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REALLY odd timing; notation question


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OK, this one has bugged me for a very long time, and I'm interested in hearing how others might notate this timing.

 

Check out Soundgarden's

from their last album, Down on the Upside. Listen to it from the beginning, but notice at 1:06, there's a very strange rhythm ...

 

The song is in 4/4 time, and let's say you're counting the quarter note at the plodding 80-BPM-ish tempo. At the end of the first verse, the 2/4 measure going into the prechorus is a little short, but metrically not in keeping with the song's straight-eighth timing. If it was a full 2/4 measure, one would count two triplet eighth note figures (1-and-a 2-and-a), but instead of doing that, they jump the 6th eighth note, making that the downbeat of the following measure (1-and-a 2-and-|1 ...). This rhythm is repeated a few times in the song.

 

The first triplet fits inside a single beat, and the two notes following it maintain the same spacing. It's not 5 dotted-eighth notes, otherwise the 4th note of the figure wouldn't fall on the downbeat. Nor is it a 2/4 measure where 5 quintuplets are mashed in, otherwise the downbeat of the next measure would be exactly two counts after the previous measure.

 

So how do you notate a measure that is 1/6th shorter than a 2/4 measure, when your rhythmic subdivisions are straight?

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So how do you notate a measure that is 1/6th shorter than a 2/4 measure, when your rhythmic subdivisions are straight?

 

I don't. :)

 

But I really loved Soundgarden's abilities to rip your head off your neck with those timing changes. This certainly isn't the only tune where they do stuff timing wise that's way beyond what you expect from a rock band.

 

Back to the topic, I have a tune with a middle section that's basically in 13/8. When working with the drummer in the studio, I found it to be a huge detriment to our vibe when we tried to count it, but when we did it by feel, everything fit in very nicely. I consider this Soundgarden tune to be similar in that I doubt Kim Thayil and Chris Cornell wrote it out before playing it. Just feel it, baby! :)

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I just had a listen - that sounds like a tricky one to notate. If no beats were dropped, and depending how you're notating the quarter notes, it would be two triplet figures, two sets of 3 against 2. But the 6th triplet is dropped - a brain-twister.

 

 

 

 

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I'm not 100% sure, but I hear it as quintuplet of eighth notes in the second half of a 4/4 measure. It's a bit unclear because it sounds like there's a slight rallentando at the same time which is why it doesn't lock in exactly on the beat. But try counting it like that, it works.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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I just listened to it again and like I said, it's a quintuplet, or if you want 5/8 bar with the 2/4 just before it. You clearly hear that it isn't triplets because they are slightly slower. Try counting triplet a few measures before that part and you'll hear that what they're playing is slightly slower. The fourth note is not on the beat like you said but ever so slightly after.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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I'm not 100% sure, but I hear it as quintuplet of eighth notes in the second half of a 4/4 measure. It's a bit unclear because it sounds like there's a slight rallentando at the same time which is why it doesn't lock in exactly on the beat.

 

If this was classical music, when the tune goes back to normal there would be a phrase like "a tempo". Over the quintuplet you would write "rubato" or "dictated". If you were precise like Ravel or Bartok, you would put a metronome marking. If the tune was 80bpm, you could put a marking of 75 or something similiar, then write 80 or a tempo to go back to time.

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I used the wrong terminology here. It's not really rallentando but rather, just slightly rubato or accented. But in rock n' roll you don't need to be so precise with the notation. What's important is that everyone feels it the same way.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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I used the wrong terminology here.

 

No, yours was just fine. :thu: You understood what they were doing, the rest is semantics. :laugh:

 

The actual term would be "meno mosso", which means "less motion". It's not really rubato as the tempo is strict. Rubato means "to rob", this is more of an immediate switch to a slower tempo. The italian for that is "Subito".

 

Now that we've had our italian lesson for the day, I think I want spaghetti tonite. :thu:

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What's important is that everyone feels it the same way.

 

Yes. This is rock music, folks. If I need to communicate it to someone else, perchance another music, as opposed to tearing my hair out for hours trying to notate it, why not just take 10 seconds and play it?

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What's important is that everyone feels it the same way.

 

Yes. This is rock music, folks. If I need to communicate it to someone else, perchance another music, as opposed to tearing my hair out for hours trying to notate it, why not just take 10 seconds and play it?

 

I have no idea of the OP's intentions. If he's interested in notating it, there might be a reason.

 

Sometimes you don't have ten seconds. An example would be if you are playing a musical, lot's O them are rock these days. You're reading charts on the day of the show and get one readthrough. If you can figure out a way to put it in the part so that people understand what's happening, you are going to save a whole bunch of time.

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It's a 5/8 bar.

Conceivably it could be, if you notated a terraced tempo change there.

 

Given that the notes are in time with what would be eighth note triplets, how would you ensure that it's played at that exact relative rate? If it's played slower or faster, it loses at lot of the "looseness" characteristic of the rest of the song (and of Soundgarden's overall style).

 

I suppose you could insert a brief comment in a score about how to count it, but that's what I'm attempting to avoid in this query -- I want to know if there's a single means of notating or counting it that's metrically consistent, should I use that very strange device (or variation thereof) myself.

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What's important is that everyone feels it the same way.

 

Yes. This is rock music, folks. If I need to communicate it to someone else, perchance another music, as opposed to tearing my hair out for hours trying to notate it, why not just take 10 seconds and play it?

 

I have no idea of the OP's intentions. If he's interested in notating it, there might be a reason.

Yes, I'm interested in exploring similar asymmetrical timing that isn't simply a matter of adding or subtracting eight or sixteenth notes from the established rhythmic flow, but not something that is too open to interpretation.

 

For instance, say I'm sequencing several parts using this strange figure, and want to turn that sequence into a score. In terms of the data, I would insert a 2/4 bar, write the 2 triplets, delete the last eighth note, then drag all the data after it back 1/3rd of a count. Okay for playback, but when translated to sheet music, every downbeat is written 1/3rd of a count ahead of where it should be in in the score.

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What's important is that everyone feels it the same way.

 

Yes. This is rock music, folks. If I need to communicate it to someone else, perchance another music, as opposed to tearing my hair out for hours trying to notate it, why not just take 10 seconds and play it?

 

I have no idea of the OP's intentions. If he's interested in notating it, there might be a reason.

 

That's true. Like you point out with good examples, there could be very legit reasons for it. It's been my experience, though, especially among people who consider keyboards to be their main instrument, that there's an obsession with notation that in many practical circumstances doesn't necessarily solve the challenges of performing a song, and in some cases makes it much more complex than needed.

 

But there are indeed good reasons when it is needed.

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[For instance, say I'm sequencing several parts using this strange figure, and want to turn that sequence into a score. In terms of the data, I would insert a 2/4 bar, write the 2 triplets, delete the last eighth note, then drag all the data after it back 1/3rd of a count.

 

Whay wouldnt you just insert a 5/8 bar?

 

To me, you are over-analyzing it. I would write a 5/8 bar with the word "slower" over it. :laugh: There's no way of writing this without indicating somehow that the 5 part is slower.

 

Here's a clip that does basically the same thing. Listen around 1:56.

 

I have the parts to this, I played it with them a few months ago. The triplets are accented. When it gets to the 2:00 part, the sheet music says "tempo".

 

YES does this trick a lot. On Relayer, there are parts just like this that are in unison. It's just a slower tempo.

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The thing is, each genre (and period, for that matter) has its own conventions, and that's all they are -- there is no right or wrong.

 

The conventions were developed to aid in communication between players. But in orchestral scoring, you will sometimes see different time signatures at the same point in the composition, depending on which instrument or section. So it's often a choice of convenience, for what helps the most in terms of understanding intent on where the accents fall.

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For instance, say I'm sequencing several parts using this strange figure, and want to turn that sequence into a score. In terms of the data, I would insert a 2/4 bar, write the 2 triplets, delete the last eighth note, then drag all the data after it back 1/3rd of a count. Okay for playback, but when translated to sheet music, every downbeat is written 1/3rd of a count ahead of where it should be in in the score.

 

I'm still convinced that its a quintuplet of eighth notes and not 2 triplets minus 1 note. This would explain the slower tempo, because triplets would be played faster, whereas a quintuplet is in time.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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How I'm hearing that phrase is four dotted eights plus a straight eighth at the back for a 7/8 measure.

 

However...

 

If you want to transcribe it, you have to denote a tempo change to make that work, because that 7/8 fits into the same four beat measure as every other moment in the song.

 

That's why (I think) Ian's hearing that slower tempo, because of the dotted eights.

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The thing is, each genre (and period, for that matter) has its own conventions, and that's all they are -- there is no right or wrong.

 

 

There is a universal understanding of "slower". :laugh:

 

The beauty of (western) notation is that it is not only a universal language, but it is genre-less. A whole note in classical is a whole note in rock is a whole note in klezmer.

 

The only real difference is that instructions in classical notation are usually written in Italian. This was done to keep a "universal language" too, Austrian and German composers like Mozart and Beethoven used it, Russians like Tchaikovsky used it. It was the nationalists like Wagner and Mahler who refused. :laugh: After that, the Frenchies started writing in french, the russians in russian, and basically nobody knows what the instructions are when we play french and russian music. :laugh:

 

Other than that, there really are no conventions in sheet music besides specific things for instruments (timp rolls, arps, trumpet slides etc).

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It does sound like triplets, but as someone pointed out, it feels a tiny bit slower than triplets. I think musically, it's supposed to sound like triplets, or give the sugestion of triplets, something like that.

 

Anway here's one suggestion of how to notate it:

 

This depends on how you are notating the pulse, but I think you'll see my point: Insert a bar of 7/8 (or a bar of 4 followed by a bar of 3, depending how you're counting the pulse), and then put a 5-tuplet over the top of that. I think that's pretty close.

 

 

 

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Did I mention that Soundgarden was really great and it was a pity that they couldn't stay together longer? Nothing Cornell did afterwards compared musically.

 

Okay, back to the notation discussion.

 

:snax:

 

Soundgarden was really great until Down On The Upside. They sounded like a self-caricature at that point, like they'd run out of ideas.

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Soundgarden was really great until Down On The Upside. They sounded like a self-caricature at that point, like they'd run out of ideas.

 

+1 I LOVED Superunknown and still think it is probably the best album of the nineties along with OK Computer. I also loved the harder sound of Badmotorfinger. Down On The Upside has some good moments but overall sounds like they had reached a dead end, which is probably why they ended the band. They felt like musically they had exhausted the creative well.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Soundgarden was really great until Down On The Upside. They sounded like a self-caricature at that point, like they'd run out of ideas.

 

+1 I LOVED Superunknown and still think it is probably the best album of the nineties along with OK Computer. I also loved the harder sound of Badmotorfinger. Down On The Upside has some good moments but overall sounds like they had reached a dead end, which is probably why they ended the band. They felt like musically they had exhausted the creative well.

 

Yup, agree with all that. Still, even the weaker side of Soundgarden was better than the stronger stuff of lesser bands of the time. I really liked that band.

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To my ear, it sounds like exact triplets, with one less note at the end. It can be notated exactly (avoiding generic terms like "slower" - how much slower?), with the help of some additional text.

 

I would notate it like this:

 

 

 

http://www.carlomezzanotte.com/imm/rhythm.jpg

 

 

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I was about to say that marino's plan is too confusing, but I can't think of a better one. I would say that's the way to do it.

 

Polyrhythms always highlight inherent weaknesses in our notation system, imo.

 

Specifically, the weakness is that we don't have a 6th note. Because, simply, this is a measure of 5/6 time.

 

It might not be any more confusing than the "quarter note equals triplet" to notate it that way, but it is a deviation from the norm and it might cause puzzlement.

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