Hi, I posted this in the guitar thread as I am a guitar player, but this extends to music in general, so I'll put here as well

"I am looking for input from a bit more advanced players about ryhtm:

Hypothetically the ultimate goal, rythm wise, in playing would be playing dead on beat... like a machine would do, but doesn't't this sound too mechanical?

How much swing can you put in rythm before it starts to be out of time?

I am talking in acoustic stuff mostly here like tommy emannuel or fingerstyle stuff.

Thanks in advance"
Last edited by Guitarra_acores at May 4, 2011,
You can put as much swing as you want as long as you always come back to beat 1.
it's really down to personal choice and your background even. there's a famous irish pianist (john o connor) who went to study with someone in austria and played him the second movement of the pathetique sonata with loads of rubato etc and the teacher said you god damn catholics and your virgin mary! that's not how it's supposed to be played! it's supposed to be played as part of the presbyterian canon, and kicked him off the piano and played it like a metronome.

so where one say it as a vehicle for expression and emotion, the other saw it specifically as part of a specific canon, and as such, should be played like other things from that canon. just a kinda weird anecdote that showed how different schools of music and even religion can come to play a big part in something as simple as rubato. i know it's not about tommy emannuel, but still!

edit: he's often called the best living interpreter of beethoven, one up for catholic rubato
Last edited by gavk at May 4, 2011,
Tommy Emmanuel is a hell of a guitar player and I can assure you -- he is never dead-on-the-beat. That would lose all of the musicality of his playing.

Swing is somewhere between triplet and dotted rhythm and is usually not written out -- other than an indication at the beginning of a piece that eighth notes should be played with "swing". Different players will interpret and play the same piece differently. Joe Pass and Django Reinhardt were known for having heavy swing -- closer to dotted rhythm. A blues shuffle is closer to a triplet feel. If one plays straight triplets or straight dotted rhythm, it does not sound like swing anymore.

There are a lot of other rhythmic idioms used all over contemporary music -- anticipation, polyrhythm, n-tuplets (n>4), odd-meter, additive meter, graphic notation ...

Newbies listen to certain Zappa solos and hear them as "sloppy" when, in fact, he is purposely and deftly using n-tuples and polyrhythm. Most players have difficulty being that accurate and, for example, playing 5 against 3 (a quintuplet over a triplet) or far more perverse twists that he uses and are well documented by Steve Vai in the Zappa Guitar Book.

Emmanuel and players like him tend to use more familiar rhythmic figures -- like swing and anticipation.

In most cases -- a good player is never "on the beat" ... unless they want to be.
Great responses guys thanks.

I'm still very much a beginner (1,5 years of guitar) but it intrigued me how, in theory, a machine should do a better job playing rythms, as it would be dead on accurate, but when you hear music played in strict subdivisions it souds too "stiff" and loses all of its groove

It's actually cool that it's not the case... makes it much more personal to play/listen
Quote by Sóknardalr
Here's a great example proving that being dead accurate isn't necessarily better:


It's a machine playing a real saxophone. I find it fascinating that it makes it sound like a MIDI playback and doesn't swing at all.

that's class!

@ Zen Skin, a guitar wizard is never early and never late, he arrives exactly when he intends to

it's interesting to look at chopin in this regard as well. he didn't play any of his music with rubato, or not half as much as people think anyway. he used built in rubato so it would sound like rubato even when played with a metronome, and because of that he became associated with rubato, even though it was written in rubato.

Hypothetically the ultimate goal, rythmn wise, in playing would be playing dead on beat... like a machine would do, but doesn't't this sound too mechanical?

I think a better way of phrasing this would be -

The ultimate goal, is to play precisely where you want to place things in the groove, as per the style.