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Re: OT West African/African Diaspora rhythms: 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 12/8
Andy Butler asked
"Any examples to illustrate? "
to my observation:
"In this case, it can be a more flexible map to write 8th notes with
'swing' over the top of them.
Yes, specifically go listen to the tunes that swing from the Neville
Other examples, though generated entirely by drum machines are the grooves
from Garage/Two Step, the UK dance musics.
"Maybe this relates to the Eastern European notion
of "short" and "long" dance steps. "
Actually, no, that's not what I'm referring to at all.
Almost entirely, short dance steps are in phrases of 2 sub pulse and
long dance steps are
phrases of 3 sub pulses.
Tellef Ogrim's wife Anna did her dissertation on minute timing
fluctuations, stylistically in
James Brown and George Clinton's music. She actually gave me some
short/long phrasing in Norwegian folk musics that does not seem to
this phrases of 2 and 3 paradigm I'm talking about. Interestingly,
though, these musics
are played mostly with bowed instruments..................when a bow
plays a short or long phrase
it can vary greatly because of the length of time of a single stroke
across the strings, where
as string based ethnic musics tend to have a more 2 +3 combination
because people are picking the strings and the envelopes of the
instrument are considerably
These are broad generalizations however (I can already hear Andy
squirming uncomfortably at
me making such broad generalizations) but I would dare to say that this
effects 95% of the musics
that we're talking about.
Andy also said:
"Actually the drummer I play with has been criticised at college because
his swing wasn't bang on 66.7%.
( don't worry, I was able to re-assure him) "
Well, it really depends.................I find that one of the most
helpful things for me learning how to
really 'move' and stretch the 'swing' quality of a piece of music (as
defined by the hi hat or the ride cymbal in jazz or blues or 2nd line or
whatever) was to set up a drum machine that had
a single percentage point of swing customization built into it.
Set your high hats on
1) Straight 8th notes and play for a while...........then
2) set your swing percentage (quantized to 8th notes and NOT 16th notes)
3) then 54%
etc. all way up to 75% (which is the 4th 16th note in the beat)
Play with these settings for a long time and try to 'get' the feel of
What I've discovered is that it's hard to hear swing until it gets past
54% You can hear it clearly at 58% and yet this is so obviously
than 66.6% (perfect triplet 8th note swing)
right around 56% to 58% is where New Orleans and 2nd line music rests.
Interestingly, cheap drum machines in the 80's only had 50%, 58% and 66.6%
swing functions so a lot of hip hop finally had 58% swing because the
musicians making it couldn't afford more sophisticated drum machines
and were sick of so called 'straight 8ths' or triplet 8th swing (66.6%)
Conversely, once you get up to around 72% the mind starts to want to hear
the feel as the last 16th of the beat.
What's important here for your drummer, probably, was that he could only
where he played....................I've encountered a lot of musicians
have a 'feel' (which really translates to a way of 'swinging things')
but are unable
to lock with other musicians who have a different 'feel'
So if you are playing a 56% swing and your musicians are phrasing in normal
triplet 8th notes, his playing will really pull hard and frequently not
I've found that when playing 56%-60% swing that it's really helpful to
in your fills (playing only two notes coherent with the swing
percentage) whereas when you play 64%70% swing that if feels better to
play ternary (triplet 8th notes)
again, these are all generalizations but they work for me if I'm playing
with a New Orleans styled musician
or a Texas Swing musician or a big band musician or an afro-jazz musician.
> I guess in the end, it's whatever floats your boat, but I'm a stickler
> for rhythmic accuracy as much as is possible
> with an obviously imperfect system.
"neither "4/4 swing" nor "12/8" tells the whole story
in every situation."
Actually from my experience playing drums/percussion/bass or keyboards
extensively in Afro Cuban, Afro Haitian, Afro Brazillian, New Orleans,
Afro Jamaican, Regional American Blues styles, Jazz and
Rock/Pop/Funk/Soul situations a notated 4/4 swing rhythm (with swing
percentages notated specifically)
ends up being a lot more accurate than a 12/8 notation.
When playing straight up West African music (with the exception of a lot
of Mandinkan rhythms which specifically swing and are probably the root
of where 'swing' came from in Africa) then I prefer
notating in 4/4 in triplets and indicating polyrhythmic feels as
syncopations against the 4 pulse as is
generally felt by the dancers. I find 12/8 to be far to bland an
unspecific a map in those musics precisely because it doesn't indicate
any 'feel' or point out how the dancers dance, rhythmically.