There was recently some very enlightening discussion here about lagging the beat from BBQ Bob, and others. As I've been digesting that information, and listening for it, I still have many, many questions.
First of all, basic definitions of these terms are hard to find. E.g., "swing" in the Wiktionary is defined as: "(transitive, music). To play notes that are in pairs by making the first of the pair slightly longer than written (augmentation) and the second, resulting in a bouncy, uneven rhythm." In some of Adam's lessons he describes it as "emphasizing the off beat" (if I recall correctly). It then follows that both "lagging" and "leading" the beat should produce a swing effect. Why, then, is lagging more bluesie?
BBQ Bob also mentioned, I believe, that the drummer can also lag the beat. This one threw me for a loop, since I thought the drummer set the beat. But perhaps the "groove" is generated by the ensemble rather than just the drummer and/or bass player? That is, does everyone playing collectively create the groove? And if so, how does this differ from the beat, exactly?
I'd really like some more clarification on these matters, especially if my current thinking is completely wrong.... Especially, some basic definitions of these terms for blues harp players would be much appreciated.
I'm also willing to consider that I'm over-thinking this, and that this is a "feel" thing. Your comments, please.
The drummer doesn't necessarily 'lag', rather 'syncopate'. Syncopated rhythm is where a drummer will be playing a beat, then change the snare placement.
A beat could go like this with the snare placement on the uppercase:
one, two, three, FOUR, one, two, three, FOUR one, two, three, FOUR one, two, three, FOUR one, one, two, THREE, four, one, two, THREE, FOUR, one, two, three, FOUR, one, two, three, FOUR, etc. on the 5th bar, the one beat was said twice, thus lagging the rhythm and accent note to shift from the fourth beat to the third. This swings back into the standard timing on the 6th bar and goes back to regular.
This can have a lagging effect, however drummers will tend to shift only for a small time, perhaps a bar or two. the drummer still maintains the 4/4 beat via a bass kick and symbols. the syncopation creates an off rhythm as the placement of the accented note shifts a beat. this creates a very satisfying 'groove' and often a swing feeling.
it is the bands job to maintain the same rhythm when the drummer changes to a syncopated fill.
There's an amazing discussion in a book called MUSIC GROOVES by Charles Keil (author of URBAN BLUES) and Stephen (or Steven) Feld about jazz rhythm sections: a drummer paired with a bass player. The discussion is about all the different ways that drummers and bass players carry the groove with respect to the beat--some hitting right on top of the beat, some lagging, some pushing ahead of the beat. It turns out that each drummer and each bass player does things differently. And it also turns out, not surprisingly, that the "swingingest" rhythm sections consist of a drummer and a bass player who have complementary, rather than identical, styles. You want one guy leading and the other guy pulling it back. They lock in and things swing.
It's an amazing discussion--an amazingly subtle discussion--and it made me realize that "groove" isn't just a made-up thing, a form of mystification that pro musicians use to keep the pretenders out. It's something that good musicians all feel and know about, and it's something that your average listener can feel in some way, even if that listener can't quite put their finger on what's happening.
When I get onstage and start blowing harp with a rhythm section, I can tell within a few seconds whether we're going to swing or not, which is to say, whether I'm going to have any fun.
The key things are relaxation and mutuality: they produce a feeling called "being in the pocket." It takes two to swing, really, and good musicians make very small but very important adjustments in order to create the swing feeling. Not-so-good musicians don't make those adjustments because they don't know how to swing and thus can't recognize when swing is being created or, when it's being created, how to increase and/or optimize it.
My understanding of the term refers to the way that blues, rock and jazz players will usually play a little ahead of or behind the beat. A couple of examples would be:
In my most recent upload - not trying to plug it, but the example is close to hand - those brief 3/4 draws at 00:10 and 00:13 are played on the last third of the fourth beat of the bar, or, just ahead of the first beat of the following bar. In that sense, they could also be called syncopated, i.e. played on a weak beat or part of a beat where you would expect them to be played on a metrically stronger part of the measure, e.g. beat 1.
Also, the first harp note of Area Code 615's Stone Fox Chase is played ever so slightly ahead of the beat. That percussion pattern that begins it is split up like this:
1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a |
By the way, the & a is a group of 16th note triplets. The 2<'' is played on the last 'a' of the bar and held over to beat 1 of the next bar. Without doing that it wouldn't 'swing'; it would have the metric regularity of a marching band.
I hope that makes it clearer. ---------- YouTube SlimHarpMick
Last Edited by on Dec 11, 2009 9:15 AM
I'm having trouble understanding "the 5th measure". I would understand it if there was only 1 "one", With the accent shifted to the 3rd beat for a measure or two, before going back to being on beat four. But to me it looks like a measure of 5/4 thrown into a 4/4 beat. Please help me understand.
It takes time to learn. Fortunately for me, the guitar player I play with used to be a drummer. If I keep coming in with vocals on the 3 in 4/4 he explains to everyone else what to do, where to put the emphasis, etc. I can hear if it sounds right to me but I can't explain it to anyone else.
My primary instrument is bass and I play in a 5 piece blues and R&B band with very experienced musicians that have a couple decades of experience ahead of me. Learning to play on top of the beat, behind or ahead of the beat takes a lot of practice and affects the song's presentation immensely. First thing to do is to try and get completely relaxed so that you're better able to "feel" how to push the beat slightly ahead or behind depending on how you want the song's rhythm to be felt. It's something that you have to work on all the time and really focus on - while still trying to play very relaxed!!
Playing behind the beat is NOT to be confused with dragging the beat because playing behind the beat, the drummer NEVER loses the time, but dragging the beat is flat out slowing down and losing the time.
Learing about groove isn't gonna be something you can learn in 5 minutes or less because of all the subtle little things that you have to pay VERY CLOSE attention to DETAILS that the average music fan/hobbyist NEVER does. Learning this stuff often takes not days, not months, but often times at least a good year and more of day in and day out CONSTANT woodshedding with it and no matter what, the first thing you ABSOLUTELY have to do is get your time straight and unfortunately, for the average harp player and in open jams, many of the participants for that matter, have never bothered to develop and/or pay much attention to and it is something that is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT in order to advance as a musician and the idea of just the notes alone or just blowng solos is NOT ENOUGH.
BTW, I have NEVER said the drummer can lag the beat. I've said played behind the beat, and playing behind the beat, and lagging/dragging the beat, again, are two ENTIRELY DIFFERENT things. Draggin the beat is more of a description of a bad drummer with lousy time and playing behind the beat clearly is not that at all.
Far too many musicians, most ESPECIALLY white musicians, tend to think that the drummer is the beat, but this is NOT true at all. What the drummer does is dress it up. Metronomes all click directly on top of the beat and in a way, you can almost call it real time, and the idea of playing ahead or behind the beat is basically playing musical mind games to give the listener that what is being played is different than what they're hearing.
Here's a simplified definition of what playing ahead or behind the beat actually does:
A. Playing BEHIND THE BEAT is giving the musical illusion that you're playing in a tempo tat is slower than the actual tempo is against a metronome, and:
B. Playing AHEAD OF THE BEAT is giving the musical illusion that you're playing in a tempo that is faster than the actual tempo against a metronome.
In both descriptions, neither one is saying the drummer has terrible time at all because in both cases, a good drummer STILL has to have good time regardless.
You can't see these things visually because you got to listen VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY CAREFULLY to the music NOT the way the usual music fan/hobbyist does, but with what's often referred to among pros as LISTENING WITH BIGGER EARS, meaning that unlike the music fan/hobbyist, you are listening to music the way professional musicians, recording engineers, and record producers listen to music, meaning that you're listening to EVERYTHING in each and EVERY infinite DETAIL (I mean REALLY being anal about EVERY little thing that is going on), wheras the music fan/hobbyist tends to listen to the music this way: essentially solos first and everything else very dead last, and that's often the way many jammmers in open jams also tend to listen to the music as well.
Yes, that means developing REALLY good listening skills and the average music fan/hobbyist has to work like hell to develop them, but they CAN be developed, but it's gonna take a HELLUVA LOT of woodshedding to do that. This I know for a fact.
Cisco is absolutely correct that it takes a lot of practice and all of this is sublte, and again, the more subtle it is, the more difficult it is to learn, wheras a solo is actually easier to learn because it's basically smacking you upside the head 24/7 kind of obvious, and sublte stuff doesn't work that way. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Last Edited by on Dec 11, 2009 11:50 AM
A note about developing good listening skills: 1) Listen to music all the time 2) When you have time to focus, listen really close. Close enough that you can anticipate every single sound, and know it's coming before it does. Have a picture of what is happening in your mind. 3) Develop vocabulary that describes what you hear. 4) Also, you need skill in turning the close listening off, as it can interfere with enjoying music that others can enjoy.
My ears are trained primarily for error detection (as its the root of what I do) in others. Unfortunatly this is easier than analyzing yourself.
I think this is where scales can help in the woodshed. Knowing the instrument cold frees you to PLAY the music, vs PLAY ALONG WITH the music. Having to concentrate on what note to play next takes time, while the music grooves on by. Conversely, playing a canned line every single time can land you right on top of the beat all the time as you fit "your solo", or a carbon copy of someone else's, into the music. Playing with a metronome too much makes me way too mechanical if i don't play live enough. I do it anyway, but realize the effect of it.
If you set the metronome to click on all 4 beats, you automatically go into playing on top of the beat. However, if you set it to click on the 2 and the 4, which is the backbeat, and in many music genres, especially black music, including blues, this is where the snare drum hits, and then it's a lot easier to hear where ahead or behind the beat is. If you phrase off the 1 and the 3 a lot, the transition to playing behind the beat becomes more difficult than if you were phrasing more off the 2 and the 4. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
I can swing, and I can feel grooves but I have a hard time verbalizing what I hear and feel. I think a lot of it is how you subdivide and phrase. Theres also different ways to swing, like (I know this isn't exclusive) in eastern folk like gypsy or klezmer sometimes the time is in four but is phrased like (1+2+3)(1+2+3)(1+2). Syncopating by adding rests and changing the emphasis helps too. Also try like emphasizing the ands of the beat. I don't know, that stuff only helps really for fast paced stuff I guess. Like I said its easier for me to feel than explain. I understand what everybody else is saying for the most part but really understand why someone would have a hard time understanding what is meant.
Last Edited by on Dec 11, 2009 7:21 PM
I take no offense because those two things are easily confused and you`re not the first to confuse the two and you certainly won`t be the last. Some years ago I bought an instructional book for drummers that I gave to a drummer friend of mine that discussed groove (I just wish I could remember the title and author) and it contained a CD with sound samples of tunes, 10 in all, each in 3 different tempos, and on top of that, each had a sound sample played on top, ahead, as well as behind the beat. Not one of these tunes were blues. On each sound sample that was played behind the beat, the author would say, "notice how much blusier the tune sounds." The differances were often quite dramatic. As soon as I have the title and author, I`ll make sure that I post that ASAP. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Last Edited by on Dec 11, 2009 2:09 PM
What Adam says about "having any fun" or not is oh so true. To me, playing is like a drug. (I even wrote a song about it.) If I haven't jammed for a while, I have to go out and get my fix. A lot of times that involves an unknown rhythm section, usually put together from the players assembled at the venue. Nothing is worse than the helpless feeling when you're the front man on harp or guitar in front of a bad rhythm section. It only takes a few moments to get that 'Get me off of this stage immediately!!'or 'I don't ever want to leave this stage!!'feeling.
Last Edited by on Dec 11, 2009 2:26 PM
Bluelvr, my sentiments, exactly! Having to deal with that is, in no uncertain terms, and it`s f*****g torture and they will humiliate you in a NY minute! ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Last Edited by on Dec 11, 2009 2:21 PM
Jim Rumbaugh, The way i explained it wasn't the best i apoligize, I was trying to convey that the counts where like a snare placement, rather than an actual hole bar, so think of a constant 4/4/ symbol rhythm over the TOP of those bars i created, also just assume it all resolves in 4/4/ too.
Now with the 2 'one's', the first 'one' in the 5th bar is like a gap that you don't say, but i tohught if i wrote (gap) instead of one peole might get confused, so when you say the beat, one, two, three, four etc. and you get to the 5th line, dont say the first 'one', rather leave a space the same length of it.
Where one places each note in relation to the beat is a big part of groove. In addition to Rick Estrin, an interesting and instructive example of this is Diana Krall's singing. Listen to how she places the notes she sings in relation to the beat/rhythm of the song she is singing. The context is pretty different from blues harmonica playing, but the concept is the same. Worth listening to, whether you like jazz vocals or not.
Rick's video is a great example of having the mind, body, soul, and the harmonica all working together as one. It's a priceless lesson just about every player needs to learn. The part about shaping the sound without the mic is something mahy players have yet to get a clue about, and too many players are gonna answer that question with a gear oriented answer, and that is the wrong answer here. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte