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Thread: Drum/rhythm knowledge rolling thread

  1. #16
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    Contrary to what's been said upthread, it's not always possible to say what's the 1. Especially in electronic dance music. A lot of producers play with this, to fool you into locking onto one groove, and then continuing with another. Typically you have a full on A section, then an A' section which
    takes out the bass drum, and other elements that mark the downbeats strongly, just leaving synth pads and the highhat marking every crotchet, quaver or semi-quaver, but without giving any hint as to the downbeat (AKA, all hits have the same volume, tone quality). this goes on for a while leaving you , your body to infer/hear the BD/downbeat. Then the bass drum kicks back in, but not at the place where the listener expects it, but somewhere else, thus marking a new downbeat. Lot's of detroit techy tracks from the 90s for example. DJs also mix on off-beats or backbeats sometimes for the same effect.

    The book Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, and Musical Design in Electronic Dance Music by Mark Butler goes on about this, although, i think it's a bit crude.

    But in most 'normal' music, the downbeat can always be felt easily, because there are many many clues on many musical levels.

    I think what makes music dancable is to a large degree a certain ambiguity about rhythms. The technical term is syncopation. That means that several rhythms (units of repetition) happen at the same time, and prevent rhythmic resolutions, precisely because there's no definite sense of closure.

    The clave rhythm mentioned earlier is a famous example of this (and lots of house and garage tracks play clave variants in their keyboards lines, famous recent example: "Me & U" by cassie). Clave (in its 3/2 variant) starts with a beat that is divisible by 3:

    X..X..X

    which is then not continued but replaced by something divible by 2:

    X..X..X...X.X..

    This constant ambiguity about the downbeat makes latin music like salsa so infectiously dancable. The lack of resolution with respect to the downbeat has its melodic/harmonic match in dance music, where full V -> I resolution is avoided like the place and phrases usually end on an unstable note.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DigitalDjigit View Post
    There's nothing special about the Amen though. It's pretty much the same rhythm as "Funky Drummer" and a bunch of other funk beats.

    Kick on the 1, snare on the 2 and 4.
    Wot? Funky drummer is a crazy rhythm with lots of shares, ghosted or otherwise, almost nothing emphasis the downbeat. I don't remember it off the top of my head, and it's too complicated
    for me to work it out on the fly by listening, but i have programmed it (don't have my XS key at work sorry). i can post it next time i go online if anybody cares enough aboutWork of art. Amen, if i remember correctly, was produced by recording several drum takes and splicing them togetherwith tape and a razor blade, so it should be something that's not really possible for humans to play.

  3. #18
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    Not sure if this fits in with this thread so feel free to ignore but Wiley has a track up on his myspace called 'Information Centre' (www.myspace.com/eskiboywiley) where he seems to be playing with structure and rhythm in a different way. Can anyone who knows more about this than me (such as the above posters) spread any light on technically what he is doing in their eyes?

  4. #19

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    how do you mean? Sounds like a fairly standard albeit fast and with more kicks than normal 3rd beat snare rhythm to me - i could be wrong.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by borderpolice View Post
    I think what makes music dancable is to a large degree a certain ambiguity about rhythms. The technical term is syncopation. That means that several rhythms (units of repetition) happen at the same time, and prevent rhythmic resolutions, precisely because there's no definite sense of closure.
    Your explanation of syncopation is not one that I recognize. It does not require "several rhythms at the same time" (one implied and one actual are sufficient, hence the prefix "syn") (e.g., I can make a syncopated rhythm by clapping my hands, no need for additional rhythms, so long as a basic pulse is implied), and it does not "prevent rhythmic resolutions" or occlude a "definite sense of closure" (in fact, a syncopation works because at the end of the moment of syncopation there's closure). It's a basic term for alternating/shifting accents or ghosting them that can be applied to dance music or a violin melody or anything reallly. And on the contrary, this does not create ambiguity, it creates a very identifiable rhythmic phenomenon - which is why it's gotten its own term in the first place. Maybe I've just misunderstood you?

  6. #21
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    @sodiumnightlife

    dunno, think it may have more to do with the sounds he uses around the drum beat itself which kind of throw you off what you expect to happen next in the tune. I could be wrong also...!

    I made one track a few years ago which is the only tune i've ever made which i thought was ok where I tried to abandon all structure whatsoever (or at least conciously abandon it) which may show what I'm trying to get at better. If you go to www.myspace.com/djldjl it is on there (called 'Bears').

    Again, this probably has nothing to do with what you are talking about so feel free to ignore!

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tate View Post
    Your explanation of syncopation is not one that I recognize. It does not require "several rhythms at the same time" (one implied and one actual are sufficient, hence the prefix "syn") (e.g., I can make a syncopated rhythm by clapping my hands, no need for additional rhythms, so long as a basic pulse is implied), and it does not "prevent rhythmic resolutions" or occlude a "definite sense of closure" (in fact, a syncopation works because at the end of the moment of syncopation there's closure). It's a basic term for alternating/shifting accents or ghosting them that can be applied to dance music or a violin melody or anything reallly. And on the contrary, this does not create ambiguity, it creates a very identifiable rhythmic phenomenon - which is why it's gotten its own term in the first place. Maybe I've just misunderstood you?
    No, you understand syncopations well. I just have a non-standard take on the issue. Iand i'm not expressing myself well -- it's a highly technical issue. think what is really going on musically is that there are several rhythms going on. The standard understanding says: normally weak beats are strong. This implies one rhythm (giving the normally weak beats (and the corresponding strong beats), and a second one which emphasises the weak beats. So i take "several" here to mean "at least two" But in practise one needs more i reckon. You can put
    a constant 123123123... on top of a 123412341234... and it wouldn't feel syncopated in the way that clave does. But the boundaries are fluid. I think the overlay of several rhythms (implied or otherwise) is the key phenomenon. (However, and contradicting myself slightly, the classic latin beats like clave, can be interpreted as either 6/8 or 4/4, but, because only not all beats are played, and because the players usually imply one of the two more strongly than the other, the ambiguity is not as crass as in some technotracks that put blatant 123123... ontop of a blatant 12341234...)

    Syncopation subverts listener expectation regarding the beat structure. I think -- and that's pure speculation -- that what goes on in the brain when listening to music, is that the brain tries to predict what's happening next (this is probably a left-over of the brain parts responsible for language learning, which is a gigantic pitch-and-rhythm pattern detection exercise). and syncopation plays with this: it gives enough structure so the brain always feels like it has just locked into the rhythm, and then that feeling is subverted by the anticipations that make weak beats strong. Because the brain is constantly not getting the rhythm right, it wants more to predict better next time.


    The fact that highly syncopated rhythms have a definite flavour is correct, but i think it happens at a much higher level of pattern recognition. In the same sense that white noise sounds very characteristic, but at a more detailed level we are unable to predict white noise, except in its unpredicatbility.
    Last edited by borderpolice; 21-09-2007 at 04:42 PM.

  8. #23
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    That's interesting, I don't know much about what 'clave' is but isn't laying 6/8 over 4/4 like that more a polyrhythm than what you would call syncopation?

    Often with syncopation you have multiple patterns that obviously all do start and resolve but they are doing so on different beats. The overall effect then can be one of non-resolution because something else is always beginning. Autechre's 'Montreal' is a good example of that I think, where it's very obvious what's happening.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by borderpolice View Post
    Wot? Funky drummer is a crazy rhythm with lots of shares, ghosted or otherwise, almost nothing emphasis the downbeat. I don't remember it off the top of my head, and it's too complicated
    for me to work it out on the fly by listening, but i have programmed it (don't have my XS key at work sorry). i can post it next time i go online if anybody cares enough aboutWork of art. Amen, if i remember correctly, was produced by recording several drum takes and splicing them togetherwith tape and a razor blade, so it should be something that's not really possible for humans to play.
    Funky Drummers and Amen differ a bit in the details but the basic skeleton is practically identical. Almost all the breakbeats taken from funk have the kick on the first 1 beat, snare on 2 and 4 structure. So they are all more or less the same (family of) rhythm.

    The dancehall/soca beat of 3-3-2 is an example of something that is a different rhythm. I guess the typical two-step d'n'b beat would be something different as well.

  10. #25
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    I thought syncopation is when you play notes just before or just after "the beat". Syncopation = swing

  11. #26
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    Great thread. Does anyone know what the beat definition of a two-step track would be? Or a niche one?

  12. #27

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    niche is just 4 to the floor isn't it?

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by DigitalDjigit View Post
    I thought syncopation is when you play notes just before or just after "the beat". Syncopation = swing
    Syncopated beats usually swing too, but swing is much more subtle than syncopation.

    Syncopation is based around the accent of a rhythm.

    A (very) simple exercise - say the following out loud:

    "one, Two, three, Four"
    vs.
    "one, Two, three AND Four"

    The syncopation comes from the emphasis of the "AND".

    To enhance the syncopation, you could then make the "three" weaker, or even remove it altogether.

    "one, Two, ... AND Four"

    It's still the same tempo and time signature, but it feels very different.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by sodiumnightlife View Post
    niche is just 4 to the floor isn't it?
    kinda funky garage yeah, but with two-steppy bits and indeed the kitchen sink thrown in as well.

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by borderpolice View Post
    Contrary to what's been said upthread, it's not always possible to say what's the 1. Especially in electronic dance music. A lot of producers play with this, to fool you into locking onto one groove, and then continuing with another. Typically you have a full on A section, then an A' section which
    takes out the bass drum, and other elements that mark the downbeats strongly, just leaving synth pads and the highhat marking every crotchet, quaver or semi-quaver, but without giving any hint as to the downbeat (AKA, all hits have the same volume, tone quality). this goes on for a while leaving you , your body to infer/hear the BD/downbeat. Then the bass drum kicks back in, but not at the place where the listener expects it, but somewhere else, thus marking a new downbeat. Lot's of detroit techy tracks from the 90s for example. DJs also mix on off-beats or backbeats sometimes for the same effect.
    Very interesting. I think I know what you mean, but can you give examples of Detroit trax that do this, sothat I can have a listen for this 'trick'?

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