This is something I’ve noticed for a long, long time and to be honest it’s really starting to grate. It’s especially noticeable on TV programs or at dance shows / performances.

For a start there’s the question of whether it is ruining the song. For most songs on TV programmes it’s an improvement because it drowns them out somewhat. But then you’re left to focus on the clapping which inherently is far worse. This is because the audience never claps in time but they’re not syncopated either with the result of ending up somewhere between the two so it sounds plain wrong. Kind of like a demented metronome that’s lost all interest in keeping time.

You might think it’s due to the large number of people all with just slightly different timings but no, because the audience weirdly does seem to sync itself quite well in this no-man’s land. That said, there are always a few anomalies. There are those that start very enthusiastically but give up half way ; those that feel the need to speed up half way through and those that clap furiously on ‘every’ beat – whether they exist or not – like some supercharged 4:4 regardless of the time signature or tempo.

Now I’m not a drummer and to be honest struggled for a while learning to program drum patterns. A mate suggested that I should think like a drummer. By this he meant you’ve only got two arms and two legs so there’s only so much you can play at once and you just don’t play at a perfectly consistent volume. This helps your patterns to sound more natural and he was keen to stress this should apply to all styles of music. If you listen carefully you’ll also hear different sounds and emphasis on different beats.

And that maybe part of the problem. The audience is focusing on the 1 and 3 beats which are typically the downbeats. If they focused instead on the 2 and 4 beats – the upbeats where the snare is typically – it might not sound so boring or sterile.

And to be honest that’s what I’ve always done now I think about it, syncopate on the 2 and 4 beats with a double backbeat effect on the 4 if you’re really lucky. Usually I can’t concentrate enough for all the above reasons. Of course everyone looks at you like you’re some kind of lunatic.

And so here’s my conclusion. The audience tries to focus on the 1 and 3 beats but like those early digital synths that still had analogue timing circuits their timing wanders all over the place. They’re not on the upbeat or the downbeat so must be considered deadbeats. And they need drumming lessons, urgently.

I’m acutely aware this is starting to sound like a rant so I’m not entirely convinced I’ve arrived at an objective conclusion. I would therefore be very grateful for your comments, suggestions or alternative conclusions.

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