LearnJazzPiano.com archives: Beats "two" & "four" ?
Jazz+ -- 03/10/2005, 11:27:01 -- #11829
Practicing with the metronome on beats "two" & "four" is a method for strengthening your time sense, you have to supply the beats "one" & "three". But don't confuse that practice with the real world. On the bandstand your focus should be more on the stong anchor beats "one" & "three", that's where the resolutions are and the changes are. "Two" & "four" is the drummers accent.

Bass master  Carol Kaye writes:
"No, you don't accent 2 and 4, altho' some people mistakenly think you do in order to get the "groove" going....the drummer does the 2 and 4 and the bass player has to have his great time sense really correct and play slightly on top of the beat (not rushing, but on the upside of the beat, rather than dead in the middle for playing jazz -- we used to call it the "Ray Brown Edge"...Ray is right, that's where you play and he does NOT accent 2 and 4 at all). "

Jazz piano master Hal Galper writes:
"The Release  beats of a bar ("one" & "three" and the "on" beats of every quarter-note) are the strong beats of the bar. The Tension beats of the bar ("two" & "four" and the "ands" of each quarter-note) are the weak beats of the bar.

Pianist Dick Hyman writes:
"The way I've learned it, you tap your foot on 1 and 3, but you clap on 2 and 4, if you want to."

OK, now look at films of the Count Basie Orchestra and Duke Ellington's band. Everybody in the front row is tapping on 1, 2, 3, 4 or just on 1 and 3, not 2 and 4.

Whoever heard a musician ask "Where is the 2?" They always ask "Where is the 1?"

Beats 1 and 3 are the strongest beats, they are the points of resolution and act like anchors. It's the "+"s that give the rhythm a feeling of forward motion. Let the drummer accent beats "two" & "four" and let the audience clap on "two" and "four".

Count Basie, Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Dick Hyman, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea all tap their foot on beats 1 and 3.

Dr. Whack -- 03/10/2005, 12:12:07 -- #11833
interesting...I tap on 2 and 4 - works for me:)

Drummers tap hi-hats on 2 & 4 which is why I do it - If our 2s and 4s are in the same place, then our 1s and 3s usually are too

Dr. Whack -- 03/10/2005, 12:14:47 -- #11834
now...if we're playing real fast straight ahead, I don't really tap at all...just a lot of grunting and hoping we're all in the same place - or at least end up at the same place at the same time:) - and maybe I tap on 1 & 3 or just 1...

Jazz+ -- 03/10/2005, 12:37:28 -- #11836
Beats "1" and "3" are where the resolutions most often occur and where most chord changes are.

Even if you are tapping your toe on beat "2" and "4", your heal is still on "1" and "3" :
"When playing the standard 2 and 4 jazz hi-hat pattern, the simplest and most common method is the "heel-toe" technique. The heel of the left foot strikes the heelplate of the pedal on beats 1 and 3, while the toe comes down  on the toeplate on 2 and 4. Using this method, the leg is basically still bouncing on every quarter note."

Jazz+ -- 03/10/2005, 12:47:02 -- #11837
Beats "1" and "3" are where the resolutions most often occur and where most chord changes are.

Even if you are tapping your toe on beat "2" and "4", your heal is still on "1" and "3" :
"When playing the standard 2 and 4 jazz hi-hat pattern, the simplest and most common method is the "heel-toe" technique. The heel of the left foot strikes the heelplate of the pedal on beats 1 and 3, while the toe comes down  on the toeplate on 2 and 4. Using this method, the leg is basically still bouncing on every quarter note."

Officer Mike -- 03/11/2005, 04:58:03 -- #11846
swing is generated by beats 2 and 4 otherwise known as the backbeat.
Listen to the arranging great Quincy Jones talk about how the best bands are the ones that had 2 and  4 mastered and played a strong backbeat, how the drummer and the bass player accent these beats and every one else plays off that.  Beats one and three are the obvious gravity of every measure and the basis for most harmonic rhythm but it is the treatment of beats  2 and 4 that gives swing that special oh ah.

Jazz+ -- 03/11/2005, 12:09:03 -- #11853
Swing is not generated by the "back beat." All rock and pop music has the "back beat" and they don't swing. Swing comes from the "long- short" phrasing of the eighth notes.

Dr. Whack -- 03/11/2005, 14:29:29 -- #11855
I disagree with Jazz+.   There has to be a point of reference in order to hold a groove, and in my opinion, 2 & 4 is the point of reference in pop, rock, jazz, reggae etc...you can call it a back beat or call it something else, but a tight 2 & 4 makes it happen...

Jazz+ -- 03/11/2005, 15:31:27 -- #11858
Think what you want or have been told to think. But I will say it again: look at the films of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington's band. Everybody in the front row is tapping on beats 1 and 3, or 1, 2, 3, 4 ... not on  2 and 4.

Jazz+ -- 03/11/2005, 15:34:11 -- #11859
By the way, it's common knowledge that the back beat should be laid back in the groove, the 1 and the 3 are tighter (reference) beats and on top of the pulse. Ask Lenny Castro, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine or Hal Blaine.

Jazz+ -- 03/11/2005, 15:38:46 -- #11860
The "tap on 2 and 4" idea is said to have originated at the Berklee school of music as a way to help students who had trouble feeling swing time. It was intended as an exercise to help those students toward feeling swing time.

Jazz+ -- 03/11/2005, 15:40:52 -- #11861
At a master class where John Clayton (bass player with Monty Alexander Trio) was talking about a number of things and this issue
came up. He said that when he and Jeff Hamilton (drummer with Monty Alexander Trio) are on a gig and they see someone tapping on 2 and 4 they look at each other and know that they are going to be in for one scary night in rhythm land. He had a really funny way of illustrating just how unnatural it is to do that. He said "Well the high hat plays on 2 and 4 but so what. I tap on 1,2,3,4 or 1 and 3 or even just 1 depending on the tune and tempo."

My advice is don't create unnatural obstacles for yourself when playing. This tapping on 2 and 4 is something that has become kind of a cult thing and people do it because they think it's some big secret that all the top players know. Next time you go to a club to hear top players, see how they they are tapping.

Jazz+ -- 03/11/2005, 15:45:15 -- #11862
My friend studied with the bassist that replaced John Clayton in the Bassie Band and he gave him the same advice (tap on 1 and 3). However he does often set the metronome to click on 2 and 4 (simulating that traditional high hat thing) while tapping  on 1 and 3. This has seemed to help his sense of time.

Dr. Whack -- 03/11/2005, 17:43:58 -- #11865
hehe...

Dr. Whack -- 03/11/2005, 17:58:48 -- #11867
Okay...I apologize...I've been playing for 40 years having no idea what I'm doing.  Most of what I share here is a product of my experiences and most likely influenced by pop culture.   Clearly, my opinion should not be considered at all.

Dr. Whack -- 03/11/2005, 19:13:13 -- #11869
well...enough sarcasm...we're probably, once again, using different words to say the same thing:)  Somtimes I tap on the 4th 16th of each beat... and when I'm feeling expecially silly I tap on each 16th - just to crack up the drummer - and it usually works:)

Officer Mike -- 03/12/2005, 06:21:38 -- #11873
Yes it is ironic that the back beat which is most important in Rock and most dance pop forms is also the most important element of Swing,
non- the- less that is the case. But what often gets lost in conversations about swing is that it is a very varied thing.  Latin music has all these cool names for all the different styles and feels.  Unfotunately swing never evolved in such a way that it labled all the different feels.  If you are a swing player you just know them.  For example all dancable Swing ... for example the Ellington Big Band numbers that people love to lindy hop or jitterbug to... these all swing with a tremendous emphasis on the back beat.. and if everyone in the ensemble is not feeling that it hurts and if you do not feel the back beat when you are playing them even solo piano these tunes rarely sound decent either.  All the Old Hamp Big Band Stuff has a tremendous back beat.  Be bop types of swing on the other hand with blistering fast tempos the back beat although still all important is an infinitely more subtle thing that is why some players who dive right into bop and more modern swing forms with out starting by learning the earlier forms of swing miss the back beat and never really learn to swing very well.

Officer Mike -- 03/12/2005, 06:27:20 -- #11874
this whole thing about tapping the foot.  personally I do not tap my foot at all and I do not believe it is a good idea to do so. Although a lot of great pianists tap their feet I believe they are great in spite of this fact not because of it.   If you tap your foot you start relying on your foot for time which is wrong  that is not where time should be coming from and it will also needlessyly restrict you.  Feel the back beat in your soul and always know exactly where one and three are and there is no need to tap your feet and in fact it will be better not to tap them.  If you need to tap your feet to play there is something fundamentally wissing in your perception and understanding of time.

Gordon -- 03/12/2005, 08:26:43 -- #11875
Interesting discussion - If any one can point to any examples of the same piece played with and then without swing etc, I would love to hear them.

Dr. Whack -- 03/12/2005, 10:39:05 -- #11876
yeah...I think if we have to think about it that much (tapping or whatever) we're not going to be swinging...

"In The Mood" by Glen Miller Band is a great example of what Officer Mike is talking about.  It's hard to find recordings of this tune "not swinging" because those would suck and not be readily available on the open market:)

When I was a youngster and first started subbing for my dad, I was on a big band gig.  We had just finished playing "In The Mood" right before a break.  The drummer, who was about 40 or 50 years my senior, took me aside and explained that I should play simpler parts, emphasizing 2 & 4... I had been listening to  Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, etc...I thouht is was my chance to show all the cool stuff i could play...trouble is, it was too much crap and not stylistically appropriate...because we were supposed to be playing a "danceable swing"...

Now fast straight ahead, is quite a different story - I don't even consider that swing - even though it "swings" - and there aint much time to be doing any tapping:)

Dr. Whack -- 03/12/2005, 11:56:56 -- #11879
Well...I just practiced playing some tunes for bout an hour or so and I realized, I don't tap my foot at all...Sometimes I force myself to do it, but it makes no difference in my playing whether I do it or not (as far as I can tell)

I also practice using the metronome on 2&4 and 1&3...1&3 was much easier to do cold, but 2&4 was just as effortless once I got warmed up - I'm guessing making the switch may have altered my perception for a few beats...I've also spent many years practicing woth the metronome beating 2&4 so I'm comfortable with that...I do however remember it being somewhat of a challenge when I first starting doing it...

It certainly is interesting and food for thought to consider theories versus practice (what should happen and what really happens)

I never had a jazz teacher  or jazz lessons of any kind.  The only lessons I had were "piano lessons".  Aside from  playing with others, everything I've  learned has been from listening.  Although I've analyzed what others have done,  I never really take an analytical look at what I'm really doing (not that anyone cares)...

This site really helps me to see how others think, and helps me as a teacher...so thanks to all (even Jazz+ :)

Dr. Whack -- 03/14/2005, 10:24:01 -- #11915
For what it's worth, I picked up the dvd "Jazz In Montreux - Oscar Peterson Trio '77" over the weekend.  Oscar for the most part taps (with his left foot) on 1234.  During part of one tune (can't remember which one) he  taps on 2&4

LarryC -- 03/14/2005, 11:24:10 -- #11918
Jazz+ wrote:

<<Ask Lenny Castro, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine or Hal Blaine. >>

Steve Gadd is doing a clinic in St. Louis next month.  If anyone in the STL area is going or knows a drummer who's going, please ask he about the 1&3 vs 2&4 and let us know!!!

BTW, our good Dr. Whack swings good on ANY beat..and he plays a good piano too!  ;-)

Dr. Whack -- 03/14/2005, 14:24:01 -- #11923
Thanks Larry:)  I'll be at the Gadd show for sure..how bout you?  He's actually the one who made the point about a point of reference...I'm surely not going to ask him what beats he taps on - haha~

beanabus -- 03/15/2005, 08:28:43 -- #11944
True enough.

For practicing bass lines, accenting the two and four (and the offbeats) really helps swing. The notes on the 2 and 4 are often dissonant, bearing out the tension principle.

Solo lines of course can be freely accented.

Unless you are playing latin or funk, or solo, I guess the comping instrument is accenting rather than holding down the groove. Of course that doens't mean its not an excellent thing to practice.

for general musicianship, accenting the and of each beat in a run of quavers is very good practice.

Accenting the offbeat is common in baroque runs (especially for vocal articulations) If there's a semiquaver run. Really helps, because baroque music is very rythm dependant. I don't know if you swing baroque walking bass on the two and four though!

Jazz+ -- 03/15/2005, 16:19:18 -- #11962
Most of the hardest swinging recordings have the bass player walking pretty much evenly on all the beats, rather than doing the big accent on 2 & 4.  It can come out sounding accented on those notes, but I think it's more because that's where the hi-hat lands than because the bass player is accenting them. Landing too heavily on 2 & 4 seems to encourage you to slow down ... it can be a very stodgy feel.

Mike -- 03/15/2005, 17:32:11 -- #11963
Its not that they are walking evenly its that the faster the tempos the more subtle the backbeat becomes and there are many different types of swing that call for the bass player to hit the backbeat with differing touches,  but anything that swings hard is generated off of two and four.  to generate does not mean to land.  Maybe that is where your misconception is.  When swing is being generated off of two and four the gravity is still to beat one.  The tunes still want to end on beat  number one.  Measures still want to begin on number one and have their harmonic midpoints at beat number 3.  To say that swing is generated off of two and four is not to say any of that is not true and would be a misunderstanding of the concept  of two and four.

beanabus -- 03/17/2005, 08:08:25 -- #11999
Points taken - the bass doesn't always accent the 2 and 4, and sometimes the bass just plays on the 1 and 3, making it obviously impossible to swing on the 2 and 4!

I'll freely admit I'm not a drummer or bass player. On the guitar, I play a sort of pocket approximation ot a rhythm section when I'm playing solo or duo. I find a kick into the 2 and 4 helps, but that might be me trying to emulate the snare pattern.

Jazz+ -- 07/19/2005, 01:28:30 -- #16717
A quote from my old teacher:

"The way I've learned it, you tap your foot on 1 and 3, but you clap on 2 and 4, if you want to."

Dick Hyman

Copyright 2005 by Scot Ranney. All rights reserved.
Click Here for more information about performances and clinics. Click Here to sign up for Scot's music announcements.