What is groove?
“Never lose the groove to find a note” – Victor Wooten
The word ‘groove’ conjures up images of the disco and funk eras but that’s just part of the story. Just about anything can be groovy; genres from death metal to country rely on the complex interplay between the drums and bass to give the music it’s feel. Drummers and bassists work together to drive a song forward or hold it back, constantly underpinning each other’s role in the band and complementing each other’s playing, whilst leaving each other free to explore the techniques and expressions that give the drums and bass their unique voices.
The Space Between the Notes..
Many musicians have argued that the groove, sometimes called the feel, happens in the spaces between the notes and so is often described as an unspecifiable sense of rhythm and timing. This is a beautiful description but funk music, arguably what comes to mind when we think of groove, relies on a strong downbeat on the first beat of the bar, not in the spaces in-between.
The groove comes from the strong rhythmic patterns, both on and of the beat, often repeated throughout the piece, that drive the song forwards. Some rhythms seem to pull the song along and some seem to pull it back, without really having any discernible reason why.
Bass players and drummers need an acute sense of rhythm and timing and can use their sense to ‘feel’ the intricate sub-divisions between the beats.They can then use these sub-divisions to pick out and accent pulses between and around the regular beats of the song, giving an addition feel or groove to the song. Sometimes simply leaving space in their part can add groove to a piece.
Try playing 8th notes over a 4/4 beat then practice leaving just the first pair out, then just the second and so on.
You’ll be amazed how different the groove now feels with a little space injected in!
If you are feeling brave, try leaving out just the first quaver, then just the second, all the way up to the 8th, that’s even more funky!
Let’s not get too deep here, the groove is NOT about WHICH note, it’s all about WHERE.
Check out some of Pino Palladino’s playing with US soul artist D’angelo. Pino has an amazing ability to play slightly ahead or behind the beat to create an urgent, driving feel or a lazy, laid back groove.
Some other interesting examples of groove for you to check out.
The mighty Joe Dart
Stevie Wonder’s first-call bassist for over 30 years, Nate Watts
Here’s a great clip of Flea and Chad Smith playing The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Give it Away