What is "Lift"? Part II: Understanding the Beat and Backbeat in Compound Time

Last time we discussed the differences between the beat and backbeat in simple time. This week we'll be discussing those differences in the context of compound time (sometimes referred to as "triple" time). Whereas simple time uses subdivisions of two, four or eight, compound time uses subdivisions of three or six. The two pipe band drumming styles written in compound time are jigs and 6/8 marches. To understand how to use the backbeat to create lift in compound time, let's review the three iterations of the beat.

 

Beat: In compound time the "beat" is the first note of the three note grouping.

Backbeat: The "backbeat" is the last note of the three note grouping.

Offbeat: The "offbeat" is the middle note of the three note grouping.

 

Here are some examples of "beat" and "backbeat" in compound time:

 

Example #1: Accented beats using note groupings of three eighth notes

 

Example #2: Accented backbeats using note groupings of three eighth notes

 

Example #3: Accented beats using quarter/eighth note pairs

 

Example #4: Accented backbeats using quarter/eighth note pairs

 

Example #5: Accented beats using sixteenth note groupings

 

Example #6: Accented backbeats using sixteenth note groupings

 

Example #7: Accented beats using dot/cut note groupings

 

Example #8: Accented backbeats using dot/cut note groupings

 

In simple time, the most effective way to create lift is to play on the "offbeat". Playing on the backbeat in simple time is good, but leaning on the offbeat will give you the best results. We'll be discussing that topic next week.

In compound time, however, the most impactful way to create lift is to accent or emphasize the backbeat--especially in the jig style. If you listen to any well-written jig score at the grade 1 level you will hear the third note of the triplet being emphasized repeatedly. This extra weight on the back end of the triplet gives the jig a "swing" feel and adds substantial forward motion to the music. The same is true, albeit to a slightly lesser degree, with 6/8 marches. To achieve lift in a 6/8 march, occasional emphasis on the "offbeat" (the second note of the dot/cut three note grouping) can also be used to great effect.

Strathspeys, thought written in 4/4 (a simple time signature), contain a large number of triplet based rhythms. Accenting the backbeat in those triplet based note groupings can help your strathspeys achieve the lift you're looking for. As we discussed last week, it is important to establish the beat notes before emphasizing the backbeat. This is of particular importance in the strathspey style where a heavy emphasis on beat "one" of the first and third bars are usually required.

Next week we'll be discussing the use of "offbeats" to achieve lift. Until then, happy drumming!

 

 

 

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