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 hi friends,

while i am sure many of you who are students are relishing in the feeling of SCHOOL IS OVER! SUMMER IS HERE AT LAST! HUZZAH!, I, along with the countless other misguided souls who are thinking of taking the bar exam this July, have started that dreaded process of bar review.  It pretty much amounts to condensing more than three years of law school into one month (i say more than 3 years since i doubt anyone ever takes ALL of the subjects tested on the bar during their law school careers.  Some lower ranked schools take this approach but most of the first tier law schools don't teach to the bar).   For instance, we covered the subject of Torts, which is covered across a semester, in the span of three 4 hour long sessions.  If that weren't bad enough, most law students haven't spent their 3 years memorizing law since that's not really the nature of the practice of the law, unlike, say, medicine.  We aren't ever going to be in a "law emergency" where we have to come up with a solution or answer off the top of our heads.  But for the bar exam, it all has to be stored up in our brains, which IS FUCKING AWFUL.  I grew up in America, I am NOT used to memorization.  I need to learn some tricks or something cuz this is SO not going to happen as it stands.
Anyway, enough bitching on my part.  
The reason why I wanted to post was because I had sort of a "oh, that's really obvious but it never occurred to me" moment regarding drummers.  
I was watching CN Blue perform and it occurred to me that they didn't have a conductor.  Okay, I can hear the question marks popping over your head, but as someone who only performs classical music and is mostly a classical music listener, the conductor is someone who is almost always there, especially if you are performing as a group.  If you're playing a piano sonata, sure, you don't need a conductor.  Even if the beat gets off or something (and often you are supposed to vary the beat anyway according to the composer's instructions) it's not a problem since you don't have to worry about keeping a group together.  
But in non-classical music, bands don't have a conductor and instead rely on the drummer to keep a steady beat so that the group can stay together.  That's a lot of pressure on the drummer.  I mean, I  guess in standard pop/rock music, the beat is going to be in 4/4 anyway, so it isn't exactly rocket science keeping a steady beat, unlike in classical music where you have much more difficult rhythms that often change, sometimes with each measure.  But still, it means the drummer has to have a really good internal metronome to resist the urge to go faster and faster, a phenomenon you see all too clearly when a group of non-musicians start clapping to a beat. 
I guess I shouldn't be so amazed since I have a sense of pitch and can sing notes on command (not always perfectly but pretty close), and my amazement that someone can do something like that for a rhythm instead of pitch is just proof of how much of a singer (aka NOT a musician) I am.  (if you don't know, singers are notorious for having significantly weaker mastery of rhythm than people who play instruments).
And with that concludes my all too boring entry.  Why, this is rather embarassing...


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2011 03:48 am (UTC)
Good luck on your bar exam! Memorization is truly overrated in too many fields.

Hahaha, I made your realization of the drummer = conductor only just recently myself! I was wincing my way through a particularly rocky rendition an ensemble was giving of an accompaniment and wondering what the conductor was doing when I realized that they didn't have one. And they were clearly not listening to the percussionist. (In my opinion, some pieces just really require a conductor no matter how rehearsed a group is. But that's just me.)

(if you don't know, singers are notorious for having significantly weaker mastery of rhythm than people who play instruments)

That's rather interesting, actually, since I also have a much stronger sense of pitch than rhythm, but I am very much NOT a singer. I suppose this is also why I'm a sucky instrumentalist. :) (Maybe I'm just not meant for music in general?! LOL) I swear the only reason why I pass my conservatory examinations is because of my ear tests. Though, I suppose your point wasn't so much "sense of pitch > sense of rhythm" as it was "instrumentalist's sense of rhythm > singer's sense of rhythm". I wonder if this is because pitch is something that must receive more attention to control in singers than in instrumentalists?

/music nerd
Jun. 2nd, 2011 04:04 am (UTC)
yay! music nerd talk!

yeah, my point was pretty much that instrumentalists have a good sense of pitch AND rhythm whereas too many singers have a good sense of pitch but a REALLY bad sense of rhythm. This is just from personal observation in the various choirs I have been in and from talking to singers who also play instruments or did in the past (which would be me). since you're in a conservatory (which is awesome - what do you play?) I am sure this is all old news to you, but i think the discrepancy between singers and musicians is in the nature of our instruments. singing is such an inexact, mushy science compared to instruments, so I think singers have a correspondingly mushy grasp of music. i am only really familiar with the piano, but on a piano, you know very well the difference between say, an A and an A flat. in singing, we don't really hit the note dead on like the piano and are always sort of singing a bunch of microtones, and it's a lot easier to kind of stray towards the A flat range even when supposedly singing an A. I guess it's what makes the human voice so versatile and expressive but it's also what makes it so difficult I guess...

Okay i can talk about this forever, but I feel like you know all of this already lol. in brief, my answer is that instrumentalists are superior in sense of pitch AND rhythm to vocalists. can you detect any jealousy on my part? lol.
Jun. 2nd, 2011 05:09 am (UTC)
LOL I was actually in the middle of apologizing about how completely self-centred my comment was, when you'd answered already! I just really love to talk about music - I can talk about it forever too.

Haha, I'm not exactly part of a conservatory; I just take examinations set out by the Royal Conservatory of Music. I play the piano, and have some experience with the flute from my elementary school days. I am also tragically out of practice with both instruments. And it's great that you also play the piano! Have you been playing for long? Do you still play?

I agree that pitch is harder to control for vocalists than for instrumentalists because of the instruments themselves. Once tuned, an external instrument just stays tuned until stress untunes its sound, while the human voice is mutable at all times. Though, I also think stringed instrumentalists who aren't as sensitive to pitch run the risk of tuning to the wrong frequency, which reminds me a bit of the hurdles vocalists face.

LOL OMG INSTRUMENTALISTS ARE SO NOT SUPERIOR WHAT ARE YOU ON. Well, okay, I understand that what you mean is that instrumentalists must have a good sense of rhythm to play a piece well while singers usually don't (or something along the lines of that) but seriously, most instrumentalists I know have senses of rhythms that are reminiscent of roadkill. There is a reason almost every instrumentalist practices with a metronome! (Or SHOULD practice with a metronome!) Keeping rhythm internally is a difficult skill to develop and I don't think enough musicians actually focus enough on that skill to keep it consistently, barring the professional ones.

I feel like it's likely a case of instrumentalists (who mostly practice solo) being required to have senses in pitch and rhythm, even though so many fail to develop them properly. It's not to say that singers have practice and training any easier, it's just - again - the nature of the instrument's need. After all, solo instrumentalists don't normally have others keeping beat for them. I suppose the corollary is that singers are usually more in tune with pitch (ha, ha) than instrumentalists! Was it like that in your choirs?

I share your envy of folks with senses of rhythm. I'm always so amazed when rock or metal bands have enough rapport to just launch into a song right on beat without any external visible cues. If anything, I'm most envious of drummers and beatboxers! I just can't even fathom what it takes to keep that kind of beat going. I swear my Chopins kill my houseplants.

Jun. 2nd, 2011 04:06 am (UTC)
ack! i was re-reading my post and realized i wrote "you don't need a conductor when performing a piano concerto" which is SO obviously far from the truth. i meant to write sonata. *shame*
Jun. 2nd, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
LOL no shame! I totally didn't notice, and I probably should have. Clearly I play too many concerto parts solo. XD;;
Jun. 2nd, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't say keeping the tempo (and I'm deliberately writing 'tempo' instead of 'rhythm' - be careful with those terms! I for example am good with rhythm but merely decent with tempo) is the drummer's job per se. Yes, in the end it usually is the drummer who does it, at least in professional bands, but it can be any instrument. As long as you have one person who has a good internal metronome and is able to somehow communicate the correct tempo (which includes the more insecure musicians to pay attention to him/his play), any instrument can be the group's metronome. You can have the opposite effect after all, one instrument slowing a whole group down or speeding them up because the player isn't paying attention, so of course you can also use that power for good.

To bore you with an example: I was once in a rehearsal of a beginner's orchestra (symphonic band). They were still more occupied with their instruments and the note sheets than details like actually looking at the conductor; they got slower and slower until they played something like half the tempo of the beginning. The conductor tried to speed them up, but no one, not even the drummer(s) and percussionist(s) reacted. I was playing some kind of a walking bass line and tried to speed up, but it didn't work (because the musicians also weren't used to actually listen to others while they played) until I had a measure with kind of a lead-in to the theme, just more walking bass but basically solo, in which I completely disregarded the bassoonist next to me, who had the same run and was prepared to play it according the the orchestra's current tempo, to honk as loud as I could and speed up as much as possible within four beats. To my (and the conductor's) surprise, it actually worked, and when everybody fell in again for the theme, we did have the beginning's tempo again. I'm very sure at least half of the musicians didn't even consciously notice what had happened.
So a single player can bring a forty-person orchestra, including drums & percussion, back on track.

Another example: I play in an ensemble, about a dozen clarinets of all sizes. We don't have percussion or anything and our conductor is actually playing with us. We played Puszta (didn't find a good clarinet ensemble version, sorry) and I, as the bass, basically had the job to keep the tempo up while the higher registers fiddled their runs. I'm not that secure (I tend to run), but my neighbour would start tapping his hand on his knee where I could see it in the right tempo when I got too fast.
So even if the job was mostly mine, he helped me.

My point: the drummer's not necessarily under that much pressure. He's part of a group, and everyone catches each other. (And as for idol groups, since they usually have additional tracks added in concerts, they have to keep the exact tempo anyway and probably get ticks via ear monitor.)
Jun. 4th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
thanks for the point on tempo vs rhythm. you are right, i should be more careful about using those terms accurately.

and yeah, i know the pain of ensembles who are too occupied with the note sheets to look at the conductor. a lot of choirs have that problem too. it's cool that you were able to bring the group back to the right tempo. you're right in that it's often so gradual that people don't notice, and you just need someone to snap you out of it. it's hard to do that with vocal ensembles, be it pitch or rhythm, just because there is a limit to how loud you can sing i guess.

and finally, yeah, they probably get ear ticks (at least I am pretty sure the drummer does) so in reality it's probably not too much pressure.
Jun. 2nd, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
Sashiburiiiiii!! Hope you don't forget me after all! It's a been a while I didn't comment here wow o_O

First of all : cross fingers for your bar exam! I can imagine your stress if you have to memorize EVERYTHING. It's frightening... How long is your exam?? In France, we say "merde" (= shit) to bring luck.
So MERDE!!!!!

Your post about conductors is very interesting. I'm not a musician, neither a singer so I don't have any opinion :p But I agree about rock bands : the members rely on the drummer often.

Now I have a news. Maybe you're not aware but some K-pop bands are going in France : SM town!!! With DBSK (I mean Homin) and other groups (SNSD, Super Junior,...). And I've got a ticket!!!! I was wondering if you would like some merchandising. I don't know yet what I could buy there but you could be interested. Tell me so ;)

And of course Riida brings you luck too!! ^^
gif ohno
Jun. 4th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
hiiiiiii!! of course I remember you! And thanks for the "merde"! the exam is two days long... T-T I hope I can survive.

and yes, I do know about SM town going to France. SO JEALOUS!!! You must be so excited!!

As for merchandising... I have no idea what they would be selling, but I will let you know if I find something I want. THANK YOU SO MUCH for thinking of me!

And ugh leader's kiss and wink. He totally was the BEST at it, wasn't he? *melts*
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:12 am (UTC)
Sorry I have to go to work so I can't reply properly! ^^
But I did an update on my LJ about official merchandising. Maybe you alreday know thanks to Omona. Here is my entry :

Have a nice day :)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )