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  1. #1

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    Hi everyone,

    Something that occurs occasionally on gigs or jams is players throwing out rhythmic ideas that I quite simply don't understand. This is usually fine until it's the drummer or a guitar duet or something and the pulse isn't actually being played anymore. My instinct in these situations is to back my own sense of time and almost tune out what is happening around me otherwise I'll be thrown off or lose the form. The issue with this is that sometimes my sense of time isn't the same as everyone else's.

    While I'm studying rhythm as much as possible to be able recognise more complicated rhythmic concepts (even if I don't use them in my own playing) I'm wondering if spending my energy simply improving my own sense of time is more beneficial? Or both?

    I suppose to sum it up, how to you deal with live musical situations where you don't know what's going on?

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  3. #2

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    It all depends on whether there's an actual groove or not. If everyone is counting to be able to play a difficult rhythm, there's likely no groove actually present in the music, which means you're not alone. For music to sound and feel good, you can't be counting rhythmic patterns in your head trying to not get lost while playing, you have to feel it. Very good players might be able to count through patterns and still sound ok, but it's tiring and the opposite of fun.

    In my band we often did odd time signature originals, and trying to help a rhythmically challenged player by breaking down the rhythm and 'doing math' to get them to "feel" it never worked. The only solution was for the person to listen until they could feel it.

    Just my .02¢

  4. #3

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    Interacting with a jam session rhythm section can be frustrating, there's no one easy fix....

    There are lots of 'tricks' that modern rhythm sections use to obscure the form, it's easy for a less experienced player to get lost, and at the student level, the's no guarantee that the rhythm section hasn't gotten lost themselves.

    Generally, everyone can benefit from working on their sense of time. Metronomes, apps, instructional videos, books, recordings, seeking out practice partners at your level and more experienced mentors all have their place.

    Best wishes for your music!

    PK

  5. #4

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    I have experienced this a couple of ways.

    Some drummers solo by twisting the time. When nobody else can find One, the solo is over.

    But, I've also been on the bandstand while world class players took a tune into outerspace, came back and stuck the landing perfectly.

    I once asked the bassist how he did it. He said that there were moments that he wasn't sure of what was happening, and advised "keep your ears open".

    We were playing a tune I knew well, but I had to stop playing during the space travel section. It can happen, if you're lucky enough, to be with players who can do things that you can't do. You try to derive some benefit.

    And, then, there's just bad time combined with overconfidence. I've seen that occasionally too, but not by good musicians.

  6. #5

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    Just play. Go with the flow. If it's bad . . . there's always next time! Good playing . . . Marinero


    P.S. Play live! Play live! Play live! . . . if you're alive!

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by acidskiffle
    Hi everyone,

    Something that occurs occasionally on gigs or jams is players throwing out rhythmic ideas that I quite simply don't understand. This is usually fine until it's the drummer or a guitar duet or something and the pulse isn't actually being played anymore. My instinct in these situations is to back my own sense of time and almost tune out what is happening around me otherwise I'll be thrown off or lose the form. The issue with this is that sometimes my sense of time isn't the same as everyone else's.

    While I'm studying rhythm as much as possible to be able recognise more complicated rhythmic concepts (even if I don't use them in my own playing) I'm wondering if spending my energy simply improving my own sense of time is more beneficial? Or both?

    I suppose to sum it up, how to you deal with live musical situations where you don't know what's going on?
    Sometimes recording these situations can be helpful (in a contradiction to what I’ve said elsewhere): you can see how well you are keeping track of the 1.

    You need to become both rhythmically independent and able to define your own time feel but also able to be open to others. Sounds like a contradiction I know!

  8. #7

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    I think it would be very hard for me to get lost playing 4/4 swing, but, I've definitely played with people where they could lose me in a second if they wanted to. The most trivial example is that for a lot of odd time signatures, it's pretty easy to play figures that obscure the time in such a way if people aren't strong in 5/4, they aren't going to hear it particularly well.

    My friend and former teacher has a really good set of books on this subject:
    The Rhythm Book | Master rhythms!

    I highly recommend them. 90% of the time for me, when I get lost it's because I'm not keeping the form correctly when faced with a tricky cross-rhythm. This is a pretty common thing, listen to Wes' solo on "no blues" where he plays lots of 3 against 4 crossrhythms. No one gets lost, but, try tapping your foot and playing those cross-rhythms and vice versa. It's possible you'll be able to do it, but most people struggle unless they have worked on this kind of thing.

  9. #8

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    I recall a jam session where a couple of master players did a tune in 7.

    For one of the solos, they stopped playing One every other bar. Then, they started playing polyrhythms and dropped the usual pulse entirely. I had no idea what they were doing or even that they were still playing the solo changes in 7 (in their minds only). They all could follow it. That particular bass/keys duo do that at some point, in a lot of their gigs. I've heard them do it with a couple of different drummers - guys at that high level.

    I think it has something to do with the strength of your internal clock, but also how often you've been exposed to the idea. Best I can figure is that, if you suspect the rocket is about to leave the launch pad, you start singing the melody in your head -- and imagine that you're really screaming it out. Then, if you get lost anyway, keep your ears open for any clue about how to stick the landing.

  10. #9
    Thanks everyone for the helpful insight, books and tips. I read an article once about drum solos, similar to what rpjazzguitar said, and how you should listen to phrases rather than keeping time because drummers can extend and contract the form and you'll end up end up in a different place if you are trying to be too precise. There's nothing quite like the anxiety of waiting to come in with the melody straight after a drum solo when you've lost the form!

    Lately, I've been listening to different versions of Green Tea and trying to nail the hits in the Bill Stewart's solos with success. But I've played that tune with different drummers and once they start doing metric modulation etc I find myself watching them for the hits more than listening.

  11. #10

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    Anyone heard Darby Todd on drums with Derek Nash's
    Protect the beat ?
    He does all the weird blow your mind rhythm things ....
    while somehow keeping the groove

    recommended ....

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by acidskiffle
    Thanks everyone for the helpful insight, books and tips. I read an article once about drum solos, similar to what rpjazzguitar said, and how you should listen to phrases rather than keeping time because drummers can extend and contract the form and you'll end up end up in a different place if you are trying to be too precise. There's nothing quite like the anxiety of waiting to come in with the melody straight after a drum solo when you've lost the form!

    Lately, I've been listening to different versions of Green Tea and trying to nail the hits in the Bill Stewart's solos with success. But I've played that tune with different drummers and once they start doing metric modulation etc I find myself watching them for the hits more than listening.
    I have had the pleasure of jamming with some world class drummers -- and many lesser lights. The world class guys invariably make the time clear at the end of a solo. They understand very well the notion that "you don't want to be the only one in the band who is right".