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Musical expression vs tempo?


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I can only speak for myself.


On all my recorded projects I'm on or a fraction behind...especially in larger fills.


I mostly try to stay on or behind. I like to keep as much of a big open feel as possible and stay consistent at it.


Experimented with drastic tempo changes a few months ago and I and my band was not impressed (cracked up) but it was not something to put in the repetoir.


I see myself going back to the basics these days after breaking so many rules.


I'm going to keep practicing with a click...live, it's going to move on me anyways.

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Well, if you mean time signature changes, etc. during a song, I think they CAN be done as long as it doesn't inhibit the fluidity of the song in general. I've heard some very successful songs that change time maybe a dozen times or so throughout the song, but because there's maybe only 3 time signature changes, the song maintains it's fluidity and interest to the listener.


If by "tempo variation" you mean dragging or pushing time, I personally think it not only CAN be done well and successfully within a song, but possibly SHOULD be done in more songs, more often.


IMHO, music is conversational in nature. Certainly the lyrics are, at the least. And typically when we're speaking to someone, we change the meter, tempo and pitch of our voice to give emphasis and meaning to our words. Normally, we do not speak in exactly the same pitch at exactly the same meter throughout the conversation. Too monotonous and boring to listen to. So, we speed up, slow down, raise and lower the volume of our voices, etc. Even momentarily stop the conversation completely, either to emphasize or to wait for reaction. For the most part, this is normal everyday speech for most humans.


I feel that often songs should convey their message in the same manner. Keep a general feeling and fluidity of time, but push or drag that time in order to help create communication and emotion. This, as well as raising and lowering the volume of the music, is to my thinking, all part of the 'Dynamics' of a song. It's what makes the song interesting and makes the listener WANT to listen, IMHO. To "see what ya have to say", throughout the song. Of course, it also helps to have decent lyrics and a catchy tune! http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/biggrin.gif Conversely, playing the entire song with exactly the same metronomic beat, the same volume, etc. may make for a "musically proper" song, but it's just not very interesting.


A good example of this, I think, is an old song I was listening to the other day, as a possible cover tune for our band. From ELP, "Karn Evil 9", possibly their best known song. Listening carefully, I was suprised at how much ELP pushed the time to create a sense of urgency, or dragged the time to create a sense of leisurely listening. Yet, throughout each part (as there are time signature changes as well. Hey, it's a 29 1/2 minute song! http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/biggrin.gif ), there's a sense of general overall time. You can tap your toe, snap your fingers and stay right with the song. I've come to call this "Rhythmic Time". As opposed to Metered or Metronomic time, so many beats per minute for so many minutes.


For myself, I find "Rhythmic Time" a lot more interesting and fun to listen to. And for me, to play as well.


Just my thoughts.




This message has been edited by ModernDrummer on 07-20-2001 at 01:14 PM

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always have what you've always had.
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Well ... my opinion is that it totally depends on the style, song, medium, etc. I can think of times that if I allowed the tempo to move at, I'd be fired. Equally, I can think of times that I would be fired if I tried to keep the time very strict.


Man, talk about flavors of ice cream. I just don't think there are any hard fast rules to this. It's up to the artist/group and what they want to convey. It also depends if the tune is going to be a commercial sounding song which would be used in radio or film. In those two arenas, songs are many times not used if they are not perfect ... tempo wise. There are exceptions of course, but this could be considered a rule of thumb to at least consider if you are wanting to pitch your song to be used in radio/film.


Pushing from from 100bpm to 120bpm all due to "energy" and "excitement" is probably too much and wouldn't feel comfortable. If a song moves forward a bit going into a chorus, I don't personally see the harm. Like I mentioned in an early thread regarding this topic, there are plenty of times in the studio where this is done to a click. Either the click moves forward at given times or the band plays on the backside of the beat so that they have room to move forward on the choruses ... and still play with the same click which never moved.





Bart Elliott


Drummer Cafe - community drum & percussion forum
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Main thing for me is everyone in the band has to be on the same page.


If time variance happens the same everytime for a drummer because of bad habits learned or whatever then it's obviously something he/she should work on.


In most cases I hate spot on timing, you might as well use a good sounding drum machine...I can program the shit out of a drum machine to play everything exactly as I hear it in my head...most of the time it's not what I'm into though.


As long as the song grooves and feels good, time variance is a plus not a minus.

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I'd say I have to agree with Bart about the AMOUNT of movement in time. Something like moving from 100 to 120 bpm would most likely be too drastic. As Bart mentioned though, it probably wouldn't feel comfortable.


I guess what I referred to as 'pushing or pulling' the time is what Bart makes references to with the click moving forward or the band playing on the backside of the beat. Minor movements in time. You can hear that push and pull in a lot of songs, IMO. If it's done for effect, to give the song emotion and personality, I believe it's fine. Not used enough in music, to me. Nowadays, people are too worried about click tracks. However as Steve mentioned, if it's because of challenges with musicianship, it's a different story. I'm just pretty sure that ELP did it for effect. I've never heard many complain about their poor musicianship, LOL.


And I'd also agree with Steve that if someone's just looking for a straight metronomic beat, why not just use a drum machine? It'll be right on the nickel. But it won't have much character. Just tick, tock. If they want the song to breathe, to have it's own character and personality, then use a drummer and let Rhythmic time do it's thing.

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always have what you've always had.
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Originally posted by ModernDrummer:

From ELP, "Karn Evil 9", possibly their best known song. Listening carefully, I was suprised at how much ELP pushed the time to create a sense oJ.B.This message has been edited by ModernDrummer on 07-20-2001 at 01:14 PM


Carl Palmer was one of the guys i grew up learning to play to...and the influence i most frequently site when blaming someone for my god awful time http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/biggrin.gif seriously, i've seen him live (as have many friends) and his time is really bad, especially on material such as Asia and the like. and yet i've always loved much of his playing/their music...go figure.


one way to help my bad time and yet avoid a static tempo feel is for my buds and i to record a song to a few tracks as a scratch, listen and agree that it's basically the right feel/tempo, then i'll find the bpm that matches each section and edit the parts accordingly. that way i' can track the final to a click while hearing scratch gtrs/bass that has some bearing to what i played before (including accel/decel, not just brick wall tempo changes) but not tempo crap due to bad fills etc. stupid but not too painful, and hey, i don;'t play for a living anyways http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/frown.gif . i wouldnt expect to hire a DJ (Mr. Jarrett) etc. and have to worry about that shit. http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/wink.gif

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Hey, ian*


Bart is right. There are folks that I play with where the bass player is a human machine! Any variation and he'll cut his eyes and I know he has sensed a slight tempo shift.


For the most part, however ... one must seek and set the "pocket". There was a great thread a while back on playing in the pocket!


This "pocket" is the groove that the band locks into. This "pocket" is usually defined by the drums and bass player. They must lock and feel the flow of the music like Siamese twins.


Usually in a ballad, I am much like Nigel Olson in that I play the snare slightly behind the beat, but still in the pocket. If the song is up-tempo, and I know the players will have a tendency to drag, I will play slightly on top of the beat, but still in the pocket.


I keep a click going sometimes to help define the tempo, Typically I do not keep it running in my ear, but rather, have a on/off pedal that allow me to check my time against the start tempo.


Your question has no real definitive answer. It is a matter of opinion and everyone has one of those!





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I dunno DJ, Bart... When I was growing up, I'd get slapped if I got caught 'playing in my pocket'...


Whoops! Sorry, wrong subject!!!


Uh, I think... http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/wink.gif

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always have what you've always had.
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