Thursday, 28 June 2012

Tightness 101

Tightness is a term that is often used to describe how well a band plays together.
Its a word that is often bandied about a lot without a lot of thought for what it actually means let alone how a band that is not tight could strive to achieve it.

I've listened to a lot of live bands over the years, some who I would call incredibly tight and others... well not so much. I think I have the answer and an 'easy' way to make your band sound 'tighter'.
Tightness is usually restricted to a few specific generes. You don't call a big jazz band 'Tight' because actually looseness is part of what makes a big band so awesome.
Tightness is usually associated with RnB, all forms of Rock, Funk and to a lesser extent blues.

But what makes a band tight?
After listening to a few old live recordings of tight bands and then some not so tight bands, it all points to one place, the rhythm section.
Drums and Bass are the key to tightness, guitars and keyboards can be all over the place (in terms of timing) but the band can still be classed as tight.
More specifically, it comes down to one part of the band, drums and the bass guitar.
Tight bands have the following thing in common, the bass guitar and the kick drum are almost indestinguishable. In fact, they sound like one instrument playing together. The kick drum providing the punch and the bass guitar providing the tone. All you need to do to make your band sound tight is get your drummer to kick his kick perfectly in sync with the notes of the bass guitar (apart from any frilly bits).
The drummer can play anything they like over the top of this, the Snare and Hi Hats can be way in front or behind the beat, but so long as the kick is in sync with the bass, the band will sound tight.
This can be harder than it sounds. The drummer and the bass player need to listen to each other very carefully and anticipate what the other is going to do. Good rhythm sections can do this without any thought at all. An average rhythm section can also do it, it just takes loads and loads of practice.

Here is an example of what I'd class as a tight band (listen to the kick and the bass interact):

Conversely, here is a band that is not tight (its not hard to be better than these guys).

Next time your band is practicing or doing a gig, listen to how the kick interacts with the bass guitar.
Are they playing the same thing, or are they each kind of doing their own thing?
Try making some simple changes and really focus on the kick and bass guitar and see what happens to the overall feel.