- Beat (music)
The beat is the basic unit of time in music, the pulse of the mensural level (or beat level). In popular use, the beat can refer to a variety of related concepts including: tempo, meter, rhythm and groove. In hip hop and R&B music, the term 'beat' commonly refers to the non-vocal layer of the song not including instrumentals, which is frequently based on a looped recording of a drum-rhythm. Much music is characterized by a repeating sequence of stressed and unstressed beats (often called "strong" and "weak") and divided into measures organized by time signature and tempo indications.
The downbeat is the impulse that occurs at the beginning of a bar in measured music. Its name is derived from the downward stroke of the director or conductor's baton on the first beat of each measure. It frequently carries the strongest accent of the rhythmic cycle. However, in some cases, the downbeat may not be emphasized. Such departure from the normal stress pattern of a measure is a form of syncopation.
1. An unaccented beat or beats that occur before the first beat of the following measure. In other words, this is an impulse in a measured rhythm that immediately precedes, and hence anticipates, the downbeat. It can be the last beat in a bar where that bar precedes a new bar of music.
2. An anticipatory note or succession of notes occurring before the first barline of a piece, sometimes referred to as an ‘upbeat figure’, section or phrase. An alternative expression is "anacrusis" (from Greek. ana: "up towards" and krousis: "to strike"; Fr. anacrouse). This term was borrowed from poetry where it refers to one or more unstressed extrametrical syllables at the beginning of a line.
3. The upward stroke made by a conductor to indicate the beat that leads into a new measure.
N.B. This expression is sometimes loosely used outside the field of music to denote anything positive-sounding; e.g. an "upbeat assessment of a company's prospects"
On-beat and off-beat
In music that progresses regularly in 4/4 time, counted as "1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4...", the first beat of the bar (down-beat) is usually the strongest accent in the melody and the likeliest place for a chord change, the third is the next strongest: these are "on" beats. The second and fourth are weaker - the "off-beats". Subdivisions (like eighth notes) that fall between the pulse beats are even weaker and these, if used frequently in a rhythm, can also make it "off-beat". The effect can be easily simulated by evenly and repeatedly counting to four: Bold denotes a stressed beat. As a background against which to compare these various rhythms a bass drum strike on the downbeat and a constant eighth note subdivision on ride cymbal have been added, which would be counted as follows:
- 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 -- play eighth notes and bass drum alone (help·info)
- 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4—the stress here on the "on" beat play (help·info) But one may syncopate that pattern and alternately stress the odd and even beats, respectively, creating syncopation:
- 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 -- the stress is on the "unexpected" or syncopated beat play (help·info)
So Off-beat is a musical term commonly applied to syncopation that emphasizes the weak even beats of a bar, as opposed to the "normal" on-beat. This is a fundamental technique of African polyrhythm that transferred to popular western music. According to Grove Music, the “Offbeat” is [often] where the downbeat is replaced by a rest or is tied over from the preceding bar". The downbeat can never be the off-beat because it is the strongest beat in 4/4 time. Certain genres in particular tend to emphasize the off-beat. This emphasis is a defining characteristic of rock'n'roll and Ska music.
A back beat, or backbeat, is a syncopated accentuation on the "off" beat. In a simple 4/4 rhythm these are beats 2 and 4. Emphasized back beat, a feature of some African styles, defined rhythm and blues recordings in the late 1940s and so became one of the defining characteristics of rock and roll and much contemporary popular music.
An early record with an emphasised back beat throughout was "Good Rockin' Tonight" by Wynonie Harris in 1948. However drummer Earl Palmer claimed the honour for "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino in 1949, which he played on, saying he adopted it from the final "shout" or "out" chorus common in Dixieland jazz. However urban contemporary gospel was stressing the back beat much earlier with hand-clapping and tambourines. There is a hand-clapping back beat on "Roll 'Em Pete" by Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner, recorded in 1938. A distinctive back beat can be heard on "Back Beat Boogie" by Harry James And His Orchestra, recorded in late 1939. Other early recorded examples include the final verse of "Grand Slam" by Benny Goodman in 1942 and some sections of The Glenn Miller Orchestra's "(I've Got A Girl In) Kalamazoo", while tapes of Charlie Christian jamming at Minton's Playhouse around the same time have a sustained snare-drum back-beat on the hottest choruses.
In the mid 1940s "hillbilly" musicians the Delmore Brothers were turning out boogie tunes with a hard driving back beat, such as the #2 hit "Freight Train Boogie" in 1946, as well as in other boogie songs they recorded. Similarly Fred Maddox’s trademark back beat, a slapping bass style, helped drive a rhythm that came to be known as rockabilly, one of the early forms of rock and roll. Maddox had used this style as early as 1937.
Some songs, such as The Beatles' "Please Please Me" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand", The Knack's "Good Girls Don't" and Blondie's cover of The Nerves' "Hanging on the Telephone", employ a double backbeat pattern. In a double backbeat, one of the off beats is played as two eighth notes rather than one quarter note.
A hyperbeat is one unit of hypermeter, generally a measure. "Hypermeter is meter, with all its inherent characteristics, at the level where measures act as beats."
- Afterbeat refers to a percussion style where a strong accent is sounded on the second, third and fourth beats of the bar, following the downbeat.
- In Reggae music, the term One Drop reflects the complete de-emphasis (to the point of silence) of the first beat in the cycle.
- James Brown’s signature funk groove emphasized the downbeat – that is, with heavy emphasis "on the one" (the first beat of every measure) – to etch his distinctive sound, rather than the back beat (familiar to many R&B musicians) which places the emphasis on the second beat.
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- ^ "Downbeat". Grove Music Online. 2007. http://www.grovemusic.com. Retrieved 2007-02-10.
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- ^ a b "Beat: Accentuation. (i) Strong and weak beats.". Grove Music Online. 2007. http://www.grovemusic.com. Retrieved 2007-02-10.
- ^ "Off-beat". Grove Music Online. 2007. http://www.grovemusic.com. Retrieved 2007-02-10.
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- ^ Pareles, Jon (2006-12-25). "James Brown, the ‘Godfather of Soul’, Dies at 73". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/25/arts/music/25cnd-brown.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5088&en=91af3e9694363d10&ex=1324702800&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss. Retrieved 2007-01-10.
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- ^ According to the New York Times, by the "mid-1960s Brown was producing his own recording sessions. In February 1965, with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” he decided to shift the beat of his band: from the one-two-three-four backbeat to one-two-three-four. “I changed from the upbeat to the downbeat,” Mr. Brown said in 1990. “Simple as that, really.”
- ^ According to Maceo Parker, Brown's former saxophonist, playing on the downbeat was at first hard for him and took some getting used to. Reflecting back to his early days with Brown's band, Parker reported that he had difficulty in playing "on the one" during solo performances, since he was used to hearing and playing with the accent on the second beat.
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Rhythm and meter Musical notation and development Staff Notes Articulation Development Related
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