Locking In


Thanks to John Salazar for answering our call for ideas. John’s question: Locking in with the bass” was a term I heard frequently as a young drummer, but really never knew what it really meant until I was much older. Could you explain the “locking in” relationship between a band and how it works?

It goes without saying (at least on this blog) that the most important part of any band is the rhythm section. Drummers and bass players are the foundation of every song. The ability for each musician to lock-in with one another sets the tone. Drummers and bassists hold similar roles to hold down the bottom end while establishing the groove. Both musicians need to maintain the same tempo and agree where the band can find the downbeat. This varies from one music style to another; the bass may be on the beat, in front of or behind the beat. Synchronicity can be achieved if the drummer has good meter and plays a constant kick pattern. Good drummers will listen to the bassist playing and accentuate it. Good bassists are able to strip down the drummers beat to hi-hat, kick and snare.

According to Smart Bass Guitar “…drummers are dynamic. There are times when certain drums hit at the same time as others, spread apart from others or remain consistent over the pattern. There is one big pattern, the collective sound of the drums being hit in a particular arrangement, then there are smaller patterns, the loops that individual drum pieces are playing. Upon understanding the patterns that are emerging within the drummer’s groove allow you the bass player to see where exactly to make your bass line shine through without ever having to play too much.”

Locking in is more art than science as it all comes down to feel. Drummers and bassists need to listen to one another. Both should feed off the other and complement each other’s performance. Timekeeping and maintaining the foundation should be the goal of every rhythm section. Good rhythm sections bring out the best in any band. Great rhythm sections do it naturally so nobody notices.


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