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Thread: Beat...Off

  1. #1
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    Beat...Off

    I have been listening to popular music analytically from a musician's perspective for awhile now and I have noticed that something very special seems to happen on beats "1" and "3": those beats seem to almost always have major chord changes happen on them and if not on beat "3" than always on the "1". I just wanted to see if anyone had some links to music that has major changes on the other beats in 4/4 time (the "2" & "4"). I find it fascinating that most western music adheres to this convention seemingly naturally and I am interested in knowing what some experimental artists have been doing to shift this practice.

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Code:
    Major Scale Box. 
    
    G|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    D|---6---|-------|---7---|---8---|
    A|---3---|---4---|-------|---5---|
    E|-------|---R---|-------|---2---|4th string
    With bass guitar - Root on one and 5 on 3 is the basic, dirt simple, bass line used in Country. So what about 2 and 4? Well that's where the 3 & 7 go, i.e. that is where the flavor and color notes go.

    R-5-R-5 just roots and fives as is R-5-8-5 are the back bone of classic ole time Country. But when you get into New Country then the 3 and 7 come on the 2 and 4.


    4/4 time and a full Cmaj7 chord = R-3-5-7. Cm7 = R-b3-5-b7.

    Is there more? Sure. http://www.jacmuse.com/form%20in%20music/2and4.htm

    I'm sure you have already found/know this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_(music)
    Last edited by Malcolm; 04-27-2012 at 05:03 PM.

  3. #3
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zedrein View Post
    I have been listening to popular music analytically from a musician's perspective for awhile now and I have noticed that something very special seems to happen on beats "1" and "3": those beats seem to almost always have major chord changes happen on them and if not on beat "3" than always on the "1". I just wanted to see if anyone had some links to music that has major changes on the other beats in 4/4 time (the "2" & "4"). I find it fascinating that most western music adheres to this convention seemingly naturally and I am interested in knowing what some experimental artists have been doing to shift this practice.
    This is kind of chicken-and-egg question. It's not so much that people put chord changes on beat 1. It's more like we hear a chord change and then label that as "beat 1".
    IOW, music tends to fall into chunks of 4 beats, 2 beats or 8 beats, defined largely by chord changes (with bass roots at the beginning of each chunk). So it makes sense to count "1" from where the chords start (obviously rationalising it to measures with the same number of beats as far as possible, because chord change rate often varies).

    Aurally, we need to establish "where 1 is" as we listen, in the same way we need to be able to judge where the keynote is. It helps us orient ourselves within the music. Most of the time the music helps, by then (once it's made "beat 1" clear enough) placing most chord changes where we expect them: on beat 1 or 3.
    Every now and then, of course, composers like to surprise us by placing changes unexpectedly - resulting in "syncopation". This is an extremely common effect in rock as well as in jazz - less so in classical music, although it does occur.
    Lots of famous rock riffs have chord changes on beat 2 or 4 (eg the Stones "Start Me Up"). But syncopation like that (chord changes on beats 2 or 4, or on 8th notes between the beats) couldn't work if we didn't already have a sense of "where 1 is" - which the chord changes themselves have previously given us. (In Start Me Up, the riff opens the song, but we soon hear "where 1 is" once the drums come in. After we've heard the song a couple of times, we can hear the riff fine: the chord change on beat 2 is simply an example of the common rock vamp of alternating chords on each beat.)

    If a piece of music placed all (or most of) its changes on beats 2 and 4, we would simply hear them (probably) as beats 1 and 3. So it would make no sense to notate them as beats 2 and 4.

    In rock, of course, the drums play a big role in telling us which beats are 1 and 3 (kick drum) and which are 2 and 4 (snare). Almost all the time, they support what the chord changes are telling us. (One famous example of drums attempting to subvert that is Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love", where Ginger Baker puts the snare on beats 1 and 3. But we still manage to hear beats 1 and 3 in the right place: thanks to the riff and chord changes.)

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    ...........In rock, of course, the drums play a big role in telling us which beats are 1 and 3 (kick drum) and which are 2 and 4 (snare). Almost all the time, they support what the chord changes are telling us. (One famous example of drums attempting to subvert that is Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love", where Ginger Baker puts the snare on beats 1 and 3. But we still manage to hear beats 1 and 3 in the right place: thanks to the riff and chord changes.)
    Yes the drums -- been playing bass for a couple of years now. We are taught to follow the chords and play root on 1. We are also taught to lock in with the kick drum. Another case of how all of this fits together.......

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by zedrein View Post
    I have been listening to popular music analytically from a musician's perspective for awhile now and I have noticed that something very special seems to happen on beats "1" and "3": those beats seem to almost always have major chord changes happen on them and if not on beat "3" than always on the "1". I just wanted to see if anyone had some links to music that has major changes on the other beats in 4/4 time (the "2" & "4"). I find it fascinating that most western music adheres to this convention seemingly naturally and I am interested in knowing what some experimental artists have been doing to shift this practice.
    The only example I've heard of harmonic changes occurring on beats other than one and three are in (Javanese) Gamelan ensembles, in which pattern changes *anticipate* the beat, starting on the upbeat before, and harmonic changes happen on beat 4 (which is also the gong tone at the end of phrases.)

    There are virtually no good gamelan recordings on youtube, but if you have spotify:
    http://open.spotify.com/track/0MRkY1UxIOVruI8YM4pSiP

    -J
    Last edited by JlMoriart; 05-14-2012 at 03:29 PM.

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