What is "Lift"? Part III: Understanding the Offbeat in Simple Time

We've already discussed beats and backbeats in simple time. Today we'll be looking at the part of the beat that, if emphasized, provides the most effective way to get "lift" into your drum scores: the offbeat. The offbeat is located in different spots, depending on which of the five pipe band drumming styles is being played. Before adding accented offbeats to your drum scores you should know which notes in which styles are considered offbeats and which ones aren't. Let's start with the notes that are not considered offbeats and are rarely (if ever) accented:

 

In the march or reel styles, the following notes are considered neither beat, backbeat or offbeat notes. If these notes are accented, your drum score will not feel like a pipe band drum score anymore; instead it will feel awkward, disjointed, overly busy and unmusical. Avoid emphasizing these notes at all costs!

 

1) March: note #2 of a sixteenth note triplet

2) March: notes #2 and #6 of an 8-note thirty-second grouping

3) Pointed reel: note #2 of an eighth note triplet

4) Pointed reel: note #2 of a 4-note sixteenth grouping

5) Round reel: note #2 of a 4-note sixteenth grouping

 

Now that you know what not to do, let's talk about what you should you. Emphasizing the following notes will provide lift, musicality and "pop" to your drum scores:

 

Offbeats in a March

 

Accented beats using dot/cut notes

 

Accented offbeats using dot/cut notes

 

Accented beats using triplet sixteenth notes

 

Accented offbeats using triplet sixteenth notes

 

Accented beats using thirty-second notes

 

 

Accented offbeats using thirty second notes

 

Offbeats in a Pointed Reel

 

Accented beats using dot/cut notes

 

 

Accented offbeats using dot/cut notes

 

Accented beats using triplet eighth notes

 

Accented offbeats using triplet eighth notes

 

Accented beats using sixteenth notes

 

Accented offbeats using sixteenth notes

 

Offbeats in a Round Reel

 

Accented beats using eighth notes

 

Accented offbeats using eighth notes

 

Accented beats using sixteenth notes

 

Accented offbeats using sixteenth notes

 

Now let's look at a couple of examples of real world "do's and don'ts" for lift applied to a drum score. The first example below shows you what you should not do. In this example, everything is accented on the offbeat. There is no ground or emphasis on the beat from which to lift off. A score with too much offbeat accenting sounds awkward and lacks groove. An emphasis on the offbeat creates musical tension but if that tension is never resolved it leaves you with the same feeling as when the power goes off just before the end of your movie. No resolution, no satisfaction.

 

 

In the next example there is no lift at all. All accents are beat accents. This score would not be very fun to play and would lack the requisite "pop" and excitement necessary to both support and propel the pipe tune forward. In short: it's BORRRINNGGGG!!

 

 

The final example shows a balance between emphasis on beat notes, back beats and offbeats. A drum score usually connects well with a pipe tune if there is a strong beat emphasis on the first note of bars one and three--this is the case in the example below. This strong emphasis at the beginning of the first and third bars provides the '"ground" from which to "lift" off. The accents in the following example are as follows: beat, offbeat, beat, offbeat, beat, offbeat, offbeat, backbeat, offbeat.

 

 

Next week we'll be discussing offbeats in the compound time styles (jigs and 6/8 marches). Until then, happy drumming!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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