Staying in time with Music

I was slightly hesitant to post on this topic because there has already been a few other blogs about music, but then I realized that it’s music. And there will certainly be plenty of blogs on the subject. Because it’s music.

So, anyway, it is fairly obvious that music is played, recorded, and sung in time. Being “in time” is slightly more specific for music, because it’s important for songs to follow a certain beat or rhythm in order for it to kick a certain way to get our heads bopping and to give people something to dance along to. It also helps accompanying instruments or singers string along, and keeps the listener on pace. The listener should always, usually, be comfortable with the music. At least to the degree of they would know about what comes next, or at least when it would come. Any deviation from this makes for uncomfortable music. It would sound sloppy, rushed, unprofessional. Even someone with an untrained ear or no knowledge of any instruments at all would be able to tell, from listening to a song, whether or not it was played “in time” or not. Sure, there are more attentive ways to discuss the nature of staying “in-time”, just look at Whiplash with J.K. Simmons screaming “not my tempo” at Miles Teller (reference:

But, generally speaking, music is kept in time or at least close enough to the point where the typical listener would consider it to be in time. But can music be successful when played out of time? For me, such experimentation is only successful when played out of time by a solo act. Take, for instance, the following recording:

Now, I find this to be successful. It is meant to be more personal than the song it is based off of (You Only Live Once – The Strokes). If you read the comments on the video, you see people commenting on how this out-of-time version is calmer, more intimate, smoother, more emotional, etc. However, if it were to be paired with a drum set that kicked to the tempo it should be in, I can make the assumption that most listeners would find the tune to be stressful, hard to listen to, and a complete disaster.

Julian Casablancas was able to make this song successful because he performed it as a solo act. With only himself to keep track of time, simply balancing his vocals with his synth, he was able to take the song at whatever pace he wished, which was a pace where he knew to land the correct beats where he wished them to be, without the restraints of an official time keep or other instruments to look out for.

I think the same message stands for those who know their own personal tempo to work at. If an individual works better every morning for a few hours at a time over the course of a few weeks, then that is no problem so long as their message is articulated. If the same project could be executed by another student over the course of only a couple nights at a more extended singular period of time, then so be it. It remains so important for the individual to have a good understanding of what it means for them to be “in-time” and to play at their own pace. So long as they stay true to a pacing they have established for themselves, then their execution too will be successful.