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

NamaEnsou

Supporting Member
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There is no such thing as a good band without a good drummer.
... and there is no such thing as a good drummer who can't follow the tempo set down by the person starting the song either.
Too many drummers out there who want to speed up or slow down after a song is started.
 
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3,166
I've been writing all the songs for my new band's first set (I'll step back once it's done and let someone else introduce some ideas) so I guess I've kinda set the tempo in that sense. I'd say the drummer has the biggest role in maintaining it but obviously anyone can destroy it.
 

don carney

Silver Supporting Member
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1,298
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.
This comment and your others below were very helpful - thank you!
 

Me Again

Member
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468
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
I’ve done my share of studio recording. My question was mostly rhetorical, as the drummer setting and maintaining the tempo has always been my experience, and I was a little amazed that someone would say differently. So I just threw it out there — and it got quite the range of responses, as you know.
It has to be the drummer.
 

supergenius365

Supporting Member
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10,408
I’m in a 4 piece and different people start different songs. They are the ones that set the initial tempo, but the drummer is good at building up or slowing down the song while we are playing to get the song to the right place.
 

Sweetfinger

Silver Supporting Member
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12,083
If the band is rushing, it's almost always the guitarist's fault. If they're dragging, it's the drummer.
Trust me. If this were true, as a guitar player I'd be able to speed the band up. Dear Lord, I have tried, tried, so hard I was in the "and" ahead.
Now I've been "triggered". There was this one gig..... how does a fast swing end up as a slow Jimmy Reed shuffle? That "drummer" and I will never be working together again, ever.
The drummer drives the bus. If it slows down or speeds up, it's the drummer doing it, or allowing it.
 

rumbletone

Silver Supporting Member
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6,565
The musical director - which can be any instrument (or none) - sets the tempo, and everyone in the ensemble is responsible for maintaining it. Though in many bands I’ve played in the drummer gives the tempo, often with a count-in, based on what was set by the MD (whether in advance or onstage).
 

aram

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2,886
Time is fluid. The tempo can start in one place and speed up or slow down. It can change depending on the venue, the time of year, day of the week or the time of day. The temperature of the room can have an affect on the tempo.

If you're trying to make music, you'll follow the singer - follow where they'll take the song, or rather where the song will take them (if they know how to follow it). If everyone isn't getting their egos and concepts about what "should" be happening involved, and who should be doing what, then the band will breath as one. When you have someone who is attuned to this, and who has mastered this process, the results are magic.

 
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John 14:6

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3,165
... and there is no such thing as a good drummer who can't follow the tempo set down by the person starting the song either.
Too many drummers out there who want to speed up or slow down after a song is started.
I agree. A solid drummer can keep good time. Part of the job.
 

crazyboutguitars

Supporting Member
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440
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?
Fortunately, the drummer for the band I’m in has excellent tempo memory of the songs in our repertoire and knows how to keep us in the groove with accents and crescendos when called for. There’s one song that I’m responsible for setting the starting tempo, but he’s good at keeping us from lagging or rushing even then. A drummer who can’t choose the right tempo and keep time can murder a band’s overall sound. I had to fire a drummer once because of it and quit another band because that band’s leader didn’t have the heart to fire the drummer, and the drummer was usually too high on the last set to care. I was in a bad place then.
 

crazyboutguitars

Supporting Member
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440
Time is fluid. The tempo can start in one place and speed up or slow down. It can change depending on the venue, the time of year, day of the week or the time of day. The temperature of the room can have an affect on the tempo.

If you're trying to make music, you'll follow the singer - follow where they'll take the song, or rather where the song will take them (if they know how to follow it). If everyone isn't getting their egos and concepts about what "should" be happening involved, and who should be doing what, then the band will breath as one. When you have someone who is attuned to this, and who has mastered this process, the results are magic.

I appreciate your input and don’t want to come off as argumentative or trying to start a controversy, but if that’s the case, why bother practicing with a metronome, or recording with a click track? I really don’t think the song posted there was a good pattern to follow for live bands. I’m sincerely sorry if that offends you, I’m just offering a counter thought. Cool?

Rush would be an exception, but Neil Peart didn’t need either one. His timing was as close to perfect as is humanly possible.
 

NamaEnsou

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6,786
...if that’s the case, why bother practicing with a metronome, or recording with a click track?
A metronome is a training tool and very beneficial in helping to erase unintended tempo changes in between different sections of songs.
Once you get onstage, then it becomes art form and real time manipulation of tempo can be a really wonderful thing for a group of musicians who are in sync with the audience and each other.
 

HERSCHEL

Member
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5,361
It's a tower. The foundation is the drummer, who meshes with the bassist, and they mesh with the rhythm guitar or keys, and so on. The drummer creates a pocket, but the rest of the players have to fill it out.
 

ChampReverb

Silver Supporting Member
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11,312
We have three lead vocalists.

They are pretty good at counting songs in to fit the groove and feel that is right for them.

To start a song, they pause, get an internal feel, give a quick and quiet count to the drummer, and then the drummer takes that and counts the whole band in.

Then, we, in the rhythm section, hold that tempo as best we can even when the singers play a bit with the time.

-bEn r.
 

crazyboutguitars

Supporting Member
Messages
440
A metronome is a training tool and very beneficial in helping to erase unintended tempo changes in between different sections of songs.
Once you get onstage, then it becomes art form and real time manipulation of tempo can be a really wonderful thing for a group of musicians who are in sync with the audience and each other.
True, and I’m aware of that. And a click track is a recording tool to keep everyone in time, but it gets erased at some point after the tracks have all been laid down. I get that. So my question is: why bother PRACTICING or TRAINING with a metronome if we’re just gonna throw all that out the window on a live show? Some songs do speed up intentionally occasionally, usually at the end, but a live band needs an anchor (usually the drummer) to keep it steady.

I could like a musician with your thinking pattern, but I couldn’t work in the same band as them because it would drive me nuts! It’s really nothing personal, just a different point of view I guess. Nothing is for everybody. Live and explore whatever you enjoy.Nothing wrong with that.
 

NamaEnsou

Supporting Member
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6,786
...why bother PRACTICING or TRAINING with a metronome if we’re just gonna throw all that out the window on a live show?
Nothing goes out the window and not everyone with good meter practices with a metronome, which is just a tool for helping overcome weaknesses in the ability to naturally play in time and feel where measures begin and end.

I could like a musician with your thinking pattern, but I couldn’t work in the same band as them because it would drive me nuts!
I've only ever been in a couple of situations where I could even do that, but most of the time it's been like herding cats and getting everyone to listen to the whole band and not just themselves.
 




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