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Reinterpreting a straight rhythmic figure

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Dec 15, 2019 - 3:43:36 PM

Rick W

USA

100 posts since 6/20/2004

Greetings. I'm trying to make sense of a discrepancy I hear sometime between what I see in a tab and what I hear on a recording. I don't have any graphics to add that would illustrate an example, but this is a fairly common thing involving triplets. Actually, my instant example is the kickoff to Jr. Sisk's "The Wolf Is At the Door," but we hear this everywhere in Scruggs style picking.

A tablature will show a two thirty-second/sixteenth (or two sixteenth/eighth, depending on how the time is scored) figure that seems rhythmically straightforward, if we were to take it literally, but on a recording we plainly hear a sixteenth-triplet (or eighth triplet) figure. Is this just some player's interpretation, or is it a stylistic thing I should incorporate into my own tab reading?

My bigger question is, how do accomplished players toss off those lightening fast triplets we hear all the time, from J.D. to Darrell Wilkerson? We often hear them in pairs, separated perhaps by an eighth note.

Sorry this got wordy; I'm trying to be clear and specific. -thx

Dec 15, 2019 - 4:08:18 PM
likes this

14494 posts since 12/2/2005

Good question!

There's a subtle but important difference between a triplet and three notes in the space of two 8th notes.

With JD (the King of the 3-2 pulloff) we often hear a 3-2 on the third string followed by an open first or fifth string. Assuming we're talking 4/4 time (a debate for another time) that's actually not a triplet - its two 16th notes followed by an 8th note.

A true triplet has three notes of equal duration in the same space. Within the context of bluegrass playing, it can be hard to detect - but it IS a different sound, particularly when you start entering the realm of melodics and fiddle tunes.

Within that context, you'll often see triplets in the form of a very fast forward roll - and note that I said forward roll (three notes) rather than a forward roll PATTERN (8 notes).

Triplets can be accomplished in other ways, including pulloffs, and if you're used to common Scruggs style moves getting that subtlety down can be tough. But the fast forward roll is the one I've seen most commonly anyway..

Edited by - eagleisland on 12/15/2019 16:10:18

Dec 15, 2019 - 4:34 PM

Rick W

USA

100 posts since 6/20/2004

Thanks, Skip. I've tried to chalk what I hear up to sloppy thirtysecond/sixteenth notes that come off like triplets, but in fact they can't be mistaken for anything but clean triplets. Your example about JD is a good one, though, and I'm looking at it in this intro to Wolf Is At the Door. When played up to tempo I can see the third string 3-2 to 1st sting open being being sort of morphed from 32nd/16th to three notes of equal duration, accomplished with a pull-off followed by 1st string. Are you suggesting that we're really hearing three notes on three strings played as a forward roll? Or two notes on one string followed by the third on another?

I was toying earlier with a 3-2 pull-off followed by 2-O pull-off, all on the 3rd string as a way to achieve that triplet sound, but decided that is not what I hear real pickers doing.

Here is the YouTube vid of Sisk's song. Hear the triplets in the 6th & 7th bars? They are tabbed as 2-32/16 in the tab I have:  https://youtu.be/f3PhCtpbljU

Edited by - Rick W on 12/15/2019 16:37:42

Dec 15, 2019 - 4:48:11 PM

10757 posts since 4/23/2004

I think what you're hearing in the kickoff to "The Wolf Is At The Door" (and many other kickoffs) is technically two triplet rests that fill the first two notes of a triplet. The very first note you hear is actually the last note of a triplet and it is followed by two standard value notes. This produces a bit of drive to the start of the tune and puts the stress on the first note of the following measure.

In the tab for this tune in the BHO tab vault, it has a 1/8 note rest followed by three more 1/8 notes...but that's not what is being played in the videos I watched. The actual kickoff is two triplet 1/8 rests and then the first note you hear is the last 1/8 triplet note. This is followed by a standard 1/8 note and then a stream of 1/16 roll notes.

The attached pdf is not any specific tune, just something to show the rhythms. For most tabs, the exact structure is not as important as the notes and fingering. The exact rhythm is something to be learned from listening.


Dec 15, 2019 - 6:11:46 PM

Rick W

USA

100 posts since 6/20/2004

Thanks, Marc, that's the tab I'm working off of, and I hear the first three pickup notes as straight eighths, tho they could be intended as triplets.

What I'm trying to make sense of are the 3-2 POs in msrs 6 and 7 followed by open 1st string that, in Sisk's recording, come off as clean, perfect 16th triplets, and how is Wilkerson doing it? How do any of them do it? We hear it from the top players all the time; what are they doing? Tabs never show a literal representation of that figure.

Dec 15, 2019 - 6:31:52 PM

chuckv97

Canada

45731 posts since 10/5/2013

Hi Rick, you’re referring to m. 6 & 7 in this tab ? (From the tab library)
To get those pulloffs with the 1st string as triplets ,you have to practice them slowly , saying “1-and-a” in the space of one beat.


 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 12/15/2019 18:32:19

Dec 15, 2019 - 7:21:59 PM
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10757 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Rick W

Thanks, Marc, that's the tab I'm working off of, and I hear the first three pickup notes as straight eighths, tho they could be intended as triplets.

What I'm trying to make sense of are the 3-2 POs in msrs 6 and 7 followed by open 1st string that, in Sisk's recording, come off as clean, perfect 16th triplets, and how is Wilkerson doing it? How do any of them do it? We hear it from the top players all the time; what are they doing? Tabs never show a literal representation of that figure.


I think I understand what you're getting at. Those 2-3 or 3-2 POs or HOs are difficult to notate exactly...mostly because everybody interprets them and plays them a little differently. The guy that taught me how to count was a church organist and he could tell when I made them into triplets and would correct me. At speed, they just smear into the roll...I wouldn't get too upset over whether you're actually playing triplets or as written...the end result is similar and they're just a common "bluegrass banjo" embellishment.

Most tab writers are not notational gurus. It is much easier to lay out the 2-3/3-2 figure as straight notes rather than as triplets. As I said, listening and making it work is key, the tab is just an outline for fingering. Modern tab programs (I used Musescore) do triplets easily...but you still need to be able to recognize what is going on and then translate those rhythms in order to notate it exactly. If you're familiar with "swing", nobody actually notates it...it is understood that the rhythms are slightly "not straight." 

Actually learning how to play them cleanly takes slow practice...with a metrognome if possible. I remember how hard it was for me to slow it down!

You're right about the kickoff on the album cut. When I responded previously, I was listening to them live (youtube), where the kickoff is slightly different.

Dec 15, 2019 - 8:11:33 PM

Mooooo

USA

7328 posts since 8/20/2016

Rick, you have to slow the tune down if you want to hear what is really happening. If you do so, you will clearly hear that those aren't triplets. Here is how the notes are slowly without triplets, then with triplets. Then it is faster without and with triplets. It's hard to hear which is correct. You really have to slow down the Jr Sisk record before you can accurately hear what is going on. I definitely don't hear the Trip-a-let. But some guys put more bounce in than others, and that comes closer to a triplet sometimes. Bounce is a bit harder to accurately notate on paper. And harder to hear with speed as well.


Edited by - Mooooo on 12/15/2019 20:20:31

Dec 15, 2019 - 8:52:46 PM

Alex Z

USA

3707 posts since 12/7/2006

Those pull-offs in the recording are not triplets.  They don't sound like triplets.  Mr. Mooooo's example illustrates the difference.

If they were triplets, the final note of the three would be delayed compared to the 4-note pattern, as in the example.  If a player can't do the 3-2 pull-off well, then the final note can be delayed.  But here, there is a fine player, good timing, clean notes.

Now the double pull-off 3-2-0 is a triplet if it fits in the same space as the 3-2 pull-off.  

Hope this helps.

Dec 16, 2019 - 8:39:45 AM

1461 posts since 2/10/2013

I can play simple triplets, like the "kick off" for the tune "Arab Bounce". But when I hear an uninterrupted string of triplets I shudder. Recently I saw the tab for a tune that used this technique. Learning to do this would be a long term project. For those of you who use this technique often, is the effort to learn the technique worthwhile ? I have sometime worked long and hard on some things, and then discovered that there would be few if any opportunities to use them.

Dec 16, 2019 - 2:46:12 PM

RB3

USA

565 posts since 4/12/2004

I'm in agreement with Mike and Alex. The two notes of the 3-2 pull-off are not part of a triplet.

If you look at the sixth measure of the tablature included in Chuck's post, you'll see that it begins with a 4-note backward roll that includes a 3-2 pull-off on the third string. What's important is to understand what the right hand is doing. As far as the right hand is concerned, it's playing a backward roll that consists of four 1/16 notes. If the two notes of the pull-off, plus the last note of the backward roll(the open first string) constituted a triplet, that last note of the roll would necessarily not be a 1/16th note. But, in this context, because of the idiomatic nature of the right hand playing a backward roll, that last note of the roll needs be a 1/16 note.

The tablature, as written, is about a close as your going get to creating a graphic model of what's actually being played. In reality, different players are going to execute the pull-off differently with respect to time. Some will execute it sooner, some will execute it later and neither note of the pull-off will actually be a 1/32 notes. That's not necessarily bad however, because it will constitute noticeable stylistic differences that become a matter of taste. What's important is that the timing of the pull-off not interfere with your ability to get to the last note in the backward roll at the correct time.

Dec 17, 2019 - 6:22:32 AM
Players Union Member

gDGBD

USA

487 posts since 2/7/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Richard Hauser

I can play simple triplets, like the "kick off" for the tune "Arab Bounce". But when I hear an uninterrupted string of triplets I shudder. Recently I saw the tab for a tune that used this technique. Learning to do this would be a long term project. For those of you who use this technique often, is the effort to learn the technique worthwhile ? I have sometime worked long and hard on some things, and then discovered that there would be few if any opportunities to use them.


They're essential in some tunes, such as Limerock (Bob Black and Alan Munde recorded really nice versions) and Nola (Bill Keith).  But IMHO for most tunes they should be used sparingly, if at all.

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