Piano Forum logo
September 22, 2014, 12:12:14 PM *
   Forum Home   Help Search  


Reader Poll: Do you like classical music with jazz influences?

Since the early 20th century, jazz always had a significant impact on classical music and classical pianists. Composers found the rhythms, the blue quality in melody and harmony, as well as the spontaneous improvisation immensely fascinating and irresistibly modern. Read more >>

Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: What is the difference between 'pulse' and 'beat' ?  (Read 3613 times)
Mayla
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6510


« on: May 18, 2007, 08:20:12 PM »

This is my main question for now, but currently my mind is branching off into hundreds of directions with regard to rhythm and meter, and, I will admit that suddenly I feel as though I know nothing at all about all of this.

I tried to look up the word "pulse" in my biggest music dicitonary that I own (though, admittedly, it is not that big), but the word is not even in there at all (that I could find).  I looked up the word beat and meter, and all it seems to be is a somewhat humanly imposed measurement of sound in time -- and then sound over longer periods of time, in an organized fashion (though ... here is where my mind starts to branch into other avenues and I guess I will just keep that to myself for now) called measures.  And, having strong beats vs weak beats seems completely man-made to me -- what is inherently stronger about beat one ?  What is it supposed to be doing for us ?

Okay.  I am going to stop there for now. 

LOL... I believe that this subject has infuriated me for years  Tongue

Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
Mayla
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6510


« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2007, 08:31:38 PM »

Okay.  I am double posting because I wonder if perhaps it is helpful to explain more about how I arrived at this question.

I was pondering the main purpose of "meter" -- and considered that perhaps the point of writing in metric systems is to help establish a pulse in music -- you know, to give it energy and life.  But, I am not so sure that pulse really has anything to do with meter.  I mean, I am assuming it has more to do with physics -- and then physics of sound.  And, then, I ask myself -- why do we try to confine something natural like pulse and a vibration that could actually be infinite in some way -- why do we try to confine that to beats within a measure ? 

And, isn't it the pulse that gives a music life ?

And, if pulse is not dependent on meter, and pulse gives music life -- then, music is not temporal afterall, and its organization (as music is often defined : "Organized Sound") is not actually measureable.

LOL ... I just confused myself.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
Mayla
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6510


« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2007, 08:35:41 PM »

What's the point of "meter" ?

Why do we write in metered time ?

Why do we most often play on the beat ?

Why do we try to organize sound into beats ?

Aren't beats just numbers ?

It's like trying to actually organize existence into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years.  It's not really THE THING.  All we have are moments, it seems, and these don't ever start or end...

argh... this is making me angry  Angry Tongue
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
pianowolfi
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 5647


« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2007, 09:21:25 PM »

What's the point of "meter" ?

Why do we write in metered time ?

Why do we most often play on the beat ?

Why do we try to organize sound into beats ?

Aren't beats just numbers ?

It's like trying to actually organize existence into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years.  It's not really THE THING.  All we have are moments, it seems, and these don't ever start or end...

argh... this is making me angry  Angry Tongue

Okay I'll start at the end and try to work myself through towards the first questions. No guarantee that I will ever arrive. Tongue Grin

1. Why do you get angry? You have just had a very interesting idea about moments. This is something really new to me, actually. Moments don't end and don't start--wonderful. They seem like a sunbeam from eternity if you see them like that.

2. It is actually not really THE THING to organize existence into seconds, minutes, hours, days. Existence exists, it is movement. same as speed. Speed usually is defined by the formula s=d/t (speed=distance divided through time) But this is only approximative. A living object has never a constant speed. It changes its speed every moment. You can't bring the actual speed into an exact formula. So is music. We never play as we "should" as required by a metronome. Some practising with a metronome is ok but if we would play always like that music would get liveless and senseless. This is where "pulse" comes in. Pulse relates to a LIVING process. Heart beat, breath, all the rhythms that come together with life, with change, with liveliness, with incalculability.

3. Yes you are right, why do we organize sounds into beats? imo the numbers don't play a role. I sometimes say to my students that they don't have to count, that the numbers 1,2,3,4 are not that important. What plays actually a role are accentuations. I want them to feel the pulse. Have you ever tried to prevent students from stopping before each barline? I have to do that constantly because our notation system is so unperfect, the barlines suggest to stop, marking a graphical border... (I btw still do not know how I should write a piece that only lives from PHRASES and not from measures, in my notation program, i just can't prevent it from writing barlines all over the score:P)

to be continued Tongue Smiley
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
opus10no2
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2092


« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2007, 09:22:55 PM »

Something that interests me is that there are an infinitum of possible time and pitch patterns.

The human brain is only advanced enough to take in a certain amount of complexity, so most rhythms are quite simple, and pitches stick to 12 per octave.

The pulse is there for the brain to percieve the organization in time..like tennis players after every shot realign to the center.

It's natural for the brain to hear everything in groups of 2s and 3s, anything other than even 8ths 1/4s are percieved as expressive delineations.

Admittedly 'tis confusing  Tongue
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

Mayla
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6510


« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2007, 09:27:58 PM »

And, why in the world is the forum clock at the top of the screen and on our posts reading 11 minutes behind the "whose online registry" ?  How is that even possible ? Huh Shocked

Okay.  That is just a side note  Tongue
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
Mayla
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6510


« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2007, 09:30:27 PM »

1. Why do you get angry? You have just had a very interesting idea about moments. This is something really new to me, actually. Moments don't end and don't start--wonderful. They seem like a sunbeam from eternity if you see them like that.

Yes, this is precisely it.  Actually, this idea entered my brain ( Tongue) shortly after I first joined the forum and started a discussion on "what is eternity" ... LOL (talk about "floppity" ... hee hee).  I have been "working" on it ever since -- though the concept itself seems extremely obvious to me -- in terms of how in the world it applies to our human sense of existence.

[edit]  oh, what I am talking about must be in the thread "what's the purpose of satan" [edit]
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
pianowolfi
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 5647


« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2007, 09:44:15 PM »

Okay.  I am double posting because I wonder if perhaps it is helpful to explain more about how I arrived at this question.

I was pondering the main purpose of "meter" -- and considered that perhaps the point of writing in metric systems is to help establish a pulse in music -- you know, to give it energy and life.  But, I am not so sure that pulse really has anything to do with meter.  I mean, I am assuming it has more to do with physics -- and then physics of sound.  And, then, I ask myself -- why do we try to confine something natural like pulse and a vibration that could actually be infinite in some way -- why do we try to confine that to beats within a measure ? 

And, isn't it the pulse that gives a music life ?

And, if pulse is not dependent on meter, and pulse gives music life -- then, music is not temporal afterall, and its organization (as music is often defined : "Organized Sound") is not actually measureable.

LOL ... I just confused myself.

Okay here it seems to me that you actually already almost have answered your own question. Smiley I actually just can say I agree, pulse gives music life, it's organization is as much measureable as the "normal" human blood pulse (which is in itself anyway not just normal to me but a miracle after all). Also this is measured with a strict
formula:bpm. The distance between two beats could be once 2 seconds and another time only a half second. The bpm would not change. It is maybe our futile attempt to measure the unmeasurable life.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
pianowolfi
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 5647


« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2007, 09:49:41 PM »

Yes, this is precisely it.  Actually, this idea entered my brain ( Tongue) shortly after I first joined the forum and started a discussion on "what is eternity" ... LOL (talk about "floppity" ... hee hee).  I have been "working" on it ever since -- though the concept itself seems extremely obvious to me -- in terms of how in the world it applies to our human sense of existence.

Lol floppity vs eternity is really funny Grin  I will look your thread up, I remember that I saw it once somewhere Smiley
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
pianowolfi
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 5647


« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2007, 10:17:23 PM »

This is my main question for now, but currently my mind is branching off into hundreds of directions with regard to rhythm and meter, and, I will admit that suddenly I feel as though I know nothing at all about all of this.

I tried to look up the word "pulse" in my biggest music dicitonary that I own (though, admittedly, it is not that big), but the word is not even in there at all (that I could find).  I looked up the word beat and meter, and all it seems to be is a somewhat humanly imposed measurement of sound in time -- and then sound over longer periods of time, in an organized fashion (though ... here is where my mind starts to branch into other avenues and I guess I will just keep that to myself for now) called measures.  And, having strong beats vs weak beats seems completely man-made to me -- what is inherently stronger about beat one ?  What is it supposed to be doing for us ?

Okay.  I am going to stop there for now. 

LOL... I believe that this subject has infuriated me for years  Tongue



From my "Oxford Companion to Music": Pulse: A term sometimes used as a synonym for "beat", but a distinction is occasionally made: for example, 6/8 time may be said to have six "pulses" but only two "beats".

Okay. I am not gonna quote the article about "beat" here because you already brought it down to the point. I think that the categorization into"weak" and "strong" beats has only a sense in some of the music, not in all. For instance a Bach fugue has often nothing to do with strong or weak beats. Just as little as with some of Beethoven's Adagios. In the pre-classical and classical period this distinction was very common. It was not the same in the romantic period. And today it depends often from what style a piece of music is composed in. But it gets VERY important when it comes for instance to a Beethoven Allegro, because often there are these "off beat" sfz and accents and all these syncopations that surprise the listener and awake him from his expectations to get a weak beat. Just a few thoughts, as so often.. Smiley
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
counterpoint
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2001


« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2007, 10:30:23 PM »

The question for me is: why does music sound so mechanical and tedious, if we play the rhythm exactly as it is written? Why does a constant beat and a constant tempo annoy me? I am convinced, that the tempo, the "pulse" and the rhythm have to be free. Exactness of tempo and rhythm is the death of music. Constant Tempo, beat and pulse are highly overrated by some metronome fanatics. Every note has it's meaning, and it depends on this meaning, whether the note has to be played shorter or longer, faster or slower, earlier or later. The metronome doesn't help to make music understandable.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

If it doesn't work - try something different!
timothy42b
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2133


« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2007, 01:09:18 PM »

The metronome doesn't help to make music understandable.

I think that for the person who CAN play with the metronome, this is true.

And for the person who cannot, the opposite happens. 

Perhaps there are two ways to keep with a metronome, or perhaps many more.  The two I'm thinking about are to keep a steady beat internally, or to make one's playing correspond to another force.  I think that in order to make your tempos conform to your own ideal concept of interpretation, you HAVE to be able to adapt to an external beat first.  Learning to play with a metronome is a step along the path to learning correct legato.

Skipping that step, and using the excuse that playing metronomically is unmusical, leads to an accidental instead of intentional rubato, and I find that very unmusical. 

Of course if you cannot play with a metronome you also cannot accompany a soloist, you cannot perform in a band or orchestra, etc.  Those are all aspects of rubato as well. 
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

Tim
danny elfboy
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 1049


« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2007, 09:21:21 PM »

Let's consider something.

Silence. Let's have a minute of silence.

What happened is that a certain amount of time has passed.

Let's imagine to "scan", to materialize this "amount of time" by contrasting it.

So let's listen for a minute the tic-tac of a clock. Let's stop the clock after a minute.

Now we have a contrasting "something" against an always "silence" and that something is rhythm.

Rhythm is not necessarily a sound concept. Every phenomena which is repeated regularly (but not perfectly) is a rhythmic fact. A flight of stairs is a rhythmic fact. A long country road with cypresses at the sides is a rhythmic fact. Day and night is a rhythmic fact. The columns of a temple are rhythmic facts. Plato used to call rhythm "the natural order of motion" while Saint Agostine called is "the art of beautiful motions"

Back to the tic-tac of the clock.
Why do we say tic-tac?
We should actually say tic-tic or tac-tac as the beats are identical.
But it doesn't matter if they're identical, our mind just doesn't accept a sequence of identical beats because they would be lifeless. Our mind needs motions and life and that's how a simple clock pulsing becomes expressive through weak and strong accents.
You can try this yourself, in the silence listen to the tic-tac of a clock and you'll actually hear strong accents (tic) and weak accents (tac)

This shows that rhythm is not blind, lifeless and perfect.
In fact in those instances in which it is (the absolutely regular and identical beats of a clock) our mind doesn't accept it and creates anyway irregularities in the beat through switching imaginary accents.

But the pulsing of a clock is a peculiar example in that it is human made and "perfect" or "identical" rhythm is found only in human technology.
All the other examples of rhythms are never perfect or identical in their regularity.
A country street with cypresses at the sides is a rhythmic fact but the distance between the cypresses will never be perfect, it is natural and hence imperfect.

This explains why rhythm in music can be never be perfect because the moment it becomes perfect (like the beat of a clock) it becomes lifeless and dull. That's the reason why we should never strive to play perfectly on the metronome beats, music is rhythmic not metronomical.

As for the reason why we have numbered beats.

Back to the clock tic-tac.

Let's imagine to symbolize these beats with a dot.

So we have tic tac tic tac tic tac.

And we write: .  .  .  .  .  .

This is the pulse

Let's imagine now a limitless series of these symbolized tic-tac.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 


What happens is that we have a limitless sequence of symbols which would be impossible for the eye to grasp properly. But if we do this:


|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|
|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|
|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|.  .  .  .|


Much better uh?
We've created measured containers (indeed "measures") and we use a number to say how many beats are in each container. In this instance 4.
Having a specific amount of beats in each container is again determined by the need to have some order to better grasp those symbols.
If we add the value of each beat within the container (like 1/4 - > 4) we have a time signature. So 4/4 tells us that within each container there are 4 units and each unit is 1/4. So we have a first unit, a second unit, a third unit and a fourth unit within each container.

I'm saying this to point out that the beat and by this I mean the numerical beat is the result of an "artificial" organization of limitless units in order for the eye and the mind to better grasp them.

The pulse on the other hand is the rhythmic fact. The underlying natural motion.

The numerical beat by its nature is a mathematics concept and therefore it's "perfect" and "consistent" because it is just a symbolic reference of organization.

The pulse on the other hand is a natural concept and by its very nature imperfect and inconsistent.

That being said the difference is as important as it is subtle.
The point of what I wrote should be that "artificial order" can exist without it "changing the nature of what is ordered"

The arranging into schemes is a neuter aspect.
The solution is not therefore discarding the metronomical beat scheme, the solution is to take advantage of the artificial order without considering it the "pulse"
The difference is subtle but again very important.
The artificial order and the rhythmic fact can coexist but we need to think of them separately. Like as if the rhythm (depicted like a blue stream) was overlapped to the notes horizontally and the schematic beating (depicted with red bars and numbers) was overlapped to the notes vertically.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
timothy42b
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2133


« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2007, 10:25:39 AM »

Back to the tic-tac of the clock.
Why do we say tic-tac?
We should actually say tic-tic or tac-tac as the beats are identical.

You are likely a very young person raised on digital clocks.  Digital clocks are like digital cameras.
Some of them make noise, but it is synthesized.

In the good old days when mechanical clocks were more common, they really did go tick-tock, and
for good mechanical reasons.  The power comes from either
weights or a spring, and is transmitted through the escapement.  The escapement is a claw like
device that oscillates back and forth, releasing one gear tooth at a time.  The frequency of this oscillation
is controlled by a separate function attached to it, either a pendulum or a smaller spring mass system.

Because a force is being applied to the gear in only one direction, the escapement strikes with different impact depending
on whether it is moving against or away from the gear.  If you listen closely, you should always be able to hear the difference. 
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

Tim
danny elfboy
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 1049


« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2007, 10:46:08 AM »

You are likely a very young person raised on digital clocks.  Digital clocks are like digital cameras.
Some of them make noise, but it is synthesized.

In the good old days when mechanical clocks were more common, they really did go tick-tock, and
for good mechanical reasons. 

Ah, thanks ... nice to know Smiley
Anyway my argument is still valid, let's just apply it to a ticking digital metronome: identical beats but our brain will refuse to consider them like that and will accent them.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
timothy42b
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2133


« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2007, 07:29:27 AM »

Ah, thanks ... nice to know Smiley
Anyway my argument is still valid, let's just apply it to a ticking digital metronome: identical beats but our brain will refuse to consider them like that and will accent them.

Actually you're right, it is highly likely your brain will apply a pattern even where none exists.

Sometimes it will even tell you the pulses don't come evenly, like Tick......tock-tick.......tock-tick when they are spaced perfectly. 

But mostly your brain will tell you to slow down for the hard parts and speed up for the easy parts - this is called rubato.  <g> 
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

Tim
mknueven
PS Silver Member
Jr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 70


« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2007, 10:32:10 PM »

Interesting posts from music philosophers! Smiley

I tend to think more simply - like
a nurse takes someone's pulse.
They are really measuring the heartbeats, eh?

And also syncopation was not accounted for - so then things change.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
steve jones
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 1380


« Reply #17 on: October 05, 2007, 05:30:23 PM »


The pulse is what your foot taps  Wink

The beat is a metric division.

I guess for me, the pulse is more something that is 'felt' rather than something that exists on paper.

SJ
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Print  


Need more info or help?


Search pianostreet.com - the web's largest resource of information about piano playing:



 
Jump to:  


Most popular classical piano composers:
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2006-2007, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!

o