Playing Behind the Beat

Posted: January 25, 2017 in Livin' in the USA, Music
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you want to know why some music sounds so relaxed? It’s really simple — the musicians are playing behind the beat.

That means that they’re playing a few thousandths of a second after the beat falls. It’s common in blues, jazz, soul, and (less so) funk. Not at all in country or metal.

In those styles, everything is pretty much right on the beat — exact to the thousandth of a second. Some metal moves beyond that to being ahead of the beat.

Here’s how to think of all this: 1) Ahead of the beat: Nazis jacked up and running meth labs in Kingman or Fresno — frenetic; 2) On the beat: common rock or country — excited, but nothing to see or hear here folks, move along (please!); 3)  Behind the beat: Ah yes! Relax, groove into it. Enjoy it!

The best example of behind-the-beat playing I can think of is James Brown’s 16-minute masterpiece, “Papa don’t take no mess,” off of his otherwise awful “Hell” CD. Everyone on it is way behind the beat.

The best example of yours truly playing behind the beat is on our first Pinche Blues Band EP, with the cut Postal; I’m way behind the beat (on guitar), as are Abe and Jaime, on drum and bass.

Hope you enjoy it.

And do it yourself. It ain’t all that hard. Just fine a tune where the musicians are playing behind the beat, and imitate it.

And enjoy. Make it funky, yáll. Oww!


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