Two schools of thought on learning to play in time
By Jon Liebman
Week of September 28, 2020
I was talking to Winston “Wins” Jarquin, bassist for the progressive metal band Sifting, whose interview we published this week on For Bass Players Only. What a fascinating story about growing up in Nicaragua before becoming established on the LA music scene.
When I asked Wins what he thought was important for someone who wants to learn bass, the first thing he said was rhythm, immediately stressing the importance of practicing with a metronome.
I perked up right away, as this can often be a touchy area. I cited Jeff Berlin as the first person who came to my mind when the topic of metronomes comes up.
“Stay on the beat,” Wins emphasizes, “and what I mean by that is play to a metronome. If you have a song that you’re familiar with, play to that song with the metronome. If there’s a line you want to play, play to the metronome. If you have a drummer, have the drummer play to the metronome and play with him.”
That’s when I brought up the two schools of thought, and how some people, like Jeff, are adamantly opposed to using a metronome.
“I don’t disagree with them,” Wins said. “I get where they’re coming from.” Wins just sees things differently. “With my background, being in a metal band,” he says, “for us it’s all about being locked in.”
I have to admit I don’t always use a metronome when I practice. There comes a point where you can just feel if you’re grooving or not. Unless I’m woodshedding something like Paganini’s “Moto Perpetuo” or Rimsky-Korsakoff’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” pieces that are centered around speed and precision, I’ll generally just dig in without a metronome or a drum machine. What’s important is the end result: Are you grooving with a great time feel and are you making the music feel good?
Wins especially underscores the need to lock in with the drummer, a concept FBPO students have heard me talk about many times. “I could see why,” Wins says, “in some scenarios, like a jam band or something like that, if it calls for it to be a little bit like that ‘drunk’ kind of like rhythm, then yeah, by all means, why not?” referring to metronome use. “But for my purposes,” he says, “it’s all about being locked in.”
How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, you can check out my interview with Wins here.