Lesson 4: Timing Territories.

Ok, so now all the performers should know their function in the music at any point in time, and be playing at the volume that is appropriate for that function. They should also be heard clearly because they are allowing for the harmonics of their instrument to be heard. There are still two more territories that we need to look at to reduce conflict between the instruments, and make music more easy and pleasant to listen to.

The first is that of timing. Performers who do a lot of solo practice and performance have a tendancy to feel that they must fill up the sound, so, when put in a band situation they overplay, and leave no room for other players. A band made up of musicians like this usually find themselves fighting to be heard and that usually ends in turning up the volume and the cycle goes on. So, whats the solution?

The best way to look at this is to look at a basic pattern on the drum kit (for example: kick + snare + kick kick snare +). In most styles the first beat of the bar is the strongest so requires the drum with the most punch, which is of course the bass drum. The next beat is what we call the "back beat" and we accent it with the snare drum, then a double kick on beat 3, and snare again as the back beat on beat 4. If we had used all drums on every beat it would be too strong, and there would be no variation to give interest. Like sitting at a table with many flavours in front of you but you have the same combination with every bight. ...Boring... This is the same if every player wants to play at the same time.

Solution: everyone chooses to play on different beats. Example:
Bass guitar, kick drum, and piano left hand play on beat 1,
rim shot on the snare drum and sustained chord on guitar on beat 2,
bass drum doing a double kick, bass guitar an octave higher and piano right hand on beat 3,
unmuted snare drum and staccato chord on guitar on beat 4.

This is of course quite a simple example, and could become quite boring after a while, but its point is that by spreading out the instruments across the bar there is less conflict. Every instrument is played at a different time so there is less issues with using volume to compete for attention..

As you can see this is mostly to do with the rhythm section. Frontline has its own set of timing to contend with. Use your imagination to create new rhythmic combinations, or for a bit of inspiration, try listening to some old keyboard autochord rhythms, or band-in-a-box type rhythms.

Remember from the section about Function Territories, the brain can only follow one line of music at one time, so frontline timing is all about who is frontline at that particular time.

We'll soon be ready to move on to the next lesson. When its ready you will be able to click here to go to the lesson about basic mixer setting up, or click here to return to the Sound Territories and Mixing index page.