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Musical Space: Four On The Floor

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Four on the floor is certain style of drum beat where the bass drum is hit with a steady quarter-note pulse; four equal stomps on the foot-pedal per measure. It’s very different from older pop beats where the bass drum typically hits beats 1 and 3. It really came into prominence with disco in the seventies, a real departure from rock and funk. Four on the floor is popular now as the driving force of many kinds of electronic dance music.The evident goal of the four on the floor bass is to make the beat perfectly unambiguous; to allow the dancer to use as few brain cells as possible for discerning the tempo. Dance clubs pump thousands of watts of bass through specialized subwoofers to bring this home.

Composers have always been influenced by popular dance, and now is no exception. The electronic composer Four Tet was inspired to write the track “Sing” after a stint as a live DJ.

His music is a mixture of carefully chosen samples of found electronic and vocal sounds, digitally looped and manipulated. The dance-like four on the floor bass drum is the glue that holds it all together.

Mark Foley is principal double bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and professor of double bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.