Get-the-Groove

by Lachlan Davidson, 2009

 

It’s about the time,

And the feel,

And more.

The time
  • Use a metronome to practise with, as much as you can stand.
  • Tap along with every song you hear and every rhythmical sound you hear.
  • Be super accurate when you lock in with it.
  • Focus on playing really in time, often.
  • Sub-divide and super-divide.
  • i.e. Tap 16ths (semiquavers) up to half-notes (minims), whole notes (semibreves) and even the first beat of every four or eight bars. This is more useful than you might realise.
  • Similarly, work on all the tempos from very slow to very fast.
  • Whenever there is time, you be on it.
  • However, time alone is nothing, without feel.

 

The feel
  • First, you must move to the groove.
  • To a recording (or a live band) of music with a strong groove, let your self move with the basic or fundamental groove, laid down by the bass drum or bass guitar.
  • Move any part of your body.
  • Persist until it feels natural. It may take a while to free yourself up.
  • Speak the sound of the groove, again, the fundamental groove.
  • Go as far as you can with physically feeling and verbalising the groove, allowing any other parts of it to be reflected in your movement or speech.
  • Join in the groove by making percussive sounds on the table or your leg or your instrument or even a drum.
  • Start playing your instrument with the fundamental groove.
  • You might need to keep moving with this.
  • Much repetition and not trying too hard will find you doing this effortlessly eventually.
  • Maybe just when you’ve got really tired, or become distracted, will you discover that you are grooving as much as the music that’s playing. This could take days or longer and might only happen rarely but you’ll love it when it does and you’ll never want to leave it.

OK, analysis will tell you that the difference between raw time and groove is that there are accents and slight rhythmic variations. This is true and might help you to work out how to better differentiate between feels and styles, but listening, feeling and joining in are the best ways to get the groove. Eventually you might be able to internalise your sense of groove and just have it eek out of you. I live for that day.

 

More
  • Rhythm section players work on the groove much more than lead-line players and repeat patterns constantly. They get good at it usually because of this and if they are motivated to do so. The challenge for them comes when they have a variation in the pattern, like a fill or a line and have to stay in the groove. This is the same challenge that lead-line players face constantly.
  • Maintaining awareness of the groove is they key. The easiest way to develop this is to start simple and easy.
  • Repeat a simple rhythmic pattern. Get it grooving first. Don’t be in a hurry or you’ll miss the point.
  • Now add a simple variation every fourth repetition. Do the same variation (every 4th time) a few times until it sits in the groove. After a few different variations have worked you’ll find you can add them in different spots and they can be more complicated. This could be your undoing. Take it to the limit but bring it back to the basic groove every time. (Thanks Eagles) I do this with tapping on the steering wheel but it’s really good to do on your instrument too. Whatever you play (including scales) make it groove.
Conducting groove
  • If you’re not grooving then neither is your band.
  • Simply, you’ve got to show it to them physically and get them to physically do it.
  • Singing or speaking the rhythms repetitively so the room rocks can do it. Clapping, blurting and stomping. Playing them music with great grooves and having them lock in with it. When they play, make the time and the groove important, especially in the tricky sections when they’re likely to lose awareness of it. Bring it back to the fundamental pulses. Explain about being in 2 or 4. Learn a bit about the rhythmic feels that you’re playing. Play them examples.
  • I came from a place where there was no groove, no feel and no dancing. It’s a sterile place and I knew I was missing out. I still can’t dance in the traditional sense and my groove goes when I get distracted by note choices and pressure but I keep chasing it because it’s the place where so much about music lives and where I feel part of something bigger and exciting.

The above words are only some thoughts about groove but hopefully some of them might strike a chord.