Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Playing with a steady beat

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Johnny L, Jun 7, 2004.


  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Coming in from an R&B and disco background (the music of my childhood, which I still love), wanting to play under a steady beat is part of me, and to hear folks of the likes of Edgar Meyer assert the value of playing music this way is something I agree with very strongly. I, for one, feel the metronome has always been an essential part of my development as an aspiring musician.

    But in the classical music world, it's not common for me to hear this. I don't mean that the tempo will speed up or slow down for a musical effect, I'm talking about folks playing together seamlessly. I hear it often - those virtuoso lines get rushed, and relaxed, romantically delivered lines drag - and it really challenges people's ability to stay together rhythmically and pull things off that are meant to happen collectively.

    Is my complaint here not taking into account that there may be 100 or more people playing onstage, and it's simply unrealistic to expect the kind of metronomic perfection I'm accustomed to when I'm, say, hearing a disco song, where perhaps 5 or 6 people are playing together behind a consistently delivered drum beat? Learning classical music and developing the techiques to pull that music off challenge me immensely...am I rather not seeing the big picture, where the folks who can pull this music off have gone beyond playing with a steady beat and are challenging each other with cat-and-mouse games rhythmically to shed off boredom?
     
  2. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    O.K., so I got to find out about the Viennese waltz rhythm trick in 3, where the 2nd beat comes in early and the 3rd may or may not get lazy...no thanks to this thread, but pretty cool anyway. Any other rhythm tricks to share out there?cool.
     
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    This is something that I've battled with.

    I think the trick is to consider 'feel' rather than concerning yourself with 'beat'. It may sound odd, but as an experiment I tried to get into the 'feel' that the MD on a classical gig that I do was playing with, and managed to do it. I don't really like it, but it is valid and common...
     
  4. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I think I may see what you mean. It is probably my own musical background messing with me and not letting me listen with the open mind I wish I had (if it was ever there to begin with...).
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Speaking as listener and CD Buyer - isn't this why we buy several version of the same piece, with different conductors? A conductor's interpretation can make the same piece almost unrecognisable.

    So - I remember talking about this in another thread about Beethoven's 9th Symphony. So - the period performance versions - are more strict on rhythms - whereas a conductor like Gunter Wand introduces so much rubato at the beginning of the 1st movement, that it sounds more like Bruckner than Beethoven!! ;)
     
  6. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    O.K., I've thought long enough after hearing the Kleiber/Wiener Beethoven 5th recording again, in the last movement where the orchestra plays a note 4 times in a row with the timpani, and they actually get it perfect one of those times and it sounds like a gunshot and is just incredible sounding. Who wouldn't want to brag about that?

    Regardless of the feel or swing, either folks are together or they are not...and I'm going to be a pain in the ass to myself and others for not doing our best to play together in time at all times and appreciate such things when they do happen.
     
  7. christ andronis

    christ andronis

    Nov 14, 2001
    Chicago
    I happened to see Dianne Reeves(along with her trio) sing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last month. Her entire program was dedicated to Sarah Vaughan and I've never heard a symphony orchestra "swing" before that night. Usually, my experience has been that symphony orchestras are rather "stiff" in how they interpret(sp?) the eighth note in jazz type music, but not that night. Not only were the arrangements intricate and voiced appropriately, but the orchestra was grooving big time. What a great night that was. I guess in answer to your question, yes, it is possible for a large group of players to play with precision together while still maintaining the musical integrity of whatever style they are playing. :hyper:
     
  8. I'm not surprised. I've heard Larry Combs, the CSO principal clarinet, play jazz, and he swings his a** off.

    I may be wrong, but I think conservatory-trained bass players who can play jazz at least passably are becoming more the norm than the exception, and I suspect the same from brass and woodwind players (well maybe not oboists).
     
  9. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    This isn't an orchestral problem, it's an acoustical issue. If you are sitting 100 feet back in a concert hall and the trumpets and basses play precisely at the same moment, the bass "beat" arrives at your ears behind the trumpet beat. Bass has to very slighly anticipate high timbered instruments.

    On the other hand, if you are an orchestra member playing into microphones with every bass or every other bass miked, then you should play precisely on the beat - the impulses arrive at the various mikes simultaneously.

    Apart from the fact that good music is a whole lot more than "beat." that's only part of the mix.

    Orchestral musicians usually have impecable rhythm. Accoustics can creat the problem.
     
  10. I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. One learns the part and watches the conductor. Accelerating and deceleration are valid musical means of expressiveness. If you want to know how godawful unchanging meter sounds, listen to music composed in a computer and played through a synthesizer.

    It has nothing to do with whether they "can" do it. In a famous incident, Toscanini was conducting "Bolero" for a recording. At the end, the engineer said there had been a glitch, could they do it over. Toscanini said yes. The overall time difference in a 20 minute piece was 16 seconds.
     
  11. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I'm not talking about unchanging meter. I'm talking about playing together. Say, for example, you're working with your favorite drummer tonight (you know, the one who can't keep a straight beat), and your style is to make sure that your bow starts the string or your finger lets go of the string at the precise moment the drummer's foot pedal hits the bass drum (or any other percussion) as much as possible. Since it's a little easier to predict the beat by compelling the drummer to keep the beat straight rather than letting it wander, that's what I prefer.

    The more precise a musical group is in playing together, the better the music sounds to me. It's also what I strive for and drive the musicians I play with to achieve if I hear them going astray. I want what I produce to sound its best, and this is one of the attributes I attach to "best". If the people around me can play in metronomic time, then they will do it if I have any control over the matter.

    If the music doesn't call for metronomic time, then that's life...but I still demand to hear myself and everyone else together regardless. If I or they can't do it with the metronome, the conductor might as well be flailing whether or not he's able to wave his arms with great precision and repeatability.

    Of course you are right, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. But rhythm is rhythm, and not a whole lot more.

    You may have a point with acoustics and speed of sounds, but I'm not sure that the orchestra or my speakers are so far away to let musicians off the hook. Still, if orchestra musicians typically have impeccable timing, I'm glad it is what I listen to the most now.
     
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I believe that "feel" is what is ultimately important. Whether time is meant to be metronomic or not. What DonO doesn't like about the computer is that it has no feel. If everyone in the band were to hit every note in absolute metric perfection then the band would have no feel as well.
     
  13. John, The:
    Now that I know what you mean, this is the reason. The worst seat in the house is the first row. It's a consequence of positioning and the size of the orchestra.The further back you are, the closer together the aggregate sound. You can make a ratio of the distance between the nearest and furthest instruments from the listener.
     
  14. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    I know this may sound strange to a metronomic player, but some older bassists may know what I mean.

    In the late 50s and in the 60s, I would work with the drummer sometimes for hours to learn to lay back slightly, only a bit, behind the drummer. Drummer saw to it that I could do this. It was a big band style that you almost had to do in some bands. Even in smaller groups, 7 piece groups. Laid back.

    And in another few groups, they preferred me to jump onto the beat and even almost rush it. It gives and entirely different feel to the music. It drives the music.they didn't want it like a metronome.

    And it was a heck of a job to learn how to lay back on it too, at first. But it's gotta be that way to achieve the big Les Brown sound. (No, I wasn't playing with Les Brown - dangit.)

    Music played strictly to the metronome is rhythmically dead. You just can't do anything with it. Beat is a guide. Rhythm is "essence."

    Sometimes you drive - sometimes you hesitate. Sometimes you march to the clicking heels at 120/min.
     
  15. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I'm not going to buy this statement until dancers form a line for it.
     
  16. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Well, I don't want to influence your opinion. Buy some old 33 rpms of Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton originals, then get some Sauter and Finnegan, andn Listen carefully. Then get some of Guy Lombardos strict, straight laced stuff. It's all there to be had for the hearing. Everybody should make up there own minds, though. I know what I went through to get what the rhythm section wanted. It were a piece of work. Rock musicians are brought up too straight laced, IMO.

    The times, they are a' changin.
     
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This sounds to me, like a very strange and narrow concept of what music is about....I take it, you don't like "Free Jazz" ..... ;)
     
  18. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    This reminds me of that scene in "The JerK", when Steve Martin's character finally finds "his music" on the radio, and starts clapping on the 1 & 3.

    Me, I like some raggedy edges on my music.
     
  19. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I like what I've heard of Ornette Coleman, but it didn't sound quite as adventurous as, say, A Love Supreme.
     
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Would you have told either of them to play with strict metronomic time in their solos? ;)

    But really, I was thinking of the general concept of Free Jazz, without time or harmony, rather than particular artists?