When not using a metronome, how does a band not sync up with a drummer who is purposefully playing ahead of or behind the beat

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Drummers can sometimes play slightly faster or slower than everyone else, making a specific “feel” in a song. If no one is playing to a metronome, how does the rest of the band not sync up with the pulses and downbeats of the drummer?

In: Other
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Answer: Usually the drummer follows the bassist. If you’re going off beat, you have that internal clock in your head. Oney-and-a-twoey.

I can’t speak for others, but when I’ve played with a band, it was a a sort of balancing act. As a drummer, I usually depended on the bassist’s tempo. The bassist may be depending on the Rhythm guitar and vice versa, while lead guitar is going wild.

Everyone keeps their own beat, even with a metronome. If you wait for the sound of the other band members or even the beat of the metronome before playing a note you are already too late. So you keep your own beat but then corrects this with all the other. So if you were a bit behind on the last beat you play a tiny bit faster and if you are a bit ahead you play a bit slower. The other band members know if the drummer is purposefully playing ahead or behind and they will play accordingly. They can hear that the drummer is constantly playing this way. Another thing listeners often forget is that the speed of sound is actually quite slow in this context. Part of the reason band members move around on stage is to change the timing. A base player on the side of the stage might play well ahead of the drummer in the center and the drummer might play well ahead of the base player but since they are so far from each other they might both play in perfect sync to the audience. This is also why for tricky sections when the players are far from each other they might prefer to look at each other since the speed of light is instantaneous in this context. So they are not following the sound but instead looking at the movement of each other to get the right beat.