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Double time on ballads?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Tom Lane, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I've heard contrary definitions about what it means to go into "double time" on a ballad. Sorry if this has been asked and answered already, I searched this forum for "double time" and "doubletime" and didn't find a thread that discussed the definition. If you can point me to one, much thanks!

    One saxophonist defined it as "playing twice as many notes". I'm guessing that by that, he meant that the measure takes the same amount of time, but now it's as if we're playing in 8/8 instead of 4/4, 8 beats to a bar. And I'm guessing that that means that I could continue to play "broken time" or starting walking in 8/8, no?

    Another described it as playing twice as fast, so if the bpm had been 90, when we go into double time, we'd be playing at 180 bpm. Each chorus takes half as much real time. Can I still play "broken time" or walk?

    Someone else claimed that one is "double time feel" while the other is "double time".

    Whad'ya think? Can you point me to some good examples?
  2. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Doubletime means you're playing the same measures but doubling the rhythm, as you say, 4/4 moves to 8/8. On Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness," for example, the bass is in straight time while the drums are doubletime after the first verse.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  3. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    (Blue In Green) - Here is an example of strict time/double time/quadruple time. (NOT "FEELS", but literal double and quadruple time):
    1. time - quarter note = 62bpm
    2. double time (not double time FEEL) - half note = 62bpm
    3. quadruple time(!) (not quadruple time FEEL) - whole note = 62bpm

    (You Must Believe In Spring) - Here is an example of double time "FEEL" - beginning with EG's solo. For me, the drums "feel" (in the high hat/ride cymbal especially), is the most important factor in conveying the double time "feel". I hear the measures in 4/4 (not 8/8), but there are now twice as many measures as in the "ballad time" statement of the melody. But that's me.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Ah yes, I had forgotten about that recording of BiG - I even called it that way a couple of times but it was over our heads. So, what do you do when the pianist starts playing in "double time"? Two? Four? Of course, you keep up, that's a given.
    mtto likes this.
  5. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    Don just beat me to posting Blue in Green as an example of a true double time as opposed to double time feel.

    However, on a ballad if someone says to go into double time, they almost always mean double time feel. Actual double time is quite rare except on a few tunes like Blue in Green. Even on that one, most times I have played it on gigs it has not done the double/quadruple time thing.

    So, most often you will need to worry about double time feel and not true double time. Be aware that some musicians hate going into double feel on ballads, and some insist on it. Others prefer to let it happen organically. I tend to like ballads to stay as ballads, but drummers tend to get anxious and force the issue whenever possible. In any case, the most typical thing is for it to go into a 2-feel in the new tempo. So your half notes will be the same length as quarter notes of the original feel. If the energy continues to ramp up, it is not uncommon to eventually go into a walking line (your quarter notes being the same as 8th notes of the original tempo). Usually the band will revert to the original tempo at some point, often the last 16 or 8 bars of the tune.
  6. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I'll drink to that...There's a lot to explore in a ballad "feel", (even for the drummer.)
    damonsmith likes this.
  7. Double time is double the tempo - everything speeds up. Double time 'feel', just means playing quavers not crotchets, often with emphasis if appropriate on the odd or even ones. It gives the impression the song has speeded up. In the show I just finished, we did one song that would be considered a kind of salad, sung by the character Cinderella, then suddenly as she left the stage and the ugly sisters came on, the song morphed into a double time fee version - which was more angry and suited the characters, but the click track remained the same tempo, but the drummer, bass and brass were all playing twice the notes in many, but not all, of the bars - in part, the bass did the double tempo feel, leaving the drums doing the same thump/crack/thump/crack thing.
  8. Just to state it a different way... whatever it is... it's not this:
    because: the changes still happen at the same pace, and each chorus still takes the same amount of "time" as it did before the soloist switched to "double-time".

    Sometimes the rhythm section will switch the feel to "twice as many notes" as well... often not...but the changes are still happening at the rate of change they have throughout the song.

    Or at least, that's the way I've come to understand it. :)
  9. Acoop


    Feb 21, 2012
    I've always enjoyed double time as, pick up the tempo and double up the changes. ... So a 12-bar would be stretched to 24. ... So it still allows you to play in 1/2 and stretch time without the feeling of urgence when you speed up the tune.
  10. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I like that they explore other ways to keep this buoyant, other than using (the dreaded?) double time/feel.
    Tom Lane and Vince Waldon like this.
  11. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I'm with the folks who like ballads as ballads... but, I "desire" to "not disappointment" my soloist. This seems to be a very gray area, in which the drummer or pianist can do "one thing" and the bassist "another thing or not", so is this completely a subjective decision? If so, I want to listen to the different results, historically, so I have a good sense of what's an appropriate response.
  12. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I like ballads as ballads too. In fact, if a band takes a ballad uptempo for solos, I will often bring it back down for my own solo. If you finally call a tune at a tempo that won't kill me, I'm going to take advantage of it. ;)
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  13. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I believe the drummer is the "Decider In Chief", when it comes to what "feel" is to be explored, (or not.)
    I love how the drummer (and bassist) maintain a relaxed feel of (basically) "1" (in a 3/4 ballad), throughout, esp. starting @ 8:30 for the piano solo. I think these guys played together "a bit..", and arrived at an approach that they (all?) agreed upon.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  14. If I play in a band, and am reading the dots, and we're playing a slow ballad, then double time will mean exactly what it says 42bmp suddenly becomes over 80, and a song that is creeping along suddenly rattles ahead - the verses suddenly are done in half the real time it took before - the choruses arrive and finish quicker. That is the definition of double time. Always has been. as many have said, double time 'feel', is a technique designed to make a slow song have some drive. Maybe a bass part or drum kick drum that had been playing on Beats 1 and 3, or maybe a bass playing one note on the first beat of each bar - suddenly play more note - perhaps the kick suddenly being on every beat, with the bass. A good example is that recent Eagles track I don't want to hear any more. It's actually a slow song, but in double time feel - so in pure bpm, it's slow, but it gives the impression of being quite speedy. The bass and guitars are doing the driving, with 8 in a bar, while the drum keeps the real tempo. This is double time FEEL. I guess the classic example of double time is in the later versions of the Tina Turner Proud Mary song - where it has a real double time change.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  15. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    A lot of players are afraid of space. Certainly, a lot of drummers are afraid of space.

    I'm generally eager to set up intros, interludes and outros (which, ironically, is more planning than a lot of people do). Beyond that, I aim for the minimum planning for jazz. People will listen. Something will happen. It will be better than what I planned on!
    Tom Lane likes this.
  16. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Some musicians and all club owners frowned on double time in the old days. I recall losing a lot on jobs because of drummers getting bored and going into double time. Note, these were the bread and butter dance gigs that we lived on.

    As an aside-- Marty Morrell ( I don't think he'd mind my mentioning) told me that Bill Evans was pissed at Getz for going into double time on their album. He played the CD where you could hear the bickering if my memory serves me right.
    Tom Lane and Michael Glynn like this.
  17. Wow, these are both really interesting points to me. I'm going to pull out the recording you mentioned and have a listen with headphones. Cheers!
  18. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Thanks everyone for your replies! Very helpful!

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