Michael D'Agostino

Drummer, vocalist and Songwriter

More then the notes

Posted on Nov 30, 2014

Written music, only points to the possibilities.  The subtleties. Nuances. A merer roadmap that is subject to human intervention.  At least at this date.  Hopefully robotic music won’t take over like so many feared it would in the 80’s.   So good to practice with the metronome yet one must generate good musical time without it.

While the drum machine since the 80’s has produced many different degrees of quantization, and later on programming  simulated human randomness.  A measure of sixteenth notes in 4/4,  those 16 notes can be played so many ways.  Let’s leave out any accenting for a moment which is huge in create a groove.  Besides playing those notes as close to straight sixteenths as possible, The sixteen sixteenth notes can be ever so slightly swung slightly towards a triplet feel.  ( the 4 sixteenth notes would start moving towards beats 1,3,4 and 6 of  a group of six sixteenth note triplets. It is very valuable to practice stretching the notes in various ways.  A bit more and things start tilting towards dotted rhythms.

I see so many students not give a full bar it’s due.  Rushing beat 4.  This is where a metronome can reveal issues and help resolve them.  Yet again, we must be able to generate great time feels as needed.  The classic bands before 1980, most recorded without a click track,  the time could push ever so slightly for a lift at the chorus,  return a few bpm down again at the 2nd verse.  Listen to the studio recording of  The Rolling Stones classic track ” Honky Tonk Women”.  Compare the beginning and ending tempos.  I am not going to diss anyone here,  It works,  I never knew what was really going until I listened one night.  Must of the time I heard this tune, it was on the radio and I didn’t notice.  The whole track speeds up but it all works,  It’s like it’s shifting gears.

Modern club dance music is mostly based on a grid.  The bass drum 4 on the floor is most always hard quantized with everything else floating above either hard quantized or some variation on this.  Sometimes even a hi hat or percussion will be dubbed that has been recorded in realtime.   The blending of human played elements with computer generated ones can yield very potent results.  Sometimes it’s all hard quantization that is needed for  house/dance music  tracks.

So much great music be it  Classical,  Jazz,  Latin or Rock works because of the slight variations of where everyone is feeling the time.  The ever so gentle rubbing of tempo can create a subtle tension that is incredible.  Plus it can move throughout the track without being static.

The lushness of a string or brass section,  created with all the slight differences in where the different players a interpreting pitch.  Plus variations in articulation speed of vibrato and tremolo.  These create a sonority that is warm and alive.  All sum of all the orchestra’s sections and players create for powerful experience.  Ever watch a orchestral conductor at work,  he’s pushing and pulling the time where needed,  lifting, settling the music to create a moving experience for the listener.

I’ll dig deeper into freedom from the grid in another post,  free improvisation allows one to generate shapes with the time that many times are being anything that can be notated.



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