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‘Front’ vs ‘back’ of the beat

Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
in Technique Posts: 1,421

I’m one of those players who tend to play right ON the beat...

...or just BEFORE the beat...

...but never just AFTER the beat...

Anybody else have the same thing?

Is it possible to change this, after decades of playing the way I always have?

I’d like to know how it feels to play a little differently!

Your thoughts are welcome, thanks!


My religion is, I worship Lang the Father, Django the Son, and Oscar the Holy Ghost...

While converts are always welcome, I get to be the Pope because I thought of this religion before you did...


  • Chris MartinChris Martin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Petrarca, Catelluccia, Bucolo, Martino, Hofner, Hoyer, Burns
    Posts: 540

    Try listening to Willie Nelson for a good example of how to hang back, not easy to play that way though......

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,887

    I think "pushing" a bit is kind of ok with this style for the soloist.

  • Posts: 2,802

    I remember Sebastien demonstrated it very clearly in the video below. Like everything else it can be practiced. One of these days I'll get around it myself. Easiest way would be to learn a phrase that has the feel you're looking for and play it over and over until it starts making sense. Then take some of your stock lines and make it sound like what you've practiced earlier. But really most importantly is it's gotta be in your ear first. If you don't hear it, it won't show up in your playing.

    nomadgtrWim GlennBones
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • terrassierterrassier France
    Posts: 101

    Im a pretty poor guitar player and still I manage to do it by playing parts of Django solos I know really well over backing tracks and keep repeating the solos while trying to push or hang back etc - might be a simple approach like this could help you too.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,887

    Hey Will, are you talking for rhythm playing or soloing?

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited October 2019 Posts: 1,421

    Both, actually, Mike... but my rhythm playing is somewhat less of a problem...

    Here’s the thing, in my trio there is no rhythm guitar and the fact that I have a tendancy to push slightly ahead of the beat often results in my solos speeding up the tempo of the tune.

    Luckily, the audience probably doesn't notice, but this causes complaints from our group’s horn man and is really embarrassing..

    It’s gotten better with time, but remains a tripping stone, especially at faster tempos.

    Its Canadian Thanksgiving today and we have family here so I still havent had a chance to look at the Sebastien video which Buco kindly provided...but, later!

    Happy Thanksgiving!


    My religion is, I worship Lang the Father, Django the Son, and Oscar the Holy Ghost...

    While converts are always welcome, I get to be the Pope because I thought of this religion before you did...
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,887

    Ok yeah I can see how that would be an issue. For rhythm it seems like for this style (swing) the rhythm guitar and bass should be right on the beat.  Maybe pushing just a bit sometimes but never dragging.

    I guess the soloist can do whatever but it seems like most tend to push a bit if anything except maybe on ballads (??) but I have not really looked for examples in GJ of soloists laying back but yeah that Sebastien demo is pretty clear.  In GJ it seems like the soloist is usually trying to build excitement (pushing) for more up/medium tempo stuff (except maybe during octaves) rather than trying to play "cool" (laying back).  Again, I'm sure there are many examples of both in GJ but I've not looked for them and I'm just talking generalities rather than "rules" and I'm not really a soloist so just speculating.

    Yeah if you are soloing maybe try really hard to not push (I know in GJ it's hard not to push) but also if you do push a bit make sure the bass player doesn't follow you and try to get right "under" you or the tempo will obviously pick up as it turns into a positive feedback loop. It's not really the fault of the soloist if they push. It's the responsibility of the rhythm section (in your case the bass) to internalize the original tempo and stick to their guns no matter what you do. That said, if you consciously try not to push maybe it will be easier for the bass. Maybe try to not play so many notes or something to allow the sound of the bass player to guide your tempo if you feel like you are starting to push just take a breath???

    In this example it sounds like the bass is pushing a bit (?) compared to the drummer if you slow it down and listen really close but it is subtle. That works here because they have the rest of the rhythm section to hold it down but in your case it's all on the bass. Again, if you push the bass CANNOT follow you or you will speed up the whole song. Maybe the bass needs to practice with a metronome or you can rehearse where you consciously try to push but make sure the bass sticks with the original tempo (headphones and a click track??) just to hear how that sounds and get the feel for that.

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,421

    Some good ideas to try, thanks Mike. While it’s always nice to blame the bass player ;-) I think this is also a problem i have to mostly solve myself.

    I don’t know if the guitar players I know are a representative sample, but it seems to me that most guitarists around my neck of the woods are in front of the beat pushing and not behind the beat dragging... ?

    My religion is, I worship Lang the Father, Django the Son, and Oscar the Holy Ghost...

    While converts are always welcome, I get to be the Pope because I thought of this religion before you did...
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,887

    Well this is Le Jazz Hot right? Not Le Jazz Cool. So go ahead and push I guess just make sure the bass player sticks to the original tempo which I know is a challenge but....

  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,111

    It's possible to change but it is VERY VERY difficult. We all tend to feel something in one way or another, and if we're not happy with it, we have to work really hard to change the habits. It took me many years to change certain habits that I didn't like.

    another interesting thing is often I'd work with DCMS artists who would tell me they don't like to play behind the beat that they like it to be a little bit ahead, but hwen I record them, they're either on the beat or behind. Sometimes what we think we do isn't actually what we do !

    Players who definitely play behind the beat: Rocky Gresset, Antoine Boyer.

    Bireli when he plays bebop can be quite laidback, but when he plays django style, he's fairly on the beat.

    Angelo when he feels nervous about the tempo (between 150-240bpm), he might rush, but when he feels relaxed (240 - 340bpm), he actually plays a little bit behind the beat.

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