The most important element in music is the 1. I know, you’re saying, “but Ben, what about being in tune? what about a good melody? What about emotional expression? Balderdash! They don’t mean nuthin’ if you’re not on The 1.
I got this idea from a video series called The History of Rock that my high school library happened to have. In this series was an interview with George Clinton of the band Parlament. As one of the inventors of Funk music, I gladly accept him as an authority on rhythm, as should you. He made the case that all the other beats started on The 1, revolved around The 1 and came back to The 1. He said that he was taught this by none other than James Brown and you don’t argue with James Brown about rhythm.
If the band knows, feels where The 1 is, they play tight. If the audience knows where The 1 is, they can dance. If even one person in the band looses The 1, there’s usually bad stumble or worse a complete train wreck.
The bass drum, biggest in the kit, kicks on The 1 in country, pop, rock, any contemporary music you care to listen to. Yes, there are exceptions; epherial meditative pieces that float through the ether with out a beat, but don’t listen to them while you drive!
Songs begin and end on The 1. Pick up notes? That’s just to emphasize The 1!
That’s enough rant for today. Remember to be aware of The 1, feel it on every down beat, groove to it’s insistent pulse, then and only then call yourself a musician!