member
Messages
575
I'm used to a drummer with in-ear monitoring and a pre-programmed metronome. It leaves no room for natural variation, but it's right every time.
 

drew365

Member
Messages
954
In my mind it should be the drummer controlling the temp from beginning to end. Everyone in the band should be listening for the beat.
However, I was in a group where the lead vocalist would vary her delivery during a song and it would throw her off beat. That would leave the rest of us looking at each other and wondering if we should adjust or hope she would. It would have certainly been easier for her to adjust her delivery. But she wouldn't and would look at us like we were screwing up. She had done a lot of Karaoke, and said that because all of my guitar fills were not note for note, it was throwing her off. I saw smoke on the horizon and exited the band. They only lasted a few months after that. The sad part is that she had an excellent voice, but no experience of how to work within a band.
 




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