These days I’m having an amazing time reading Dan Charnas’ book Dilla Time, enjoying the blending of historic biography and musical breakdowns. If you read my blog you’ll know I’m a fan of visual representations of music and sound and Dilla Time’s central sentiment is best summarized by this image of J Dilla’s main approach to juxtaposing varying rhythmic feels:
Straight time is best described as rhythm that is evenly spaced and metronomic, like a clock ticking. Swing time typically means that the second half of each beat is delayed in a laid-back feel. (think of most Count Basie tunes.)
Dilla time means that there are multiple rhythmic time feels simultaneously, some straight, some swinging, either right on the grid or ahead of or behind the grid. Listen to what J Dilla did with Herbie Hancock’s classic Watermelon Man:
J Dilla’s approach to creating music is not easily summarized with traditional musical notation and goes further than simply layering multiple rhythmic patterns in a typical polyrhythmic style. It’s as though different drummers were playing each component of a drum set. The person playing the kick drum would play behind the beat, the one playing the snare would play just a hair ahead – pushing the beat and the high hats roughly on the grid or slightly behind with a bassline just behind the beat. This approach was so unique when it came to creating beats on drum machines that J Dilla has earned a spot in music history.
There’s more to dig into about Dilla’s signature grooves and I’m sure to write a few more posts about it…