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Sep 28, 2022 - 5:27:46 PM
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13869 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by AJLeonardi

That said, It seems like most people didn't choose to listen to the clip I sent (or chose to listen and then not comment on it), so I haven't missed much lol. Thank you to the folks who did give it a listen!


I did listen. Those guys were definitely doing different things than each other while staying in time.  While it was interesting, I didn't hear anything that sounded like bluegrass banjo drive. Since I wasn't able to hear or describe how their performance demonstrates or proves that bluegrass drive comes from playing ahead of the beat, I chose not to say I don't hear it. Now I've said it.

But thanks for sharing it.

Sep 28, 2022 - 6:24:34 PM
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bellf

Australia

328 posts since 7/13/2014

Like Jack and Ken, I don’t really think that playing ahead of the beat is something that is important for achieving a good sound in bluegrass. In fact, I’m not sure that I believe that people really do it. However, it seems that Sammy Shelor and Bill Evans do believe it’s important. For those who are subscribed to Tony Trischka’s school, you can find a video of Sammy and Bill discussing this in the plus music section on Artistworks. Look for “California Banjo Extravaganza” and then “Right Hand Drive Part 1”.

In the video, Sammy demonstrates playing ahead of the beat and on the beat with a guitar player providing rhythm. He does this at a relatively slow speed. While Bill Evans says he can the difference, to me it only sounds like Sammy is just accenting certain notes rather than playing ahead of the beat.

Sammy and Bill are first rate musicians and I’m a banjo bozo, but I can only tell you what I hear. In any case, for someone at my skill level I reckon that focussing on playing with good timing on the beat is far more important than trying a mysterious concept such as playing ahead of the beat

Sep 28, 2022 - 6:33:30 PM
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1358 posts since 1/25/2017

quote:
Originally posted by phb

Another idea to test the hypothesis of creating drive by playing ahead of the beat would be to record some banjo piece and then make two different mixes of the recording and that of the backing band with different timing of the tracks relative to each other. The one with the banjo track shifted ahead should have more drive than the other.


So I gave that a try with Merle Travis' "Blue Smoke" which I had worked up for banjo some time back. I duplicated the banjo track and shifted the second to the left as shown by the screenshots of the program. I then exported to a mp3 first with only the original-  then second with only the shifted banjo track. I'm not detecting any increase in "drive" in the second.


Sep 28, 2022 - 7:02:25 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

67819 posts since 10/5/2013

If you consider vocals, I would say Jimmy Martin usually sang with drive at the forefront of the beat, and Mac Wiseman sang laid back & a bit behind the leading edge of the beat.

btw, there was "drive" in a lot of baroque music - listen to the allegro movements in Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, for instance.  Also in uptempo "honky tonk" ragtime piano pieces,, as well as in a lot of fiddle breakdowns,,,, long before bluegrass existed.

Edited by - chuckv97 on 09/28/2022 19:07:10

Sep 28, 2022 - 7:32:13 PM

13869 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by SimonSlick
So I gave that a try with Merle Travis' "Blue Smoke" which I had worked up for banjo some time back. I duplicated the banjo track and shifted the second to the left as shown by the screenshots of the program. I then exported to a mp3 first with only the original-  then second with only the shifted banjo track. I'm not detecting any increase in "drive" in the second.

Neither am I. What I am detecting is the banjo and guitar not playing together.

Sep 29, 2022 - 2:16:50 AM

phb

Germany

3680 posts since 11/8/2010

quote:
Originally posted by AJLeonardi

That said, It seems like most people didn't choose to listen to the clip I sent (or chose to listen and then not comment on it), so I haven't missed much lol. Thank you to the folks who did give it a listen! and to the folks who posted links to clips that they feel demonstrate either phenomenon. Would love more of those.


The music is heavily syncopated, something typical of Latin American music (I like it). I don't think there is much that relates to "driving" or "playing at the back of the beat". Actually you could use any instrument as defining the beat and then the others will play in syncopation to that beat. It doesn't fall apart because they maintain a steady relation to each other while playing syncopated. It is a musical art form that probably leads back to African polyrhythmic music. The closest example for something like this in bluegrass might be Earl's second break on "Earl's Breakdown" where he effectively plays to a different meter than the backing band but comes out at the same spot.

Sep 29, 2022 - 2:28:07 AM
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phb

Germany

3680 posts since 11/8/2010

quote:
Originally posted by SimonSlick
quote:
Originally posted by phb

Another idea to test the hypothesis of creating drive by playing ahead of the beat would be to record some banjo piece and then make two different mixes of the recording and that of the backing band with different timing of the tracks relative to each other. The one with the banjo track shifted ahead should have more drive than the other.


So I gave that a try with Merle Travis' "Blue Smoke" which I had worked up for banjo some time back. I duplicated the banjo track and shifted the second to the left as shown by the screenshots of the program. I then exported to a mp3 first with only the original-  then second with only the shifted banjo track. I'm not detecting any increase in "drive" in the second.


Thanks for the experiment! The second version sounds as if the guitar track was really some sort of echo of the original track with the original track muted. No more drive but a feeling of uneasiness. I bet we will now get a discussion on how much shift creates the optimal amount of drive... ;) 

Sep 29, 2022 - 5:41:09 AM
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539 posts since 11/9/2021

The explanation of just playing the tune a few % in front of the actual beat is accurate but I don;t think that means the entire song is done like that in order to achieve 'drive'. IMHO is more of a tempo rubato thing  for certain key  phrases.  I can;t do it on banjo just yet, but I use that to play fiddle with drive.  Like playing a phrase with invisible 1/32 notes . You know what - trying to pin it down and explain it is a lot harder then I thought it would be. 

Sep 29, 2022 - 7:12:43 AM
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RB3

USA

1579 posts since 4/12/2004

AJLeonardi asked for some other examples.  Here's one of my favorites from the Rounder 44 album.

Nashville Blues

Sep 29, 2022 - 8:42:06 AM
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8317 posts since 8/30/2004

J.D. just picks the melody harder. I think all this "ahead of the beat" "behind the beat" is just nonsense and confusing....Jack

Sep 29, 2022 - 9:19:49 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

67819 posts since 10/5/2013

Alan Munde once said that the forward roll gives bluegrass the drive.

Sep 29, 2022 - 9:50:36 AM
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273 posts since 7/22/2012

Haha, I like this discussion a bit! I believe the reasoning Ken (Old Hickory) attempted to use in relation to the Earl Scruggs solo performance I posted is interesting , it reminds me of a Zeno philosophical argument in being very clever, but I think it is mistaken. (Ken, you make some of the best posts on this forum, in my opinion, generally speaking, as a numerous members clearly appreciate...) I think Philipp had a great reply... To me, setting the beat and then altering it, or at least the way it is felt by the listener—subtly—is something that tends to happen in a really great bluegrass banjo performance, solo or otherwise. The natural "feel" of how and where to do this (and how and where to NOT do it, or do it excessively) is something the greatest bluegrass banjo players seem to have down. It is not easy to pinpoint, because it is too integral and masterfully done. Scruggs is playing with what I call "drive" in that clip, by himself, and he definitely does NOT retain the exact same beat from beginning to end. Now it may not be his best performance, fine, but the "drive" is there. Hard to describe, impossible maybe.

Edited by - Banjfoot on 09/29/2022 09:55:05

Sep 30, 2022 - 1:50:15 AM
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phb

Germany

3680 posts since 11/8/2010

Seems like a lot of the fuzz about "drive" boils down to the fact that effects that have been known for centuries such as "accelerando", "ritardando", "crescendo" and "decrescendo" also have some use in bluegrass. The "pushing the beat" concept might be a new or at least uncommon one. Its existence just needs to be proven or it remains a musical yeti. Just to confuse things a little more, I would like to add that a double-bass has quite an attack time (time it takes from striking the string until the note reaches its loudest point in time before starting to decay back into silence). This makes the point in time when a beat really occurs quite ambiguous.
 

Sep 30, 2022 - 8:29:05 AM

13869 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Banjfoot

I believe the reasoning Ken (Old Hickory) attempted to use in relation to the Earl Scruggs solo performance I posted is interesting , it reminds me of a Zeno philosophical argument in being very clever, but I think it is mistaken. (Ken, you make some of the best posts on this forum, in my opinion, generally speaking, as a numerous members clearly appreciate...)


You're much too kind. And, of course, I could be completely mistaken in my reasoning about the Scruggs example of solo drive. Just because I don't hear or believe drive has anything to do with being ahead of the beat doesn't make me right. I'd be totally happy to see some kind of proof that confirms it's there even though I can't perceive it.

Until then, I go back to what I think I said earlier in this discussion: That what people are describing as the banjo playing ahead of the beat is more likely good banjo players demonstrating the ability to subtly emphasize some notes and de-emphasize others. Same as they make melody stand out within the arpeggios. Why do we think they're playing ahead of the beat? Maybe the emphasis means a slightly harder, sharper, or quicker attack, which some of us perceive as reaching our ears sooner than a non-emphasized attack or before the rest of the note develops.

That's more guessing that could be wrong!

Sep 30, 2022 - 11:24:29 AM
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8317 posts since 8/30/2004

Ken,
I totally agree with you. It is as simple as emphasizing melody notes or whichever notes you want to stand out. I'm amused by these threads that have been going on and on for years now with regards to "ahead of" "behind" the beat--etc. etc. etc. It all seems to silly to me...Jack

Sep 30, 2022 - 11:57:17 AM
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46 posts since 5/21/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
You're much too kind. And, of course, I could be completely mistaken in my reasoning about the Scruggs example of solo drive. Just because I don't hear or believe drive has anything to do with being ahead of the beat doesn't make me right. I'd be totally happy to see some kind of proof that confirms it's there even though I can't perceive it.

Until then, I go back to what I think I said earlier in this discussion: That what people are describing as the banjo playing ahead of the beat is more likely good banjo players demonstrating the ability to subtly emphasize some notes and de-emphasize others. Same as they make melody stand out within the arpeggios. Why do we think they're playing ahead of the beat? Maybe the emphasis means a slightly harder, sharper, or quicker attack, which some of us perceive as reaching our ears sooner than a non-emphasized attack or before the rest of the note develops.

That's more guessing that could be wrong!


 

FWIW, even Earl wasn't sure if he was changing his timing, or just playing some notes harder.

From Masters of the five string:

"It's very hard for me to say whether I am playing the melody notes harder, or whether I am changing the tempo of them slightly to make them stand out more -- sort of like grouping my rhythm notes closer to each melody note..." -- Earl Scruggs

Sep 30, 2022 - 12:03:29 PM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

2015 posts since 8/9/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Jack Baker

Ken,
I totally agree with you. It is as simple as emphasizing melody notes or whichever notes you want to stand out. I'm amused by these threads that have been going on and on for years now with regards to "ahead of" "behind" the beat--etc. etc. etc. It all seems to silly to me...Jack


10000%

I firmly believe all the greats never had to think about it. They just played what sounded good to them.

Less analyzing, more melody and rhythm. Not rocket surgery after all, we're just making noises at the end of the day. 

Sep 30, 2022 - 12:43:38 PM

13869 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by AJLeonardi
FWIW, even Earl wasn't sure if he was changing his timing, or just playing some notes harder.

From Masters of the five string:

"It's very hard for me to say whether I am playing the melody notes harder, or whether I am changing the tempo of them slightly to make them stand out more -- sort of like grouping my rhythm notes closer to each melody note..." -- Earl Scruggs


Thanks!  Now I feel like I'm in great company.

I would never compliment myself to the extent of saying I play with drive. I don't know that I do. But I was going to comment earlier that I believe I do some of the things I've mentioned in this discussion, such as emphasize melody notes or in general give notes more or less emphasis for the sound I'm after.  People can recognize melodies when I play, so I know I can do some of this. But can't possibly describe how I do it. 

Oct 1, 2022 - 4:50:06 AM
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phb

Germany

3680 posts since 11/8/2010

This reminds me of how we had discussions about "bounce" ten years ago where one person was adamant that Earl played all notes in equal length, no swing rhythm whatsoever. That person disregarded every example of uneven note separation given as simply being the first of two eighth notes being emphasised rather than being longer than the second and even made some recordings giving examples for note emphasis playing a simple forward roll with and without emphasis. The funny thing was that the forward roll with emphasis had a note separation of about 2:1 which could be demonstrated visually by loading it into a sound editing program.

I'm sure that person could play well, the only problem was that reality didn't care about the thoroughly worked out theory.

Oct 4, 2022 - 3:04:17 AM
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4817 posts since 12/6/2009

Lynwood Lunsford was with Jimmy Martin for a while and I think Lynwood said once, ( if I remember correctly) Jimmy insisted they play ON the beat....maybe if Lynwood sees this he can elaborate more.......Hey Lynwood where are you ????......

Oct 8, 2022 - 8:55:15 AM

23 posts since 7/8/2013

quote:
Originally posted by stanleytone

As has been said there have been many discussions on this topic. In my mind i have always looked at this wise....there is a very minimal tolerance within the timing of bluegrass music (im being specific here) .that "tolerance" between beats allows for very little wiggle room while still being in time with the beat. How one wiggles within that tolerance will determine the feel of the playing whether its a more laid back feel(some might call that bounce?) , a more metronomic feel ( no frills on top of the beat) , or pushing it as much as one can (at the front of but not IN front of the beat). The question is , can one drive his playing in any one of those tolerances?
Does drive mean just staying constant on whichever tolerance you happen to be to be playing in without fluctuating between those tolerances? .to be honest ive never really thought this deep about it. Maybe i should just shut up and play.lol


Oct 8, 2022 - 8:58:18 AM

23 posts since 7/8/2013

No, definately don't shut up and play. I think this is a good contribution to a
facinating discussion.

Oct 8, 2022 - 9:23:43 AM

3154 posts since 4/19/2008
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by phb

This reminds me of how we had discussions about "bounce" ten years ago where one person was adamant that Earl played all notes in equal length, no swing rhythm whatsoever. That person disregarded every example of uneven note separation given as simply being the first of two eighth notes being emphasised rather than being longer than the second and even made some recordings giving examples for note emphasis playing a simple forward roll with and without emphasis. The funny thing was that the forward roll with emphasis had a note separation of about 2:1 which could be demonstrated visually by loading it into a sound editing program.

I'm sure that person could play well, the only problem was that reality didn't care about the thoroughly worked out theory.


Along that vein, can anyone hear the section in THE BALLAD OF JED CLAMPETT where Earl uses bounce?

Oct 8, 2022 - 11:04:33 AM
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8317 posts since 8/30/2004

OK. HA. one more time. Beat, Drive Sync is who you are. It's how you speak, walk, run, skip, dance breathe--you have it or you don't....Bye now.

Originally posted by Jack Baker

J.D. just picks the melody harder. I think all this "ahead of the beat" "behind the beat" is just nonsense and confusing....Jack


Edited by - Jack Baker on 10/08/2022 11:05:05

Oct 8, 2022 - 1:20:01 PM

Owen

Canada

12268 posts since 6/5/2011

Hold the phone ... I think I've just stumbled on the definitive word explaining "drive"   In an interview Keith Richards said: "Muddy Waters is my man. He’s the guy I listened to. Maybe I just picked it up off of him. I recognized it. It was just the same as my drive. I felt an immediate affinity when I heard Muddy go [picks up guitar and plays the opening lick from "Rollin' Stone"]. You can’t be harder than that, man. He said it all right there. So all I want to do is be able to do that."

So there you have it in plain English .... "...just the same as my drive, I felt an immediate affinity... ."   wink

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