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The basic rock beat is 4/4, so you count 1-2-3-4. And to create the rock rhythm, you have to place the emphasis on the off-beats, which 2 and 4. So it goes like this: one, TWO, three, FOUR. At least that I was taught.

But I personally think this rhythm exist in basically kinds of music. I listen to hip-hop, R&B and pop music and this beat, which is considered a defining characteristic of rock'n'roll, is there. Why is it called ''the rock beat'' then?

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This might help: –  NReilingh Oct 10 '13 at 2:58
It's not quite right anyway. In the rock beat, the snare accents are on 2 and 4, and the snare drum happens to be the (at least perceptively) loudest instrument in the band. The other instruments usually don't emphasise 2 and 4 particularly. –  leftaroundabout Oct 10 '13 at 9:26
All the genres you mention are descendants of rock... –  Ulf Åkerstedt Oct 10 '13 at 21:54
@NReilingh Thanks for the link. It was enlightening. –  Tim Oct 11 '13 at 13:11
IS it called the "Rock beat"? I suggest you just call it the "backbeat", and recognize that it occurs in many types of music. –  Laurence Payne Mar 28 at 13:14

4 Answers 4

I think the progression of 2&4 accents in Western (American) popular music probably starts with Swing, Jazz, Big Band where the drummers emphasized these beats and played 2 & 4 with the High Hat.

Next I think this moved over to the snare drum in very early Rock n' Roll and Blues. Once it was on the snare drum, virtually all styles of American popular music using drums feature snare on 2 & 4.

I think calling this a "Rock" beat is probably just a historical nod to the early rock n' roll.

If you ask a drummer for a "Rock" beat you will probably get straight eighths, but if you ask a drummer for a Hip Hop beat you might get swung eighths or swung sixteenths.

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p.s. this is way over-simplified... –  Matthew James Briggs Oct 10 '13 at 20:40

The word also has a descriptive character and is not merely a historically appellation. The beat has a rocking feel because the even accents make it syncopated.

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The "classical version" of rocking is in 3/4, exemplified by Schubert's Gretchen am Spinrade. –  luser droog Aug 11 '14 at 3:30

From my detailed study of Robert Johnson I believe back beat is at the heart of all music made with a drum kit. Rock, blues, reggae, jazz and so on. The Muso who swings is phrasing their performance around the regular snare beats on 2 & 4. This puts the instrument's melodic rythym in cross rythym with the harmony and generates the rhythmic feel of the genre. It also helps the listener know where they ar, hence Chuck Berry's line "you can't loose it". Head bangers phrase their music around the first beat of the bar. Just listen to how B B King sits on the snare beat.

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The 2 4 backbeat originated in the middle east. Playing tambourine to this made folks want to dance. Eventually, it was noticed and then included to create Blues, jazz, B&B and rock and roll. Research the history if you wish.

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