Reggae - Musical Characteristics

Musical Characteristics

Stylistically, reggae incorporates some of the musical elements of rhythm and blues (R&B), jazz, African and Latin American music, as well as other genres. Reggae is either played in 4/4 time or swing time, because the symmetrical rhythmic pattern does not lend itself to other time signatures such as 3/4 time. One of the most easily recognizable elements is offbeat rhythms; staccato chords played by a guitar or piano (or both) on the offbeats of the measure, often referred to as the skank.

This offbeat can be counted so that it falls between each count as an "and" (example: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and etc.) or counted as a half time feel at twice the tempo so it falls on beats 2 and 4. Harmonically, the music is essentially the same as any modern popular genre with a tendency to make use of simple modal chord progressions. For example: I - bVII7 and I - ii - iii - ii are both common progressions in reggae and both examples of the kind of chord structures used in modal jazz. The use of repetitive rhythmic patterns and static, modal chord structures add to reggae's sometimes hypnotic effect.

The concept of "call and response" can be found throughout reggae music, in the lyrics but also in the way parts are composed and arranged for each instrument. The emphasis on the "third beat" of the bar (depending on how it's counted) also results in a different sense of musical phrasing with bass lines and melody lines often emphasizing what might be considered "pick up notes" in other genres.

Read more about this topic:  Reggae

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