Tag: learning

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.


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!

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