Dance Beat

NOTE: This chapter addresses dance rhythms only.


Beat is the connection between rhythm and dance. If a rhythm is such that a person hearing it will hear/feel repeated points of emphasis, in an understandable order and at a pace known as "dancing speed", that rhythm is said to have a dance beat.


The main problem in producing a danceable rhythm is the failure of the composer/arranger or the performer to emphasize a main beat. Even when the main beat series is so odd as to be totally unfamiliar to the dancers, emphasizing it solves the problem.


A performer may be able to play a single rhythm with several different beat sequences. There are four methods to find a correct (danceable) one.


1. Dance or tap your foot to it.

2. The loudest note or a bass tone will often be a part of the danceable beat series.

3. A particular hand or note will repeat in a pattern similar to a beat.

4. Notating the rhythm will usually make the dance beat obvious, if it exists.

A multilinear rhythm will have only one main dance beat. Some of the individual parts may have this beat, some may have another, and others may have none at all. The main one, the dance beat, is the one that stands out from the rest. If none stands out, blame the composer/arranger.


When performing with other drummers, what you decide to play may have a different natural beat than the main one. This will create one of two situations.


1. You have to change and play the main beat because your beat would be distracting.

2. Your different beat does not matter because the main beat is so dominant and/or your "off"     beat complements it.


Sometimes, in playing a single rhythm, you will want to emphasize a different beat series than the obvious one. This usually only occurs in polymetric rhythms.


To project your beat, you must express it physically. If you don't, you can't expect people to enjoy it as much or to dance to it. You can put beat into your rhythm by playing it slowly at first and tapping your foot to the beat. You use your foot because the leg muscles will rock and influence your whole body. You will then be better able to feel the beat relationship. As you pick up speed, you will no longer be able to tap your foot, but your body will still move and influence the sound. Using notation and playing slowly at first will make this process easier.


Often, in order to be able to relate to what you are playing and accompany you, a good drummer or dancer will ask you where the beat is (if it is not obvious). If you don't know, it looks like you don't care about one of the main reasons drumming exists; dance.


On the other hand, many people are lazy and just don't want to take the time to learn the beat to what the are playing. This makes their drumming sound flat.


Jim's Notes: A Course in Drumming