One of the better drummers in the country, Darryn Farrugia, wrote a facebook post about the common trait of singers wanting to
“speed up” their songs.
Have a read and then check out this blog.
So, what is his gripe about?
Why can't a singer choose to make a song "faster" to add more energy?
Why is "tempo” and “groove" so important?
In the early days of my career, I just might have been one of these singer's that Darryn is talking about. It may have been perhaps -
I was "Clueless". (Hind sight tells me this is a certainty);
I was too busy being the superstar;
I wasn’t "listening" what the drummer was doing.
As time went on, I started to work with some amazing musicians, who made me quickly realize that I had a lot to learn.
My musical life changed when I started working with drummers like
the late and great Ron Sandilands,
the seldom late and always great Dean Cooper.
And keyboard players like
(Just to name a few).
They all taught me how to be more instrumentally "aware" of a rhythm section, and how this awareness is "critical" for timing and groove.
Let's start by looking at "timing".
1/ Get a metronome - If you don’t have one, download a free one on your device.
2/ Pick a song from your repertoire. (If you don't have a live instrument to try this with, sing unaccompanied).
3/ Take the tempo "down" by 10 BPM or 20 BPM from the original.
(Believe it or not, great singers, "feel" a difference in even 2 BPM).
4/ What has this "slowed down tempo" done to “your” interpretation of the song?
Notice - You suddenly have room to play. It opens up the gaps! What are you going to do with the gap?
You have opportunity for-
Longer note values, therefore more time for a choice of vocal tone, and the addition of vibrato;
More room to syncopate;
Allows greater emphasis on punctuation and expression (EG breathing spots and story-telling).
Note - This tempo release will also give you time to check your "melody identification" (notation). The faster the tempo, the more notes we tend to miss.
5/ Now take this same song up 10 or 20 BPM from the original.
6/ What has this "faster tempo" done to your interpretation of your song?
Notice - A picture of a "run-away train" may spring to mind right now at this tempo.
You'll perhaps notice that there’s-
less time to breathe,
a "frenetic" feeling,
a reduction of clarity of your song words,
reduced vocal "control" EG melody less precise, intervals slide etc
These are extreme tempo changes but they illustrate the point.
The original tempo was decided upon, because it worked and "sounded and felt" right, to both the singer and the rhythm section.
When it “sounds and feels right”, YOU have found your "groove/pocket".
There are of course, always exceptions to the rule, but,
Try changing the tempo of -
Nutbush - Tina Turner
YMCA - Village People
Take it easy - The Eagles
Dock of the bay - Ottis Redding
and a million more, it probably won't work, unless you really want to take the song in a different direction.
NEXT STEP -
At your next band rehearsal, recording session etc, work out with your rhythm section, the TEMPOS of all your songs.
And....... FIND your GROOVE pocket (and help Darryn keep his sanity).