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Sep 27, 2023 - 10:09:30 AM
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RichJ

USA

979 posts since 8/6/2013

A music teacher by the name of Douglas Goodhard from the Old Time Fiddle channel on FB recently posted this interesting comment:

"Rhythm is the only essential element of music. One can make music without Melody or Harmony. One cannot make music without Rhythm. Polyrhythm is the farthest extent of Rhythmic possibilities. In my teaching, in my pedagogy of the Classical guitar, or violin, or clawhammer banjo, or fiddle, I insist to include Polyrhythm in the lives of students. This gives a grounding that cannot occur without this step. This is seen in the Phrasing, which is the Key to Music."

I know the subject has been discussed previously here with many varying views. As I recall the subject is often addressed in the form of a question that goes something like - If you had only one choice would you rather have solid rhythm or perfect intonation?

Gentleman, start your engines.

Sep 27, 2023 - 10:14:54 AM
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DougD

USA

11931 posts since 12/2/2007

I don't remember the exact quote, but Bill Monroe once said that rhythm is the most important part of music. His own playing, and that of his Bluegrass Boys is proof of this.

Sep 27, 2023 - 10:30:59 AM
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Erockin

USA

928 posts since 9/3/2022

"Sure can dance to a Rhythm more so than a melody"


Me 2023

Sep 27, 2023 - 10:38 AM
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carlb

USA

2654 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by RichJ

"Phrasing, which is the Key to Music."


Hear, hear!

Sep 27, 2023 - 11:31:56 AM
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1511 posts since 3/1/2020

I can’t say that I agree with that assessment. Any machine can produce a rhythm if it involves a repetitive motion. People and animals can also move in a regular motion that might be called rhythmic. However, that alone does not make any of these things music. Rhythm is an essential element of music, but it is not the only one. As an example, you could rhythmically strike random assortments of keys on a piano (as little children often do when they’ve never received any piano instruction before); the result is not music.

Viktor Zuckerkandl describes music in two simple categories: the arrow and the circle. What that means is that music must progress in some direction. It can either move along a line that does not turn back on itself, so that when the piece ends, the arrival point differs from the departure; or it can move in a circular pattern, referring to its original theme or repeating parts along the way. As examples, take a plainchant composition and a round. Music can combine the two main motions, for example being overall a work that progresses like the arrow but with parts that return to restate the thematic material like the circle.

In this sense, rhythm is essential to mark the passage of time and to drive the music and give it a sense of direction. A melodic line without any rhythmic structure loses all meaning. That does not mean that rhythm alone defines music.

Fiddle music is perhaps a little more dependent on a steady rhythm than some other genres, as so much of it is dance music that relies on regularity to aid dancers.

Claude Debussy and Miles Davis both famously opined that music is the space in between the notes.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 09/27/2023 11:32:54

Sep 27, 2023 - 12:15:03 PM

RichJ

USA

979 posts since 8/6/2013

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful


Claude Debussy and Miles Davis both famously opined that music is the space in between the notes.


Hey Rich, I've heard that often, but never knew where it came from. Anyhow... isn't that were the rhythm lives?

Sep 27, 2023 - 12:23:58 PM
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2626 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful



Claude Debussy and Miles Davis both famously opined that music is the space in between the notes.


I generally agree with you. When looked at the other way, what part of a musical piece, timing or intonation, could suffer and have the most deleterious effect? I would say bad timing would be the worst.

As far as the quote that "music is the space in between the notes", I think that says nothing at all while masquerading as something profound.

Edited by - Brian Wood on 09/27/2023 12:32:17

Sep 27, 2023 - 2:46:29 PM

14972 posts since 9/23/2009

...or, music being the space between the notes could be how one note proceeds to another...does it invite another note, a specific chord progression...does it drop into another note in a way that makes you feel like nothing else could have fit in that spot...I mean, what happens in between that ties the notes into something that has meaning to a human ear...cuz, you know it's not just bang bang banging the notes along into a parade of tones...right? Maybe the expression has more to it than one would think...yeah it could also be a case of the emperor's new clothes...just pretend it's profound or something...but maybe there's REALLY new clothes in that idea. Don't forget...Granny went to meetin' with her old shoes on and come back home with a new pair on...lol...it's sorta like that, but with music, instead a' religion. Maybe maybe maybe...is all I can chant...rhythmically I should say.

Sep 27, 2023 - 3:05:31 PM
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2626 posts since 8/27/2008

Peggy, I almost want to agree since you're so pleasant about it. But, nah, seems pseudo-profound to me. No place to hang your hat.

Sep 27, 2023 - 3:08:01 PM
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DougD

USA

11931 posts since 12/2/2007

Peggy, "cuz, you know it's not just bang bang banging the notes along into a parade of tones...right?"
Its not? Maybe I need to reexamine my playing style!

Sep 27, 2023 - 4:34:53 PM
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3639 posts since 9/13/2009

 If you had only one choice would you rather have solid rhythm or perfect intonation?

For me, solid rhythm... short answer; as most of the music I like and play is rhythmic oriented... so by definition is focus, won't be rhythmic if not solid. (but I do enjoy other music). IMO, overall, most folks natural sensitivity to solid rhythm is much greater than perfect intonation; often because they typically entrain to feel of rhythm (not just timing).

The question might be a bit of false dichotomy.

In rhythmic music, it's not that pitch doesn't matter, sense of weaving high to low; or various harmonic relationship context; some of which contributes to overall rhythmic feel, and phrasing. But the idea of some "perfect" intonation, however is perhaps not so much. Most folks lack significant natural ability to notice perfect vs slightly flat/sharp (as notice with anyone starting the fiddle); compounded by it's dependent on what intonation system; and temperament; which leads to more of a window/range of pitch intonation; and implicit relationship. 

IOW, most folks, listeners will less likely notice if that major third not is perhaps off by 16 cents (good thing; it allows equal temperament to work); especially given the timbre and speed of notes in context;  so a bit more forgiving; needs to be close enough. But rhythm needs tighter window; un-solid/wavering is much more noticeable.

Not to say, some of this is dependent on how define music, and/or type of music and focus. There are lot's other ideas of music that is not as much rhythmic oriented; and focus is more precise intonation and/or harmonic context can be more important (among other aspects). 

Sep 27, 2023 - 5:11:54 PM
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455 posts since 6/26/2007

Well, there's no such thing as perfect intonation unless you're a computer, but if your time is sloppy and/or your phrasing is unclear, the best intonation humanly possible won't make your playing any more musical.

There is nothing nearly so important in making music as STEADY TIME. Calling it the foundation of music is IMO an understatement-- it's more like the solid ground that has to be there before you can even start laying down a foundation.

Sep 27, 2023 - 5:18:50 PM
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Peghead

USA

1714 posts since 1/21/2009

 


Claude Debussy and Miles Davis both famously opined that music is the space in between the notes.


I've heard this said before and I finally think I understand it. I've been an ear player all of my life untill recently when I started to learn to sight read. It hit me like a knock on the head when I realized that the printed note tells you what note is coming next and when the previous note should end but the actual sound happens between the dots! 

Sep 27, 2023 - 6:43:33 PM
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1511 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful



Claude Debussy and Miles Davis both famously opined that music is the space in between the notes.


I generally agree with you. When looked at the other way, what part of a musical piece, timing or intonation, could suffer and have the most deleterious effect? I would say bad timing would be the worst.

As far as the quote that "music is the space in between the notes", I think that says nothing at all while masquerading as something profound.


If you spend some time really thinking about what it means, I think you'll find that the quote is an extremely profound one. Phrasing is everything. There may be other quotes that are even more valuable, but this one deserves some serious contemplation.

Try reading some text aloud several times and try putting pauses in in different spots. It will change the impact and feel of the words. A good reader doesn't just read like a metronome, but knows where to pause, where to slow down, and where to speed up. Music is not so different. Even fiddle music requires a sense of phrasing to be played well.

I would also challenge the idea that musicians play with a completely steady beat. Examine recordings of great performances and set a metronome to them--the music won't line up perfectly, but will fluctuate. In recent years, pop music has made use of quantizing rhythms to make them line up more perfectly, and I think anyone who really cares about music would say that this practice has been partly responsible for the death of musicality in popular music. I've heard examples of pre-quantized recordings put through the software and played back. It was eye-opening.

Music lives on a sense of connection that comes through rhythm, intervals, and tone. A metronome isn't musical on its own because it's just an endless pattern of beats that has no context and no direction. If there's no feeling of leaning in a direction, among intervals, among phrases, and among lines, there's no music being made. Intervals and chord voicings establish a sort of "pointing" in a direction. Rhythm helps to give this pointing more definition, but does not develop it on its own. 

Sep 27, 2023 - 8:38 PM
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2626 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

That's a pretty good interpretation. 

Sep 28, 2023 - 5:49:09 AM
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14972 posts since 9/23/2009

I like the comparison of speech to fiddling...I think speech is ... no wait...I'm starting out backwards...I think FIDDLING is more like speech than any other instrument I'm familiar with...I started to say speech is more like fiddling than any other ...whatever...I'm going crazy anyway...but yeah, it's fiddling that is like speech.

Once at a BG jam some ol' staggering drunk guy came up to me and said he loved how I fiddled with an "accent." lol...it surprised me...but back when I did start playing fiddle...not so long ago really...i'm still kinda new...maybe by now approaching the advanced beginner stages of OT fiddling, if I stretch the truth a little tiny bit...anyway, when I first started, I remembered hearing fiddle sounds I wanted to play like...and I did think those sounds went right along to match the old mountain talk that I remembered from the same generation...their fiddling, their speech...the speech of even those who never sang or played...the speech has more ups and downs, pauses and rhthymic sounds. And back then I sort of mixed my fiddling memories of the old generation i'd known growing up (I didn't know fiddlers, unfortunately, coming from a non-musical, almost anti-musical family, myself...just heard some of them here and there) and my speech memories. People don't talk like that anymore...at least I don't think they do...not anywhere around me anyhow...so....I remember here on FHO back in my early 100% inexperienced days, as opposed to my current quasi-inexperienced days, I remember saying back then if you don't remember any pre-wwi or maybe some wwi generation as well...from mountains or possibly other rural areas...if you don't remember hearing their speech, go to youtube and listen to some ol' mountaineers caught on audio speaking...and fiddle like that. Is that the proverbial spaces between the words? Spaces between the notes...or is it just another Big Foot Sighting?

Sep 28, 2023 - 6:12:55 AM
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3369 posts since 10/22/2007

Timing/rhythm isn't everything, but it way ahead of what's in second place.
Let me put it this way: Good rhythm and timing isn't much noticed until it's broke, or skipped, or jumped, or otherwise fouled up. While intonation can be subtle, that speeding or dragging banjer player should be punished accordingly. (j/k)

Sep 28, 2023 - 6:29:16 AM
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275 posts since 11/26/2013

Rhythm any time. I jam with some folks whose sense of timing is less then what one could desire, and I am always pulling up the guys who do have the problem. My own style is very rhythmic, in fact a classically trained fiddler the other night said he loved listening to my playing as its so rhythmic.

Sep 28, 2023 - 6:47:23 AM

RichJ

USA

979 posts since 8/6/2013

I posted this topic with a sort of “poke the beehive” thought in mind and knew it would provoke many to chime in. Thanks for all your thoughts and opinions. But, discussion on a controversial topic like this often brings a variety of related concepts to light. The original quote and several of the comments brought "phrasing" into the mix. I’ll have to admit I’m pretty much of an ignoramus on music theory and wasn’t sure what music phrasing was. As I think I understand it, seems it can be illustrated in the way a joke can be delivered by two people (one using phrasing, the other not) with dramatically different effect on an audience. So I guess rhythm (or maybe timing?) is an important part of music phrasing, but there sure is a lot more.

Sep 28, 2023 - 7:22:08 AM

Erockin

USA

928 posts since 9/3/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Peghead
 


Claude Debussy and Miles Davis both famously opined that music is the space in between the notes.


I've heard this said before and I finally think I understand it. I've been an ear player all of my life untill recently when I started to learn to sight read. It hit me like a knock on the head when I realized that the printed note tells you what note is coming next and when the previous note should end but the actual sound happens between the dots! 


Makes sense but I get scared when people keep mentioning these darn dots....lol

Sep 28, 2023 - 9:24:43 AM
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Swing

USA

2343 posts since 6/26/2007

Pegged your summation is right on the money... on another site some players take great pride in going through an entire tune book posting a video everyday... the thing that is obvious is that the tunes as being played have no life to them... yes, the timing as written is there but many of the tunes are un-danceable... I no longer visit that site...

Play Happy

Swing

Sep 28, 2023 - 10:38:49 AM
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doryman

USA

600 posts since 2/10/2020

If you're in a jam and you mess up the melody, you only mess up yourself. If you mess up the timing, you mess up everyone.

I've been attending a beloved, weekly jam for over ten years now. We have one occasional attendee who's rhythm is so bad, it's impossible to get through a song without stopping to figure what in the hell just happened. In fact, I try to find out in advance if this fellow is showing up and, if he is, I don't attend. As much as I love jamming, it's not worth it to suffer through that. Unfortunately, he is also very, very LOUD.

On the other hand, there are several occasional attendees who show up to the jam who mess up the melody quite often, but stay in time. I don't mind that at all. Typically, it's because they are just learning a song and don't have it down yet...but they get better.

Sep 28, 2023 - 11:36:29 AM
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3369 posts since 10/22/2007

John Hartford used to say. "Swing it!" If you're having trouble with the pocket, swing it.
I say, it's too bad everyone can't learn a rhythm instrument like bass or drums, so they can stand in the other guy's moccasins. Bass, particularly. Seemingly so simple, yet the most sought after member of the band/ jam. Nobody needs a fiddler. Man, it's so nice to have a bass in the mix.

Sep 28, 2023 - 5:23:07 PM

3639 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by RichJ

I posted this topic with a sort of “poke the beehive” thought in mind and knew it would provoke many to chime in. Thanks for all your thoughts and opinions. But, discussion on a controversial topic like this often brings a variety of related concepts to light. The original quote and several of the comments brought "phrasing" into the mix. I’ll have to admit I’m pretty much of an ignoramus on music theory and wasn’t sure what music phrasing was. As I think I understand it, seems it can be illustrated in the way a joke can be delivered by two people (one using phrasing, the other not) with dramatically different effect on an audience. So I guess rhythm (or maybe timing?) is an important part of music phrasing, but there sure is a lot more.


I don't know what beehive, or is particularly controversial.

Though might be bit of talking about different things; or terminology, of timing, rhythm, phrasing? Might be just expressing subjective different preferences of type opf music? All of these quotes of supposedly famous people; profound quips, philosophical waxing, abstract theory; not sure how useful they are, to put into practice in real world.

What most folks are referring (esp in fiddle world), is rhythmic music. Phrasing in this context Isn't without steady beat/rhythm, but from within it. With regard to this, suggestion if want to understand what folks mean by solid rhythm, steady beat... is to experience the feel of it, listen to good dance musicians, not simply timing, but the rhythmic feel and flow of steady beat AND engage your body movement to the steady rhythm; and even better is to dance, reigns supreme for this! Will tell you most everything need to know, in concrete and tangible way, and why it's essential to this type of music. Whatever some famous person, philosophers said, or abstract theory might be bit moot, to that first hand concrete experience.

---------------

That said, not all music is as rhythmic focused, some not much at all. There's this Pretty Bird

It uses a different connotation of phrasing, what you might be referring to in your post. Not what most folks would consider rhythmic, or solid steady toe tapping beat. Nothing wrong with that. focus is not rhythmic dance music. There are also other music that is not particularly strong rhythmically oriented, from more word/narrative (more like poetic meter); to ones that are very vertical axis/harmonic relationship oriented (to which intonation is more important); it still has sense of moving forward in horizontal time but might employ free meter, or free time, elastic sense of  time.

In the fiddle world, some folks approach playing airs like this, expressive poetic phrasing (rather than strict rhythmic tempo/meter) 

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 09/28/2023 17:29:20

Sep 29, 2023 - 9:51:39 AM
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2626 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
 
I don't know what beehive, or is particularly controversial.

Though might be bit of talking about different things; or terminology, of timing, rhythm, phrasing? Might be just expressing subjective different preferences of type opf music? All of these quotes of supposedly famous people; profound quips, philosophical waxing, abstract theory; not sure how useful they are, to put into practice in real world.

lks approach playing airs like this, expressive poetic phrasing (rather than strict rhythmic tempo/meter) 

I appreciate the gentle poking of the hive just to get anybody to talk about anything musical here. Reducing how music works to a catch phrase supposedly uttered by a master musician annoys me the same way the sound of one hand clapping annoys me: it replaces thinking and understanding with banal cleverness. Writing paragraphs to explain a bon mot takes it back to the actual discussion, which in this case is whether the rhythmical aspect of a kind of music is more or less important than melodic aspect. As Alaska points out there are different ways to express timing. Actual music, even "meaningless" noise, exists temporally. Melody is dependent on time, not the other way round.

Sep 29, 2023 - 10:28:06 AM

2521 posts since 4/6/2014

"Melody is dependent on time, not the other way round."

i think melody "Exists" in time, but it doesn't necessarily depend upon it.wink...Bzzzzzz...Bzzzzz  laugh

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