I was recently asked to notate the drum part to Single Ladies by Beyonce. I am unashamedly a fan of Beyonce, and this song has always intrigued me, and so the prospect of notating it was a pleasant one!
I notated the part from a live rehearsal version of the song – you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcFvt1sLpis
Performed by her incredibly tight all-girl band, featuring 2 (TWO!) drummers.
I began with writing the structure out:
4/4 96 crotchet bpm
Intro 6 bars
Verse 1 8 bars
Chorus 12 bars
Verse 2 8 bars
Chorus 16 bars
Bridge 13 bars
Intro (reprise) 4 bars
Outro (Chorus) 13 bars
Nothing particularly controversial here so far. But then the interesting part began…
The main drum groove of the song goes against most conventions for creating beats for pop songs. There is no snare on beats 2 or 4. Or even on beat 3. There is however a solitary snare on the last quaver of each bar. The hi-hats play in quavers throughout.
The bass drum part is unusual – 2 semiquavers on beat 1, a crotchet on beat 2 and then a dotted crotchet and quaver on beat 3.
The hi-hats accent the offbeat quavers, and they are an intrinsic part of the sound of the drums. If you just played a straight no-accents hi-hat pattern, it does not sound anything like as funky and groovy.
If you had heard this rhythm out of context, chances are you could have dismissed it as a bit weird and fairly uninteresting, but tied up with the song, it’s perfect. As an aside, the bass guitar part is also a very weird one – mainly a collection of slides up and down notes. Again, it works though.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
The main groove above is played pretty much throughout the first 3/4 of the song. However, there is a little surprise for you in the very first bar of the song. We hear a 4 beat count-in, the the drums start, but if we count along with it, we soon realise that somehow we’ve dropped a beat. The reason? The first bar is in 3/4, and you essentially play beats 2, 3 and 4 of a normal 4/4 bar.
It’s used again after the Bridge of the song, where the Intro plays again.
This musical technique can be rather unsettling and jarring, as it gives you a false sense of where the pulse is. However, in Single Ladies, it adds interest and intrigue. I wonder how many non-musicians (and perhaps even musicians!) have spotted this little trick?
There are a number of other little quirks and interesting arrangement ideas here, particularly in the live rehearsal version. I won’t go into detail here – there’s too much! Here’s the full drum part. Bear in mind that I’m trying to condense what 2 drummers are playing into one playable part, so apologies for any errors/mistakes. Enjoy!
VIEW THE FULL DRUM PART HERE (pdf file) Beyonce – Single Ladies