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Groove

This term gets thrown around a lot. But what does it really mean, and how is it developed?

First of all, if it grooves, you’ll be moving your body. This happens most naturally in funk, rock, soul, latin, and big band jazz. It’s not usually associated with folk. Certain styles of country make you want to move, but not all of them.

Here’s Part 3 of a collection of music that grooves (there are 7 parts in this collection that I know of). The first tune will show you what groove is, but you might as well listen to it all.

 

 

The pocket

The phrase “in the pocket” means playing with great feel, usually in the middle of the beat. It can imply the bass player and the drummer feeling the downbeats together, but a single person can play in the pocket. I’ve heard singer-songwriters playing solo that do it really well.

Many people feel that the question is not so much what the pocket is as much as how you know when you’ve achieved it. If it feels as though all the rhythmic parts have merged into what feels like a single instrument, you’re there. If you’re playing solo, it kind of feels like the instrument is playing itself. No speeding up or slowing down, just a consistent rhythmic pulse. Everything happens naturally.

You can play a groove in three basic ways:

  • in front of the beat, which feels kind of rushed and energetic
  • behind the beat, which feels really relaxed
  • or right in the middle of the beat, which just feels solid

 

The metronome

Get a metronome. They’re free on your phone.

Use a medium tempo (somewhere between 80 and 100) and just play a chord every time the metronome clicks. Or beeps. Or whatever sound yours makes. Each sound equals a quarter note.

Try to stay aware of where you’re playing the chord. Is it in the middle of the beat? It’s not always obvious. You might hear the metronome sound after you play the chord. That means you’re in front of the beat. If you hear the metronome before you hear the chord, you’re behind the beat. Or you might not hear the metronome. That means you played exactly in the middle of the beat. Just be aware of these three possibilities.

Try to put the chord in the same place every time. Think of it as a game. Give yourself points every time you play in the same spot as the last time. Or see if you can do it five times in a row. After awhile, you’ll start to feel where the metronome sound is going to land.

Once you can feel that, you can put the chord anywhere you want, and do it consistently.

You can make it easier (and make it feel more natural) by playing the offbeat. So instead of just playing quarter notes on the metronome click, add the 1/8 note between the quarter notes.

 

 

 

 

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