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ARSCLIST  March 2006

ARSCLIST March 2006

Subject:

Re: Rock and roll drumming

From:

steven c <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 30 Mar 2006 23:59:15 -0500

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Eric Goldberg" <[log in to unmask]>
> >O boy, I hope I don't regret replying to this but I am seeing some
> >nonsense in the opinions on this thread. 
> >
> >Regarding Rock and Roll rhythms: Lots of rock and roll has the strong
> >beats on 2 and 4, sometimes it's on the 1 and 3 but almost always there
> >is the rhythm of 2 and 4 meaning some instrument is strongly accenting
> >that.  And of course, all rock and roll has its basis in black music as
> >it stewed in the American experience.
> 
> 
> Or as Duke Ellington said, "Pop your fingers on two and four, one and 
> three is considered too aggressive".
> 
> Many of the drummers with the earliest rock bands were not good 
> players, so on recordings some great pros were brought in. These 
> included Connie Kay, Panama Francis, Don Lamond and others of their 
> ilk. They played the music as they saw fit, and then the young rock 
> drummers would copy the records.
> 
> >
> >As far as drummers not being competent - they invented the feel in the
> >sense that it grew out of blues and gospel and that derivative music
> >that was played in the clubs became rock and roll. The temp got cranked
> >up and the downbeats took over. I do not buy this drummers-not-competent
> >thing at all!  They weren't trying to play Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller
> >you know.  Those drummers were playing exactly what they intended to
> >play.  We may as well say the Ray Charles couldn't play piano well
> >because he wasn't playing Beethoven sonatas.
> >
> 
> The major change from the swing feel was from the triplet feel on the 
> quarter to the straight eighths. Feel is very, very, very, very, very 
> important which explains why the Bo Diddley rhythm, although it is 
> notated exactly like clave, feels so completely different from the 
> "son montuno".
> 
> If everything I wrote in this last paragraph doesn't make sense to 
> anyone, then all I can do is quote Fats Waller as he left the 
> bandstand and was asked what jazz was. He replied, "Lady, if you 
> don't know by now, don't mess with it".
> 
Actually, the answer depends on which part of the rock'n'roll era
you are referring to! Through about 1958-59, the style used what
was basically the shuffle rhythm which had driven the swing bands,
which accents the 2 and 4 but also uses a slight syncopation to
get the "bounce" that drove swing...a sort of "ka-two, ka-four"
feeling. Around 1958 or so, Chuck Berry recorded a couple of
swing-era hits ("Route 66 and "Down the Road a Piece") and used
a rhythm which was a combination of straight 4/4 and a subtle
hint of the swing shuffle.

This part is my surmise, but...
Anyway, the less-than-expert drummers who were in most rock'n'roll
bands of the late fifties picked up on only the 4/4 portion of
that (hey, it was simple to play!) and what resulted was the beat
that drove rock'n'roll, and later rock, for many years. This is
pretty well straight 4/4 with no swing or shuffle feeling to it...
which mainly accents the third beat (giving a little more prominence
to the first), The drummer plays straight four on the snare, plays
the one and three on the "kick" (foot-operated bass) drum, and
uses the high-hat (or another cymbal) to emphasize the three.
What you hear is like one-two-THREE-four...

Of course, starting in 1962, the twist put dancing couples a
foot or more apart, where they have stayed ever since...so any
prominent beat works equally well. Around the same time, the
James-Brown-inspired "funk" rhythm came in via "soul music"
(it had first appeared in blues/R&B c. 1959) and gradually
took over for everything but ballads at one end and "heavy
metal" at the other.

How do I know? I've led a blues band for going on 20 years...

Steven C. Barr

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