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I still don't know what a 'Beat" is?... Keyboard Workstations
Old 14th April 2018
  #1
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I still don't know what a 'Beat" is?...

I mean, I've been studying music since 1995.

I make and compose music and create and record songs.

I always assumed that a beat was maybe a drum beat? or maybe a passage or a short arrangement of a drum beat or type of short rhythm section with maybe a melody or sequence added?

Then I read somebody posting their works as, for example: "Beats by Nate".


I don't know about them, but I make songs. I would never refer to one of my songs or compositions as "Beats by Ben".

Maybe that's just me, but where is the fine line between the two? Or maybe I'm just missing something and haven't learned the proper definition of Beat.


I'm completely serious by the way.
Old 14th April 2018
  #2
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A song has a beat, a beat is not necessarily a song.
Old 14th April 2018
  #3
Before I joined GS, I used to think that beats only applied to Hip Hop music. Later I learned that it applies to multiple genres of music.

You can listen to beats here at this website:

Buy Beats Online | Download Beats | Rap Beats For Sale | Instrumentals For Sale

Here's a definition as well:

In popular use, beat can refer to a variety of related concepts including: tempo, meter, specific rhythms, and groove. Rhythm in music is characterized by a repeating sequence of stressed and unstressed beats (often called "strong" and "weak") and divided into bars organized by time signature and tempo indications.
Old 14th April 2018
  #4
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"Beat" has evolved to mean, in one use of the word, a mix minus vocals. Backing track, TV track, beat... all the same thing.

Just like "stems" used to mean "submixes." In the post-production world it still does. But now it can also mean "individual unmixed tracks exported as files that all have the same start point." Just yesterday I had a client email me that he was sending me "stems" from NYC for an overdub session here in LA. He meant separate tracks, and this is a 55-year-old grownup. Language evolves.
Old 14th April 2018
  #5
I still don't know what a 'Beat" is?

A half second at 'standard' disco time.




But... yeah. I've seen the evolution of this piece of jargon since the late 90s when the everybody's-a-producer era was ushered in by idiot-easy tools like ACID and its imitators like GarageBand, FruityLoops, etc.

At first it seemed to be strictly related to foundational tracks but in the last decade it seems to have evolved to include, as Brent suggests, all sorts of pre-finished backtracks, presumably for people to sing, rap, or solo over.

Jargon, of course, is professional slang. And one of the ways language, and particularly informal language/slang, evolves is by newcomers not fully absorbing the denotations and connotations of a given term and stretching it to include new aspects or even whole new definitions.

Eventually, of course, such an evolving term can drift so far from original meaning as to greatly complicate the 'correct' use of the term.

Clearly, we're just going to have to invent a whole new 'friendly name' for that fundament of western rhythmic notation, the quarter note.
Old 15th April 2018
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
"Beat" has evolved to mean, in one use of the word, a mix minus vocals. Backing track, TV track, beat... all the same thing.

Just like "stems" used to mean "submixes." In the post-production world it still does. But now it can also mean "individual unmixed tracks exported as files that all have the same start point." Just yesterday I had a client email me that he was sending me "stems" from NYC for an overdub session here in LA. He meant separate tracks, and this is a 55-year-old grownup. Language evolves.
“Stems” though is a confusing misuse - if someone’s suggesting they send you the “beat” for you to write to, it’s obvious that they’re sending a backing track. If someone asks you for “stems”...it’s not at all clear!
Old 15th April 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
“Stems” though is a confusing misuse - if someone’s suggesting they send you the “beat” for you to write to, it’s obvious that they’re sending a backing track. If someone asks you for “stems”...it’s not at all clear!
It's an evolving thing... seems like at the moment when someone dropboxes you a PT session and you open it and the bits of audio all fall into their places, that's still "tracks." But when they consolidate or "gain" the bits of audio on the individual tracks so they turn into end-to-end files that all start at the same spot (so you don't need the session), we're now calling that "stems."
Old 15th April 2018
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
It's an evolving thing... seems like at the moment when someone dropboxes you a PT session and you open it and the bits of audio all fall into their places, that's still "tracks." But when they consolidate or "gain" the bits of audio on the individual tracks so they turn into end-to-end files that all start at the same spot (so you don't need the session), we're now calling that "stems."
Really? Seems to show how fast jargon can change when a professional milieu is 'invaded' by a large wave of newbs learning the scene and its terminologies on the fly -- and because of the massive number of said newbs using and misusing established terms and jargon in 'interesting ways' tending to greatly accelerate linguistic mutations.

So... what do we call submix stems now?
Old 16th April 2018
  #9
Gear Nut
It’s just a question of linguistics and parsing it between technical and cultural significations.

In terms of technical usage, you have beats per minute, per bar, and so on. Music theorists can describe it more eloquently than me.

In terms of culture, you obviously have the hip hop link, to the groove, the track, and so on, but it has a deeper heritage going back to Jazz and the Beat Generation, or even in the name of the Beatles, with suggestions of British Beat music and merseybeat (although I don’t know which term derived from which).

So, it’s a fluid, contextual term.

Oh yeah, and also wot everyone above said!
Old 16th April 2018
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by vonstirlitz View Post
It’s just a question of linguistics and parsing it between technical and cultural significations.

In terms of technical usage, you have beats per minute, per bar, and so on. Music theorists can describe it more eloquently than me.

In terms of culture, you obviously have the hip hop link, to the groove, the track, and so on, but it has a deeper heritage going back to Jazz and the Beat Generation, or even in the name of the Beatles, with suggestions of British Beat music and merseybeat (although I don’t know which term derived from which).

So, it’s a fluid, contextual term.

Oh yeah, and also wot everyone above said!
One of the classic taxonomies of pop music is to organize it by dance rhythms... you got your waltzes, tangos, cumbias, twists, rhumbas, beguines, two-steps, polkas...
Old 16th April 2018
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
One of the classic taxonomies of pop music is to organize it by dance rhythms... you got your waltzes, tangos, cumbias, twists, rhumbas, beguines, two-steps, polkas...
My first rehearsal with my high school stage band, they're about to run down some classic Sammy Nestico chart or something like that, and the conductor says, "Okay, fellas, when the horns are written in straight fours, we always play it as a ...?"

And the whole band (minus me), says... "Charleston."
Old 16th April 2018
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
My first rehearsal with my high school stage band, they're about to run down some classic Sammy Nestico chart or something like that, and the conductor says, "Okay, fellas, when the horns are written in straight fours, we always play it as a ...?"

And the whole band (minus me), says... "Charleston."
Old 16th April 2018
  #13
Gear Nut
I was thinking more about this, with the rise of the ‘beat’ in popular discourse, is it linked to the ruse of the drum post 50s in popular music, and the move from simply percussion to being the driving element? Hence, the importance of the beat. Not strictly rhythm, but the beat. The hit. The strike.
Old 17th April 2018
  #14
Gear Addict
In the context you are discussing, a "beat" is the backing music for a hip hop track (everything but the vocals).
Old 17th April 2018
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Local Man View Post
In the context you are discussing, a "beat" is the backing music for a hip hop track (everything but the vocals).
If this were Jeopardy, you'd be the contestant who hit the button last. :-)
Old 17th April 2018
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
"Beat" has evolved to mean, in one use of the word, a mix minus vocals. Backing track, TV track, beat... all the same thing.

Just like "seems" used to mean "submixes." In the post-production world it still does. But now it can also mean "individual unmixed tracks exported as files that all have the same start point." Just yesterday I had a client email me that he was sending me "stems" from NYC for an overdub session here in LA. He meant separate tracks, and this is a 55-year-old grownup. Language evolves.
There's a "d" missing in your last sentence...
Old 17th April 2018
  #17
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I know it has been said but "beats" are instrumentals without vocals. "Beats", in the context of Hip Hop used to mean the backing track but now, so many movies, TV shows, commercials, etc, will have a Hip Hop/Rap style instrumental with no vocals. Then, a few people started putting out instrumental only music, some very similar to Hip Hop/Rap music, some just based upon it. So it just defines the style of Hip Hop/Rap music without vocals, can be many more things than say 10 years ago but same style of music.
Old 17th April 2018
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
There's a "d" missing in your last sentence...
It's spelled "languadge?" :-)
Old 17th April 2018
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
It's an evolving thing... seems like at the moment when someone dropboxes you a PT session and you open it and the bits of audio all fall into their places, that's still "tracks." But when they consolidate or "gain" the bits of audio on the individual tracks so they turn into end-to-end files that all start at the same spot (so you don't need the session), we're now calling that "stems."
Dumb usage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Seems to show how fast jargon can change when a professional milieu is 'invaded' by a large wave of newbs learning the scene and its terminologies on the fly -- and because of the massive number of said newbs using and misusing established terms and jargon in 'interesting ways' tending to greatly accelerate linguistic mutations.
The above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
So... what do we call submix stems now?
In post-production we fortunately still call stems "stems".

Incidentally, I recently did a hip-hop session where terms were completely mangled ahead of the session. I was told I'd just record a rapper...well, rapping, but when he and the producer stepped into the studio that had literally nothing. They wanted to maybe make a beat and lay down some vocals... I'd have declined the session had I known... oh well...
Old 17th April 2018
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
Dumb usage.



The above.



In post-production we fortunately still call stems "stems".

Incidentally, I recently did a hip-hop session where terms were completely mangled ahead of the session. I was told I'd just record a rapper...well, rapping, but when he and the producer stepped into the studio that had literally nothing. They wanted to maybe make a beat and lay down some vocals... I'd have declined the session had I known... oh well...
Thanks for sharing the cautionary tale!

A valuable potential lesson in going all the way when defining mutual terms. In many contracts I've looked over, it's common to clarify and define certain terms of art used in the contract. (Many of us have seen old contracts where a term like record would be defined in what might seem like ridiculous detail, "audio program material recorded and transcribed to a vinyl, grooved disk" and such.)

I think this GS milieu should at least hint at the great divergence in usage of jargon and terms of art -- and just think about what it's like... out there.

[I don't think I ever thought of GS in terms of an ivory tower before. ]
Old 18th April 2018
  #21
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In 1999 as one of the only "hip hop guys" in my audio engineering school, I told one of my instructors, a "rock and roll guy", that I need help laying down a beat I had created solely on a Korg 01/W. What followed was 10 minutes of me trying to explain to him what a beat was. After that, 10 more minutes of me trying to explain that I just needed to record the beat, track by track, to ADAT.

After he finally understood, he said the term they used for tracking sequenced instruments to tape (analog or digital) was "synchronized laybacks". I hadn't heard the term before and haven't since.
Old 18th April 2018
  #22
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So it's a recorded 'arrangement' with no vocals?
Old 18th April 2018
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by L-Fire View Post
In 1999 as one of the only "hip hop guys" in my audio engineering school, I told one of my instructors, a "rock and roll guy", that I need help laying down a beat I had created solely on a Korg 01/W. What followed was 10 minutes of me trying to explain to him what a beat was. After that, 10 more minutes of me trying to explain that I just needed to record the beat, track by track, to ADAT.

After he finally understood, he said the term they used for tracking sequenced instruments to tape (analog or digital) was "synchronized laybacks". I hadn't heard the term before and haven't since.
“Laying down” is a corrupted form of “layback”. And it kind of goes without saying that a layback has to be synced, especially in the era of tape, since otherwise it’s kinda useless.

In these days of nonlinear editing, offline rendering and few people using dedicated workstations (I had an XP50 back in ‘99, and even by then I had midi+audio in the DAW so could easily print parts) it’s largely redundant, outside of post production.
Old 28th April 2018
  #24
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So my Rock songs that I regularly put together and then shelf, while looking for a singer to contribute vocals, I could refer to those as Beats?
Old 28th April 2018
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benprogfuse View Post
So my Rock songs that I regularly put together and then shelf, while looking for a singer to contribute vocals, I could refer to those as Beats?
Millennials and hiphop people would know what you meant. Hit or miss with anyone else. Ask again in a couple years and the answer may be different.
Old 28th April 2018
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Millennials and hiphop people would know what you meant. Hit or miss with anyone else. Ask again in a couple years and the answer may be different.
I'm thinking they'd probably listen and say something like, 'Yo, this ain't a beat. This is a rock song without anyone singing.'




BTW, as someone who was immersed in techno/electronica/dub/hip hop influenced music in the late 90s and, for a while, into this century, I was one of the early members at FutureProducers and I got to observe the formative days of the online electronica/hip hop community, for better and worse.

(I just logged into my old FutureProducers account. Probably haven't been there in 15 years at least. There was a friend request in the chute. I'm happy to say: dj smuv, you've got a friend. )
Old 28th April 2018
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
... as someone who was immersed in techno/electronica/dub/hip hop influenced music in the late 90s and, for a while, into this century, I was one of the early members at FutureProducers and I got to observe the formative days of the online electronica/hip hop community, for better and worse.
So you clearly are not Scared of Revolution.
Old 28th April 2018
  #28
[warning: get off my lawn content below]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
So you clearly are not Scared of Revolution.
I thrive on change. But my response to it is not, by any means, always positive.

FWIW, two things drove me out of that scene: ossification of styles and techniques* and -- the big one -- robo-tuning. I was sick of vocoders, for sure, but they didn't make me want to tear my ears off and bury them in the backyard. (And don't even start me on 'found sound' drops -- by the early 00's I felt like if I heard one more Eno-esque droning newscaster/lecturer/whatever drop-in vocal blather track I was going to go the rest of the way nuts.)


* 20 odd years later and while electronic beats made their way to the center of the pop stage, when I listen, I just think, man, this stuff is just tired. Where's the progress? Where's the innovation? Where are the interesting off-shoots? (Bro-step was one of the few developments that struck me as novel and innovative. Trap just sounds like bad horror movie advert sound beds. And the rest? Boring, boring, boring.)
Old 28th April 2018
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
I thrive on change. But my response to it is not, by any means, always positive.
I was kidding. And having a proto-hiphop flashback.

Old 28th April 2018
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I was kidding. And having a proto-hiphop flashback.



I love the Last Poets. They were way out in front.

I was delighted when they made it into the great soundtrack from Performance (1970), the extremely psychedelicized 'gangster meets hippie' anti-thriller from Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg. More delighted still around the turn of the century when one of my radio journalist clients did a featurette with then-recent interviews with them.
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