On Beat 1 Vs. Off Beat 1

If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve probably heard me say it 1000 times – you don’t want to start your licks on beat 1 of a bar.

Why? It goes back to the old call-and-response thing… let the band establish the chord on the “call,” and you play as the “response.”

Me saying it is one thing… you hearing it is a “whole ‘nuther” thing (as we say in the midwest, where I’m from.) So I took a generic blues lick, one you’ve likely heard and played, and I’ll show you how it sounds starting on beat 1, and then starting off of beat 1.

I’m hoping that the improvement will be obvious – if it isn’t, I may need to rethink my line of work 😉

Download The Tab Here [PDF]

13 Comments

  • david moon

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    Off the beat sounds better because in the first measure, the quarter note is solidly on beat three, the following triplet occupies beat four, etc. In the on-beat version there are all sorts of ties across beats that just don’t feel natural.

    One thing to keep in mind when counting is be sure to count all the rests. So if you were learning this from tab or notation, and didn’t count the first eighth note rest, you would be off on the wrong foot from the get-go.

  • Joe whistler

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    Hi
    With your sample ,r there other places in the bar where you could start and it would still sound good , or is it just a half beat either side of beat 1.
    Is there a rule
    Thx Joe

  • Gustavo Gallego

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    Hi!
    It´s so nice to find this place outside Youtube to get in contact.
    I´ve been a subscriber for a while so I want to tell you a couple of things.
    The first one is that I love your lessons.
    The second, take it please as coming from a friend, I think you deserve more subscribers.
    The explanation, your performance etc is great!.
    Have you ever think about giving some more light in your videos, they look a bit darky.
    It´s just an opinion and I´ll keep on watching though.
    GUSTAVO

  • Richard

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    Ya gotta respect the COUNT to “feel” the difference.

    When starting on beat 1, everything else comes in early, as well. (On the video at about 3:26 you can actually watch the whole lick jump up a half-step.)

    Comparing them in Standard Notation on the pdf, they are written entirely differently. For example, check out the bend on the 10th fret.

    Starting on beat 1, it happens at the end of a triplet on beat 4 and carries over to the next measure. In the second example it starts more “naturally” on beat 1 of the second measure.

    • Richard

      Reply Reply December 13, 2018

      Oops! A half beat, not step!!!

  • cowboy

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    great explanation…sometimes I do “add” an intro note on beat one but I’ve gotten used to coming in later…again, like the explanation…later.

    cowboy

  • Dave D

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    Griff, I have thought about this for quite awhile and your video totally cleared it up for me! A picture is worth a thousand words! Definitely could hear the difference and will start practicing it today! I am also a home player, but can see the value of not starting on beat one! Your clarifying that it is like call and response also helped me understand why to do it this way!

    Awesome Griff!
    Thanks
    Dave

  • Kent G

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    It definitely sounded bluesier in the second example but if you wouldn’t have explained what you did differently I wouldn’t have had a clue why. But I’m only still working on the first DVD of BGU so my ear definitely isn’t developed nor is is my playing yet.

  • Chubby

    Reply Reply December 13, 2018

    Have to say, I don’t hear the difference. I listened to this a dozen times and it only sounds a tad awkward where it ends, not where it began.

    I know I am probably in the minority here. I also find it awkward NOT starting on beat one most of the time. It makes me feel like I just missed the bus and now I am running to catch up to it.

    I would imagine this comes from years of playing only by and for myself. I know that it would take lots of practice and training to get used to starting other than beat one but as far as this video goes, it did not convince me that it’s better to start on anything but beat one. It fact, it probably did the opposite.

    • Griff

      Reply Reply December 13, 2018

      If you only play by yourself, that is exactly what I would expect. Playing solo (by yourself) you are responsible for both call and response, so you need something on beat 1… but try a low string chord root instead. That will sound more musical I believe.

      • Chubby

        Reply Reply December 13, 2018

        Thanks for the personal response Griff. Much appreciated. What do you mean by “try a low string chord root instead”?

        • ChrisGSP

          Reply Reply December 13, 2018

          Hi Chubby. I think Griff means that you should try playing the Root of the Chord on a low-sounding string. In this example, play the C note at the 8th fret of the 6th string on the ONE, then play the full-step bend that starts the lick on the AND… so you are effectively playing the bass note of the chord (as the bass player in the band would do) on the ONE, and then starting your lick a half-beat later.
          Cheers from Australia, ChrisG

          • Chubby

            December 13, 2018

            Ah, gotcha. That makes sense. Thanks Chris!

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