Do you mostly listen to music that’s over a hundred years old?
When you’re taking your dog for a walk, do you put the marches of John Phillips Sousa in your headphones?
When you’re out with your friends on a Saturday night, do you go to the juke box and play a bunch of Bach?
When you go to the gym, do you play Greensleeves on repeat to pump yourself up?
I’m guessing the answer to these questions is a resounding NO.
Sure, give me a marching band at the halftime show, Bach’s Inventions on a Sunday morning, and Greensleeves during the holidays.
But the rest of the time?
Give me Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, Paul Simon, Marvin Gaye, Radiohead, Jay Z, Louis Armstrong, Talking Heads, John Scofield, and Ray Charles.
You of course have your own list. Maybe it’s Metallica, or Brad Paisley, or the Black Keys. It doesn’t really matter.
Unless your musical heroes all died when horses were still the most popular form of transportation, the way I taught you to use the metronome yesterday is… well, wrong.
It’s wrong in the sense that, if you want to be a musical badass, you’ll need to stop thinking about the strong beats landing on 1 & 3, and start thinking about them on 2 & 4.
In every style of modern music, the backbeat is the most important rhythmic event.
For every one of those artists I rattled off above, the snare hits on 2 & 4 are what make you want tap your foot, nod your head, or get up and dance.
Practice with the click on 1 & 3, and you’ll be in time.
Practice with the click on 2 & 4, and you will groove.
How To Clap With Soul
Until fairly recently, the classical music world dictated how we talked about (and thought about) musical concepts.
Which is totally fine if you want to play classical music, but it’s been a somewhat limiting mindset for those of us who would prefer to play jazz, rock, or any of the hundreds of rhythmically sophisticated stylistic mashups and subgenres that populate our modern musical world.
And because most of our school music educators came up in that classical-first system, there are generations of musicians who didn’t learn to use the metronome in a way that reflects modern reality.
Like rhythmically inept old white people clapping on the wrong beats at a concert, our band directors and music teachers have been reinforcing beat 1 as the center of the rhythmic universe.
But for every style of music you’re likely to want to play, beats 2 & 4 are much more heavily emphasized.
The snare drum––aka the loudest thing on most any recording––lives on 2 & 4.
If you’re clapping along with the music, you want to sound like this, with the claps on beats 2 & 4:
What you don’t want is to clap on 1 & 3, like the audience in the first 30 seconds of this.
(couldn’t embed it––opens in a new window)
Which is why, around 0:37, Harry Connick, Jr. adds an extra beat to what he’s playing, slyly forcing the audience into clapping in the proper place.
(Check out the double fist pump from the drummer, which you can see peeking over the piano at 0:44.)
So now that we’ve established that 2 & 4 are your new North Star, how do we incorporate it into your musical life?
The Two-Legged Table Is Dead!
Long Live The Two-Legged Table!
That’s right, we’re modifying our exercise from yesterday.
Set Tempo to 50 bpm:
Meter to 4/4:
Beats 1 & 3 silent, beats 2 & 4 unaccented:
Now you have a metronome click that makes all four beats visible, but only 2 & 4 audible. Not just a Two-Legged Table, but a table with the right two legs.
To find your way into this, run that same sequence from yesterday:
- Watching the pulse of the LEDs, tap your foot and count “one two three four”
- Add the divisions between them: “one and two and three and four and”
- Do one-string eighth note Bury The Click.
- Play our C major scale fragment (or another riff that’s all eighth notes).
- Use the visual cues as much as you need to, but once you can play along with it, look away from the metronome.
- Be ready to fail frequently––it’s kind of the point.
I’d like you to log at least 5 minutes of this today, so use the Tracker to time yourself.
Next we’ll take this improved Two-Legged Table and combine it with some strumming & a variation of Bury The Click.