Feel The Beat

Shanda Music Beats
Shanda Music Beats (Photo credit: Louish Pixel)


 One of the most important elements of melodic phrasing is the placement of notes relative to the basic beat. The three recognized placements of notes and their relation to the basic pulse are:

Ahead of the beat (on top)

On the beat (right on)

Behind the beat (laying back)

Playing ahead of the beat does not mean rushing. It simply means the player is constantly anticipating the basic pulse, but not rushing. Playing on the beat means phrasing your notes so they coincide exactly with the tempo of the rhythm section... the tempo that was counted off. When people play behind the beat, their phrasing will tend to trail the basic pulse or seem to lag. Playing behind the beat can imply a lazy or "laid back" feeling, where playing ahead of the beat usually implies excitement and forward motion. Playing right on the beat gives a solid, secure time.

Beginning improvisors should learn to play on the beat. If, later in their musical development, their personalities suggest they play ahead or behind the beat they will at least be able to find the basic pulse because they have played there. Listening to the rhythm section and connecting the flow of your notes to theirs is vital.

When playing behind the beat, players must be careful to keep the quarter notes consistent with the basic pulse laid down by the rhythm section. If they place their notes later and later in the measure, they are guilty of dragging. Phrases that drag often resemble something dying! On the other hand, if the player's notes (phrases) come earlier and earlier in relation to the basic pulse, they are guilty of rushing, which, of course, is also undesirable. Our considerations of time and note placement hold true regardless of the meter - 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/8.

Players hopefully will find their own "groove" and learn to play with rhythm sections that play ahead of, on, and behind the beat. The way you place your notes in relation to the basic beat can also produce tension or release.

-- an article from Jamey Aebersold

My feet shall run because of you, My feet, dance because of you, My heart shall beat because of you, My eyes, see because of you, My mind, thinks because of you, And I shall love because of you

 -- unknown

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