Playing behind the beat ...

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Lucidology, Sep 20, 2006.

  1. Lucidology

    Lucidology Member

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    Though I've been playing successfully as a full-time pro musician for a long time now... there's still one area in particular, I would truly like to work on improving... and that is:

    "Playing behind the Beat.."

    Could anyone suggest any specific resources or exercises for study, other then listening to the great players who are so artful at doing this??

    If you haven't noticed yet, as a guitarist, Scott Lerner has a wonderful way of phrasing just behind the beat. As does John Scofield and a few other guitarists that I know of... However, you'll find this approach of playing just behind the beat more prevalent with good horn players... To tell truth, it's a very rare occurrence to find this in the world of guitar solos...

    Any suggestions or leads would be highly appreciated...Thanks..
     
  2. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    I had an enlightening experience about 6 years ago that taught me a lot about what I call "microtiming".

    After laying a rythm track in the studio, we took a look at the waveform of my track in theprotools interface. When comparing my track to the click track I discovered two things: 1) my timing was very regular 2) I was hitting on the front edge of the beat.

    Using the magic of modern technology, I was able to pull my track back and forward in relation to the click. I found that by pulling my track back 11 milliseconds, the groove sounded just right when the drums and bass (which were referenced to the click) were added to the mix.

    I started working on being able to manipulate placement of notes on the beat. I kept a metronome in my car. When I'd drive, I'd snap my fingers to the beat. To play behind the beat, I'd pretend I wanted to slow the metronome down. Of course, the metronome wouldn't slow down, but I'd start lagging behind the beat. I'd then practice lagging more or less. After a while I internalized the feeling of hitting at different places on the beat.

    Try it. If you are able to play with regularity, you'll be able to get the feel of "microtiming". It's not all that hard.

    In live situations, trying to slow that band down works to find a groove somewhat behind the beat. When you get it, the measures take on a full, pregnant quality.

    Have fun!
     
  3. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

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    I am the last one to use generalized trite cliche's, and I hate to use it in this instance; but you just have to do it !!

    I played with a funk band for a while and just started doing it intentionally until I "got the feel".

    YOu definitely better be able to play right on it in the first place, though

    The above post is intriguing as well, regarding the milliseconds thing

    Maybe record a track that way and listen to it all day and in your sleep ?
     
  4. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    Lester Young and Billie Holiday - the King and Queen of 'back-phrasing'. Listen and be amazed.
     
  5. Lucidology

    Lucidology Member

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    Thanks Ken.. Exactly!!

    I'm very hip to the classic performers you mentioned (and there's many more examples where that comes from)...

    I was simply just wondering if there might be any particular practice method(s) or exercise(s) one can consciously practice other then taking' heroin... (Oh man excuse me, that was bad, I don't mean to be facetious, but I'm sure you get my gist...)

    willhutch's mention of micro-timing is interesting... that's a new one!

    And thanks Yzecounsel!

    I totally concur with what your saying as I mostly play 'funk' for a living... I know how to wait for the one... that's absolutely ingrained in my rhythmic feel...

    Maybe it's a breathing technique that one could incorprate while soloing...?
     
  6. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

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    I like to go to Drum Clinics and ask each clinician the same question (alot of Tampa drummers are starting to get sick of it)

    "How do you play behind or ahead of the beat and what exactly is going on when you do it? Could you please give a demonstration?"

    Without mentioning any names of the ones who "blew me off" and didn't want to answer or demonstrate - Mr. Billy Cobham rose to the challenge.

    He said that the secret was in what he was doing w/the snare in relation to the kick and high hat playing "right on it"

    It was sick - He woul keep this thick "on the one" pocket w/the high hat and snare while pushing it so hot, screamin', with the snare - or pulling it way back w/the snare

    So, on a more technical note, I accomplished most of this by playing behind the snare in live situations

    Think about "squashing" or sustaining your phrasings when you do it

    You may want to let a "few" bandmembers know that you are going to be experimenting with and practicing this so they don't flip

    Make sure you keep this intention from any pain in the ass crybabies, if any, who may be in your band, though
     
  7. Chris Rice

    Chris Rice Member

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    I forgot to let the drummer know and I was so far behind the beat that he couldn't keep his groove straight, kept slowing down. Kinda funny.

    Think of the beat as a wheel turnign at the tempo of the song rather than a point. If it's a rolling wheel, you can ride on the front of it or sit on the back. If you go to far, you'll fall off the wheel.:rotflmao
     
  8. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    Yeah, stay away from heroin...

    I mentioned Young & Holiday not knowing what you were familiar with, of course, but I find it interesting that once Miles got it from them, so many people got it from Miles, etc...

    Yes, there are some very specific exercises you can do - put a metronome on a moderate tempo, i.e. 1/4 = 80 bpm. Play something simple liek a C scale, or whatever. Aim to hit right on the beat, so you can't distinguish between the click and your attack. Record yourself, if necessary, to check yourself and really make sure you're getting this. Then, make the slight adjustment to lay back on the attacks so they're right behind the beat. Again, record yourself doing this to double-check. Then, alternate 16, 8, 4, 2 bars of each, etc.

    Also - find some Meters records to jam along with, especially the early ones. I don't know of any other funk group in existence that so perfectly exemplifies the art of back-phrasing and still maintaining a rock-solid pocket.
     
  9. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    And/Or the Count Basie big band.
     
  10. Poppa Stoppa

    Poppa Stoppa Member

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    Excellent thread topic. Nothing sounds worse than a guitarist playing ahead of the beat, and nothing makes a solo or rhythm part groove better than putting the notes in the right place relative to the beat.
     
  11. pbradt

    pbradt Senior Member

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    Great thread. I still have to work on playing behind the beat, but I'm getting better.
     
  12. Lucidology

    Lucidology Member

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    :YinYang It would be just so great if some of the cats who phrase so well, like
    Ed DeGenaro, Scott Lerner & Steve Kimock would share their conscious (if it is conscious...)
    approach to playing 'behind the beat" with us...

    Maybe... pretty please guys...!!
     
  13. kimock

    kimock Member

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    Let me be the first to call into question the credibility of any so called expert testimony on this subject…..
    OK, I’ll bite.
    Feels like we are addressing two or three different issues here, phrasing, “feel” as in playing in some stable ratio to the prevailing time, and just playing in time with an ensemble.
    Tempo will play a role in all the above, so if you think that’s an issue for your personal situation you’ll need to spend a little more time with the click. No biggie, it’ll come.

    The best advice I can offer in terms of rhythmic phrasing of a melody, particularly at slower tempos would be: Play every note at the last possible instant and hold it as long as you possibly can.
    I know that sounds simplistic, but don’t underestimate the importance of attitude in achieving the musical effect of feel. Attitude might turn out to be 90% of the approach you’re looking for.

    Overall, musical phrasing of melody on any instrument is going to be imitating the human voice.
    Most of those vocal attributes are simply unavailable to us on the guitar.
    Two that are available that play heavily into phrasing “attitude” would be
    Breathing…….duh, and
    Speech rhythms.

    Don’t be afraid to approach your improvisation conversationally.
    Understand that the rhythm and syntax of the language that organized the phrasing of the lyric whose melody you are trying to invoke, is the most powerful communicative device you have for connecting with the untrained listener.

    So, don’t rush…..be patient….breath…speak through your instrument… sing!
    And you gotta have some kind of f*cking attitude if you expect anybody to buy what you’re selling, so don’t forget that.

    On a more technical level, you might have noticed that 99% of the guitar instructional material available has about zero to offer in terms of right hand rudiments.
    There seems to be one scheme presented that says “for an endless stream of 8th notes, pick up and down alternately.”
    This is then expanded to include “for an endless stream of 16th notes, pick up and down..”
    Etc. This is a lousy approach to phrasing for the obvious reason that the picking has a sound too.
    If you want to play a triplet, you have to play it with both hands if you want it to sound like a triplet.
    Down down up, down down up, etc.
    In the North Indian Classical terminology, da is a down stroke, ra is an upstroke, and diri is a down-up stroke. If da and ra were quarters, diri would be two eighth notes.

    Including the rhythmic subdivision above with the diri stroke while maintaining the pulse level below with da and ra is an unbelievably useful concept for building musical sounding phrases.
    Try playing da da ra da da ra da da ra da da ra while alternating two notes on a single string. If you just use two fingers on your left hand, when you get the hang of it, the two against three patterns that result with just alternating pitches will definitely put a smile on your face.

    This next one is huge, simple, and pretty much universally overlooked.
    You aren’t going to get anything swinging, locking, laying back or grooving in general by playing patterns of two on the guitar (alternate picking or strumming) against patterns of four on the drums. So your basic backbeat groove is going to be
    Da da ra da……repeat until famous. Down down up down, down down up down.

    This basic approach will work with any feel in four or eight.

    I guess part of my point here is that it’s going to be a whole lot easier to lay stuff back if it’s well formed in the first place. Lyrical single note phrasing is more forgiving rhythmically only in the sense that you can leave more space.

    At the end of the day, the only way to get a handle on this “feel” thing is to play with cats who can school you in front of a room full of people dancing their asses off.

    You know how if you go into a room full of people who all got colds, you catch a cold?
    If you go into a room full of people that can really play, you catch that too.
     
  14. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    The only advice you should take from a message board regarding time feel is listening suggestions. I would suggest listening to Louis Armstrong, Count Basie's band, Miles Davis Kind of Blue. Don't make this too academic. Just pick some guys you like and copy their phrasing.
     
  15. 56_Special

    56_Special Member

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    I guess I don't entirely agree. Sometimes, depending on the context and the style, playing ahead of the beat is what is called for. It gives it an excited, sometimes nervous, quality. The whole band can't be playing behind the beat, or they would just be on the beat. Jazz drummers often play ahead of the beat. That combined with a bass player who is playing behind it opens up a great big fat pocket. Generally, for the type of music I play, I like to be right on the beat when accompanying. I feel that playing right on the beat gives the soloist or vocalist more space to lay back. But there are no rules and no absolutes. Whatever sounds good. I would, however, agree that the ability to lay back is one that a lot of guitarists, even otherwise very skilled ones, could use more of (me included).

    BTW, great post Steve.

    Best,

    Martin
     
  16. Lucidology

    Lucidology Member

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    Any advice is legitimate if it makes a musician consciously start to take into account the fact that there are three parts or sections to a beat... to grow aware that they can control these three aspects of the beat is a major tool for self-expression...

    1) playing behind the beat without dragging..
    2) sitting firmly in the middle of the beat, or in the pocket..
    3) playing ahead of the beat without rushing...


    And yes, Jack Zucker's point is absolutely right on,
    (Jack's an incredible, monster of a player... if you aren't aware of him yet, you truly should be) ...
    the best advice anyone can receive is with their ears ... Osmosis is first & foremost...
    know & appreciate what the great players sound like until it becomes an intrinsic part of your being...

    However 'analytical listening'... learning to recognize what is going on with an admired player and the application thereof is crucial to personal advancement ...
    The more gifted, or innately musical ones can simply go naturally into that space ...
    but the rest of us have to ask specific questions in order to figure it out ...

    How does that player lay back without dragging...?
    How does he create excitement without rushing ...?
    How does he sit so firmly in the pocket that it makes your head instinctively nod in time,
    or even make you want to get up and dance ...?

    There's a wonderful post by another master guitarist, Steve Kimock above ...
    Steve gives you useful tools to apply & practice, after you've made the recognition
    that maybe something can be done about it ...Exercises that will only help
    you become more aware of playing behind the beat...

    Others in this thread have also been coming up with good ideas ...
    and there's hope that more will lend an insight or two...

    Just the willingness to admit that maybe we can apply ourselves consciously,
    in order to play or phrase a bit more like those great players Jack pointed out,
    is the foundation or starting point ...

    I started this thread basically out of "sheer curiosity",
    not so much that I don't know how to do it ...
    but to see what other players who do it so well might have to say ...
    (there are so many great players on this Gear Page forum it's mind blowing..)

    In understanding & recognizing what it sounds like to play behind the beat...
    The more one takes the possibility into consideration,
    the more it will start to come naturally as part of their creative expression...

    Hopefully it's close to becoming second nature for many of us...
    and all your little suggestions & exercises can only help us
    to become more mindful of our own playing ...
     
  17. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    I am aware of him - he is indeed a great player, as well as teacher/author, etc...a real asset to the boards here...


    Is that the Steve Kimock?

    (Steve Kimock can play....)
     
  18. anyone

    anyone Member

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    Hey, Thanks for taking the time to lay all this out. Much appreciated!
     
  19. kimock

    kimock Member

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    1) playing behind the beat without dragging..
    2) sitting firmly in the middle of the beat, or in the pocket..
    3) playing ahead of the beat without rushing...


    Rushing and dragging are an inevitable consequence of compound duple.
    Beginning accented rhythms want to slow down.
    End accented rhythms want to turn around, speed up…

    It is my belief that our notation fails to account for what are perceived by me to be
    Rhythmic centers.
    Consider your good old rock and roll backbeat.
    That snare drum on 2 and 4 sure sounds like some kind of balance point.
    The affect that has on my perception of groove is “centering”.
    Stabilizing.
    The space around the backbeats seems even…

    They are center accented odd figures.
    A center with even spaces.

    Compound duple,
    No center, odd spaces..

    Eight beats perceived as the center accented odd figures five and three.

    An untrue or incomplete belief in your mind can close your ears to the truth of the sound in the air.

    The validity of a listening experience is a function of the quality of the listening.


    I’ve got to hit the road for a while, so I’m signing off here.

    Thanks to all concerned for an engaging thread,
    Peace Harmony
     
  20. scottl

    scottl Member

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    Wow! Thanks for the comment! I really really really tried to make my phrasing more hornlike and relaxed behind the beat and the fact you noticed made my day!!! Let me read through the thread and I'll see what I can add!

     

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