Beat Timing Question

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Are there any materials out there that discuss beat timing in depth. I've seen threads on ahead of or behind the beat, but I've been thinking about this a lot recently what if you have more than a couple drums or percussionists, there has got to be more to it. Alot happens between the 'a' and the 'y'.

I've inspired much by this powwow music where beat timing are one of the primary expressions in the drumming, but I thought I would ask if there are any materials that cover this concept beyond a rudimentary flam. I would keep going on my own, but one of my other favorite rhythmic ideas happened to have a book written on it, so I thought I would ask.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I'm curious what you're getting at... "Beat timing", as you're describing it would be relative. You have to pick something to play against... From there, it's simple. You an play, on, or around (ahead/behind) the reference point.

Some drummers default one way or the other. Dave G is famously "on top" or even slightly ahead of the general pulse in his quicker numbers quite often.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
From the list that Odd-Arne Oseberg posted i studied the Fred Dinkins book myself and i can highly recommend that one..

Also i can recommend to listen a lot to some J. Dilla productions, since he is also quite creative regarding this subject..But for that you need to be a little into hiphop and i am not sure if you are or not..
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I'm curious what you're getting at... "Beat timing", as you're describing it would be relative. You have to pick something to play against... From there, it's simple. You an play, on, or around (ahead/behind) the reference point.

Some drummers default one way or the other. Dave G is famously "on top" or even slightly ahead of the general pulse in his quicker numbers quite often.
Maybe I can explain it with finger drumming. If you take four fingers index through pinky(no thumb), then drum them on the table you can get a number of different feels depending on how loud each finger is and the spacing. It can vary from a four note roll to a four not flam or even just a single note. Now do that with two hands. I start out with sort of a gap in between then move them closer so I get on long tha-rrrrrum.

As per the suggestion for hip-hop, might check it out. I think I see what you are saying in certain varieties of hip-hop there are these short shuffle beats combined with the need to compress the sound the trend is away from being on the beat, but hip-hop could mean anything these days.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Sounds like micro-timing, "feel" stuff. almost certainly falls on the 16th or 32nd grid for most applications. I never really thought of it in any special way compared to the rest of my playing.

I'm still curious though, what are you trying to learn about the note placement? It sounds like you understand the concept well enough. Varying the micro-timing or placement related to the main pulse can change the feel in drastic, or subtle ways.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Sounds like micro-timing, "feel" stuff. almost certainly falls on the 16th or 32nd grid for most applications. I never really thought of it in any special way compared to the rest of my playing.

I'm still curious though, what are you trying to learn about the note placement? It sounds like you understand the concept well enough. Varying the micro-timing or placement related to the main pulse can change the feel in drastic, or subtle ways.
I can figure it out, but life is journey and it helps to have a road map and friends.

One of things I was wondering was with the pow wow drumming. I've encountered the term hard beats and soft beats. The hard beats are used to signal song structure. It's intuitive enough, a hard beat is when one of the drummers leans in and pounds the center of the drum.

However when I listen to the music I can hear more variations to the beat provably as an arrangement for the song.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I can figure it out, but life is journey and it helps to have a road map and friends.

One of things I was wondering was with the pow wow drumming. I've encountered the term hard beats and soft beats. The hard beats are used to signal song structure. It's intuitive enough, a hard beat is when one of the drummers leans in and pounds the center of the drum.

However when I listen to the music I can hear more variations to the beat provably as an arrangement for the song.
Well sure... Despite idiots online/in drum mags saying stupid things like "always hit hard"... It's not actually a requirement, and dynamics, altering the sound of your notes is a hugely important tool. These elements enhance "texture" in your beats and make them more interesting.

I thought you were just talking about note placement, but you're also talking about note tone and dynamics as well. It sounds now like you're just investigating a little more variation in the way your beats (and others) are crafted.
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
There's so many different ways to swing a groove. You can swing it hard or light or be behind or ahead of the beat. In fact, if you really look at a lot of famous rock grooves that look simple on paper, they are actually slightly swung. That's probably why drum machines always sound too robotic or "perfect" and clean. Questlove has a few videos where he talks about timing in depth that I found helpful. Steve Jordan's DVD is very useful too. A lot of it is really too complicated to teach though and it's just something that you have to learn yourself, either by playing a lot or by listening to a lot of music. Drumming really is complex, I think it just comes really naturally to us so we can forget to realize how big of a deal our timing is when we lay down a solid groove to match a bassline or guitar riff

In my opinion anyway
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..As per the suggestion for hip-hop, might check it out. I think I see what you are saying in certain varieties of hip-hop there are these short shuffle beats combined with the need to compress the sound the trend is away from being on the beat, but hip-hop could mean anything these days..

I was not referring to hiphop in general since there is also a lot of crap in that genre, just like in any other genre..

But J. Dilla was a master in creating beats, also regarding use of 'time'..

Here is a nice example of that..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbbfo9_7D8g

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaITTQrIGMI
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I was not referring to hiphop in general since there is also a lot of crap in that genre, just like in any other genre..

But J. Dilla was a master in creating beats, also regarding use of 'time'..

Here is a nice example of that..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbbfo9_7D8g

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaITTQrIGMI
I looked up some J Dilla. I liked it, but the laid back chilled out boom bap isn't what I am talking about.

I've been listening to these Black Lodge Singers.

https://youtu.be/mqaA7bvE1MY

There kids song CD is pretty good.

Once you get into it, listening to that beat and the different variations is quite interesting.

I think they use beater height to execute the tight timing on the soft beats.
 

jdhardrummer

Senior Member
I'll answer the OPs question in a different way... I had the exact same question about 2 years back, asking about being ahead/behind etc.. I dug for materials, watched videos, but it didn't seem to help.

I realized I needed to just focus on the plain old click-burying intensely for a few months. I needed to develop an intimate relationship with the click, where I could instantly bury it consistently on-command. That then led to my ears being trained to hearing the click ahead (hearing the attack) vs. behind (hearing the tail). Put differently, by really focusing how to play on-top of the beat, i experienced the side effect of hearing what it was like to be behind and ahead.

After that, I took the next step of translating what I would hear with a click, to what I would hear with a real bass-line. I took a simple bass line, stuck it in my DAW, and practiced playing on-top, ahead, and behind (just like the click) and would then listen back to all 3. I would blindly A/B/C the tracks to make sure I could develop a feel for which track was ahead/top/behind.

Long answer, but FWIW this worked far better for me than reading any material on the subject...
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I'll answer the OPs question in a different way... I had the exact same question about 2 years back, asking about being ahead/behind etc.. I dug for materials, watched videos, but it didn't seem to help.

I realized I needed to just focus on the plain old click-burying intensely for a few months. I needed to develop an intimate relationship with the click, where I could instantly bury it consistently on-command. That then led to my ears being trained to hearing the click ahead (hearing the attack) vs. behind (hearing the tail). Put differently, by really focusing how to play on-top of the beat, i experienced the side effect of hearing what it was like to be behind and ahead.

After that, I took the next step of translating what I would hear with a click, to what I would hear with a real bass-line. I took a simple bass line, stuck it in my DAW, and practiced playing on-top, ahead, and behind (just like the click) and would then listen back to all 3. I would blindly A/B/C the tracks to make sure I could develop a feel for which track was ahead/top/behind.

Long answer, but FWIW this worked far better for me than reading any material on the subject...
Thanks for the suggestion. I think that is the beginning. Now, throwing a couple more notes or players(like eight), how do you arrange the rhythmic intervals... To what effect.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Thanks for the suggestion. I think that is the beginning. Now, throwing a couple more notes or players(like eight), how do you arrange the rhythmic intervals... To what effect.
This is pretty easily done. Get your hands on some multi-track sessions, or record some yourself, and start sliding the instruments around (i.e. bass shifted back, guitar shifted ahead, and so on).

Scooting the bass a little behind the other instruments is an ear-opener.
 

TMe

Senior Member
I've encountered the term hard beats and soft beats. The hard beats are used to signal song structure. It's intuitive enough, a hard beat is when one of the drummers leans in and pounds the center of the drum.

However when I listen to the music I can hear more variations to the beat provably as an arrangement for the song.
I think what you're describing is more commonly referred to as "dynamics", meaning volume, rushing or hesitation when playing a note, phrasing, etc.

Dynamics are like their own separate school of chops. Some drummers play very simple stuff, but have tremendous dynamics. Others have monster chops, but sound mechanical because they lack dynamics.

If you can keep a simple, steady beat, but play with great dynamics and play attention to the flow of the music, a lot of other musicians will love playing with you.

Talking about dynamics can be frustrating because a lot of people can't even hear what you're listening to.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I think what you're describing is more commonly referred to as "dynamics", meaning volume, rushing or hesitation when playing a note, phrasing, etc.
Not disagreeing with the sentiment, but I've only ever heard or used "dynamics" to indicate a playing level... Not placement of notes. It's just bringing things up or down.

Again, though, what you're saying is valid... All those things and more contribute to getting good texture and feel as a drummer.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Talking about dynamics can be frustrating because a lot of people can't even hear what you're listening to.
Yeah, when I listen to a bunch of drums in sync it is hard to hear where the beat is. My ear tends to key in are the first stroke as the loudest even if it isn't the loudest or the most consistent, because it has the largest dynamic jump. I think that is why the pow wow drums use "hard beats" for signaling.

I'm guessing the last drummer also has an important job making the tone ring right.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..I've inspired much by this powwow music where beat timing are one of the primary expressions in the drumming..

Just wondering, but when this thread was started, then the question was specifically about timing, no..?

I ask, because i listened some more Native American music and i am not hearing a lot of things that those drummers play that are really very timing-related..At least not in the way like for example some Indian or Turkish music is..

To me those Native American drumparts sound more like an intuitive accompaniment to the vocals and not immediately as a very well-thought timing concept..
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Just wondering, but when this thread was started, then the question was specifically about timing, no..?

I ask, because i listened some more Native American music and i am not hearing a lot of things that those drummers play that are really very timing-related..At least not in the way like for example some Indian or Turkish music is..

To me those Native American drumparts sound more like an intuitive accompaniment to the vocals and not immediately as a very well-thought timing concept..
I have the book "Rhythm of the Red Man", and many of the pieces have metric divisions that switch between 3/8,7/8,5/8, 9/8,4/4 etc. These pieces are well choreographed and are meant to accompany specific dances.

IMO there is something more to the role of the drum in Native American music, than what Old World based musicians can really articulate in their vernacular of sheet music. These include very precise dynamics and micro timings, for which there is no corresponding sheet notation in Old World music.
 

TMe

Senior Member
Not disagreeing with the sentiment, but I've only ever heard or used "dynamics" to indicate a playing level... Not placement of notes. It's just bringing things up or down.
Whenever I've heard the term "dynamics" used regarding other instruments, it has almost always referred to variations in volume and nothing else. Some stuff I've read, particularly with regard to drums, uses a wider definition that includes timbre, volume, timing, phrasing... You know, "feel".

But I hate saying "feel" because that suggests it can't be articulated, in which case there's no point talking about it.
 
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