Is this "Four on the Floor" music? I'm making a playlist...
February 3, 2013 9:14 AM   Subscribe

MusicFilter time....So Dwight Schrute listens to Vixxen in his Camaro to psych up, I use these certain kind of songs with a propulsive beat in 4/4 time do to the same thing. I have no idea what it's called, but I heard someone mention it's sometimes called "four on the floor."

My favorite examples are songs like:

No Thugs in Our House - XTC
Exhuming McCarthy - R.E.M.
Church of the Poison Mind - Culture Club
Mutiny, I Promise You - The New Pornographers

As you can see my library and tastes are somewhat stuck in the 80s-90s so I'd really like to expand my playlist to other great examples of this kind of music. Does anyone have some other suggestions?

Is there any musicologist that can also tell me where this kind of style started? Motown? Bavarian drinking/stomping songs? Medieval chants?
posted by JoeZydeco to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's house music - 4 on the floor meaning bass on the 1, 2, 3, and 4 - what gives it its propulsive quality. It started out as basically the basis for all dance music, I'm pretty sure, mainly in clubs/with DJs. Will be back with suggestions.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2013

Do you mean are these songs in 4/4 time, or are they the genre of music called "four on the floor"? Yes they are in 4/4, but no they aren't "four to the floor". "Four on the floor" refers to a rhythm with the bass on every beat (hence the name). It's found in disco and house music.
posted by caek at 9:37 AM on February 3, 2013

Response by poster: Okay, so I guess my question should be "is there a name for this style of Rock music and where can I find more of it?"
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:03 AM on February 3, 2013

It's sort of just electronic-based rock music, I think, the electronic aspect of which may have its roots in house music. If you're only looking for rock, I would highly recommend Muse for this. Also Arctic Monkeys, Hot Hot Heat, a lot of Offspring songs, and definitely Foster the People. If these are the wrong kind of suggestions, please let me know!
posted by jitterbug perfume at 10:46 AM on February 3, 2013

Best answer: Are you talking about that some of the music you linked to has snare consistantly on the quarter notes?

You might look into "punk" and speed metal.

Or, can you describe a little more clearly what it is you like about the songs you linked to. Beyond that 80's sound, they don't seem to be of any particular style.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:51 AM on February 3, 2013

Dance Punk I think is what you're looking for.
posted by hellojed at 11:04 AM on February 3, 2013

Response by poster: Humbolt32 is on the right track. I'm talking about the beat. There's a downbeat on every quarter as opposed to every half or whole beat.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:11 AM on February 3, 2013

Best answer: Just to point out its not explicit to dance music, a lot of Mumford and Sons uses a kick on the downbeat - mostly because its the nature of the band for a lot of songs, particularly on the first album, the only percussion on a song is the kick.

Anyway both I will wait on Babel and The Cave use this musical device.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:19 AM on February 3, 2013

Best answer: Let’s say a "typical" pop rock beat has a kick on 1, snare on 2, kick on 3, snare on 4, with many variations playing off this. Boom, Tat, Boom, Tat.

"Four on the Floor" is a Kick on every quarter note. Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom. It’s an obvious effect in dance music because it’s purposely emphasized but happens in other styles too. The reason you may not notice it as much is that in many rock and pop songs they still play the snare on the 2 and 4 on top of the steady kick drum, so the 2 and 4 have both a Kick and Snare hit. The Snare or any other higher pitched drum playing at the same time tends to drown out the Kick for most people, but it still changes the feel and the sound when they hit together. Check out the beginning of the Stones - Miss You. The first two bars are Four on the Floor Kick and then the Snare comes in on the two and four. Four on the Floor is a very driving beat, but in a different way than what you’re talking about.

The songs you linked have a snare on every quarter note, kind of the opposite of "Four on the Floor". Tat, Tat, Tat, Tat. This steadiness allows the Kick pattern to play around the snare as well as hitting with it, and is often a more minimal Kick pattern, or the Kick playing a percussion type pattern.

Pretenders - Mystery Achievement also has the beat you’re talking about, and you can hear how the Kick plays around the Snare in the intro. I don’t know what it’s called. "Play a snare on every quarter note" is how I would describe it to someone. We used to just call it the Mystery Achievement beat, although they didn’t invent it, it was definitely in a lot of Motown.

And that’s the beat, not the downbeat. 1 2 3 4. The 1 is usually the downbeat in most pop and rock. 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
posted by bongo_x at 11:57 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

What seems to be the common element is, as you say, that it's 4/4 time and there's a uniform stress on all four beats (on the Mumford and Sons tracks bitdamaged suggests, I actually feel like there's a stronger stress on 1 and 3).

One recent example I can think of is Middle Class Rut's "New Low", where there's a very uniform stress across all four beats of the measure. In that song, there's also the interesting tiwst in that briefly during the chorus ("I've been right, I've been left...") the melody effectively switches to a 3/4 measure (a "downbeat" every 3rd beat) while the rhythm section continues with 4 beats to the measure.

I do not know the name for this (I think four-on-the-floor is more specifically associated with electronic/house/pop), but it's a beat I really like. (Of course, having said that I'm struggling to come up with other examples!)
posted by drlith at 11:59 AM on February 3, 2013

There is an actual definition of four on the floor, and I think the Wikipedia article explains it well. Examples I can think of: Hot Chip. Anything by New Order. Deadmau5. Groove Armada. Everything by Fatboy Slim, ever.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:37 PM on February 3, 2013

Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand springs to mind (though other FF will probably have that same beat, too), as does lots of Cut Copy such as Lights & Music. Anything dancey with house or disco influences is going to fit your bill; look for dance punk, as hellojed suggests: start with Bloc Party, Klaxons, The Faint.
posted by axiom at 1:13 PM on February 3, 2013

Best answer: A few more songs with that snares-on-all-four-beats pattern that bongo_x mentions.

Talking Heads: I'm Not In Love
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Tick

Also, how do you feel about songs where it's cowbell rather than snare on all four beats? Because that's an even more common pattern, or at least was up through sometime in the 80s. Here's a couple examples I can think of that also have the sort of propulsive feel you seem like you're looking for.

Beatles: Drive My Car
Nazareth: Hair of the Dog
Grand Funk Railroad: American Band
Phish: Heavy Things

(Probably the all-time classic 4/4 cowbell song is "Don't Fear The Reaper," but somehow that one manages to be pretty mellow and dreamy despite the driving beat. Not really "psych yourself up in your Camaro" music.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 2:22 PM on February 3, 2013

Best answer: A little harder than your samples, but Foo Fighters, The Pretender
posted by bfranklin at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2013

And if you haven't already, create a pandora station based on your tracks, and see what you get. Pandora is good at what it does.
posted by bfranklin at 2:49 PM on February 3, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all, esp Bongo, now there, and bfranklin. That's totally what I was looking for (esp the Foo track, totally missed that one, great stuff). And cowbell is cool, especially if it helps find the canonical track where this stuff came from.

If anyone else has more I'd love to hear it, esp if anyone has anything more recent. I'm kind of bummed nobody has a common name for the style, if it exists at all.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:17 PM on February 3, 2013

I dunno if it's a "musical" style so much as a "drumming" style.

Maybe try adding "drums"/"drumming"/"drumstyles" tags to the question, see if it catches the attention of any MeFi drummers.

The closest I've found from some Googling is "straight 4 snare" or maybe "snare on the 4's." But I'm not a drummer, so I could be off here.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:43 PM on February 3, 2013

Best answer: It’s really just a drum pattern, even though it’s such a strong sound. It sounds really energetic because, besides the constancy of the beat, we’re used to hearing the snare on the 2 and 4. Adding the 1 and 3 makes the whole beat sound double time.

Things like that don’t really need to have names unless it’s something you’re going to use all the time and is very specific. Most names like "Four on the Floor" are developed as shorthand between studio or other musicians that play regularly with different people, as guys in Rock bands don’t really have that need (they just say "play ’tat-tat-tat-tatboomtat’" or "play ‘Mystery Achievement’"). Really, someone just makes the name up so feel free. Maybe it will catch on.

Many Reggae 'riddims' (‘One Drop') have names because of that reason; they’re used over and over and they’re specific. The names are shorthand between studio musicians and producers.
posted by bongo_x at 5:06 PM on February 3, 2013

If you don't mind going heavy, you'll find loads of examples in metal-leaning music. Off the top of my head, "Serpents" by Cave In might fit the bill. Or, if you want something nice and old school (and goddamn awesome), "(We Are) The Road Crew" by Motorhead. Instrumental and technical? "Atackla" by Russian Circles has you covered (skip to 1:45 to get have Dave Turncrantz melt your face).

On the softer side, this seems like the kind of thing that Sloan must do all the time; see, e.g., "She Says What She Means" and "Follow the Leader." And you can't really go wrong just powering through the entire Sloan catalog.
posted by sinfony at 12:36 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

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