Yesterday, I made a post for people that clap on beats 1&3 inappropriately. My wife asked a really good question, “When is it not appropriate to clap on beats 2&4”?
Well the answer to that question is that it’s all in the groove.
I posted a clip of James Brown yesterday for two reasons. First reason is because it was funny. The second reason is because he is the king of knowing the “groove”.
A groove has three components:
2) A Feeling
3) The subdivided beat (I’ll talk about that tomorrow)
Meter is a musical term that let’s us know how many beats we are going to count in a measure. A measure is created when you count through all of the beats in the measure and start over (example: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 = 2 measures). The most popular meter in Western Music is 4 beats per measure.
Try the following experiment:
Count out loud 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 and repeat it a few times.
You can have any number of beats you want in a meter. Experiment with meters of 2, 3, 5, 7, and whatever you imagine.
“A Feeling” is developed when you decide which beat you want to emphasis within the meter. Try the following experiment:
Count out loud 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 and repeat a few times.
a) Clap on the 1st beat of each measure.
b) Clap on beats 2 & 4
c) Clap on beats 1 & 3
d) Clap on beats 1 – 2 – 3 – 4
Did you notice how the feeling of the meter changed based on which beat you emphasized?
Many people think only music that has come from Africa has a groove to it, but that is simply not true. Every genre of music with a meter has its own groove. The groove in music that has been heavily influenced by Latin America or Asia grooves differently than music that has been heavily influenced by Europe and Africa.
The practical answer to my wife’s question about the appropriateness of clapping is the following:
1. Learn to listen deeply for the groove.
2. Listen for what beat is being emphasized.
3. Clap in the groove.
Understanding the music of another culture is learnable. Learning requires listening and practice.
My first two years of music school was difficult for me because I was playing an Afro-centric groove to all of my classical music. My professors were not having it! I had to learn how to listen deeply, know what to emphasis, and I began to play in the groove. My educational process has not only helped me to understand the music, but the culture from which the music comes from.
Whether you clap on beats 1&3 or 2&4 for everything, I encourage you to become a student and learn the rhythm and beat of another person’s culture. It’s a very enriching experience.
Photo Credit: Amanda M Hatfield