Offbeat reel rhythm?

Offbeat reel rhythm?

I often hear reels, that are accented on the second beat, not on the first. For example, like the Irish Fiddler player Kevin Burke does it:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4GoJeqSp2k

And the American fiddle teacher Hanneke Cassel says, there’s different kinds of accenting beats in the reel, also offbeat. Whereas the Irish stomp their feet downbeat. Is this also common in Traditional Irish music?

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

After reading all the threads on reels, 2/2 vs 4/4, accenting, phrasing, pulse, lift etc. I’m on the point of giving up finding some pattern to use… to my (inexperienced) ear Kevin Burke plays around with emphasizing different beats. I don’t know if you mean to say that there is a contrast between stomping on the downbeat and accenting the offbeat, but to me it seems they don’t really exist independently. You hear one or the other because you fill in the missing one (or something of that nature). Anyway, I like those shoulder-pulling-offbeat accents.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

Hi Max. Yes, of course, accenting the off-beat is important in Irish reels, as you have heard. The accent will be more or less pronounced depending on the player and especially the instrument.

As a whistle player you have considerably less scope for emphasising this aspect than players of other instruments, particularly fiddles. If you were to ask me for advice about off-beat accents - I know, you haven’t asked, but I can’t help it, I’ve done a lot of teaching of both whistle and fiddle - I would say, don’t go looking for patterns in a tune type, or in one reel to impose on another. For one thing, it could save the time that shaketree has apparently devoted to this effort before seeing the light. 🙂

For another thing, the results may be very unsatisfactory and artificial. Just listen lots to players of your own instrument and all the other instruments, and allow what you have heard to come through in (or to “inform”) your playing of each individual tune.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

“don’t go looking for patterns in a tune type…”

I agree. However, small, interesting rhythmic patterns can be fun to hear pop up during a tune. Kevin Burke does this a lot. You hear small, half measure or full-measure rhythmic patterns throughout his playing. An example is at 0:32 - o:34 in this clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjyG3rW_yLA

Posted by .

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

“the Irish stomp their feet downbeat”
I think of foot tapping as an aid to keeping a steady tempo, and not something that necessarily reflects the push-pull pulse of a tune. Usually the accent falls on the downbeat, sure, but exceptions add spice.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

The one that does it for me is Frank’s Reel by John McCusker - full of syncopation and offbeat stuff, and have heard some players play around with it even more than in the version here, and some nice syncopation in the first tune too (Adam Sutherland’s?) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8et8RoC8uo

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

Excellent hints, thanks a lot!

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

Do you ever hear someone playing a reel and it sounds like they are continually speeding up and may go completely out of control?

That’s the lack of the off-beat in the reel, which serves to keep the phrasing of the tune regulated.

The Irish reel off-beat is always there whether it is emphasized or not.

When it is not present at all a reel sounds like a stream of notes being pushed out as quickly as possible with no phrasing.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

I think it also happens when you don’t give the full time value to the note at the end of the bar/phrase - esp if it’s a long note. That makes you ‘ahead of the beat’ and it’s difficult to correct without making the correction sound obvious.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

@Jim, I agree, it took me quite some time to even notice that on recordings I made of my playing. I find it even harder to hear while playing… maybe a natural tendency/habit that is hard to break.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

Well, it does no harm to practise to a metronome or rhythm track when your playing / practising on your own.

That way you can highlight any slips.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

Sorry to resurrect the old thread, but this is of vital importance to me right now.
Around one year into my flute practice now, I discovered that the flute offers great opportunities in terms of emphasis.
I’m trying to listen to and imitate different ways to emphasise the beat, and most of all I like giving the third note of four a bit more push, so it resembles the bowing technique I also hear in two recordings above. Sounds “offbeat” to me.

What I find confusing is that in the initial post this way of playing reels is described as “accent on the second beat”, and no one seemed to disagree. While when I count the notes myself, it appears that the third note is emphasised, not the second.
I foresee three different answers to this:
- Something is wrong with my hearing or counting
- The terms “beat” and “note” are not interchangeable
- There was a mistake in the initial post

Can anyone more knowledgeable please bring more clarity on this one?

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

“Beat” and “note” don’t mean the same thing. A bar of a reel has the same number of beats in it regardless how many notes are played.
In the context of what’s being discussed here, there are four beats, each a crotchet (quarter note) in duration. So if your bar is full of quavers (eighth notes) an off beat emphasis would give |1-2-three-4 1-2-three-4| with the “three” emphasised on the second and fourth “beats” (the first and third beats are on the 1).
Hope this helps.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

There are some standards which are useful to use when discussing beats rhythms and meter .
So if a piece is in 2 /4 then we count 1 2 |1 2 if there are 2 crotchets . If there are 4 quavers itis ; 1 and 2 and |etc, if there are 4 semi quavers it’s 1 e + a 2 e +a .
So a reel in 4/4 is counted 1and 2and 3 and 4 (1+2+3+4+) while acreel in 2/2 is counted 1e+a 2 e +a
If there are 4 beats , the off beat is the’ and , + ’
A 2/2piece could have an off beat placed anywhere not on the beat but were the off beat stressed regularity on the ‘and’ Then the feel would change to a 4/4 .

There are strong and weak and medium beats , so 2/4has a strong and a weak beat. 4/4 strong weak medium weak .
But a beat is really the beat of the foot to the floor . It’s not so much what the melody is doing, rather an underlying pulse . A beat can exist temporarily in a piece , like a heameola such as a temporary 3/4 beat within a 6/8 , 1+a 2+a | 1+2+3+ | 1+a 2a+ |
Then there is
Syncopation ….

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

In terms of a bar of 4/4 (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and), beats 1 and 3 are the on-beats and beats 2 and 4 are the off-beats (or backbeats). There are obviously more complex off-beat patterns or rhythms but what I have outlined above is, I believe, the most commonly accepted meaning.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

No that’s not correct , off beat is not the same as back beat. In 4/4
Back beat is the 2 and 4
Off beat are the ’ands ’

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

No it’s not. If there’s a beat , it can’t be ‘not a beat ‘at the same time!!
It’s either on beat or off beat , can’t be both…..
If it were 2/4 and most metronomes timings are commonly used as in 2/4, so a 4/4 piece at 240 bpm is halved for the gnome into 120 but then if counted 4-4 the off beat would be 2 and 4 so the confusion could easily slip in as a result of mistaken counting.

2/4 1e+a 2e+a
4/4 1+2+3+4+

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

Analysis causes paralysis.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

“If there’s a beat , it can’t be ’not a beat ’at the same time!!”

Ah, well, there’s the misunderstanding, Will.
I’m afraid I’m going to stick with the wikipedia definition, that I’ve been using for over 45 years (and the definition that fits with the context of this discussion). There are different sorts of beats, usually defined by weight. Different people call them different things but they’re still beats. An off-beat is still a beat. Off-beat doesn’t mean the “off the beat”.

However, I’m not going to get into a long argument about it so that’s it from me. I’ll leave the last word to someone else.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

Almost certainly not the last word, but I do love reels with a bit of syncopation: as mentioned above, Frank’s Reel (in all its variations!), Willafjord, and the final part of “The High Drive” to quote a few.

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

“Off-beat doesn’t mean the “off the beat”.

?it means exactly what it says .
And if you dig a bit deeper than Wikipedia you will find a few simple explanations .
If off beat doesn’t mean off beat… what does it mean? ! 😎

Re: Offbeat reel rhythm?

I found reels more challenging at first than say hornpipes precisely because they are more rhythmically “interesting”.

Syncopated modern tunes are a Thing (I love some - Road to Errogie, and detest others - Catharsis). But, even reels from the tradition have complex elements or interpretations.

I think of these rhythm/syncopation elements as an “accent” (in a language, foreign accents are more about rhythm than pronunciation). Like other things on the intuitive side of life, they build in sub-consciously over time. Maybe, the most successful route is just to listen incessantly. It is a bit hard to get to your 10,000 hours of practice, especially if you have a day job, but you probably enough time in the day to get to 10,000 hours of listening.