Sometimes A Great Motion

Time is an interesting concept and is something I think about a lot. As a drummer, time is something I deal with in my work. So I’d like to talk about how I relate to time.
I’ve always been interested when people say, “drummers are the time keepers.” To me, this is a false statement, as everyone should be the time keeper. I can’t imagine how someone could play guitar/bass/keys/etc. and not be able to keep time. What if they rely on the drummer and the drummer has no sense of time? Then what? The music being made, if it could even be called music, will have no relationship to the listener, as it will most likely be rather chaotic. So to repeat: everyone is a time keeper.
OK, so if the drummer isn’t the time keeper, then what are they? I have always seen my job as getting things from here…………………….to…………………….there. The music starts, and in most cases, there is an unbroken thread running until the end. What happens between those 2 points, beginning & ending, is that energy is moved forward in time. And the drummer controls how the energy moves forward.
Let’s look at some examples:
In #1, we start with straight quarter notes on the bass drum & snare, then move to straight 8th notes. Notice how the time flow changes from the quarters to double time. Both 2-measure segments take up the same amount of time, but move the music with a different energy. Even though the second 2 measures are double time, we have not sped up in relation to the quarter note. 

In #2, we take the same quarter notes, then change them to dotted quarter notes, or a beat every 3-8th notes. Notice how the time stretches out in the second 2 measures, yet again, we have not changed tempo in relationship to the quarter note, but we have an illusion of the music moving ahead at a slower pace. 

In #3, we take the straight quarter notes, then change them to what are essentially straight dotted 8th notes, or a beat every 3-16th notes. Notice how the time compresses in the second 2 measures, seemingly moving faster, but we are still moving in relationship to the quarter note.  


So here we have 3 different shifts from playing a straight quarter note, but we have not changed the tempo. We have only changed our perspective in relationship to the quarter note. The important thing is to notice how the energy changes the way it moves forward in time.

Time to go…

~ MB

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