this lesson I would like to discuss your timing in the band you
play in. You can play (slightly) in front of the beat, on the beat,
and (slightly) behind the beat. Each of these approaches has it's
own merits although I prefer the first two approaches, for
I really like to make the music very swinging and I love to pump
up the rhythm. To realize this, you have to play in front of the
beat or on the beat.
If you think that this is all utter nonsense, please listen to some
bassists who prefer to play in front of the beat, like Ron Carter
and Charles Mingus.
listen to a Salsa CD. Salsa bassists almost always play on the beat.
I think Mingus invented the first approach, but Im not sure
about this. When you play in front of the beat, you play your notes
slightly before the drummer does. It only works if you do this in
a very relaxed way and when you play with a drummer who does not
get overly excited by your approach. Some drummers get so excited
that they start to play more quickly all the time. Playing a bit
more quickly in the course of a song is not so bad, but playing
a lot faster then in the beginning is not good at all. Playing in
front of the beat is a good approach in jazz and its nice when playing
old rock and roll.
Dont use this timing when youre playing Latin music.
Youre supposed to play on the beat in this kind of music.
Playing in front of the beat makes Latin sound too nervous, playing
behind the beat makes the music sound boring. This last approach
only seems to work with slow rhythms like Boleros, but even
then you dont have to play that way. The music swings less
when you play behind the beat, and Latin is supposed to swing very
There are bass players who play walking bass while playing on the
beat, and this is a legitimate approach of course, but I dont
like it at all. Im afraid many bass players here in Holland
play that way
But the music sounds much more swinging when
you play walking bass in front of the beat.
Playing behind the beat can sometimes sound nice in jazz, especially
when you play with a swinging drummer who doesnt slow down
when you play like that. For most drummers, this is quite an achievement.
Playing behind the beat can sound very relaxed, so if thats
how you want to sound, use this approach. As I said before, most
of the time I like to pump up the music, so I only use this approach
when I think the playing of the band needs to get more calm. This
does not happen often. By the way, funk can also sound very, very
good when playing slightly behind the beat. Like making out, in
I think its good to explore these three approaches and to
master them eventually. If you want to pump up the rhythm, you can
then play slightly before the beat. If you want to make the music
slightly less wild, you can time just a little bit behind the beat.
Wouldnt that be great?
The way to learn these approaches, is to hear the precise timing
in your head. You should be able to hear the interval
between the timing of the note you want to play and the beat of
the drummer. If youre able to hear this, these
approaches are easy to realize youll see. The differences
between playing before the beat, playing on the beat and playing
behind the beat are very small, very subtle. But theyre there.
This is very important information, but for some reason I dont
understand this information never seems to find its way into