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

guitarmook

Member
Messages
2,709
The drummer should be in charge. But I've been in bands where you can't even leave the drummer in charge of his own sticks... then it usually falls to the singer, if they've got a decent feel for it. If both the singer and the drummer suffer varying tempos, it's going to be a constant struggle.
 

MikeMcK

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,596
That drummer is a saint. I wouldn't have made it to a second rehearsal after that. :p
Yeah, he was. Never ran into him again, but I know a lot of drummers who would have used that singer for a kit and done Baba O'Riley on him.
 

daFrimpster

Member
Messages
204
A good drummer gives you a nice sweet groove to ride. You just hop on and let it carry you. The drummer is like the catcher on a baseball team. they can see everyone and should direct the musical portion in the same manner a catcher might tell the outfield to shift or the infield to play deep or shallow.
 

dragonfly66

Member
Messages
461
I didn’t realize there were so many answers.

Everyone follows the drummer. Even when another instrument starts the song, after the drums come in everyone follows the drummer. I’m expecting the drummer to keep proper time. It may fluctuate, but the whole band is together.
 

doublescale1

Suhr S-Classic, V60LP's, Soft V neck
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,567
I'm in a 9 piece horn band - only our drummer counts us in and maintains the tempo. In rehearsals he's stopped if anyone is rushing or falling behind. Doesn't happen often much anymore but it did help us find and keep the groove and the main offenders for shifting tempo were able to learn and adjust.
 

msquared

Supporting Member
Messages
336
If you're asking who should be keeping time, the answer is everyone. The only time this answer isn't correct is when someone is playing to a click and everyone is timing off of them.

If you're asking who should be setting the time, the answer is the weakest link in the band, the producer, and the singer, in that order.
 

sws1

Member
Messages
10,705
It’s supposed to be the drummer. Having said that, it’s often the guitar player
 
Messages
52
In a perfect world, the drummer is the engine that drives the band, always...

In The Stones, I think Keith has always been the one who sets tempos, and Charlie is a perfect follower...
Indeed! The drummer is the captain on stage. The leader in the realm of time. The time-keeper. The band needs a single point of reference. Why have a bass drum if you're not setting and keeping the tempo? Too many drummers have forgotten that they have a bass drum. The rest is creative fluff and bluster.

And not only the metronome heartbeat, but all the cues. Is that not the definition of a drum roll? The rolls cue everyone as they capture your attention and lead you to the beat. Maintaining tempo and cuing sections...

Also, as said above, the drummer drives the band. Like Buddy Rich. If not, the band is doomed. The energy level of the drummer is often what makes or breaks a band.

What's the purpose of the vocalist counting off the band? Most vocalists don't even play an instrument. Next thing will be the drunk in the corner telling you what songs to play. Always and immediately control the tyranny of the psychopathic control freak. If this type of behaviour is pandemic, it's no wonder that bass players are always leaving.

The drummer and vocalist should have a strong liaison happening. But the rest of the band follows the drummer. That's why they're there.

As a bass player I look to a professionally minded drummer to control the pace and to work with in moving the song. I can't get a groove working in the rhythm section if some interloper is constantly interfering. I look to the vocalist to have a decent voice, stage presence and audience rapport. If they ever count off the song, it would only be after the drummer has quietly set the tempo with the high-hat.

As for Mr. Keith, he'd better get it right, or he has to deal with Mr. Charlie later...
 
Last edited:

Samcav

Member
Messages
53
I think you could say it depends on the song. But it definitely falls somewhere between the bass and the drums. Or the backing track lol.

Story: I once had a drummer tell me my tremolo effect was speeding up. The guitarist and I got some beers after, and enjoyed a chuckle.
 
Messages
52
When I listen to my favorite bands of the late 1960's and 1970's, some of the groove / tempo was amazing. Wrecking Crew, for one example.
Drummers like Hal Blaine, Sandy Nelson and Al Jackson always put the rhythm first. When I play bass along with one of their recordings I feel like a gear in a machine. It's all groove. There was little room at Motown or Capitol for rhythm-less people. When Buddy Rich soloed, it was all feature stuff, but in the ensemble he was the timekeeper and driving wheel.
 
Messages
52
we have a lady singer...She seems to vary sometimes from the set tempo and we just adjust. This bothers the bass player because he is precise but for the rest of us not so much.
If the vocalist has a rubato part, the bassist normally stops playing. It simply sounds better. More drama... Bass is mostly about regularity, whether the bass part is syncopated or not. During the expressive moments, the bass needs to take a break and play footballs, or nothing at all.

Today, I find, the musical tradition is becoming lost as no one reads, there are no written arrangements, and the discontinuity between two generations of musicians who are totally disinterested with each other widens. Let's not forget that "Classic Rock" is a relic from nearly 50 years ago... Half of a century. Geddy Lee is collecting his Canadian Old Age Pension as we speak...

Anyone playing jazz or rock really needs to get hip with the tradition. I see it all the time on Craigslist, but ageism is the hallmark of music today as it has become politically charged.
 
Last edited:
Messages
52
I once had a drummer tell me my tremolo effect was speeding up. The guitarist and I got some beers after, and enjoyed a chuckle.
He was right. Any adjustment to tremolo speed will affect a drummer's tempo. He would have to adjust for it. Try to keep your tremolo speed as practiced.
 
Messages
52
For those claiming that tempo is everyone's responsibility, I have to disagree with the wording. It's everyone's responsibility to follow the tempo as maintained by the drummer. If you follow the guitarist who is following the pianist who is following bassist who is following the drummer, then the lag times accumulate and the band can never be tight.

Bands run into tempo problems because everyone starts following their own tempo, dragging... rushing... Practice is the cure, but in the early stages of band development you must have a single reference point. As an experiment, try running two expensive metronomes at 60 bpm at the same time and hear what happens... Even the most precise electronic units will disagree wildly in a minute's time.

On the other hand, it doesn't make sense to argue with Barbara Streisand or Tom Jones. But if your singer wants to control the tempo, he should be paying you scale. If he's not un-peeling a bill-roll at the end of your session, tell him to take a pill.

All drummers should have some kind of metronomic device available with the set-list marked for bpm. It behooves any band to differentiate between counting off the start, cuing transitions, establishing the tempo, maintaining the tempo and then cuing the finale.
 
Last edited:
Messages
91
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.
Your question isn't dumb, but your friends who told you the singer is responsible are beyond dumb, stupid comes to mind. Ask them then is an instrumental band always "off tempo"?

You've either never recorded (professionally, not in the basement, garage or in the shower), because if you had recording or "studio" experience, you'd know it is ALWAYS the Percussion's job to set and KEEP the Temp for a "band". Ever hear of a "click track"?? If your drummer and bass player (also considered percussion) can't "play to" a click track, they should be fired.

Answer: 1) Drums, 2) other percussion instrument in the "band".

Read and learn: Why drummers really are the backbone of the band
 

NamaEnsou

Supporting Member
Messages
6,787
It's 'supposed to be' the person who starts the song, but! The drummer always wins, whether they want to slow it down or speed it up, and you're really lucky if you've got a drummer who holds the timing he's given at the start of a song.
I can play pretty much any song at any speed, and it would be nice if all drummers could too.
 




Trending Topics

Top