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Eight to the bar

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 24, 2005

In Reply to: Eight to the bar posted by ESC on April 24, 2005

: : I have heard the phrase "beat me daddy, eight to the bar" in an Andrews Sisters song, and in the Bing Crosby movie "Going My Way". Just what does it mean? The only thing I can come up with is beats in a musical measure. And where did the saying come from?

: It is a music term that I don't understand even after reading this:

: Stride vs. Boogie Woogie
: As described by Chris Siebert, pianist for the Lavay Smith Band.

: ".Beat 1 Beat 2 Beat 3 Beat 4

: So, in the space that you might count a typical measure ('a-one, two, three, four'), the Boogie Woogie player would play 8 bass notes. Hence the term 'eight-to-the-bar,' as in the famous tune 'Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar.' There are hundreds of idiomatic left-hand patterns in Boogie Woogie."

: articles/stride.php

I can certainly understand how a non-musician could find the expression daunting. "Beat me" is, of course, a pun, so the expression means "Give me eight BEATS to the bar," the bar representing a musical measure marked by a strong beat and some number of secondary beats (or icti, or secondary stress accents, if you like). Assuming you can find a downbeat (the main stress, in boogie-woogie usually a low note in the bass followed by higher and less emphatic tones) you should be able to count, starting with the downbeat as "one," eight counts before the next downbeat (which will be "one" all over again). Of course, the musicians don't have to count to eight, give them a downbeat and they'll just go.

As for the hundreds of idiomatic left-hand patterns possible in boogie-woogie, I'll take the word of any boogie-woogie pianist. However, the harmonic patterns are not infinite. The basic eight-bar blues/boogie-woogie chord progression (as opposed to twelve-bar blues), is: I I IV I V IV-V I I. In bar 6, chords on IV and on V are each sounded through half the bar. (The numbers refer to chords on the named scale-tone. A harmony on I, or "do," is sounded through two measures, and a chord on IV, or "fa," in the next measure--and so on.) This simple pattern, although characteristic of "pure" blues and boogie-woogie, is like everything else in art, subject to imaginative variation and deviation. Moreover, it has been a while for me, so if you know that I'm wrong, please tell me and the world what the correct chord progression is. SS

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