Back beat

Back beat

In music, "back beat" (also backbeat) is a term applied both to a specific style of rhythmic accentuation with accent on even beats and those even beats.

In a simple 4/4 rhythm, counted aloud as "1 2 3 4", this applies to the beats 2 and 4cite web|title=Backbeat |url= |accessdate=2007-02-10 |year= 2007 |work= |publisher=Grove Music Online ] , as opposed to the odd downbeat, beat one, and beat 3, also odd. As beat four immediately precedes a new bar in 4/4 rhythm, it is also termed upbeat.


The "up" and "down" refer to movements of the conductor's batonFact|date=July 2008.The effect can be easily simulated by evenly and repeatedly counting to four:

* 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 -- robotically, with no stress

One may find that one has added stresses out of habit or for interest. One may alternate strong and weak beats on the even and odd beats, respectively:

* 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 -- the stress is on the "expected" beat audio|Backbeat example unsyncopated.mid|play

Or one may syncopate that pattern and alternately stress the odd and even beats, respectively, creating syncopation:

* 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 -- the stress is on the "unexpected" or syncopated beat audio|Backbeat example.mid|play

Bold denotes a stressed beat.

So that one may have a background against which to compare these various rhythms a bass drum strike on the downbeat and a constant eighth note subdivision on ride cymbal have been added, which would be counted as follows:

* 1&2&3&4&1&2&3&4& -- audio|Backbeat example eighth notes.mid|play eighth notes and bass drum alone

History and use

Today in popular music drum kits the snare drum is typically used to play a backbeat patternSchroedl, Scott (2001). Play Drums Today!, p.11. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-02185-0.] such as quarter notes on the backbeat or the slightly more interesting:

In the 1920s, Boston Time, with the entire band emphasizing the back beatfact|date=August 2008, became popular in New Orleans music. Similarly, Fred Maddox’s trademark back beat (Maddox was a member of the group known as the Maddox Brothers and Rose), a slapping bass style, helped drive a broad change in popular music, sporting a faster, immediately discernible rhythm that came to be known as rockabilly, one of the early forms of rock and roll. [ [ NPR News Riding the Rails to Stardom - The Maddox Brothers and Rose] ] Maddox had used this style as early as 1937. []

There is a hand-clapping back beat on "Roll 'Em Pete" by Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner, recorded in 1938. A distinctive back beat can be heard on "Back Beat Boogie" by Harry James And His Orchestra, recorded in late 1939. [ [ The Ultimate Jazz Archive - Set 17/42] ] Other earlier examples of back beat include the final verse of "Grand Slam" by Benny Goodman in 1942.

In the mid 1940s "hillbilly" musicians the Delmore Brothers were turning out boogie tunes with a hard driving back beat, such as the #2 hit "Freight Train Boogie" in 1946, as well as in other boogie songs they recorded. []

Emphasizing the back beat entered rhythm and blues recordings in the late 1940s, and is one of the defining characteristics of rock and roll and is used in virtually all contemporary popular music, bossa nova being a notable exception. Drummer Earl Palmer states the first record with nothing but back beat was "The Fat Man" by Fats Domino in 1949, which he played on. Palmer says he adopted it from the final shout or out chorus common in Dixieland jazz. While "The Fat Man" may have been the first Top 40 song with a back beat all the way through, urban contemporary gospel was stressing the back beat much earlier with hand-clapping and tambourines.

Early funk music often delayed one of the backbeats so as, "to give a 'kick' to the [overall] beat"Mattingly, Rick (2006). "All About Drums", p.104. Hal Leonard. ISBN 1-4234-0818-7.] :

Related concepts

*"Afterbeat" refers to a percussion style where a strong accent is sounded on the second, third and fourth beats of the bar, following the downbeat.
*In Reggae music, the term "One Drop" reflects the complete de-emphasis (to the point of silence) of the first beat in the cycle.
*James Brown’s signature funk groove emphasized the downbeat – that is, with heavy emphasis "on the one" (the first beat of every measure) – to etch his distinctive sound, rather than the back beat, familiar to many R&B musicians, that placed the emphasis on the second beat. [ [ Lessons in listening - Concepts section: Fantasy, Earth Wind & Fire, The Best of Earth Wind & Fire Volume I, Freddie White.] (1998, January). "Modern Drummer Magazine", pp. 146–152. Retrieved January 21 2007.] [According to the New York Times, by the "mid-1960s Brown was producing his own recording sessions. In February 1965, with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” he decided to shift the beat of his band: from the one-two-three-four backbeat to one-two-three-four. “I changed from the upbeat to the downbeat,” Mr. Brown said in 1990. “Simple as that, really.”] [cite web | title=James Brown, the ‘Godfather of Soul’, Dies at 73 | date=2006-12-25 | work=New York Times | url= | accessdate=2007-01-10 ] [According to Maceo Parker, Brown's former saxophonist, playing on the downbeat was at first hard for him and took some getting used to. Reflecting back to his early days with Brown's band, Parker reported that he had difficulty in playing "on the one" during solo performances, since he was used to hearing and playing with the accent on the second beat.] Gross, T. (1989). [ Musician Maceo Parker (Fresh Air WHYY-FM audio interview).] National Public Radio. Retrieved January 22 2007.]

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