[Dixielandjazz] Your Thoughts on Rushing

Kevin Yeates kyeates at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 8 16:46:00 PDT 2010

 "I would like to write an essay on some of the causes  
cures for this music problem, although I will probably alienate  
 of my friends in the back line when I do so."

I've read the replies to your question with interest but nobody seems to have addressed your question of "some of the causes and 
cures for this music problem".

At the risk of alienating many people I put forward my thoughts.


1) I have found that very few drummers, guitar/banjo players or bass players are "rhythm" players. They play their instrument but their concept of rhythm is poor. The fact they play in the rhythm section doesn't mean they can play rhythm. I have been shocked at how few rhythm players can count in a tune at a stated tempo. As you noted, an astounding number use the count in more as a "get ready to start to play" or "on your mark, get set, go" rather than a tempo indication. 

I think this is caused by a refusal to practice with a metronome. By that I mean practicing by yourself from a young age, or taking it up now, with a metronome.  It must be done on a regular basis.  I do it every time I practice. This is the best way to learn how to internalize a steady tempo.  It is the internalizing of a steady tempo that
 allows a musician to maintain
 tempo integrity.

2) The second causal factor is that, in my experience, many drummers took up drums because they were easy to get a good sound of it right from the start. A trumpet sounds terrible when you first start and is a lot of work to get anywhere with. Anybody can walk up to a set of drums and get a reasonable sound out when they first sit down. The result is that I have found very few drummers who were "musicians".  They got the sound right away and didn't put in the time to learn musicianship which includes tempo and working with a metronome.

Similarly many guitar/banjo players may know all the chords, but have never bothered to learn to keep time. I have played with too many of them. While everyone must learn to keep time, when you are specializing in a rhythm instrument, you must devote even more time to tempo integrity. It's great to know your chords, but you must also devote time to learning how to keep tempo, how to
 change tempo, how to play 2 beat or 4 beat etc.

1) Use a metronome or Band in a Box
Practicing your paraddiddles, chord changes, bass lines etc without a metronome is simply reinforcing poor timing. The band I play in works new tunes out usually with the front row only. We use Band in a Box as the rhythm section. The front row is forced to learn to play in time. When the rhythm section joins us we are already steady. We count the tune in with
 a metronome running and play it the tune with the metronome still running. Anytime someone has a rest in the piece that person checks the metronome against the band and presents it to the rhythm section if there is a problem, or signals it is good if that is the case. 

When we first started to do this we were convinced there was a problem with the computer or metronome because they weren't keeping steady time (or so we thought) .  After a few weeks the computer and metronome got much steadier! We have been doing this for years now and still do it. I am pleased to say we are quite steady now. 

2) Hold your band accountable for tempo.  We have all complained about people not being able to keep tempo it but I bet very few people have actually held someone responsible. When we have a sub sitting in we require they come a rehearsal first. We check out their timing as well as give them a chance to read the charts. If their timing is
 out we tell them and we prove it with
 the metronome. 

With the metronome playing or Band in a Box going, it becomes very apparent who has the tempo issue. Hold them accountable and remove them from the band if necessary. If you continue to let them play with your group then you are rewarding incompetence. Never reward incompetence. 

We have actually performed with Band in a Box because we could not get someone good enough to hold time. The amazing thing is, we don't have trouble getting subs anymore. It seems that if you set a standard, the people who meet the standard will show up. 

Bottom line - if you play a rhythm instrument and don't own a metronome, the above probably applies to you. If you own a metronome and don't practice with it, the above probably applies to you. If you play any instrument other than a rhythm instrument and don't own a metronome, why don't you?

I thought Bruce Stangeland made an excellent point in his statement that he asks when sitting in with a band who is the one who keeps the beat. I think Bruce could play with us anytime. 

I hope I haven't offended too many people.

Kevin Yeates
Vancouver, Canada

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