Breakdown (music)

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In music, a breakdown is part of a song in which various instruments have solo parts (breaks). This may take the form of all instruments playing the verse together, and then several or all instruments individually repeating the verse as solo parts.

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A breakdown is a popular musical style particularly in bluegrass, notable examples being Earl Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and Bill Monroe's "Bluegrass Breakdown".

Disco and later dance music

Disco producer, mixer, and remixer Tom Moulton invented the "disco break" or breakdown section in the early 1970s. Moulton had been remixing a record (”Dreamworld” by Don Downing) which "immaculated" (went to a higher key) towards the end, and he wanted to cut parts together that were in different keys. To do this, he separated two sections with non-tonal information. [1] He edited in a section of drums, and the aesthetic effect was pleasing to dancers at the club. The placement was also useful for club DJs, providing a rhythm-only section of the recording over which to begin mixing in the next record. Moulton says his innovation was an accident. [1] The placement followed the pattern of a traditional pop recording: it replaced the bridge typically found in such a record after the second chorus.

A later example is the breakdown in "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" by En Vogue: a sampled male voice can be heard introducing this part of the record (at 3:27) with the sentence "and now it's time for a breakdown". Longer dance tracks often have two, three, or more breakdowns.

Initially, the transition to the breakdown was an abrupt absence of most of the arrangement in a disco record, as described above. Records in the hi-NRG style of the late 1970s to early 1980s would typically use a pronounced percussive element, such as a drum fill, to cover the transition. Later dance genres typically reach the breakdown section by a gradual reduction of elements, though a wide variety of styles have been employed since the mid-2000s.

In all genres, the stripping away of other instruments and vocals ("breaking-down" the arrangement) helps create intense contrast, with breakdowns usually preceding or following heightened musical climaxes. In many dance records, the breakdown often consists of a stripping away of the pitched elements (most instruments) – and often the percussion – while adding an unpitched or indistinctly pitched noise, a sound effect. This is often treated with a lot of reverb and rises in tone to build toward an exciting climax. This noise then typically cuts to a beat of silence, creating extra tension on the dance floor, before the drop – the sudden (and often percussive and volume-enhanced) return to the musical part of the track.

Heavy metal and punk rock

Breakdowns are sometimes found in metal and punk songs, as they can be used to eschew traditional verse–chorus–verse songwriting. When played live, breakdowns are usually responded to by the audience with high-intensity moshing (slam dancing).

The drumming is usually simple, with a four quarter-note ride pattern with the snare on the third beat. Most commonly, the drummer plays quarter notes on the crash cymbal or China cymbal. In some breakdowns where a very slow tempo is used, the drummer will play half notes, to give the music a very "heavy", slow feel. The guitarist usually follows the rhythm, or "chugs" (uses palm-muted strokes on the lowest three to four strings of the guitar) along with the kick drum. In most cases, the drummer will use the kick drum to complement such "chugs" of the guitars.

The guitars play a set of rhythmically oriented riffs, usually on lightly palm-muted strings to achieve a very high attack noise that decays slowly, making the overall sound more thick and "heavy". Sometimes, these are contrasted with either dissonant chords, such as minor second intervals, tritones (flatted fifths), or pinch harmonics.

In punk, breakdowns tend to be more upbeat, using the floor toms and snare to create a faster, "rolling" rhythm. This provides audience members with an opportunity to skank, mosh, or form a circle pit.

Many of the bands that play in the genres of deathcore and metalcore make heavy use of breakdowns, which may consist of slow-paced strumming on the guitar, or fast syncopated triplet-feel patterns, both of which are typically palm-muted and played on the lowest three strings of a guitar, and may also involve a bass drop. These strings are usually tuned down from somewhere between Drop D all the way down to Drop Eb tuning. As in modern metal genres and in other punk subgenres, breakdowns in metalcore and deathcore are signals for moshing at live shows.

Electronicore bands such as Horse the Band, Asking Alexandria, Attack Attack!, Capture the Crown, Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Enter Shikari incorporate synthesizers that often add a dance-beat style to the breakdown.

Bluegrass

In bluegrass music, a break is a short instrumental solo played between sections of a song and is conventionally a variation on the song's melody. A breakdown is an instrumental form that features a series of breaks, each played by a different instrument. Examples of the form are "Bluegrass Breakdown" by Bill Monroe as well as "Earl's Breakdown" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", both of which were written by Earl Scruggs.

Related Research Articles

The banjo is a stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity to form a resonator. The membrane is typically circular, and usually made of plastic, or occasionally animal skin. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by African-Americans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk and country music, and has also been used in some rock songs. Several rock bands, such as the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Along with the fiddle, the banjo is a mainstay of American styles of music, such as Bluegrass and old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.

Disco Music genre

Disco is a genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s from the United States' urban nightlife scene. Its sound is typified by four-on-the-floor beats, syncopated basslines, string sections, horns, electric piano, synthesizers, and electric rhythm guitars.

Double bass Acoustic stringed instrument of the violin family

The double bass, also known simply as the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra. The Double bass has a similar structure to the cello.

Rhythm guitar Guitar used to provide rhythm

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

Bill Monroe American bluegrass musician, songwriter

William Smith Monroe was an American mandolinist, singer, and songwriter, who created the bluegrass music genre. Because of this, he is often called the "Father of Bluegrass".

Bluegrass music is a genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the United States Appalachian region. The genre derives its name from the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Unlike mainstream country music, bluegrass is traditionally played on acoustic stringed instruments. Bluegrass has roots in traditional English, Scottish and Irish ballads and dance tunes, and in traditional African-American blues and jazz. Bluegrass was further developed by musicians who played with Monroe, including 5-string banjo player Earl Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt. Monroe characterized the genre as: "Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound."

Scruggs style

Scruggs style is the most common style of playing the banjo in bluegrass music. It is a fingerpicking method, also known as three-finger style. It is named after Earl Scruggs, whose innovative approach and technical mastery of the instrument have influenced generations of bluegrass banjoists ever since he was first recorded in 1946. It contrasts with earlier styles such as minstrel, classic or parlor style, clawhammer/frailing/two-finger style, jazz styles played with a plectrum, and more modern styles such as Keith/melodic/chromatic/arpa style, and single-string/Reno style. The influence of Scruggs is so pervasive that even bluegrass players such as Bill Keith and Don Reno, who are credited with developing these latter styles, typically work out of the Scruggs style much of the time.

The palm mute is a playing technique for guitar and bass guitar, executed by placing the side of the picking hand below the little finger across the strings to be plucked, very close to the bridge, and then plucking the strings while the damping is in effect. This produces a muted sound. The name is a slight misnomer, as the muting is performed by the side of the hand, not the palm.

Bassline Low-pitched instrumental part

A bassline is the term used in many styles of music, such as jazz, blues, funk, dub and electronic, traditional music, or classical music for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass, cello, tuba or keyboard.

A number of heavy metal genres have developed since the emergence of heavy metal during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At times heavy metal genres may overlap or are difficult to distinguish, but they can be identified by a number of traits. They may differ in terms of: instrumentation, tempo, song structure, vocal style, lyrics, guitar playing style, drumming style, and so on.

Guitar solo

A guitar solo is a melodic passage, instrumental section, or entire piece of music written for a classical guitar, electric guitar or an acoustic guitar. In 20th and 21st century traditional music and popular music such as blues, swing, jazz, jazz fusion, rock and metal, guitar solos often contain virtuoso techniques and varying degrees of improvisation. Guitar solos on classical guitar, which are typically written in musical notation, are also used in classical music forms such as chamber music and concertos.

In popular music, a break is an instrumental or percussion section during a song derived from or related to stop-time – being a "break" from the main parts of the song or piece. A break is usually interpolated between sections of a song, to provide a sense of anticipation, signal the start of a new section, or create variety in the arrangement.

Rhythm section

A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band. The rhythm section is often contrasted with the roles of other musicians in the band, such as the lead guitarist or lead vocals whose primary job is to carry the melody.

Dance music Music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing

Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are live dance music and recorded dance music. While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times, the earliest Western dance music that we can still reproduce with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances. In the Baroque period, the major dance styles were noble court dances. In the classical music era, the minuet was frequently used as a third movement, although in this context it would not accompany any dancing. The waltz also arose later in the classical era. Both remained part of the romantic music period, which also saw the rise of various other nationalistic dance forms like the barcarolle, mazurka, ecossaise, ballade and polonaise.

Glossary of jazz and popular music List of definitions of terms and jargon used in jazz and popular music

This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.

Bluegrass mandolin

Bluegrass mandolin is a style of mandolin playing most commonly heard in bluegrass bands.

In music, a chop chord is a "clipped backbeat". In 4
4
: 1 2 3 4. It is a muted chord that marks the off-beats or upbeats. As a rhythm guitar and mandolin technique, it is accomplished through chucking, in which the chord is muted by lifting the fretting fingers immediately after strumming, producing a percussive effect.

The chop is analogous to a snare drum beat and keeps the rhythm together and moving. It's one of the innovations bluegrass inventor Bill Monroe pioneered, and it gave the music a harder groove and separated it from old-time and mountain music.

References

  1. 1 2 Discoguy. "Tom Moulton Tribute", Disco-Disco.