Four on the floor (music)
Four-on-the-floor (or four-to-the-floor) is a rhythm pattern used primarily in disco and certain styles of electronic dance music such as house, techno and their derivatives. It is a steady, uniformly accented beat in 4/4 time in which the bass drum is hit on every beat (1, 2, 3, 4) in common time.
Four-on-the-floor was popularized in the disco music of the 1970s and the term four-on-the-floor was widely used in that era: it originated with the pedal-operated, drum-kit bass drum. Earl Young is seen as the inventor of the disco style of rock drumming (in Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes's "The Love I Lost" from 1973), as he was the first to make extensive and distinctive use of the hi-hat cymbal throughout the playing time of an R&B recording.
A form of four-on-the-floor is also used in jazz drumming. Instead of hitting the bass drum in a pronounced and therefore easily audible fashion, it is usually struck very lightly (referred to as "feathering") so that the sound of the drum is felt instead of heard by the listener. Typically, this is combined with a ride cymbal and hi-hat in syncopation. When a string instrument makes the rhythm (rhythm guitar, banjo), all four beats of the measure are played by identical downstrokes.
In reggae drumming, the bass drum usually hits on the third beat but sometimes drummers play four on the floor. Sly Dunbar from Sly and Robbie was one of the reggae drummers who played mostly in this style. Also Carlton Barrett from Bob Marley and the Wailers played four on the floor on several hits by the Wailers like "Is This Love" and "Exodus". In reggae, four on the floor usually goes by the hand with a low end and powerful bassline. Four on the floor can be found in more modern reggae derivative styles such as dancehall, while it is less common to find it in roots reggae. In the roots context, it is generally referred to as a "steppers" rhythm.
- Butler, M. (2006). Unlocking the groove : rhythm, meter, and musical design in electronic dance music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, page 78. "...Drawing on two of the most commonly used terms employed in this discourse, I will describe these categories as ‘breakbeat-driven” and ‘four-on-the-floor.’… The constant stream of steady bass-drum quarter notes that results is the distinguishing feature of four-on-the-floor genres, and the term continues to be used within EDM … The primary genres within this category are techno, house, and trance."
- Brewster, B. & Broughton, F. (2014). Last night a DJ saved my life : the history of the disc jockey. New York: Grove Press, Chapter 7, paragraph 48 (EPUB."‘No UFOs’ was a dark challenge to the dancefloor built from growing layers of robotic bass, dissonant melody lines and barks of disembodied voices. it was music he’d originally intended for Cybotron, and in its theme of government control it continued Cybotron’s doomy social commentary, but was noticeably faster-paced, with the electro breakbeat replaced by an industrial four-to-the-floor rhythm. This was the sound of Detroit’s future.
- Julien, O. & Levaux, C. (2018). Over and over:exploring repetition in popular music. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, page 76."Most techno dance music is characterized by a post-disco, house-music-inflected, rhythm that is known as “four-on-the-floor:’ in reference to the pulse that is explicitly emphasized by a kick drum on each beat (regular like the piston of a mechanical machine), while the snare is heard on the second and fourth beats, and an open hi-hat sound provides a sense of pull and push in between the beats. Music styles that fall within the rhythmic realm of the disco-continuum include not only Chicago house music and Detroit techno, but also hi-NRG and trance."
- Webber, S. (2008). DJ skills : the essential guide to mixing and scratching. Oxford: Focal, page 253."A lot of dance music features what's called four on the floor, which means that the bass drum (also called the kick drum) Is playing quarter notes In 4/4 time. While four on the floor is common in most genres derived from house and techno, it is far from new."
- Demers, J. (2010). Listening through the noise : the aesthetics of experimental electronic music. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, page 97."These newest subgenres drew listeners in part because they provided a respite from relent less dancing but also because they fleshed out the sparseness of straight-ahead techno and house. In particular, dub techno replaced EDM’s mechanization with a way of muffling the sense of time’s passage, despite the persistence of the four-on-the-floor beat."
- "The Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys and Techniques," Rick Snoman (2004) ISBN 0-240-51915-9
- Shapiro, Peter. (2000) Modulations: a History of Electronic Music: Throbbing Words on Sound, London: Distributed Art Publishers, ISBN 1-891024-06-X, p. 40
- Lawrence, Tim (2003). Love saves the day: a history of American dance music culture, 1970-1979. Duke University Press. pp. 120–122. ISBN 0-8223-3198-5
- "Disco" on NED1, originally broadcast November 29, 2013.