HERE’S how to lock in with the drummer!

Want to learn bass? Learn this!

By Jon Liebman
Week of February 7, 2022

As a fan of learning bass, you’ve probably heard, among other things, how a huge part of the role of a bass player is to lock in with the drummer. The bass player and the drummer, after all, lay down the foundation for the band. We make the groove happen.

But what, exactly, does “lock in with the drummer” mean? And how are you supposed to do it?

Why the bass player needs to lock in with the drummer

I had a great conversation about the subject with one of the most incredible bass players I know, Bill “The Buddha” Dickens, published as this week’s FBPO interview. When I asked Bill what advice he had for someone who wants to learn bass, locking in with the drummer was a big part of his answer.

“Along with the drummer,” Bill says, “we’re the heart and the foundation of the band. If you don’t have a marriage between those two, you have nothing.” Then he got very specific and, in typical “Buddha” style, made me smile.

The all-important bass player/drummer groove duo

“I always highly advise people that are just starting, to learn how to play with the bass drum,” Bill continued. “Focus on the bass drum, even if it’s very simple. Don’t try to play anything extra. Just focus on that.”

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Locking in, not just with the drums as a whole, but with the bass drum specifically, is what really makes the groove gel.

“Make sure that you line up timing-wise, and feel-wise, with that bass drum,“ Bill says. “That’s how I came up as a little child. That’s all I heard. That pulse.”

Going deeper

Then he recounted a story about how legendary Tower of Power bassist Rocco Prestia took that approach to the extreme, while sharing groove duties with TOP drummer David Garibaldi.

“Rocco Prestia said once that he would take the butt of his bass and put it on the bass drum,” Bill shares, “to feel the pulse of the bass drum. To me, that’s part of the marriage, why they were such an incredible duo.” 

Now that’s being serious about locking in with the drummer!

“Some of your greatest bass players that weren’t known for soloing were known for how they laid down the foundation,” says Bill. “I think a lot of the younger kids now gravitate to forgetting about learning the foundation of bass,” he laments. “They jump into trying to impress their friends.” 

As a bass player, you need to lock in with the drummer. You’ve probably heard that before. But how far can go to make sure you’re really locking in? Take a tip from Bill. And from Rocco.

What about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Bill here.

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