Why can't folks keep time in a 12-bar blues?!

jazblugtr

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
68
I've been playing in a blues/rock band for about three years and we've grown into what I'd call a above average bar band. For the life of me however, I cannot get anyone except the drummer to keep good time in a 12-bar blues.

We tried doing an acoustic rehearsal without the drummer last night and they were all over the place. Half-time, cut-time, all in the middle of one song! WTF? I think the drummer and I take it for granted since we've been playing blues/jazz jams for a long, long time. I don't have to count, I can "hear" if it's been 2, 4, 8, 16 bars on the same chord. Many musicians I play with don't get it, however. :dunno

Am I in the wrong for thinking they should just "get it"? Or should I be busting their chops for not listening?
 

Phletch

Member
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9,898
I've been playing in a blues/rock band for about three years and we've grown into what I'd call a above average bar band. For the life of me however, I cannot get anyone except the drummer to keep good time in a 12-bar blues.
Those two statements contradict each other. If only you and the drummer can keep time, how can the band as a whole be considered "above average"?
We tried doing an acoustic rehearsal without the drummer last night and they were all over the place. Half-time, cut-time, all in the middle of one song! WTF? I think the drummer and I take it for granted since we've been playing blues/jazz jams for a long, long time. I don't have to count, I can "hear" if it's been 2, 4, 8, 16 bars on the same chord. Many musicians I play with don't get it, however. :dunno

Am I in the wrong for thinking they should just "get it"? Or should I be busting their chops for not listening?
That sounds like two different problems. To me "keeping time" means being able to play in time with the beat, rhythmically. When you talk about the other guys not knowing where they are in a 12 bar blues, for example - getting to the 5th measure and not changing to the IV7, etc. - to me that is a feel thing or not knowing how to keep track of time. If that's the case, they need to do some serious listening, and/or you and the drummer need to take the time to walk them through it (that is if you care to). If they can't stay in time with the beat, that's a whole different kettle of fish.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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21,590
It takes some time in the woodshed, listening as much as playing. Can't play the blues if you haven't paid the dues. Sounds like your buddies haven't put in the time to figure out.
 

jazblugtr

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
68
Ain't that the truth. The question is: do I give them sh!t for it or not? I have to cut the bass player some slack, he comes from a punk/glam rock background. The 2nd guitar and harp/vocalist ought to know better given their blues/rock influences, however.

It takes some time in the woodshed, listening as much as playing. Can't play the blues if you haven't paid the dues. Sounds like your buddies haven't put in the time to figure out.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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21,590
Have you talked about it? How bout recorded a little?
Do you have it in you to school them?
 

Phletch

Member
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9,898
The question is: do I give them sh!t for it or not?
If you are really interested in bringing them up to speed (and keeping them around), "giving them ****" is probably not the best way to do that. Maybe make some listening suggestions and/or walk them through it.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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21,590
I played with a drummer who in one of the earliest signed country-rock bands. He was prone to going Rashid Ali in the middle of a boom-chick. I guess the old band used to tape a sign to his ride toms: PLAY THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER.
Sometimes it's the little things like that that pull the band together. Repetition, what a concept.
 

GLB98

Member
Messages
395
As per KiwiJoe's post above, I'm not sure that the OP has properly explained the problem to himself. It's therefore gonna be tricky to school his bandmates. I'd like to hear his take on KJ's questions. Is the issue a matter of keeping time, or knowing where they are in the progression.
 

arthur rotfeld

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,049
Well, regarding hearing how long to stay on a chord, or hearing structure—that doesn't come naturally to many. It starts with recognizing 1, 2, 3 & 4 beats of just one bar, then on to hearing 2 and 4 bar phrases, and so on.

How? Some people just need to count it out. Later on, they may "feel it" or internalize it. No harm in counting, but that too might be another skill that needs to be developed. These are all things I encounter with students. Now having this issue on the bandstand or rehearsal? Sorry you're not dealing with above average players, you're dealing with people who are at best trying to get their $hit together. That's fine, but you'll need to school them.
 

jazblugtr

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
68
OK, so the message I'm getting is that I need to "school them" and/or "give them ****". Point taken that the "above average" perception I have of the band may not be taking into account that some of us are not able to navigate through a 12-bar blues. No excuses.

This should be interesting.

BTW, it is the loosing count of the number of bars within the chord progression that is the problem. Timing or "groove" issues are, as I said, "above average". :)
 

stevel

Member
Messages
14,614
Many musicians I play with don't get it, however. :dunno
Those are not musicians.

They'll never learn, because they don't see any need to.

Play with people who can play.

OK, gut reaction calmed: I played with a guy who counted a chord progression that went like this:

A A D A
A A E A

As "there are 2 As, 1 D, 3 As, 1 E, and 3 As (the last as it repeated)".

That shows an unfamiliarity with musical form. It's not a run-on sentence, or just a string of chords. There are *patterns* and form.

I taught him how to count in 4 measure phrases for something like this. He respected me, and was not only willing to admit his shortcomings (despite a music degree), but willing to learn as well.

Not everyone is like that. Most people (especially people who haven't gotten or can't get this about music) think they know it all. Correcting them is like correcting a TGPr's grammar. They won't take kindly to it.
 
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Lucidology

Silver Supporting Member
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27,006
OP ... you are not in the 'wrong' ... so many cat's place good time as the least important factor about playing music ...
So much so ... it simply blows my mind ...
 

JonR

Member
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14,881
BTW, it is the loosing count of the number of bars within the chord progression that is the problem. Timing or "groove" issues are, as I said, "above average". :)
But that's contradictory again. If their timing and groove is really "above average", it's incomprehensible they can't keep track of the form.

Mind you, it's worth saying that many of the old "genuine" blues guys didn't exactly count bars. Even in bands, you'd hear changes happening where some people were ahead of the others - the singer would change according to his phrasing and you could hear the band following maybe half a bar late, or early sometimes (if they were counting and the singer was late). It was all kind of "loose", and hung together because the grooves were good.

Still, if you all agree "it's a 12-bar blues", in the standard format, there should be no problem, unless they're total beginners. Don't let them give you that "but John Lee Hooker didn't count bars" ******** - solo singers don't have to; and Great Master Bluesmen don't have to. You guys have to - unless, OTOH, you (and the drummer) can relax enough to follow their lead; and that depends on whether they really have an intuitive logic to what they're doing, or it's simply chaotic.

I suggest, before you get nasty with them, you need to record a few practice sessions, and play them back with everyone listening. Ask them if they really think it sounds right when the form is - er - "flexible", with different people changing at different times. Maybe they do! In which case: you STILL need to find yourself another band...
 

S.W.Erdnase

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,790
I've been playing in a blues/rock band for about three years and we've grown into what I'd call a above average bar band. For the life of me however, I cannot get anyone except the drummer to keep good time in a 12-bar blues.

We tried doing an acoustic rehearsal without the drummer last night and they were all over the place. Half-time, cut-time, all in the middle of one song! WTF? I think the drummer and I take it for granted since we've been playing blues/jazz jams for a long, long time. I don't have to count, I can "hear" if it's been 2, 4, 8, 16 bars on the same chord. Many musicians I play with don't get it, however. :dunno

Am I in the wrong for thinking they should just "get it"? Or should I be busting their chops for not listening?
I'm with you. I also don't understand guys who can't come in on a guitar, piano or harp turnaround/pick up and need the song counted in.

I think it shows they don't actually listen to a lot of blues from day to day.
 

CharlyG

Play It Forward
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,765
Granted, this is for bassists, but I had to audition to take lessons from Carol Kaye, and I am not a good ear player, and she was playing jazz chords on a 6 string electric. She said, "play along", and I said," I can't tell what chords you are playing". She said, "I don't care, just play. I can teach everything but good time." I took about 5 lessons from her before the '94 earthquake, after which she moved to Colorado for a time.

Words of wisdom IMHO.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,590
Granted, this is for bassists, but I had to audition to take lessons from Carol Kaye, and I am not a good ear player, and she was playing jazz chords on a 6 string electric. She said, "play along", and I said," I can't tell what chords you are playing". She said, "I don't care, just play. I can teach everything but good time." I took about 5 lessons from her before the '94 earthquake, after which she moved to Colorado for a time.

Words of wisdom IMHO.
How cool is that? She did advocate practicing with a metronome and even using it on 2 and 4. Timing can be improved with elbow grease.
 




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