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The instrumental heart of Pop/Rock/Country/R&B music...?


miroslav

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OK....let's try this again.

Somehow...the first Poll I posted got deleted...??? :confused:

 

In a typical Pop/Rock/Country/R&B band...

...what do you feel is the most important instrument?

(And don't let your ego get in the way. ;) )

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Originally posted by miroslav:

...what do you feel is the most important instrument?

(And don't let your ego get in the way. ;) )

Well, I LOOKED at the poll, but really, I don't think ANY instrument (not even the vocals) is ALWAYS and INEVITABLY the most important instrument.
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While it's true that ALL are important, as it is a "band".

And yeah, the vocals are usually the center of attention.

But IMO...the drums are the backbone of Pop/Rock/Country/R&B music, and if they wank even a little...the rest will fall appart.

 

The other instruments can float and even be a little off at times, and even the vocals can be pure crap (just check out some of today's music)...

...but the drums have to be right on the money...always.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Guitarzan said:

 

i picked the vocals because i tried to imagine each instrument on thier own carrying the song. and the vocals would be able to convey those styles without help.

_________________________________________________

 

Good point. The voice is the most verstatile instrument, but it would get boring just listening to just one instrument, any "one-particular" instrument.

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None of the above. It's the band that's important.

 

That said, a solid backbeat with bass and drums are necessary. Without the bedrock, there's not much on which to build.

 

To go further, we need to know whether we're talking about making a hit or just being a good drawing local band. In the former case, vocals are critical. Don't have to be "good" so much as they have to work and not sound like everyone else.

 

For a strong live band, the vocalist has to be audience-commanding, but it doesn't necessarily take great pipes. And if the instrumentals are good enough, that can compensate for vocals that aren't so strong.

 

Country and rock tunes tend to be written guitar-centric, so guitar does tend to be important. This is less true for pop & R&B.

 

Keyboards are important if you don't want to sound like a 3-piece or 2-guitar band. I've seen some great keyboard bands without guitars, though.

 

I didn't vote. The results won't really mean anything.

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Originally posted by Kramer Ferrington III.:

Originally posted by miroslav:

...what do you feel is the most important instrument?

(And don't let your ego get in the way. ;) )

Well, I LOOKED at the poll, but really, I don't think ANY instrument (not even the vocals) is ALWAYS and INEVITABLY the most important instrument.
Ditto. The musicians dictate the most important instrument. Many times it's the vocal(s), other times it's one or more other instruments. The genre and specific musical group has a lot to do with the emphasis.

 

I can't vote for any of them with such a broad question.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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If I made the questions too focused...it would constrain the answers.

This way, Neil...you can vote, and then follow up with your reasoning.

 

I know there is really no right/wrong answer here.

It's just that as I've been editing my way through a bunch of recorded songs...I'm finding that solid drums (or lack of) are really the one main ingredient that could make or break the song.

 

Yeah...if you pull the other instruments the drums ain't nothing by themselves...but I find I have a lot more "fudge room" with the other instruments than I do with the drums.

At least that's how I hear it.

 

And the stuff I'm working on is you basic Pop/Rock/Country kind of music.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Well, certainly the drums are important, but are they always there?

 

The songs from Led Zepp III didn't all have Bonzo behind the set in concert.

 

Lots of singer/songwriters perform with just vocals and one accompanying instrument, usually piano or guitar. I don't think I've ever seen a singing drummer try to "go it alone".

 

From a sound engineer perspective with your typical 4-person band, yeah, the drums have to be solid before you can lay anything on top.

 

From the lead soloist/vocalist P.O.V., his/her best performance will sound even better when backed by a hot rhythm section.

 

From the rhythm section P.O.V., it doesn't matter how hot they are if the lead is horrible. (You can cover bad vocals to some extent by burying them in the mix, but sooner or later the listener is going to long for a melody, and if the lead instrument also can't deliver it ain't going to be a good thing.)

 

So, assuming every member of the band is of sufficient talent not to suck out loud, the most important instrument in a band is ... the band!

 

It's the little fill the drummer does to prepare for the chorus, the harmonic/rhythmic lift given to the chorus by the bass and rhythm guitar, and the soaring vocals that ride on top, all with a swell in dynamics, that pull on the heart-strings of the listener and demand an emotional response. There's a synergy of everything coming together.

 

Sure, you could re-arrange for solo piano a la a lounge act; it would get the essence of the song across, but it would be missing a lot of the little things that can only be done by your usual guitar-based rock quartet.

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If it's music that we're talking about, it varies from song to song!

 

If we're talking about pop success, it's the vocals, because singers have the unfair advantage of being able to communicate WORDS... and people take lyrics seriously.

 

Some musicians take lyrics seriously, and some don't, as in "who gives a flying flip, I only care about the chord progression and the ingenious things I will put on top of it," but in most cases the audience understands the lyrics much more than the cool licks you have come up with.

 

Unless we're talking about a jazz quartet or something.

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Originally posted by Trucks.Of.Love:

I keep my most important instrument in my pants. Nyuk Nyuk

 

:rolleyes:;):D

And we all hope you CONTINUE to do so! At least while on stage!

 

Reminding of the time that Jim Morrison forget about this concept and was arrested for his pains... if I got the story right!

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Originally posted by miroslav:

If I made the questions too focused...it would constrain the answers.

This way, Neil...you can vote, and then follow up with your reasoning.

 

I know there is really no right/wrong answer here.

It's just that as I've been editing my way through a bunch of recorded songs...I'm finding that solid drums (or lack of) are really the one main ingredient that could make or break the song.

 

Yeah...if you pull the other instruments the drums ain't nothing by themselves...but I find I have a lot more "fudge room" with the other instruments than I do with the drums.

At least that's how I hear it.

 

And the stuff I'm working on is you basic Pop/Rock/Country kind of music.

I still answer "none of the above". It's entirely song dependent, though I find every instrument important if the arrangement and playing are done well. ;)

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Well...I kinda figured people would get hung up on the word "important"...and that some would try and stay neutral by saying ALL were equally importantor none. :)

 

 

But if I asked the question:

Which instrument is the most important in holding the song/band together...in keeping everyone focused and on track?

Then I think many more would agree that it is the drums.

 

And so with that in mind...drums are the most important element for the majority of Pop/Rock/Country/R&B band music.though quite often, the importance is sublime, as the drums are rarely the lead instrument.

I believe that some folks will always see the lead instrument as the most importantbut I dont.

 

And yeah.,...there are always those songs that have no drums... ;)

but Im talking about the majority.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Originally posted by miroslav:

But if I asked the question:

Which instrument is the most important in holding the song/band together...in keeping everyone focused and on track?

Then I think many more would agree that it is the drums.

Ok, let's go back to a "standard" 4-piece rock outfit: drums, bass, guitar(s), vocals.

 

If you had to have a practice without one of these, which would be acceptable?

 

Practice without drummer? Sure.

Without bassist? Sure.

Without rhythm guitar? Sure.

Without lead guitar? Mmm ... maybe dicey, especially if every song features a guitar solo.

Without vocals? Mmm ... yeah, but it sucks to chug through all the verses without anything happening.

 

If you lose more than one rhythm player it'd be a no-go as well.

 

At least that's my take.

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Practicing is a different issue... :)

 

Go listen to a bunch of Pop/Rock/Country/R&B hits...

...and if you listen past the vocal perfomance...or the guitar riff....etc

...what's the subliminal hook in all of them (not the obvious one)?

 

Usually it's the beat...and that's the drums.

 

I was not trying to make this a competition between the instruments kind of poll...I was just thinking about what is the cornerstone of most any Pop/Rock/Country/R&B song...

...and the common thread across most happens to be the beat.

Which is why I said earlier that you can fudge around all the other instruments to a degree....and as long as the drums are locked into the groove...it's OK.

But...if the drums go off...no amount of effort on the part of the other instruments will be able to hold things together.

 

And hey...I'm a guitar player primarily...then keys....

...so I'm not favoring the drums for personal reasons.

 

Alsothe drums are not a single instrumentbut rather several instruments in one.

Each drum and cymbal inn the kit is a single instrument.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Well, I think you've made the categories too broad. Lots of good gospel choirs out there with no instruments, lots of country with just an acoustic guitar. There's African music that consists of just drums and vocals. There's instrumental jazz. Surf.

 

Narrow the styles down and it might be easier to make a coherent statement.

 

If we really have to go for most VERSATILE instrument, I'd definitely go for the guitar because it has charmed it's way into most imaginable styles of music, something which keyboards, for example, have never managed. But then, you could say the same thing about vocals.

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It really doesn't matter how you define the genres, the answer will always be, "It's song and arrangement dependent."

 

I understand your point, Miro, but I still say it doesn't matter. Every song is different. Sometimes you'll need a big, solid drum sound.. other times you don't... or the drums are barely there or absent from the arrangement. If you say, "X" instrument is most important then, to paraphrase a recent comment by Anderton, then you've already drunk the funky Kool-Aid. You've pigeon-holed your entire approach by the pre-conception of that instrument being most important.

 

If, however, you listen to a demo or the band playing the song live, discuss the sound goals and perceived direction the recording (or revised live arrangement) is expected to go by the band/artist/producer then you can properly prioritize the instruments' importance before and during your recording and mixing sessions.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Originally posted by fantasticsound:

Every song is different.

Yeah Neil, ...I know that...you are stating the obvious.

 

But from a recording perspective...nothing else goes down until the drums/rhythm is there...and then everything else will follow that (in most cases).

 

Also...while each song may have it's highlights...it's featured instruments...

...I'm looking beyond all that, and I am taking into account that there are songs without any drums.

Review all the big Pop/Rock/Country/R&B hits of the last 40+ years....and the one single thread that binds themthat is common to the majority of them....

...is "the beat".

 

Like I said...I think my use of the world "important" is where you get hung up, because it can be easily misinterpreted that by making one instrument more important, then the others are less important...

...but that is not what I am saying.

Yeah...pull the vocals/guitars/keys...and the drums ain't nothing by themselves. And yup, you CAN do a song with just guitar and vocals.

But that's not the case with the huge body of Pop/Rock/Country/R&B music of the last 40+ years.

 

If you don't like the word "important"...then how about if I asked:

 

What is the instrumental heart of the majority of Pop/Rock/Country/R&B music of the last 40 years?

 

Or how about:

 

What is the essence of Pop/Rock/Country/R&B music...?

 

Which instruments define each genre...and which instrument is most responsible for the instrumental foundation of any/all of those genres?

 

I was hoping to get more discussion/thoughts about these things...rather then have mostly "agree/disagree" type of responses. :thu:

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Well, if you want to talk about the heart of genres that's different.

 

The heart of disco is the drum/bass rhythm section

 

The heart of country is acoustic and electric guitars, fiddle or steel guitar.

 

The heart of rock is all over the place. Say what you want about the beat but rock is not defined by any one instrument. If it's Billy Joel or Elton John it's usually defined by the piano. If it's EVH-like hard rock or heavy metal it's defined by the guitar and to a lesser extent, the drums. If it's the Beatles it can be defined by all kinds of instruments, though in the early years I'd have said by guitar.

 

I'd say punk is defined by guitar and drums.

 

Bluegrass is defined by every instrument in the lineup, whether it's acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, bass. The bass is the only instrument that rarely steps out, but it acts like a foundation and every other instrument plays rhythm and lead in most every song.

 

New Wave, etc. are fueled by keyboard sounds and, to a lesser extent, drum beats.

 

To suggest that any instrument, drums included, is the heart of every one of these genres is a fallacy. When you state, "But from a recording perspective...nothing else goes down until the drums/rhythm is there...and then everything else will follow that (in most cases)." you miss the point. Just because drums go down first has little to do with whether it is the anchor instrument. Consider the hardwood floors we had installed in our office last week. The plastic they put down on the concrete was first in place. That doesn't make it the focus of the job. Not the cork underlayment, either. It's the hardwood itself that is the focus. But the plastic shield and cork underlayment had to go in first. Drums may be recorded first for the ability to play in time across the entire song, but that doesn't make them the focus of the recording. It just means it's more important for the drums to set "clock time" for the other instruments because they can be slightly out of time without sounding out of time where drums cannot.

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Well, Miro, I admit, I've been half pulling your chain and half being devil's advocate. Hopefully I haven't pissed you off too much. ;)

 

In the last 40+ years? Let's see, that's 2006 - 40 = 1966. So we're talking post-Beatles?

 

I dunno. Electric bass guitar came out in the '50s and gave upright bass players more volume and allowed for slightly different technique.

 

Electric guitar got its start in the late '30s. The added volume gave it more equal terms in a big band setting.

 

Voice obviously goes back to the beginning of time. Microphones got started in 1876; not sure when public address (PA) got going.

 

Evidently the trap kit (drum kit/set) got started "in the late 1800s sometime after the invention of the bass drum pedal." [ref]

 

So, if the drum kit has been around for over 100 years, why didn't it have this major influence prior to The Beatles? Did it need more sonic space that only became available after smaller ensembles became practical due to the advent of electric-powered sound reinforcement (SR)?

 

Or are we talking more about the role of the instrument in these kind of groups, the drums being the heart and soul of the rhythm. Does this make rhythm more important than melody, harmony and dynamics (for the genres listed)? I might almost buy that argument.

 

What was different about Elvis in the '50s that turned rock and roll into the dominant music genre?

 

Well, compared to the popular music being sung by whites in the earlier part of the century (I'm thinking Tin Pan Alley stuff), there's a couple of differences. From Wikipedia ,

 

Tin Pan Alley was oriented towards producing songs that any amateur singer or small town band could perform from printed music. Since improvisation, blue notes, and other characteristics of jazz and blues could not be captured in conventional printed notation, Tin Pan Alley manufactured jazzy and bluesy pop-songs and dance numbers. Much of the general public in the late 1910s and the 1920s did not know the difference between these contrived commercial products and authentic jazz and blues.

 

If you've ever heard a symphony orchestra try to swing, you have some idea of how contrived it can sound. :rolleyes:

 

The second biggest difference being the style of singing (such as Sam Phillips was looking for in someone like Elvis).

 

Another clue from the Tin Pan Alley article is in its demise:

 

The end of Tin Pan Alley is less clear cut; some date it to the start of the Great Depression in the 1930s when the phonograph and radio finally supplanted sheet music as the driving force of American popular music, while others consider Tin Pan Alley to have continued on into the 1950s when earlier styles of American popular music were upstaged by the rise of rock & roll.

 

That is, the rise of the recording industry and its eclipse of the publishing industry. I don't know how many homes had a drum kit in the parlor (along with the piano), but I imagine even if they did that the contrived drum parts (if any) were no match for what would be found on recordings of pro drummers.

 

On the Low Down we often talk about how the bass is what makes the butts shake on the dance floor. This is from the rhythmic role of the instrument. And wasn't it all that "pelvic gyrating" that got Elvis the bad press at the time? In this kind of music the rhythm is most definitely what drives the listeners to dance!

 

Certainly rhythm was also important in jazz music prior to Elvis, as well.

 

 

I think some form of drums/percussion has always been important in its relationship with dance. If you've ever been to a Native American pow wow, you'll have seen the central role of the drum circles in Native dance.

 

Even just prior to and in conjunction with Tin Pan Alley was John Philip Sousa. Can you imagine a military-style march without drums?

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Originally posted by fantasticsound:

When you state, "But from a recording perspective...nothing else goes down until the drums/rhythm is there...and then everything else will follow that (in most cases)." you miss the point. Just because drums go down first has little to do with whether it is the anchor instrument.

I disagree.

The drums go down first for a reason. They set the foundationotherwise, why not record lead guitar firstor the piano? :)

Im not saying you cantits just rarely done that way.

Get the rhythmthe beatset first is the usual approach. In recording, and also in performing.

Then you worry about the leads and the vocalsetc.

 

In ALL recording sessions that I have ever worked on (especially when I am also involved in the playing) all the instruments always keyed off the drums. And the same goes for the bands I played in.

 

Now I'm not saying that the other instruments didnt also get cues from each other...but there is a constant subliminal connection between the drums and all the other instruments that is stronger than what is coming from any of the others.

IMO...it is the drums that set the groove foundation from which all the instruments get their cues.

And this is why I say that if the keys/guitars/voice go off a bit, where they are playing "away" from that fundamental groove here and there...it's not something that would catch your ear so dramatically...BECUASE...the drums are still holding it together. :thu:

 

When the guitars goes off on some finger tripping odyssey for a few minutes...no one else flinches, and they keep on trucking.

But...if the drums were to also go off...the guitar player would instantly lose his place while on that odyssey...and he would have a hard time pulling it back if the drums were not in the pocket anymore.

This is why you always hear the other band members squawk loudly when the drums are not in the pocketits instantly obvious!

And it is that "pocket" which I refer to as..."the beat"...and that is very fundamental to all Pop/Rock/Country/R&B music, regardless of the differences you hear from song to song.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Originally posted by RicBassGuy:

Well, Miro, I admit, I've been half pulling your chain and half being devil's advocate. Hopefully I haven't pissed you off too much. ;)

Mmmmmm...haven't really noticed...so nothing there to get pissed off about! :)

 

 

Or are we talking more about the role of the instrument in these kind of groups, the drums being the heart and soul of the rhythm. Does this make rhythm more important than melody, harmony and dynamics (for the genres listed)? I might almost buy that argument.
When I said 40+...I was not trying to use the Beatles as the starting point.

I guess I'm actually thinking a bit further back...so maybe it's more like 50+ years ago. ;)

 

And my view is that the rhythm IS the backbone of all Pop/Rock/country/R&B music...and of course, that means the drums are key in getting that rhythm.

 

Sure...all music has some sort of rhythm.

But with Pop/Rock/Country/R&B of the last 50 or so years..."the beat" was given much greater attention and a stronger role.

 

Drums prior to that were often "seen but rarely heard" (well, you know what I mean). :D

They were kinda just therevery subdued.

But with the early days of R&R...that pounding beat really came forward...and it quickly spilled over into Country music...and then the R&B/Soul music...and of course, all the different permutations of "Rock" music.

 

I think if you could pull back the drums, and minimize them in a lot of the big Pop/Rock hits we all know so well...the songs would go limp. :(

Isnt that why when we hear unplugged versions of some favoritesthey often tend to really suck?

Yeahyou can play almost every song known to man on the acoustic guitar while you sing along

but it just aint the same.

 

IMOPop/Rock/Country/R&Bis strongly identifiable because of the beat...though there are other unique characteristics too.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Rhythm guitar.

 

I look at it like this. Pick a song.

 

Drummer plays - you get a beat and fills

Bass plays - you get a beat

Lead guitar plays - you get 40 seconds of notes

Vocals - you get the words and maybe the melody

 

Rhythm guitar plays - you get THE SONG :)

 

When was the last time you were around a campfire and said 'Hey, let's go get a drum set and sing some songs!' Or a bass. Or a keyboard (unpractical, but can still convey the melody of a song).

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Try this experiment next time you're at practice with your band.

 

Start playing any typical Pop/Rock tune...

...and then tell the drummer to just stop playing at some unexpected point in the song.

 

I guarantee it will also stop everyone else dead in their tracks! :thu:

 

Now do the same with any of the other instruments...and I bet the rest of the band will still keep on playing...they will not fall apart as quickly as they would without the drums

...especially if you are in front of an audience.

 

The drums really hold everything together in Pop/Rock/Country/R&B music (for most songs).

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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