DAn commented on my last post agreeing that it was circular to ask whether a drummer is “ahead” or “behind” the beat, when it is precisely the drummer we may be relying on to determine the beat. That led me to want to snip the loop of this circularity in this post. Let’s leave aside the idea of a drummer’s relationship to some abstract temporal frame of reference and focus on what drums alone are doing.
Can we simply separate the drummer’s actual statement of the beat and examine that on its own? Or perhaps use this beat as the reference point for other musically meaningful events?
For a reliable, highly conventional statement of an actual tempo within many jazz performances, we would take the quarter note part of the cymbal “ride”. The familiar figure is:
dang dang-da dang dang-da-dang dang-da-dang
Which would be notated this way:
The quarter notes in 4/4 time would be the “dang” part. It is true that the second and fourth dang in each bar do not sustain for a full quarter note. They are paired with a “da.” But they are struck on the quarter note of each quarter in 4/4, creating a steady tempo.
To do this, we could look only at the exact outset of the cymbal sound (given we had the ability to separate this feature, a big, big “if” I realize.)
If these real, not abstract, quarter notes could be extracted, perhaps we could:
- create an average tempo from that and ask how, or how much, the drummer deviates from his own overall practice or at any given point
- use the actual drum tempo as a reference point for what other instruments are doing (given they too could be precisely measured or disaggregated).
This could help profile or identify percussionists, or how artists play together in specific ensembles. In addition, perhaps these drum beats could serve as criteria for creating musically meaningful segments that could then be analyzed.