Alive Drumming Releases 3.0 – The Giant Panda release of Song Rhythm Tracks

The Giant Panda, “User-Requests” Release – 3.0

The community asked; Alive Drumming listened.

Always Yours:

Your arrangements, in your language, designed for your device.
– Free Audio samples available on our website and YouTube

 

Alive Drumming Continues To Innovate

This is a significant release for Song Rhythm Tracks, bringing much more functionality and more stability.  Search has really matured allowing for track duplication during search and, on search completion, auto-browse to last track accessed.  These two features really assist those with large collections of tracks in a very common use-case – searching for a song by name, playing it, and then deciding to create a duplicate and edit the duplicate for an alternative arrangement.

Drumming Holds

Drumming Holds – or breaks – is where the drumming stops for a bar.  It adds drama to a drum arrangement and some songs have very characteristic breaks – “Song For My Father” and “I Get A Kick Out of You” come to mind.  It’s now possible to add these holds to your arrangements as part of a user-defined arrangement.  The screen-shot shows three holds added to an arrangement of “Song For My Father” providing the characteristic holds for this song.  These bars will start with a drum hit and hold off playing until the next bar is started. They will do that at the selected bars, 6, 14, and 22, for each chorus of the song.

Drumming Pushes

Pushes are where an extra drum hit is added, slightly earlier than expected, to push along the rhythm.   Their selection works in a similar manner to holds.  Select the location and press the pink “+” button to add it to the table.  Entries may be removed from the table by swiping left.  The selected location will receive an extra drum hit, an 8th-note early to push the rhythm along.   The location of pushes may use bar-numbers, in the same way as holds, but also beat numbers and sub-divisions.

The Focus Remains on a Simple Arrangement Philosophy

It is pleasing to note that Alive Drumming is in no way moving away from their original philosophy of a truly simple arrangement interface – where a description is preferred over users needing to prescribe each step of the arrangement process.  We describe what holds and where they are to occur, and that’s it.  We keep it as simple as possible.   This is not going to change.   Song Rhythm Tracks are arranged for their users by Alive Drumming who anticipate their users “just want to play their songs” and don’t want to play the drums.  Users simply want to benefit from great drumming.

Setlist Sharing Facilities

A great new feature for the Giant Panda, also requested by users, is the Setlist Sharing Facilities.  They work in a similar manner to track sharing.  Users may share their setlists by name by pressing the share button once a setlist list name has been entered.  This is accessible on the setlist configuration page, which is where you name setlists.  Once shared, that setlist can be searched for and retrieved by any Song Rhythm Tracks user, and when found the setlist gets populated with all the tracks in the shared setlist. Again, it is the name of the setlist that is the key to both sharing and searching for setlists, and this name must be an exact match (other than upper and lower case).  The tracks are populated into your device’s setlist in the ‘deferred‘ state, meaning that the definition of the track is complete but it has not yet been requested for download.  The track-lists of all the existing ‘Sampler’ iOS apps have been shared as setlists making it so convenient to retrieve a list and then select the particular track you wish to download.

Available Now

Version 3.0, Song Rhythm Tracks is now available in the Apple App Store at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/songform-rhythm-tracks/id1254346877?ls=1&mt=8

We would love you to review this App – If you are interested please email reviews@alive-drumming.org

 

Alive Drumming’s Smart Web Services with Elixir, Phoenix and GCP

Ever wondered what technology lies behind Alive Drumming’s smart web services? Here’s the gist –

Alive Drumming‘s smart web services were engineered in Elixir.  The web service supplies Alive Drumming’s fully arranged rhythm tracks constructed from multiple takes of long-form audio of very talented drummers.

The service

  1. Parses the web request,
  2. Determines the arrangement structure of the requested track, then
  3. Creates the audio-engineering scripts to splice slices of the long-form audio into the result, and finally,
  4. Executes these scripts, delivering the resulting audio as the output of the service.

Language Compiler as Web Service

Much of this is textual lexical analysis and classic compiler design as the description of the track is a simple LR1 language, and even the ejected audio-engineering scripts are optimised with a peep-hole optimisation phase. Step 3 above, “Creating the audio-engineering scripts“, additionally involved parsing textual meta-data relating to the long-form audio’s location of differing drumming intensities, fills, pre- and post- fills, drumming breaks, pushes, count-ins and endings. Each of these has multiple ‘takes’ and algorithms apply weightings in pseudo-random selections. Initially, languages strong in textual manipulation came to mind with the early algorithms prototyped in GAWK, but it was clear a language suitable for massively scalable web-services was needed

Technology Stack – Phoenix / Elixir / Erlang / Linux / GCP

That lead me to Elixir and Phoenix. Elixir is a purely functional language, strong in text processing facilities that compiles to the Erlang/OTP virtual machine. Phoenix is a web server framework written in Elixir. Elixir/Erlang includes all the advantages of the Open Telecom Platform (OTP) – designed for the ultra maintainability and reliability expected of telecom platforms, such as supervised tasks and in-service module updates. We hosted this on Linux servers on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) using a highly scalable cluster of Google Compute VMs and Google Cloud Storage.

Dynamic Programming – A performance boost

The programming solution leverages Dynamic Programming in many places. Dynamic Programming is where a problem is (recursively) decomposed into many sub-problems and where sub-problems may occur that are identical to previous ones. If a sub-problem is a duplicate, there is no need to solve it again, just use the previous result. A cache of results allows the algorithm to always check the cache first before solving the sub-problem. This technique was used on many levels within the solution. Elixir’s data-structures proved very accommodating with simple Elixir maps used as caches. Performance measurements showed an average 60% improvement in CPU utilisation and completion times with the caches deployed.

Some areas that deploy caches are

  1. At the highest level, the resulting audio file itself is cached,
  2. In the creation of audio slices, parameterised by their type and length requirements,
  3. The pseudo-random selection of instances of audio from a group of weighted alternatives – here passed selection is used as input to the algorithm as well

Design Caveat – Google Drive

An early design had the resulting audio track cached on Google Drive with the web server response being a redirect to the cached file. This solution was appealing because it leveraged the very mature, scalable and cost-effective Google Drive. However, it proved problematical with Google Drive quickly applying a governor under quite small amounts of load. It turned out Google Drive was not a good fit for this type of service. If all the Drive requests came from the web service, throttling was applied that limited the service. Additionally, it was difficult to supply Google Drive URLs to clients in a way that would reliably not result in authentication requests. Google Storage was eventually used in place of Google Drive.

Summary – a great technology stack

Elixir proved both a perfect fit for this project and a real pleasure to work in. The tooling around the language is mature and fit for purpose, the OTP platform is the best solution for reliability and maintainability and the restriction of a purely functional language proved to be more of a benefit than a limitation. Less really can be more with programming language design. The Google Cloud Platform makes infrastructure commissioning, monitoring and maintenance so much easier than dealing with physical hardware. GCP toolset has matured and the facilities are extensive. We would fully recommend the Phoenix / Elixir / GCP technology stack for developing and deploying mission-critical, complex web services.

Smart Music Creation

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What’s meant by “Smart Music”?

Smart” often means that technology has been added to something that hitherto-fore had not had it. Of late ‘digital‘ has been the term to mean a similar thing – assets, processes and workflows get digitized leading to an ‘immediate’ workflow.

With ‘music’, which has been with us since the dawn of civilization, the term ‘digital‘ was used for the distribution of consumer music in a ‘digital form’ – Audio-CD, mini-discs, DAT, and then the revolution of online distribution through the iTunes Music Store.

So what’s ‘Smart Music’? One possibility is ‘Smart Music Creation‘ where, computerized devices facilitate the creation of music – the synthesizer, the drum machine, and MIDI generally. Drum Machines and Synthesizers are really new musical instruments lending themselves to new musical sounds and therefore new genres of music. That’s not smart really, just different.

MIDI – Musical Instrument Digital Interface

This platform has been around for 30 years or more and deserves the genomic of ‘Smart’. It automates the playing of the instruments by encoding and reproducing the act of playing
that note,
on that instrument
with that intensity
precisely at that time.
That’s not just a new type of instrument, its a way of codifying the playing of any and all instruments. Complete orchestral scores have been codified and rendered with MIDI. Great performances have been captured using MIDI. MIDI doesn’t have to mean sub-standard music – it can, if used with care, mean superb musicianship and great music production. Unfortunately, too many substandard performances have been codified and rendered with MIDI, leading to bad experiences and a bad reputation for the technology.

Enablement versus Truly Smart Music Creation

MIDI is a great enabler. We shouldn’t blame MIDI for what we have, and haven’t, done with it over the last 3 decades. For truly ‘Smart Music’ what we need is to go further, marrying technology and music production more intimately.

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The innovator – Band-In-A-Box

The first, perhaps fairly obvious, mass-adoption innovation from MIDI was the song-based accompaniment application – PG Music’sBand-In-A-Box” available on PCs and Macs. This delivered on its promise of providing tailored accompaniment for songs. It helps students understand the form of the songs they play and to provide backing music for enjoying and learning new songs. Importantly, the interface or ‘language’ of the application is that of traditional music notation and concepts. It doesn’t rewrite musical terminology, it adopts it and extends what can be done with it. Band-In-A-Box truly is Smart Music Creation.

The Innovator’s dominance of the market

Band-In-A-Box has grown and grown over that time to a massive application with every conceivable feature – a real tour de force of software development.

The development of Long-form Audio complementing MIDI

Band-In-A-Box even addresses the sound-quality issue of the MIDI instruments by including high-quality, long-form audio – “Real Drums” and other “Real Instruments” where the audio is much longer-form than a single MIDI instrument ‘note’ as described earlier.  This leads to much more satisfying backing music.  It is high-quality, truly Smart Music Creation, which comes at a cost though. Not only the high dollar cost for the software application and audio library but using the application takes considerable commitment to master and PC and Mac workstations aren’t always convenient for the world’s 10% that are musicians.

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iPhone X 03 MainTableScreen framed

The Convenience and Ubiquity of Mobility

Perhaps the spiritual reincarnation of the original Band-In-A-Box app is realized for mobile devices in the form of Technimo’s iRealPro app. It’s a deservedly popular app, albeit with standard MIDI note sounds rather than long-form audio of ‘real instruments’. Now the world’s 10% of musicians, if they merely have a mobile device, can get very convenient song-based backing music through iRealPro. That’s great news for a generation of musicians. The cause of Truly Smart Music Creation is evolving.

Opportunities to Advance Adoption of Smart Music Production

There are opportunities to go further, to appeal to an even greater proportion of musicians with even more approachable technology marrying music production and technology.  If we also can improve the quality and musicianship of the delivery, while reducing those complexities that are barriers to adoption, perhaps we can get closer to that mobile-carrying portion of the 10% of the world’s population that are musicians.  Mobile devices are unlikely to provide the same results achievable with today’s desktop workstation that leverage long-form audio libraries requiring terabytes of data and masses of computing power, but innovations in client-server solutions are possible where the same quality of results could be achieved by supplying finished productions to the mobile devices from cloud services. There are other opportunities as well to improve the user-interfaces so that less experienced musicians and less adept mobile app users can get more from musician’s mobile apps.  iRealPro has a well-designed interface but I believe many musicians who use it are successful users only because they limit themselves to selecting a song name, and playing it without ever wanting to delve into the actual arrangement details they have just chosen.  It’s great that they can move that way if and when they are ready.  I believe we need to stick with the established language of music while continuing to reduce the complexities of making music with mobile devices.  Apple’s own Garage Band has achieved great things in this respect.  When they first launched the iPad product, there were many reports of young children taking to the device/app straight away.   The interface was sufficiently intuitive.

The Future Imagined

What we need are new products that have

  1. iRealPro‘s musician’s perspective,
  2. Garage Band’s approachability, and
  3. Band-In-A-Box’s long-form audio quality

in a mobile client-server App.  Add to that facilities for musician’s to easily share arrangements and setlists and arrange their songs merely with selection rather than sequencing and I think we are well on the way to the next generation of Truly Smart Music Creation Services for musicians.

Our favourite Frequently  Asked  Questions  (F.A.Q.)

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Hear are some of our favourite F.A.Q.s we’ve hand-picked –


Why do these Song Rhythm Tracks sound so great?

They do, don’t they! And for a number of reasons:
  1. Great Recordings of Great Drummers – Song Rhythm Tracks are arranged from careful studio recordings of excellent drummers.  They are not constructed from midi files fitting together “samples” from single drum hits to form a mechanical style but rather multiple longer-form full recordings by top studio drummers, lasting from up to 8 bars at a time where you hear subtle drum rolls, variations in ride cymbal taps, complex fills and more.  The rhythmic style comes from talented drummers that are very experienced in that particular style be it Reggae, Salsa, Bossa, Rumba, Tango, Rock, Country, Jazz, Pop, Celtic, Praise & Worship, Blues, and lots more!
  2. There is natural variety promoted over the repeats.  That is a number of recordings of, say, a fill or shot are taken and selectively chosen while sequencing and engineering the final audio.  This provides the natural variety one gets with drummers.  It helps prevent the drumming becoming monotonous and repetitive.
  3. The drummer is spelling out many aspects of the song’s form as (s)he plays.  This might have a larger contributor than one might imagine.  It is what real drummers do, but drumming software rarely does.   The drumming is indicating
    1. When you are returning to the ‘top of the form’ again
    2. When your sections are ending and starting again
    3. When you are starting or finishing a bridge section
    4. Whether you are playing a middle section or, alternatively, the first or last sections.   This not only helps you keep place while you are playing but it makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable to listen to, or play along with, as well.
All this takes a lot of careful preparation and curation, huge storage, and sophisticated algorithms.   We feel this cannot be achieved on mobile devices themselves which is why our solution involves cloud services working with the mobile App.

Could you give me some examples of Song Forms?

Song Forms for a number of songs are here

Your drumming is dry! Will Alive Drumming, or can I, add reverb?

Alive Drumming’s Song Rhythm Tracks  are supplied without reverb (aka “dry”).
We are endeavouring to make our iOS app Apple inter-app audio (IAA) compliant.  When it is, you will be able to use other, 3rd party app’s to add reverb to the audio.  See this youtube video for some of them in action.

Is Alive Drumming supporting my country or region?

We aim to cover all regions, countries, languages, and cultures, embracing a wide diversity of rhythms is what we are all about.  If we haven’t adopted yours yet, we almost certainly aim to in the future.  If you want yours to be supported now, why not contact us at marketing@alive-dumming.org

What song forms does Alive Drumming support?

We support all the popular, essential song forms by name – 12 bar blues, 16 bar tunes, 32-bar A1A2 and 32-bar AABA, and about 30 other less common also by name.    The list is increasing!  We also support identifying these same song forms using stick notation.  This simply specifies section lengths in bars, for example, ‘8|8/8|8’, where ‘bridge‘ sections are preceded by a ‘/’ instead of ‘|’.
Additionally, we support user-defined song forms using stick notation, repeats, and concatenation of up to four (4) parts.  This allows for a truly huge flexibility when coupled with the facility to add an introduction and ending section.   See this user guide for more information,  SongForm Rhythm Tracks.

What rhythms are available for Song Rhythm Tracks?

The app currently supports about 60 different distinct rhythm categories, which includes about 250 distinct rhythms.  Of these, most are available with differing instrumentation such as ‘rim’ shots or, say, wooden blocks, and many at multiple tempos.  In all over 3,700 different rhythm track renderings are available that can be applied to a song form.   The app makes selection easy by providing filtering on a musical meter (say 4/4 or 3/4 time), and feel (even or straight, 8th or 16th notes) and provides a two-tier categorization for selection.
Here is a tiny sample of the styles represented:
  • Jazz, swing, straight 8th, modern, sophisticated, old-time
  • American Country styles, including Nashville
  • American Blues, shuffles, hard shuffles, old-time, slow, fast
  • Salsa, Samba
  • Bossa, Jazz Bossa Brushes, Latin Bossa, bongos, percussion
  • Techno, various forms
  • Rock, hard rock, heavy
  • Pop, straight 8th, straight 16th, slow, medium, fast
For a full list of all rhythms and sub-rhythms see the page catalog-rhythmic-styles.

How can I use the Song Rhythm Tracks? What’s my licence?

Alive Drumming grants license to remix its tracks.  That is, you can take the Song Rhythm Tracks audio, mix with your own content, and sell that mix as your own work without paying a fee to Alive Drumming.
Alive Drumming prohibits resale or redistribution of its un-mixed, original Song Rhythm Tracks.  You cannot sell or give away these tracks unless you mix them into a new creative piece of work.
Alive Drumming appreciates artistic attribution but does not require attribution in your remixed works.  You do not need to attribute Alive Drumming for the rhythm track in your remixed original work but if you wish to please add, “rhythm track supplied by Alive Drumming (c)” and include a reference to this website.

How can I get these Song Rhythm Tracks? Are they available on Amazon or iTunes?

The tracks are available via Apple iOS mobile App and will later be available via an Android mobile app.
The huge permutations of song forms and rhythms available means the traditional audio file distribution channels of iTunes and Amazon do not fit this new medium of Song Rhythm Tracks.
In particular, Amazon and iTunes do not accommodate the additional assistance that is required for musician’s to select the appropriate track.
Alive Drumming has no plans to market these tracks on legacy media such as Audio CDs or DAT tape.

Who is Song Rhythm Tracks for?

All Musicians!   New Musicians;    Experienced Musicians;     Great Musicians;
Really, any musician including Pianists, Guitarists, Horn Players, Singers and even Drummers.
The tracks can be used for practice, performance and cutting a release.
To learn more about their benefit in practice, using the Song Rhythm Tracks app, see the news article, “The primacy of rhythm in popular music”.

Would Alive Drumming include this extra rhythm?

If we don’t already include a particular rhythm, we would like to work with a drummer to include it.  This involves making high-quality audio recordings of the drumming at multiple tempos including multiple shots and fills used in turnarounds.   The audio recording will be analysed to identify where the various aspects occur and the preference level of each occurrence.   This is the basis for Alive Drumming to incorporate additional rhythms into their Song Rhythm Tracks.    If you are a drummer and have a rhythm you’d like to be represented please email feedback@alive-drumming.org

What’s Alive Drumming’s policy on privacy?

Alive Drumming takes personal privacy very seriously.  We are committed to proactively protecting the privacy of our customers by not storing any personal information unless it is absolutely required, and should that be the case, it will always be protected by strong encryption.  We will never sell or otherwise disclose any personal, private or confidential information we hold on others.

How can I learn about song form?

Song form is based on the concept that every song has been composed around a musical form or structure.   Popular song often chooses simple forms as a basis for a song but forms can be more complex as well.
A good reference on song form (structure) is the Wikipedia article,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_structure
Alive Drumming wants to provide you with the easiest and most reliable methods to describe song form and uses the term, “Song Form” for the approach that it takes in identifying and using song forms.
Song Form allows for selection using both (i) traditional names such as ’16-bar Tune’, or (ii) the  ‘stick notation’ equivalent of ‘4|4|4|4’ if that is what you prefer.
For full information on Alive Drumming’s Song Rhythm Tracks mobile app and it’s flexibility in identifying Song Forms see the page, Song Rhythm Tracks
Your options include, (i) describing just about any Song Form you are likely to want to use with “user-defined” Song Forms in the mobile app, and (ii) for popular tunes, searching for a user-contributed Song Form for that song, again within the mobile app.   There are now tens of thousands of these being shared.

Why do these Song Rhythm Tracks sound so totally great?

drummer AJAZZGO2017

They do, don’t they!  This question is one of the most frequent I get from people using this App.  It often comes as surprise, perhaps because of the widespread familiarity folk have with ‘Midi Drum Machines‘ which don’t satisfy in the same way as Song Rhythm TracksMidi Drum Machines and Song Rhythm Tracks are two very different products; their differences are summarized in the table below.

The Song Rhythm Tracks Way

Here are the three top reasons why we believe these tracks are so great to jam to, to gig to, and to cut records to.

  1. Great Recordings of Great Drummers – Song Rhythm Tracks are arranged from careful studio recordings of excellent drummers.  They are not constructed from midi files fitting together “samples” from single drum hits to form a mechanical style but rather multiple longer-form full recordings by top studio drummers, lasting from up to 8 bars at a time where you hear subtle drum rolls, variations in ride cymbal taps, complex fills and more.  The rhythmic style comes from talented drummers that are very experienced in that particular style be it Reggae, Salsa, Bossa, Rumba, Tango, Rock, Country, Jazz, Pop, Celtic, Praise & Worship, Blues, and lots more!
  2. There is natural variety promoted over the repeats.  That is a number of recordings of, all aspects of playing, fills, post-fills, shots and more are taken and selectively chosen while sequencing and engineering the final audio.  This provides the natural variety one gets with drummers.  It helps prevent the drumming becoming monotonous and repetitive.
  3. The arrangement is spelling out many aspects of the song’s form.  This might have a larger contribution than one might imagine.  It is what real drummers do, but drumming software rarely does.   The drumming is indicating
    1. When you are returning to the ‘top of the form’ again
    2. When your sections are ending and starting again
    3. When you are playing a bridge section
    4. Whether you are playing a middle chorus or, alternatively, the first or last chorus.   This not only helps you keep place while you are playing but it makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable to listen to, or play along with, as well.

All this takes a lot of careful preparation and curation, huge storage, and sophisticated algorithms.   We feel this cannot be achieved on mobile devices themselves which is why our solution involves cloud services working with the mobile App.

Comparison – Midi Drum Machines and Song Rhythm Tracks

Midi Drum Machines Song Rhythm Tracks
Audio is generated from the machine ‘playing’ together individual drum ‘hits’ at varying intensities.  The machine is effectively taking the place of the drums and, to some extent, the drummer. Audio is generated from multiple long recordings of talented artists.  These recordings can be as much as 8-bars long with repeats using alternate recordings to provide variety.
Each rhythm comes from an algorithm specifying which drums are hit when within the bar.  Each rhythm can be parameterized by the tempo, linearly increasing and decreasing with ease. Even so, the mechanical sounding rhythm sounds less and natural as the tempo varies further from the norm for the rhythm. Each rhythm comes from long-form recordings.  Each of these is recorded at multiple tempos where the drummer naturally changes the style of the drumming to suit the tempo, varying the intensity and placement of the hits within the bar to suit the tempo and the style. Effectively, each tempo recording is a unique rhythm, albeit stylistically related to those at the other tempos.
The machine generates the drumming audio in real-time. Many machines allow for an audio track to be generated but rarely do they provide good setlist facilities for these audio files, as that is not their focus. Alive Drumming supplies high-quality MP3 audio files that are catalogued and managed from within mobile apps with good setlist facilities and provide a good musician’s player.
Only a small amount of computer memory is required to hold the audio of the drum hits which are often efficiently compressed;  The Apps generally have a small memory footprint as well. The source audio recordings are large requiring much storage space.  Also, there are a many of them.  Alive Drumming stores these within Cloud Servers where sophisticated programs generate the  Song Rhythm Tracks, delivering them to the mobile apps.
Midi Drum Machines are preferred by those affirming the mechanical, highly regular sounding drums.  This sound has spawned new genres of music. Song Rhythm Tracks are preferred by those who like the sound of real-life drummers drumming on drums and the artistry achieved by these musicians using authentic percussion and drums.
Users of Midi Drum Machines often affirm the visual beauty of the machine themselves and the ‘drumming’ facilities they have.  The machines become a ‘new type of drum to play‘, and they love their machines as much as any instrumentalists. Users of Song Rhythm Tracks are not interested in playing Midi Drum Machines, or probably real drums either.  They want to benefit from great sounding rhythmic backing tracks that fit the songs they play and with a minimum of effort.   They generally would prefer an understated device that works reliably, efficiently and with great ergonomics, particularly during playing.  They want the best quality, performance-ready backing tracks.
Users of Midi Drum Machines often use it as an ‘advanced metronome‘ and improvise along to a 4-bar endless loop. 4-bar and sometime 8-bar phrases are often displayed visually within the Machine with facilities to play and loop alternative phrases. Song Rhythm Tracks are backing music for the practice and performance of fully-arranged Songs (vocal or instrumental).  They partly sound so great because you hear the form of the song in the rhythmic backing, just like you do with real drummers.  This is not only a longer-form than a 4-bar loop, but it has more structure as well, with arrangements including introduction sections, middle choruses, bridges and more.  The arrangement is always visible – particularly during playing where you might need a reminder.
There are many Midi Drum Machines available on mobile and desktop platforms and dedicated physical machines, with various facilities, often specializing in particularly rhythmic styles. There’s the one Song Rhythm Tracks Service which provides all the various rhythms and arranging smarts.  Currently, apps are only available on the Apple iOS platform but Android and Web platforms will be delivered.  All iOS Apps have exactly the same facilities and can access the full Alive Drumming catalog.

 

“Afro-Cuban Salsa” Sampler iOS App released by Alive Drumming

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Afro-Cuban Salsa Sampler is the new Song Rhythm Tracks sampler App from Alive Drumming providing the same great rhythm tracks arranger with 20+ included sample arrangement tracks of Afro-Cuban Salsa staples.

Afro-Cuban Salsa Sampler has the same facilities as the standard Song Rhythm Tracks App but comes pre-installed with 20+ Afro-Cuban Salsa arrangements and an allocation of 4 downloads for your own arrangements (with more are available via In-App Purchasing).  What an opportunity to sample some arrangements of these great Afro-Cuban rhythms before using the App for your own arrangements!   It’s the same Song Rhythm Tracks App with all the latest facilities.

Launch Special – Price Reduced to Minimal for a limited time!

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en US iPhone 8 Plus 03 MainTableScreen framed

Alive Drumming have reduced this App’s price to a minimal level for a limited time after which it returns to full pricing.  This is a great opportunity to try out this heralded rhythm track arranger at no cost and get into creating your own arrangements of the world’s greatest Song Rhythm Tracks, using Alive Drumming’s vast library of artist’s authentic interpretations.  Try the Afro-Cuban Salsa standards and arrange some more tracks for whatever tunes you are currently playing.  There’s a vast selection of authentic rhythms from talented artists across many genres in addition to Afro-Cuban Salsa.

The Tracks


La Gloria eres tu” – A single chorus of a user-defined form (as 4|8|8|8|12 bars) with no intro’ or ending sections and using a Bolero rhythm at 105 bpm

Samba For Carmen”2 choruses of a user-defined form (as 16|16|8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 6-bar ending, using a Samba rhythm with both drums and percussion at 190 bpm

Chucho” – 3 choruses of 24-bar A1A2 form (as 12|12) with a 2-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a Mambo Latin Jazz rhythm at 190 bpm

El que Siembra su maiz” – A single chorus of a user-defined form (as 20|20/8|13/8|13/8|13 bars) with no intro’ or ending sections, using a Son Montuno 32 rhythm at 170 bpm

El arroyo que murmura” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (as 12|12|6 bars) with no intro’ or ending sections, using a folk Afro-Cuban 6/8 rhythm at 114 bpm

Cemento, Ladrillo y Arena” – 4 choruses of a user-defined form (as 8|16/8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Son Montuno 32 rhythm at 170 bpm

Lamento Esclavo” – A single chorus of 32-bar A1A2 (as 16|16) with a 4-bar intro’ and a 2-bar ending, using a Tango rhythm at 120 bpm

Mambo Inn” – 3 choruses of 32-bar AABA (as 8|8/8|8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Mambo Latin Jazz rhythm at 190 bpm

Maria Cristina” – 3 choruses of a user-defined form (as 18|18/8/8 bars ) with a 2-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Son Medium rhythm at 140 bpm

Lagrimas Negras” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (as 18|18/8/8 bars) with a 2-bar intro and no ending, using a Son Medium rhythm at 140 bpm

Pare Cochero” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (as 8|10|8|10/4/4 bars) with no intro’ or ending sections, using a Cha Cha Cha rhythm at 120 bpm

Yo no Quiero Piedra en me Camino” – 6 choruses of a 16-bar Tune (as 8|8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 10-bar ending, using a Guaracha 32 rhythm at 180 bpm

El Bodeguero” – 3 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (as 16|16 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using a Cuban Mozambique rhythm at 118 bpm

El Jamaiquino” – 3 choruses of 24-bar AAB form (as 8|8/8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Guaracha 32 rhythm at 180 bpm

El Guararey de Pastora” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (as 8|8/10/10 bars) with no intro and an 8-bar ending, using a Songo rhythm at 210 bpm

Calculadoro” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (as 20|8/8 bars) with no intro’ or ending sections, using a Cha Cha Cha Latin Jazz rhythm at 135 bpm

La Enganadora” – A single chorus of a user-defined form (as 16|10|7 bars) with a 2-bar intro’ and no ending, using a New York Mozambique rhythm at 118 bpm

Me recordaras” – 2 choruses of a 32-bar AABA form (as 8|8/8|8 bars) with a 2-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Songo rhythm at 210 bpm

Mujer ardiente” – 5 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (as 16|16 bars) with a 16-bar intro’ and no ending, using a very sparse Gypsy Latin rhythm at 110 bpm

Song For Maura” – 5 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (as 16|16 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a Mambo rhythm at 150 bpm

Guarina” – 3 choruses of 40-bar A1A2 form (as 20|20 bars) with a 2-bar intro’ and no ending, using a modern Afro-Cuban 6/8 rhythm at 114 bpm

Longina” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (as 4|13|20 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and no ending, using a modern slow Merengue rhythm at 112 bpm

For more on song form – see this page

For a list of our rhythms – see this page

Audio Samples

Alive Drumming hosts some sample Song Rhythm Tracks and a user-contributed mixes group at HearThisAt, the audio hosting service providing great user and social facilities. Please contribute your own mixes to the Song Rhythm Tracks User Group at HearThisAt.

Hear this set of sample Afro-Cuban Salsa Song Rhythm Tracks at HearThisAt

“Old Country Music” Sampler iOS App released by Alive Drumming

country music

Old Country Music Sampler is the new Song Rhythm Tracks sampler App from Alive Drumming providing the same great rhythm tracks arranger with 20+ included sample arrangements tracks of Old Country Music staples.

Old Country Music Sampler has the same facilities as the standard Song Rhythm Tracks App but comes pre-installed with 20+ Country Music arrangements and an allocation of 4 downloads for your own arrangements (more are available via In-App Purchasing).  What an opportunity to sample some arrangements of these well known standards before using the App for your own arrangements!   It’s the same Song Rhythm Tracks App with all the latest facilities.

Stop the Press – Free for a limited time!

en US iPhone 8 Plus 03 MainTableScreen framed
en US iPhone 8 Plus 03 MainTableScreen framed

Alive Drumming have reduced this App’s price to ‘free’ for a limited time after which it returns to full pricing.  This is a great opportunity to try out this heralded rhythm track arranger at no cost.   Try the Old Country Music standards and arrange some more tracks for whatever tunes you are playing currently.  There’s a vast selection of authentic rhythms from talented artists across many genres in addition to Country Music.

The Tracks

Raining In My Heart” – 2 choruses of 32-bar AABA form (as 8|8/8|8 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a Country ballad groove at 85 bpm

All I Have To Do Is Dream” – 2 choruses of 32-bar AABA form (as 8|8/8|8 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Country ballad groove at 85 bpm

Cottonfields” – 2 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (as 16|16 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Country skip rhythm at 140 bpm

Blue Bayou” – 2 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (as 16|16 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and no ending, using a light LA Pop Jazz rhythm at 118 bpm

Wake Up Little Susie” – A single chorus of a user-defined form (4/4|4|4/4|4|4|4/4|4|4/6, followed by /4/4|4|4/4|4|4|6) with no intro’ and no ending, using a Country 2-beat rhythm at 80 bpm

Bye Bye Love” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (19|16 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and a 20-bar ending, using a Nashville 1/2 time Country rhythm at 160 bpm

Oh, Lonesome Me” – 7 choruses of a 16-bar Tune (8|8 bars) with a 6-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a relaxed Country groove at 100 bpm

Leaving On A Jet Plane” – 3 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16) with a 4-bar intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using a Country ballad groove at 65 bpm

I’m Going to Be A Country Girl Again” – 8 choruses of a 16-bar Tune (8|8 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using a Nashville 1/2 time Country rhythm at 160 bpm

Miss The Mississippi And You” – 4 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using a laid-back Country waltz rhythm at 85 bpm

Love Hurts” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (16|16|16) with a 4-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Country Rock rhythm at 75 bpm

Cripple Creek” – 2 choruses of a 16-bar Tune (8|8 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a Country Bluegrass rhythm at 100 bpm

Y’All Come” – 2 choruses of 48-bar AAB form (16|16/16 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a Country Bluegrass rhythm at 140 bpm

Somebody Else On You Mind” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (16|16|2 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Country acoustic swing rhythm at 120 bpm

You Never Can Tell” – 6 choruses of a 16-barTune (with 4 x 4-bar phrases) with no intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a Soft-rock shuffle rhythm at 135 bpm

One Day At A Time” – 2 choruses of a user-defined form (8|8|8|8|35 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 12-bar ending, using a Country waltz rhythm at 55 bpm

You’ve Still Got A Place In My Heart” – A single chorus of a user-defined form (16/16/16 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a Country ballad rhythm at 65 bpm

Why You Been Gone So Long” – 8 choruses of a 16-barTune (with 4 x 4-bar phrases) with a 2-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a Texas Country Swing rhythm at 145 bpm

Hello Mary Lou” – 6 choruses of a 16-bar Tune (8|8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using a Country skip rhythm at 180 bpm

A White Sport Coat” – 2 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a Country swinging 8th rhythm at 110 bpm

Blanket On The Ground” – 2 choruses of 64-bar AABA (16|16/16|16 bars) with a 2-bar intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using a Country skip rhythm at 140 bpm

Jambalaya” – 2 choruses of 48-bar ABA form (16/16|16 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and a 16-bar ending, using a Country skip rhythm at 140 bpm

Are You Sincere” – A single chorus of a user-defined form (16|18 bars) with a 2-bar intro’ and a 10-bar ending, using a Jazz ballad rhythm at 45 bpm

Cripple Creek” – 2 choruses of a 16-bar Tune (8|8 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a Country Bluegrass rhythm at 120 bpm

Hey Good Lookin‘” – 2 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a Country Bluegrass rhythm at 120 bpm

For more on song formsee this page

For a list of our rhythms see this page

Audio Samples

Alive Drumming hosts some sample Song Rhythm Tracks and a user-contributed mixes group at HearThisAt, the audio hosting service providing great user and social facilities. Please contribute your own mixes to the Song Rhythm Tracks User Group at HearThisAt.

Hear this set of sample Old Country Music Song Rhythm Tracks at HearThisAt

Testinmonials

Every musicians view

We’ve canvassed some testimonial reviews from social media.  Its always interesting to see how others view your work.  Here they are.

No.1 for Musician’s Usability

      Ethan – Kyoto, Japan. Sax player. Plays pop, rock, blues, jazz, bop, ballads, everything really

What’s different about this App is that it makes it feasible for the average guy, with very little effort, to play their songs to very engaging arranged rhythm tracks. I’ve tried lots of them and I haven’t come across any other App that comes close to that. This App combines a musician’s player, a setlist manager and an arranger in the one App. It’s really quick to select arrangements and then you can put them into setlists and keep changing and reordering the lists as your set evolves. Now I just grab my sax and either play a setlist or quickly search and find tracks as I go through my books of lead sheets. If I don’t have a track for a tune, a minute later I will have and will probably be playing it. For me, there’s nothing else that has this sort of musician’s usability.

Maverick and a True Innovator for the practical musician

          Sandra –  Perth, Australia. Plays guitar . Likes folk music.

TRUE INNOVATION.  What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Only perhaps that this App is a true innovator. A maverick you might say. It seems to do everything differently. It wasn’t what I was expecting but now everything else I’ve tried seems redundant. What do you want to do? To play with flashing lights – pretending to be hitting real drums? Or to get an MP3 file which is a professional quality backing track to a song you are playing? That, I think, is the innovation. That’s what you get here. It’s like a cross between the ‘Music’ App and a musician’s backing-track service. You select the track you want and the Alive Drumming servers serve it. Then you have much more musician-friendly setlists and player than you get with the ‘Music’ App. Playing becomes a real joy instead of struggle. It’s what all of us musicians want. We want to play our instruments and have great rhythmic backing with a minimum of fuss and bother. That’s what this App delivers. True innovation for the musician.

Drum Machines don’t work end-to-end. They’re not performance-ready

      Eloa – Brazil. Guitar, sings.  Loves conga, timbales, bongas and claves.  Plays and sings bossa nova, jazz sambas, merengue, lambada 

LOVE THIS APP!!   Never seen anything like it. Drum machines don’t cut it, even ones with some good sounding rhythms. Nothing else works well end-to-end in providing rhythmic backing tracks to your song list. The closest thing I’ve seen to this App are the full sheet music and backing tracks Apps that are song based. You buy the sheet-music and backing music for a song. They are OK, a bit expensive and don’t always have your song, or the arrangement of your song, that you’d like to use. They can be a bit clunky as well and the rhythms tend not to be very good by themselves. This App is so much better for me because (i) the rhythms are fantastic, (ii) it doesn’t matter if they don’t have your song, you can arrange it yourself, simply, and (iii) the tracks start cheap and get cheaper the more you use the App. Why? I’ve found I often use the same rhythms and song forms. When I select exactly the same configuration for a new song the App recognises it has that already and doesn’t download it again. It’s a different track in the App with a different title but the App knows it can use the same audio file. Smart. It is also Performance Ready as far as the setlists and player go.  So I just use this one App and it’s fast and reliable for me during performance. Totally recommend it.

A unique arranger provides a lot of rhythmic support for little cost

      Hilly – Tokyo for now. Plays guitar and piano and sings. Likes latin and classic rock and pop

– I find this App pretty unique in its approach to arranging. It’s not the most comprehensive arranger available but it’s unique in it’s commitment to simplicity. It really does allow for some pretty easy ways to arrange a track from simply matching on track title to selecting a well-known song form. You can even enter complex song forms using “stick notation” (see their website or the inbuilt help screens). You then get an arrangement based on the sectional structure of the song with options for intros and endings as well. This works surprisingly well providing a track that really outlines the sections of the song including bridges and middle choruses as well. That’s a lot of rhythm support for very little effort and cost. They sound very good as well. For a lot of tunes that’s all you need but for some tunes you might also want drum breaks or different styles of drumming throughout the song. That’s not what Song Rhythm Tracks does – not yet anyway. I’ve heard they are working on introducing breaks right now. Still, there’s never been a simpler or faster drum rhythm arranger as this and the player and setlists make it more useable than anything else. Love the product.

Professional quality results, a simple approach with portable convenience

      Ron – LA, USA.  Plays guitar, mouth organ, piano and drums. Likes country, rock, jazz and blues

This App is incredible. I totally underestimated how good it is. The quality of the backing tracks are truly professional – professional, talented drumming, professional audio, professional arrangements. Coupled with that, I’ve never had an App like this before where is works so well keeping all the tracks in a simple table and being able to organise them into lists. You can even play the entire list of tracks with one key press. Incredible. I still can’t get over that there isn’t anything else left to do. It just works great! There are 4 included “factory” tracks that are OK. The Jazz and Blues Sampler App has 23 decent one. These are good to evaluate the App but the real power comes with using it to arrange your own songs / tracks. There’s nothing simpler than this App. You won’t believe it. I’ve created some of my own arrangements with 10+ choruses which is how our group plays. I carry it around with me on my iPhone, and have it on an old iPad as well which is good for our jamming. Still works on the old iPad. No problem with speed. Just start with this [ Jazz and Blues Sampler ] App and then add any tracks you want later. There are 1000s of rhythms to choose from – good ones too. There is nothing else out there anything like this App – it’s nothing like the silly MIDI *dumb* machines. It’s real quality, professional, and useable. Recommended.

An understated wonder is a wolf in sheeps clothing with ultimate usability

      Wendy – Florence, Italy.  Plays guitar, and clarinet.  Likes classical music and classic popular, folk, latin, jazz and blues, particularly on the clarinet!

My experience is similar to the other poster. This App, at first glance seems bland and uninspiring, but its a wolf in sheeps clothing. It’s the very essence of UNDERSTATEMENT – like Braun or B&O. No flashing lights. No gimmicks. Just GREAT DESIGN and a TOTAL RETHINK as regards USABILITY. The backing tracks are the best imaginable and ready in no time at all. They really do sound like a drummer is playing the ACTUAL SONG. I don’t know how they achieve that without knowing everything about the song. It’s uncanny.
I have tried other music generation programs for getting backing tracks, with very limited success. I always give up with them at the end because they take up so much of your time and don’t sound that inspirational anyway. It’s not like that with these Song Rhythm Tracks. 30 secs tops and they sound just great. No duds. The organisation and playing of tracks isn’t mentioned much but it’s brilliant, and so understated. You don’t need to use another player. The inbuilt player is a ‘musicians’ player – big buttons, quality speed variation which persists to your next play. Here’s another big thing that isn’t mentioned very much. You always can see the arrangement on the screen, so you know what you will be playing along to. And it’s in musician’s language which is just what you want. Great. Most of my tracks I haven’t had to arrange as I’ve found one using the inbuilt search feature. I’ve arranged a couple though and it was so easy. There really isn’t anything else like this. Super simply arranging. Great sound. Total Understatement. I just love it – even on my iPod Touch! I play a lot of Latin Rhythms and they have them all. And they sound so authentic. I totally recommend this App to people who care about music and sound and aren’t looking for a flashing-lights-toy, but rather something that will satisfy for the rest of your life. Real Quality is so rare, but it’s here in this App.

A musician’s arranger that talks your language

      Ele’ – Melbourne, Australia.  Plays piano.  Like jazz, blues and latin. 

A MUSICIAN’S ARRANGER – That’s what I call this App. Why? Because the problem with everything else I’ve seen is that we musician’s use one language when we speak of our arrangements and the App always speaks another language. When you sit down with your buddy musos and someone calls a tune, what do you say? You might say let’s play this or that tune, and if you’ve all played it together before everyone will know how its arranged. But if its not a tune you’ve all played together before, what then? I expect the leader will call the tempo to be used – medium fast say and perhaps the feel also – Bossa or Reggae or whatever and whether there’ll be an intro or you go straight in from the top. You might agree the number of choruses then as well and perhaps the order of solos as well. Well, its that’s sort of language you want from your backing tracks as well. You want to know if there’s an intro and if so how long it is. You want to know the number of choruses, so you decide on the solos etc. and you’ll want to know about the tempo and the rhythmic style. That’s the sort of information you get with this App and it’s how you ‘arrange’ your tracks as well – in musician’s language – not in flashing lights and weird controls – just plain english musician’s arrangement language. As you scroll through the list of tracks, each track has its arrangement spelt out like that, for example – 8-bars intro, 6 choruses of 16-bar tune with a 4-bar ending using this rhythm at that tempo. That makes sense to musicians and is the sort of language that would be used between us as we play together. That’s why I call this App a ‘musicians’ arranger.

More Audio Samples now available on HearThis.At

HearThis.At

Alive Drumming hosts some sample Song Rhythm Tracks and a user-contributed mixes group at HearThisAt, the audio hosting service providing great user and social facilities.  Please contribute your own mixes to the Song Rhythm Tracks User Group at HearThisAt.

Hear this set of sample Jazz and Blues Song Rhythm Tracks at HearThisAt

Here this group of user-contributed mixes using Song Rhythm Tracks at HearThisAt

How to practice, then how to jam?

illustration WyntonMarsalis

The Early Beginnings of Private Practice

If you are learning a new, perhaps challenging, melody for the first time, in private practice, then sure, do count out the meter and use a metronome / click-track selectively and judiciously to check your timing, but, as soon as you’ve confirmed you’ve got it, asap stop forever using the metronome or click track on that tune and don’t use it again for that piece of music, because what was once aiding you to get better rhythmically will now limit your rhythmic feel and hold you back.

When Jamming or Gigging with Other Musicians

When jamming or gigging, don’t count in your head.  By now you should have internalized the song by private practice and be ready to communicate it with others and counting will detract from listening.   “Let the Melody by your guide”.  If you have the melody in your mind while performing and improvising it will help you keep place without any need to count.  Also, where there is a pause in the melody, supplement with your own melody to help with this.  For example, if the melody has a two bar rest then filling that rest with your own ‘fill melody’ will support using the melody to keep the place in the tune.   Keeping the melody in your head will be the least distraction while listening to the other players unless your sense of rhythm and timing is so good and you are so tight with the other band members that you don’t need even that.  If you are struggling to keep your place then a strong hold on the melody can be the best thing to help this.

When Practising Alone or perhaps With Others

What to do when you are playing the tune over regularly to internalize it before you play it with others, or even if you never get to play with others?  Firstly,  it is important to get a sense of the form of the music, and secondly, it would be good also to always practice and play, in the rhythmic style of the piece.   I think an ideal, and unrealistic, optimum would be to have a real human band of experienced musicians who know the piece well ready in your practice studio to jam along to.  They will also need to accommodate you by stopping and starting at your command.  That concept has been best addressed by professional musician backing tracks supplied by vendors such as ‘Aebersold’.  They are a great option, but not always a practical one.   If you have purchased one of these, and it includes your tune, in key and style and similar tempo you will be playing it with your band, then, great, do INCLUDE playing along to it as part of this practice.   It can be really enjoyable and allows one to practice improvisation with the aural checks on harmony and form you would not otherwise have.  That is if you improvise over the form and drop a bar or forget a chord change you should hear that and be able to correct it.

Another great option is to play along to artist’s performances of the tune.  Say you are learning Autumn Leaves and you have recordings of it by various artists in your record collection, then play those recordings and play along, ‘accompanying’ with chords or a baseline, depending on your instrument.  You are interacting with top musicians who are undoubtedly playing the piece well – nothing you internalize there will be as lifeless and damaging as a click-track.  I believe at this time when you are playing and internalising a tune, it is important to practice it in as many ‘practice formats’ as possible.  Those previously mentioned and also, playing alone the melody by itself, and then the melody and the baseline, then play the baseline and sing the melody, then play the chords and sing the melody, then play the chords and play the melody together.  Do you get the idea? The more variety of ways you hear and perform the tune the better your aural knowledge of it becomes.

So, what about rhythm and timing when you are doing this?  I think the best option is to have a rhythm backing track playing that does not have the baseline or chords but WILL represent the musical form of the piece, where sections start and end, where the energy changes as the performance moves to a bridge (or “middle-8”) sections and to middle choruses, which are generally the place for improvisations, and even where four-bar phrases occur etc.   If this rhymic backing is also alive and human and responding to the musical form the song rather than metronomic and repetitive in its delivery, and is in the rhythmic style you will be playing the piece, you not only have a great foundation for learning the piece but also a hugely enjoyable one as well.

Essentially, it’s the same argument that went for playing along to click tracks.  A click track may expose many faults you may have with the meter and your placement of the chords, your baseline or melody, but it will also install a deadening of the other rhythmic aspects that should be happening and importantly it will not outline the form of the song.   I suggest never using a click track at this stage; rather use a Song Rhythm Track that has a great sense of rhythm from the audio of real drummers playing real drums in the style you will be playing it and will outline the song form of the song you are learning.  This is a good idea even if you perform in a drummer-less ensemble.  One can always additionally practice the piece without rhythmic backing to ensure one can maintain one’s own sense of rhythm and timing without the backing track, but it’s good to get a start from great rhythmic backing first.  So, how to get great-sounding, human backing tracks in the musical form of your song? There are now Song Rhythm Tracks from Alive Drumming providing exactly that.  Check out the iOS App to get them.

When to work on your “Rhythm”?

illu trumpet

When learning a new piece of music, when should a musician work on getting right the rhythm and feel of the piece?

I have long believed it has to be the very first thing to get right and there’s little point playing notes at all unless they are in the desired rhythm and feel.   Tempo, however, is a whole other subject – there’s a lot to be said for precision and even playing tunes at markedly different tempos to internalize the piece better.

Timing is the bedrock of music:  “When a note is struck at the wrong time, it’s the wrong note”.  Getting playing in the right rhythm as soon as possible is why I’ve always sought out structured and inspiring rhythmic backing.  This ultimately lead to  “Song Rhythm Tracks.

Rhythm and Timing

Practice Makes Permanent

One of the most repeated terms used to and by musicians is that “practice makes perfect”.   I’ve heard this altered to, “practice makes permanent”. i.e. if we repeat a thing over and over then we do internalize it and it becomes a facility we have “without consciously thinking about it”.  This is why we can do complex coordinated movements without much conscious thought such as driving cars and even using a knife and fork.   If you’ve never done these things in your life before they can be very challenging for the very first time, but once performed daily one doesn’t even recognize them as a challenge anymore.  It’s as if an entirely different part of your mind is assigned to the task.  So, what is important is that we are very selective about using this repetition technique and make sure it effects don’t work against us because if what we are practising is not beneficial then it will get internalized just as readily….   So, practice can make perfect;  It will eventually make permanent, but that permanency can defeat you as well as help you.

Developing your own sense of timing

A key aspect of music is rhythm and timing – it’s what can make music come alive, and it’s what can kill it as well.  It’s essential that we develop good rhythm and timing.

A Pulse!

If you haven’t yet developed the sense of that regular pulse that is present in most modern music – pop, folk, country, jazz – playing along to something with a pulse is of great benefit because wherever your pulse is lacking it will be clearly shown and you will automatically adjust to follow the pulse and keep the timing.  Great: That’s a real win.   My recommendation is to be very selective about the use of metronomes and click-tracks:  There’s more to rhythm than a pulse!

But not just any pulse!

                                Misuse of Metronomes and click tracks Considered Harmful

Always using a click-track when you practice and also when playing together in a group will likely work against developing your own human interaction on the pulse and detract from the rhythmic nuances that end up being beaten out by the demanding, oh-so-regular, ‘click’.  In a similar way also, counting when you are jamming with others will be a problem:  Counting the pulses within the meter, such as 1-and-a, 2-and-a,  is an absolutely invaluable aid when learning a new, perhaps rhythmically challenging melody: I’ve heard it said that if you can not count a melody or rhythmic idea out, you don’t really know it:  It’s great to count it out to ensure we really know it, but once you have internalized that melody, it’s time to stop counting it and feel the rhythm and communicate with the others you are playing with without blocking them out by counting in your head.

The wonderful thing about folk playing music together is the human interaction that you miss out on if you are communicating with a click-track instead of the other humans you are playing with, or count out every bar in your head instead of listening to the other musicians.    I’m not the only one who sees it this way:  I’ve heard the British musician Jamie Cullum say he avoids the use of click tracks when jamming and recording because it takes away the human ebb and flow of the music when they are used.   I would hate us to have missed out on the wonderful ebb and flow of his playing!

Why Song Form with Rhythm Tracks?

illustration BassInPastel

 

Dealing With Song Forms: Tips for Drummers

Ever wondered why “Song Rhythm Tracks”, and not just, “Rhythm Tracks“?

It’s because the drumming should always be outlining the form of the song you are playing.  That’s fundamentally the role of the drummer, or the rhythm track if you play without a drummer.  The article above which is tutoring drummers explains this very well.

Always play in “song form”

You shouldn’t be using a rhythm track that doesn’t outline the form of the song because, if you do, that then counteracts the form of the song and therefore defeats the song you are trying to play.  This can be subtle, particularly if you haven’t considered it before.  New musicians often haven’t and wrongly believe that any metronomic sound will do.  That will actually hamper your progress.

Always enjoy great song accompaniment, easily

Once you have an ear for the form being outlined by the drumming you will find it hard to play along to any drumming that is not outlining the form correctly.  If you do, it is as if you are playing one tune and the rhythm track is playing another tune.   When you play with a correctly matched rhythm track, it is a marvellous experience.  You and the drummer are “in sync” and where you are in the form keeps getting reinforced.   This is particularly true when you are improvising.  You want every help you can get to keep you in the form; you don’t want a drummer, or a rhythm track, sending you false messages.  Always, always, practice with Song Rhythm Tracks.  Now that they are so convenient, super-simple to setup, sound totally great and easy to manage, there’s no reason not to anymore.

New Song Rhythm Tracks Version 2.0 Arranger and Setlists Tutorial Released

drummer NasheetWaits

Alive Drumming releases tutorial video for the arranger and setlists features of using the iOS App Version 2.0.  The video uses an iPhone 6, but, other than the layout, it’s the same for all iOS devices.

It’s good to have the features described and see the walkthrough on the App at the same time.   There’s another tutorial video coming up as well for the arrangement and setlists features.

 

New Song Rhythm Tracks Version 2.0 Basic Features Tutorial Released

drummer EvaKlesseWithHerQuartet

Alive Drumming releases tutorial video for the basic features of using the iOS App Version 2.0.  The video uses an iPhone 6, but, other than the layout, it’s the same for all iOS devices.

It’s good to have the features described and see the walkthrough on the App at the same time.   There’s another tutorial video coming up as well for the arrangement and setlists features.

 

 

 

“Jazz and Blues” Sampler iOS App released by Alive Drumming

illustration sax AndySnitzer

Check out Alive Drumming’s first ‘Sampler’ edition of the ‘Song Rhythm Tracks (SRT)’ iOS App, the “Jazz and Blues Sampler“.

Jazz and Blues Sampler has the same facilities as the standard App but comes pre-installed with 20+ Jazz and Blues arrangements and an allocation of 4 downloads for your own arrangements (more are available via In-App Purchasing).  What an opportunity to sample some arrangements of these well known standards before using the App for your own arrangements!   It’s the same Song Rhythm Tracks App with the latest graphics and facilities.

Free for a limited time!

Alive Drumming have reduced this App’s price to ‘free’ for a limited time after which it returns to full pricing.  This is a great opportunity to try out this heralded rhythm track arranger at no cost.   Try the Jazz and Blues standards and arrange some more tracks for whatever tunes you are playing currently.  There’s a vast selection of authentic rhythms from talented artists across many genres in addition to Jazz and Blues.

The Tracks

Song For My Father” – 4 choruses of 24-bar AAB (as 8|8/8 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a Rock Bossa at 140 bpm
The Way You Look Tonight” – 3 choruses of 68-bar AABC (as 16|16/16|20 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a modern Jazz rhythm at 210 bpm
Blue Monk “- 6 choruses of 12-bar Blues (3 x 4-bar phrases) with no intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a bluesy shuffle at 100 bpm
Georgia On My Mind” – 4 choruses of 32-bar AABA (as 8|8/8|8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a bluesy, slow swinging rhythm at 65 bpm
Blame It On My Youth” – 4 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 (16|16 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a slow swinging Jazz ballad rhythm, with a 2-feel during the middle choruses, at 45 bpm
Blue Bossa” – 6 choruses of a 16-bar Tune (with 4 x 4-bar phrases) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a grooving funky rhythm at 110 bpm
Fly Me To The Moon” – 4 choruses of standard 32-bar A1A2 (as 16|16 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 10-bar ending, using a swinging light pop rhythm at 130 bpm
Bye Bye Blackbird” – 4 choruses of a user-defined form (16/8/8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a standard Jazz brushes rhythm at 120 bpm
Dearly Beloved” – 5 choruses of a user-defined form (8|8|8|8 bars) with no intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using a straight ahead Jazz rhythm at 146 bpm
All Blues” – 3 choruses of a user-defined form (12|12 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a 6/8 country pop and rock rhythm at 110 bpm
Just Friends “as a Cha Cha – 5 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a regular Cha Cha rhythm at 135 bpm
On Green Dolphin Street” – 3 choruses of a user-defined form (8/8|8/8 bars) with a 12-bar intro’ and an 8-bar ending, using an alternating Bossa and Swing rhythms at 145 bpm
Take the “A” Train” – 5 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a straight ahead Jazz rhythm at 146 bpm
All The Things You Are” – 3 choruses of 36-bar ABC form (16/8|12 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and no ending, using a Jazz Brushes rhythm at 120 bpm
How High The Moon” – 4 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a straight ahead Jazz rhythm at 100 bpm
Almost Like Being In Love” – 4 choruses of 36-bar ABC form (16/8|12 bars) with no intro’ and no ending, using a standard swinging 8th Jazz rhythm at 145 bpm
St. Thomas” – 3 choruses of a 16-Bar Tune form (as 4 x 4-bar phrases) with no intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a merengue tipico Salsa rhythm at 130 bpm
How Insensitive” – 4 choruses of 32-bar A1A2 form (16|16 bars) with no intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a sophisticated latin Bossa at 120 bpm
Stormy Weather” – 3 choruses of 32-bar AABA form (8|8/8|8 bars) with a 4-bar intro’ and no ending, using a slow swinging 8th Jazz rhythm at 50 bpm
Moonlight In Vermont” – 3 choruses of a user-defined form (3 x 6|6|8|8 bars) with no intro’ and a 2-bar ending, using a Jazz brushes rhythm at 70 bpm
Perdido” – 5 choruses of 32-bar AABA form (8|8/8|8 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 4-bar ending, using a swinging shuffling Jazz groove at 145 bpm
I Love Paris” – 3 choruses of a user-defined form (16|16/16 bars) with an 8-bar intro and an 8-bar ending, using a regular Cha Cha  rhythm at 110 bpm
In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” – 3 choruses of a user-defined form (8|10 bars) with an 8-bar intro’ and a 6-bar ending, using a slow swinging ballad Jazz rhythm at 45 bpm

For more on song formsee this page

For a list of our rhythms see this page

Audio Samples

Alive Drumming hosts some sample Song Rhythm Tracks and a user-contributed mixes group at HearThisAt, the audio hosting service providing great user and social facilities. Please contribute your own mixes to the Song Rhythm Tracks User Group at HearThisAt.

Hear this set of sample Jazz and Blues Sample Song Rhythm Tracks at HearThisAt

More Audio Samples Released

siloette-drummer-and-jazz-kit

We have just updated the Audio Samples page to provide more of the thousands of rhythms available and provide an in-browser HTML5 audio preview as well as the download option.   Check out some great tracks that might already fit the songs you play.  For the best experience selecting all possible combinations of rhythms and Song Form, as well as a great player and setlist manager, download our Apple iOS App on the App Store.

 

The Primacy of Rhythm in practicing popular music

hands on bongos

When learning a new piece of music, when should a musician work on getting right the rhythm and feel of the piece?

Introduction

I have long believed it has to be the very first thing to get right and there’s little point playing notes at all unless they are in the desired rhythm and feel.   Tempo, however, is a whole other subject – there’s a lot to be said for precision and even playing tunes at markedly different tempos to internalize the piece better.

Timing is the bedrock of music:  “When a note is struck at the wrong time, it’s the wrong note”.  Getting playing in the right rhythm as soon as possible is why I’ve always sought out structured and inspiring rhythmic backing.  This ultimately lead to  “Song Rhythm Tracks“.

Rhythm and Timing

Practice Makes Permanent

One of the most repeated terms used to and by musicians is that “practice makes perfect”.   I’ve heard this altered to, “practice makes permanent”. i.e. if we repeat a thing over and over then we do internalize it and it becomes a facility we have “without consciously thinking about it”.  This is why we can do complex coordinated movements without much conscious thought such as driving cars and even using a knife and fork.   If you’ve never done these things in your life before they can be very challenging for the very first time, but once performed daily one doesn’t even recognize them as a challenge anymore.  It’s as if an entirely different part of your mind is assigned to the task.  So, what is important is that we are very selective about using this repetition technique and make sure it effects don’t work against us because if what we are practising is not beneficial then it will get internalized just as readily….   So, practice can make perfect;  It will eventually make permanent, but that permanency can defeat you as well as help you.

Developing your own sense of timing

A key aspect of music is rhythm and timing – it’s what can make music come alive, and it’s what can kill it as well.  It’s essential that we develop good rhythm and timing.

If you haven’t yet developed the sense of that regular pulse that is present in most modern music – pop, folk, country, jazz – playing along to something with a pulse is of great benefit because wherever your pulse is lacking it will be clearly shown and you will automatically adjust to follow the pulse and keep the timing.  Great: That’s a real win.   My recommendation is to be very selective about the use of metronomes and click-tracks:  There’s more to rhythm than a pulse!

Misuse of Metronomes and click tracks Considered Harmful

Always using a click-track when you practice and also when playing together in a group will likely work against developing your own human interaction on the pulse and detract from the rhythmic nuances that end up being beaten out by the demanding, oh-so-regular, ‘click’.  In a similar way also, counting when you are jamming with others will be a problem:  Counting the pulses within the meter, such as 1-and-a, 2-and-a,  is an absolutely invaluable aid when learning a new, perhaps rhythmically challenging melody: I’ve heard it said that if you can not count a melody or rhythmic idea out, you don’t really know it:  It’s great to count it out to ensure we really know it, but once you have internalized that melody, it’s time to stop counting it and feel the rhythm and communicate with the others you are playing with without blocking them out by counting in your head.

The wonderful thing about folk playing music together is the human interaction that you miss out on if you are communicating with a click-track instead of the other humans you are playing with, or count out every bar in your head instead of listening to the other musicians.    I’m not the only one who sees it this way:  I’ve heard the British musician Jamie Cullum say he avoids the use of click tracks when jamming and recording because it takes away the human ebb and flow of the music when they are used.   I would hate us to have missed out on the wonderful ebb and flow of his playing.

How to practice and jam?

The Early Beginnings of Private Practice:

If you are learning a new, perhaps challenging, melody for the first time, in private practice, then sure, do count out the meter and use a metronome / click-track selectively and judiciously to check your timing, but, as soon as you’ve confirmed you’ve got it, stop using the metronome or click track asap and don’t use it again for that piece of music, because what was once aiding you to get better rhythmically will now limit your rhythmic feel and hold you back.

Jamming or Gigging with Other Musicians:

We will come to stage two later!   When jamming or gigging, don’t count in your head.  By now you should have internalized the song by private practice and be ready to communicate it with others and counting will detract from listening.   “Let the Melody by your guide”.  If you have the melody in your mind while performing and improvising it will help you keep place without any need to count.  Also, where there is a pause in the melody, supplement with your own melody to help with this.  For example, if the melody has a two bar rest then filling that rest with your own ‘fill melody’ will support using the melody to keep the place in the tune.   Keeping the melody in your head will be the least distraction while listening to the other players unless your sense of rhythm and timing is so good and you are so tight with the other band members that you don’t need even that.  If you are struggling to keep your place then a strong hold on the melody can be the best thing to help this.

Practising alone or perhaps with others:

What to do when you are playing the tune over regularly to internalize it before you play it with others, or even if you never get to play with others?  Firstly,  it would be good to get a sense of the form of the music, and secondly, it would be good to practice, and play, in the rhythmic style of the piece.   I think an ideal, and unrealistic, optimum would be to have a real human band of experienced musicians who know the piece well ready in your practice studio to jam along to.  They will also need to accommodate you by stopping and starting at your command.  That concept has been best addressed by professional musician backing tracks supplied by vendors such as ‘Aebersold’.  They are a great option, but not always a practical one.   If you have purchased one of these, and it includes your tune, in key and style and similar tempo you will be playing it with your band, then, great, do INCLUDE playing along to it as part of this practice.   It can be really enjoyable and allows one to practice improvisation with the aural checks on harmony and form you would not otherwise have.  That is if you improvise over the form and drop a bar or forget a chord change you should hear that and be able to correct it.

Another great option is to play along to artist’s performances of the tune.  Say you are learning Autumn Leaves and you have recordings of it by various artists in your record collection, then play those recordings and play along, ‘accompanying’ with chords or a baseline.  You are interacting with top musicians who are undoubtedly playing the piece well – nothing you internalize there will be as lifeless and damaging as a click-track.  I believe at this time, when you are playing and internalising a tune, it is important to practice it in as many ‘practice formats’ as possible.  Those previously mentioned and also, playing alone the melody by itself, and then the melody and the baseline, then play the baseline and sing the melody, then play the chords and sing the melody, then play the chords and play the melody together.  Do you get the idea? The more variety of ways you hear and perform the tune the better your aural knowledge of it becomes.

So, what about rhythm and timing when you are doing this?  I think the best option is to have a rhythm backing track playing that does not have the baseline or chords but WILL represent the musical form of the piece, where sections start and end, where the energy changes as the performance moves from ‘A’ sections to ‘B’ (or bridge) sections and to middle choruses, which are generally the place for improvisations, and even where four-bar phrases occur etc.   If this rhymic backing is also alive and human and responding to the musical form the song rather than metronomic in its delivery, and is in the rhythmic style you will be playing the piece, you not only have a great foundation for learning the piece but also a hugely enjoyable one as well.

Essentially, it’s the same argument that went for playing along to click tracks.  A click track may expose many faults you may have with the meter and your placement of the chords, your baseline or melody, but it will also install a deadening of the other rhythmic aspects that should be happening.   I suggest never using a click track at this stage; rather use a Song Rhythm Track that has a great sense of rhythm from the audio of real drummers playing real drums in the style you will be playing it and to the song form of the song you are learning.  This is a good idea even if you perform in a drummer-less ensemble.  One can always additionally practice the piece without backing to ensure one can maintain one’s own sense of rhythm and timing without the backing track, but it’s good to get a start from great rhythmic backing first.  So, how to get great sounding human backing tracks in the musical form of your song? There are now “Song Rhythm Tracks” from Alive Drumming providing exactly that…

iOS App, Song Rhythm Tracks, now available on the Apple App Store.

Bop Jazz Drummer B&W

 

Alive Drumming has released it’s Apple iOS app, Song Rhythm Tracks.  It is now available in the Apple App Store at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/songform-rhythm-tracks/id1254346877?ls=1&mt=8

If you are interested in reviewing this app please email reviews@alive-drumming.org

 

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