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Topic: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

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  1. #1

    I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    For some reason I tend to always use 4/4. The tempo can range anywhere from about 58 to 140 bpm depending on the style i'm writing. But it makes me wonder am I limiting myself? I just find that whenever I go for 3/4 or something else it just doesn't work as well. My music still varies quite a lot and no two songs ever sound the same.

    How about everyone else? Do people see writing in 4/4 exclusively as a big problem?

  2. #2

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterW
    For some reason I tend to always use 4/4. The tempo can range anywhere from about 58 to 140 bpm depending on the style i'm writing. But it makes me wonder am I limiting myself? I just find that whenever I go for 3/4 or something else it just doesn't work as well. My music still varies quite a lot and no two songs ever sound the same.

    How about everyone else? Do people see writing in 4/4 exclusively as a big problem?
    Yes it is and for punishment you must write your next piece in compound meter:

    12/8, then 17/16. HAH! That'll teach you!!!!

    Seriously though, I guess it's not bad especially if you are prone to adding and subtracting beats here and there to achieve rhythmic interest. Whatever floats your boat is my opinion. I used to compose in a lot of 4/4 but prefer 6/8 (must be the jazz background which explains my interest in triple meters).

  3. #3

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    The meter will need to change if you add different timings and rythmic stuff other then that which should work for 4/4, definetally suggest trying to use a different meter and see what you can come up with, 6/8, 5/4, whatever just for fun, who knows you may use them more then you would think. 4/4 works for alot though
    www.energiestudios.com

  4. #4

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    Yes, limiting yourself to just 4/4 is, well limiting.

    Being able to write in 3/4 (and variations such as 3/8 or 6/8) will expand your musical vocabulary. And if you want to expand it further, try meters such as 5/4, 7/8 and such.

    I recognize that a good deal of popular music is in 4/4 (or 2/4) but there is some popular music in 3/4 meter.... some good popular music. (Think of "piano man" which is in some triple meter.

    Then again, if all you do is rap, then, well, duple meter is all you will ever use.

    Give it a chance, I am sure that your muse will lead you to 3/4 meter if you give her a chance.

    David

  5. #5

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    Peter,

    You mention "songs". Depending on your style 4/4 might be just right for 90+% of your stuff. Did Strauss complain that all his waltzes were in 3/4?

    However, if you start writing for video/film, 4/4 will be far too limiting. Sometimes you just need to add or drop that beat to get things to line up with the picture.

    I recently did two video scores that were exact opposites in this regard. One was dramatic (a trailer). I kept the same rhythm (6/8) and maintained it throughout, but varied the tempo up to 400 and down to 40.

    http://colonelcrush.com/movie/index/00030001#3

    The other piece was a car chase. I wanted to have a driving (pun) beat, so I kept the tempo as steady as possible and dropped/added beats as needed. It starts out at 4/4 with some adds/drops to fit the picture, then settles on a 6/8 variation of the theme and later I bring back the 6/8 trailer theme.

    http://colonelcrush.com/movie/index/00030301#3

    At the end of this second Webisode, you will hear a requiem which uses a fixed meter (3/4) and varied tempo - again for drama more than a driving beat.

    I think that in order to score for film one needs to be able to use both approaches. For song you can stay with 4/4, if that's what sounds cool to your ear.

    I'd recommend listening to lots of different music and tapping out the meter. You might find some non 4/4 beats that appeal to you that you can add to your palette.

  6. #6

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    In a waltz situation, it may be an obstacle
    Kid: When I become an adult I wanna be a musician.
    Parent: Son, you cannot become both.

  7. #7

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    I think that the idea determines the meter. It is a compositional tool that will allow one to more acurately express the idea if you find the "right" rhytmic pulse. You question is sort of like saying do you find always writing in a major key to be limiting. It's not at all limiting if all your ideas are expressed fully in a major key and it's pretty the same with meter.

    John
    Student in Electro-acoustics

  8. #8

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    Thanks for your thoughts on topic guys. I might have to play around with using different meters to stretch myself.

    Jon, you are right about changing tempo and timing when scoring to film. When I do score to picture (although it not as often as I'd like) everything is out of wack. Sometimes I just have to go with what feels right and have no idea how many beats i'm throwing in there. lol. How do you decide what tempo to use when composing for film?

  9. #9

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    80 perent of my work is score-to-picture, and mostly on very tight deadlines. Finding frame-accurate hit points that make musical sense used to require lots of time signature changes within a piece...which is very time consuming.

    So now, working in Logic, I often use 1/4 as my time signature, and set my tempo to double the actual metronome marking. (If I want 100 bpm, I set my tempo to 200 bpm, effectively turning a sixteenth note into an eighth note.) Now I can match a hitpoint with the downbeat of a measure a lot more easily...and with much smaller variations in tempo. Even if it SOUNDS like a bar of 3 or a bar of 5, or even 7 or 9...I don't have to physically change anything. I just keep writing. It allows me to work a LOT more quickly. Besides, when I deliver a mixed music cue, nobody cares what the time signatures are...only how it works with the scene.

    Another side advantage of this method is that when playing fast difficult passages that need a little quantizing, quantizing eighth notes is twice as accurate as sixteenths. If my playing is a little sloppy on a tricky phrase, I'm not above quantizing when the deadline looms. (NEVER 100 percent, though!) Quantizing sixteenths at 100 bpm is a lot less accurate than quantizing eighths at 200 bpm. Now, I hardly ever get notes quantizing to the wrong subdivision of a beat. Physically moving incorrectly quantized notes is agonizingly slow! Usually I would just play the phrase over again. Now I can easily make it sound right and move on.

    Not only does this method (and some other time-savers I've come across) help relieve the deadline pressure, it helps me keep my creative flow. I HATE mousing around!

    The only time I DON'T use this method is if I'm going to need to generate charts for live musicians from my Logic arrangement. While the resulting transcription probably wouldn't be THAT difficult to play, I'm guessing most musicians would find it kind of weird.

    Fred Story

  10. #10

    Re: I always use 4/4. Anyone see this as a problem?

    On the one hand... you've got to play to your strengths. If you do your best work in 4/4, go ahead and do your best work!!

    On the other hand... if you're composing for others (producers, CD purchasers, etc.), you have to be able to create whatever they want. If they want something in odd or shifting time sigs, then your inability to cater to those needs will be a disadvantage...

    Personally, I love (and create) music in odd/shifting time signatures... I get bored if everything is in 4/4... I also get the strong sense that -- generally (at least Americo-Occidentally) speaking -- I am in the overwhelming minority...

    The bottom line is that -- at least in the popular music realm -- most folks tend to appreciate music that doesn't require a lot of analysis (e.g., "I like this song... it has a good beat I can dance to"), and that mimics something simple and repeatable... like the heartbeat they heard when they were in the womb...

    But certain moods are best expressed by beats and rhythms that don't fall as quickly into subconcious acceptance... 5/4 can create a great sense of tension... 3/4 can lilt you through a waltz, or propel you through passionate modal jazz (think McCoy Tyner's brilliant piano/drum duo "Parody")...

    Robert Fripp's 13/8 guitar solo in the King Crimson song "Starless" demonstrates one of the greatest build-ups of slow-burning psychotic rage ever committed to tape, while the 13/8 (really 6/8 + 7/8) interlude in Rush's "Jacob's Ladder" is regal and grandiose, climbing ever-skyward...

    -------------------

    There's still a lot that you can do to make 4/4 more "innaresting," including syncopation, playing "ahead of" or "behind" the beat, and so on. You might wish to try exhausting these possibiilties before subjecting yourself to the full paradigm shift of odd time sigs...

    -------------------

    I would suggest spending some time listening closely to music in different time sigs, to force yourself to see what makes them work, and to try and emulate them...

    In jazz, the safest start would probably be Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" album -- no song is in 4/4, but every song is extremely accessible.

    For rock, there are lots of great places to look. The best band by far for acclimating to odd time sigs is Egg [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_(band)], a '70s progressive band featuring keyboardist Dave Stewart, who later went on to write for Keyboard Magazine and to pen some extremely funny books on reading and understanding music... Their "Polite Force" album from 1971, and their debut album from the previous year, are unparallelled tutorials in odd time sigs. Since they are a 3-piece (bass, drums, keyboards), the arrangements are pretty easy to follow. They even have one song ("Seven is a Jolly Good Time") describing their growth from playing in 4/4 to more adventurous endeavors...

    Once you've soaked them up, you can proceed to DS' next band, National Health.....

    -------------------

    Remember, you don't have to write an entire song in a single time signature. Check out a song like Rush's "Free Will," which begins by alternating between a measure of 6/4 and a measure of 7/4, and then settles into a more conventional 4/4...

    -------------------

    Here's a wikipedia page worth perusing:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...ime_signatures

    [while humorously incomplete, it does reference classical, jazz and rock compositions]

    -------------------

    Incidentally, you aren't alone in being uncomfortable stepping outside of 4/4...

    ...Pink Floyd's shift, in the middle of the song "Money," from 7/8 to 4/4 was viewed at the time as 'innovative' (as far as mainstream rock was concerned). It turns out that David Gilmour couldn't figure out how to play a convincing solo in 7/8, and insisted upon the change to 4/4 so that he could do what he had to do...
    — alanb

    ...........................

    http://alanb.org

    http://www.myspace.com/arsperspicuus

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