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#3156475 09/14/21 09:52 PM
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Can someone please help me understand what a backbeat is? I did some reading on it and basically what I read was it means emphasizing beats 2 and 4 instead of 1 and 3. If this is correct what’s the difference? Such as, what makes it backbeat if we still emphasize in the same pattern?

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Originally Posted by Sebs
Can someone please help me understand what a backbeat is? I did some reading on it and basically what I read was it means emphasizing beats 2 and 4 instead of 1 and 3. If this is correct what’s the difference? Such as, what makes it backbeat if we still emphasize in the same pattern?

To a drummer,

. . . one TWO three FOUR (backbeat)

is a very different pattern from

. . . ONE two THREE four (straight)

And if it's different to a drummer, it should be different for a pianist as well.

Listen to some rock'n'roll -- some of it is "straight", some of it is "back-beat". You'll probably be able to tell the difference, after some experience.


. Charles
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I would love to hear an example if anyone feels like posting a couple of songs for comparison

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This is one of my favorite Stax songs. Great backbeat and great to dance to.


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Hi Sebs

The backbeat is the basis for the majority of pop/rock music, as well as Jazz (although in Jazz normally in a much more subtle way).

I took up the drums this year and it's the first thing you learn.
1 & 3 on bass drum. 2 & 4 on the snare. If you can do that and add either a 4 or 8 to the bar on the hihat, you can, as a beginner, play along to the majority of pop/rock songs and sound okay.

I was watching one of the classic albums series the other night, and they were talking about the Elton John track "Bennie and the Jets". If you don't know the track it was a studio cut on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album.

However to spice it up the producer added some 'live' crowd effect sounds and hand claps. And because the old joke is that the British clap ON the beat the hand claps are on 1 & 3, which probably explains why that track has such a unique feel to it.

Cheers


Simon

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"Rattlesnake Shake" - by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac has Mick (drummer) banging out an obvious and wonderfully feeling backbeat.

The drums are playing 2 eighth notes on the second beat , with an extra strong fourth beat.


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I checked out some Beatles songs on my phone. "Taxman" is a great example of a straight forward backbeat. Listen to the distorted rhythm guitar playing chords on the backbeat...and you can hear the snare (I think it's the snare) on 2 and 4....and listen when the tambourine comes in around 35 seconds in playing 2 ...the & of 3...and 4.

Anyway, a good example of backbeat.


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Listen to the late great Al Jackson on drum from the classic tune Green Onions by Booker T. and the MG's. Al Jackson was the master of simple drums beats that groove and make the music flow. The is the key to the Backbeat is to make the music flow. Listen to Rock, R&B, Soul, HipHop, Jazz, Fusion, Country and others they all have that 2 & 4 backbeat to make things move forward. Most of them the backbeat is on the snare drum, but Jazz moves it over to the hihat. Music based on 1 and 3 is more stiff like classical, marches who based their meter on the heartbeat. So for me it boils down to Flowing vs stiff.

It's easy to feel the difference is practice with you metronome clicking on every beat or 1 & 3. Now practice with the metronome clicking on 2 & 4. You should instantly feel the difference and that is why many Jazz, Rock, and other practice with metronome clicking on 2 & 4.



For fun here's Victor Wooten's great video on practicing with a metronome.


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Ah, so that's what that's called! Thank you.

I'm also interested in the changing of ups & downs too (termed upbeats and downbeats ?) with the foot as metronome, but purely for slow practice exercises to help me acquaint with a piece in different ways and while hopefully honing the timing or gauging of accents I suppose. I also like the way entire bars (more often singular notes or more sporadic notes) can be shunted along with prescribed accent arrows in the published song standards notation (rarely followed in performances though), e.g. to start/finish the bridge on 'Stormy Weather', which I think might be termed syncopation (?).

Back to back-beat (or off-beat?)! On my immediate repertoire at the moment: 'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea'; 'Blue Moon'; & 'I Surrender Dear', despite very different pieces,their published notation (note-for-note) is among other other things fantastically suited to either backbeat or otherwise. I keep prepared on each and again on my ups-and-downs, and I won't go on further to say the minutiae beyond that (such as sound:silence/weighting/sequence/synchronicity/etc... for me at my stage depending on tempo*) I suppose at the band's/player's discretion as to how far to take the gauging of notes and spacing.

[* However, do ignore this: coming eventually from self-training on concertina (learning notation rather than music in a way, but a notation of great quality that's been etched by many hall of fame writers on behalf of each other for publishers in great respect for what are really masterpieces, IMO, ready for another century of interrogation/study/enjoyment). More modern music notation is probably less intriguing since I suppose it's likely to be secondary to performance as opposed to being composition-led first for performance later; and therefore I don't think it has the same backbone as it once had in its heyday (i.e. published notation). Not to worry with all that, which peaked in the interwar, as time moves on!]

When I first experimented offbeat (moons ago now) on the aforesaid notation of the song standards I thought I'd be doing this as a mere trial/practice exercise not in disrespect to the piece as such, and then found that the pieces were actually suited for experiencing the composition intrinsically in both modes. I've still to go through more numbers yet, but with these 3 so far, I'd say wow I hope that's the standard on the rest of my study list too. In all the genres mentioned above (pop/rock/dance/jazz/etc.) I imagine backbeat is more about performance and effect rather than it is (or once was) more a discretionary facet or quality of composition to embrace or ignore. I guess with jazz there's more scope for discretion, but with the other genres it seems a very prescriptive thing...! Interesting topic, thanks.

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That was a great ( and educational ) way to start my Monday...thanks all smile

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Thanks everyone for all the responses, it was very helpful.


Originally Posted by SuzyUpright
That was a great ( and educational ) way to start my Monday...thanks all smile

Awesome! I'm happy I wasn't the only one interested in that.

Last edited by Sebs; 09/20/21 01:29 PM.
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If you go to Blues shows, also many Rock shows, sometimes the audience will clap to the beat.

If they clap on the Backbeat, i.e. beats #2 and #4, it is fairly easy to clap, and can flow with the music.

However, if the audience claps on Beats #1 and #3, it is unnatural to the beat, messes it up, and is one reason why the clapping does not keep up and ultimately fades away.

The only thing worse that clapping on #1 and #3 is when people try to clap on all of the beats, #1 and #2 and #3 and #4. That never works.

Both of those always fail, and make it harder for the musicians to keep the groove. For them it is like trying to add up a sum of numbers in your head as someone nearby shouts out a different set of numbers.

However, if you must clap, the importance of clapping on the proper beat, (i.e. the Backbeat) is why this t-shirt is sometimes seen at shows:

https://www.likesheroes.com/product...BhJiO8wIVBmpvBB0kAAgaEAQYBCABEgKqFfD_BwE


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Originally Posted by rocket88
If you go to Blues shows, also many Rock shows, sometimes the audience will clap to the beat.

If they clap on the Backbeat, i.e. beats #2 and #4, it is fairly easy to clap, and can flow with the music.

However, if the audience claps on Beats #1 and #3, it is unnatural to the beat, messes it up, and is one reason why the clapping does not keep up and ultimately fades away.

The only thing worse that clapping on #1 and #3 is when people try to clap on all of the beats, #1 and #2 and #3 and #4. That never works.

Both of those always fail, and make it harder for the musicians to keep the groove. For them it is like trying to add up a sum of numbers in your head as someone nearby shouts out a different set of numbers.

However, if you must clap, the importance of clapping on the proper beat, (i.e. the Backbeat) is why this t-shirt is sometimes seen at shows:

https://www.likesheroes.com/product...BhJiO8wIVBmpvBB0kAAgaEAQYBCABEgKqFfD_BwE

Does it throw them off this much? Where they have to stop and yell at the crowd? I feel like someone in the crowd should have yelled back "you mean the right beats not the notes" laugh It's at 1:15 in the video.


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The audience clapping is always a distraction. Even if they are all professional musicians, audience clapping never works out. Plus folks being a bit inebriated does not help with the precision.

Another problem with the audience clapping has to do with the speed of sound.

Even if they clap exactly right on the correct beat, there is a time delay between when the band plays a beat, and the audience hears it.

This is because the speed of sound is very slow. If you have ever been to a baseball game and you see the batter hit the ball and a moment later you hear the sound of the bat hitting the ball, that is the issue.

So the audience always will hear the beat a moment after it was played. Then, the same problem repeats because the sound of their clap will also arrive late to the bandstand.

Thus, what the band hears from the audience' clap is late twice. So even if the audience claps precisely on what they hear, what the band hears back is not on the beat. If the venue is big, such as a large ballroom room, it gets worse. If it is a large arena, audience clapping is a train wreck for the band. Which is why it eventually dies out.

Actually, instead of a T-shirt that says what beats to clap on, as I mentioned, there should be a T-shirt that says "Friends don't let friends clap at concerts" laugh


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Last edited by Nahum; 09/21/21 04:45 AM.
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