Beat precision and perceived danceability in drum grooves

Francesco Ganis, Sofia Dahl, Guilherme Schmidt Câmara, Anne Danielsen

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


Musicians can place the time-position of events with high precision and according to personal preference, genre and tempo [1]. For instance, the swing ratio is not kept constant, but it is systematically adapted to a global tempo [2]. In contemporary music, drummers can achieve a specific feel by manipulating the timing of rhythms in different ways and placing event onsets earlier or later compared to the time reference [1]. These small adjustments in time are also referred to as micro-timing variations. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of micro-timing variations in live-played rhythms on the perceived danceability and timing precision. The stimuli were chosen from Câmara et al. [1] where drummers were playing two different patterns with different timing styles (laid-back, pushed, on-beat). Two drummers’ performances were selected based on their reported average systematic timing. These 12 recordings were mixed with the instrumental backing track (bass and guitar) heard by the drummers to form the stimuli. Forty participants (M = 28.23 years, SD = 11.80), 28 males and 12 females, with varying musical background were recruited via social media (Facebook pages, groups and direct messages to chat groups). Participants were sent a link to the online listening test using Google Forms with modifications that presented the stimuli as embedded videos. Each video started with a prompt to wear headphones followed by 4 bars of groove for a total of 11 seconds (with a static image). For each page, the participant was presented with a reference track (on-beat timing) and a “beat” track (laid-back or pushed timing) and asked to rate the perceived danceability from 1 (not danceable at all) to 5 (very danceable). Additionally, listeners were asked to compare the beat with the reference track and indicate whether this was pushed (ahead), laid-back (behind) or on-beat (synced with) the reference in terms of timing. Preliminary results indicate that micro-timing variations affect the perceived danceability. On-beat patterns were rated with the highest danceability, followed by laid-back and pushed styles. The drummer that obtained the highest danceability rating for the laid-back performance is also the one that was mainly recognized as on-beat performer. As expected, identification of timing (ahead, behind or on) proved to be difficult. Using the instrumental backing track as a time reference could possibly have made the task even harder for untrained listeners. Future research could address this by comparing danceability ratings for the grooves mixed with different backing tracks.

[1] G. S. Câmara, K. Nymoen, O. Lartillot, and A. Danielsen, “Timing Is Everything…Or Is It? Effects of Instructed Timing Style, Reference, and Pattern on Drum Kit Sound in Groove-Based Performance,” Music Percept., vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 1–26, Sep. 2020, doi: 10.1525/mp.2020.38.1.1.
[2] H. Honing and W. B. de Haas, “Swing Once More: Relating Timing and Tempo in Expert Jazz Drumming,” Music Percept., vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 471–476, Jun. 2008, doi: 10.1525/mp.2008.25.5.471.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date24 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2021
EventRhythm Production and Perception workshop - RITMO Interdisciplinary Centre for Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion at the University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Duration: 22 Jun 202125 Jun 2021


ConferenceRhythm Production and Perception workshop
LocationRITMO Interdisciplinary Centre for Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion at the University of Oslo
Internet address


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