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Chops vs groove

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by stratovani, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. As I was reading the "Boy, do I suck!" thread by JimmyM a couple of thoughts came to mind, which I thought merited its own thread:

    1. I once read a story a few years ago about Eric Johnson, he of Cliffs Of Dover fame. The guy was an absolute playing fool for most of his life, with multihour practice sessions just about every day since he started playing guitar. Consequently, he has chops few humans will ever have, but he did paid a price, it cost him his marriage. Which leads to my second thought:

    2. The percentage of bass players that are of the Wooten/Jaco/Berlin caliber is extremely small. The vast, vast majority of us will always be in the "in the pocket/serve the song" camp. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with developing some chops, but almost none of us will be in the top elite group. The requirements to be in that group is a price almost all of us are unwilling to make, including myself. So having said that, it might make more sense to break out the old metronome or drum machine, and working on developing good basslines and a good feeling of time. That will probably serve us better in the long run.

    Myself, I'm almost 58. If it would take me 20 years to develop Jeff Berlin chops, then I'd be 78 by the time I got there. Not terribly realistic! I think striving to reach the top level of bass playing is more a young man's game, especially one with few responsibilities so he has the time to devote himself to reaching the top tier.

  2. Yep, I'm 76 with a birthday coming in February. My public playing is OK, the director stills sends me the schedule LOL so most of what I do in public is on autopilot. In one band we've been playing the same ole 50 songs forever. The other band is mostly jamming so that is like autopilot also.

    As you mention, there is a life beyond music. Just came in from doing a little touch up painting on the sailboat. Kids are in town we are baby sitting the dog while they go see Sam Houston play North Dakota in the national finals (division one). Church tomorrow, Kiwanis Tuesday, band on Thursday...... Some time OK is good enough.

    Course that is up to the individual.
  3. Justbleazy


    Apr 3, 2011
    Houston, TX

    It depends on the individual to determine whats more important to value, their creative/musical satisfaction or their social life. However, there is a middle road...... with balance. I think getting on a technical and knowledgeable level is attainable but it has taken those "elite" a lifetime to get to their level.

    I'll just say, add up all the time spent on watching tv, talkbass :D, looking for new gear, etc....and you'll be able to determine what's more important to you.

    btw...I'm 25 yrs. old so us younger guys have a little bit more time to get things together.:bassist:
  4. It's like this, IMO at least. You have to develop a foundation for your playing first, which is being able to support the song. That's what holds the song up. If you can do that, then there's room for chops and riffs. However, once the chops take over and you start losing the groove, you're overplaying and actually hurting the song.

    There's nothing wrong in developing chops like Wooten, Berlin, Garrison, etc., but when you hurt the groove, you've failed as a bassist.
  5. svtb15


    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig
    Chops gets you attention.. Groove gets you the gigs...
  6. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101

    Totally with you on this. Having a solid understanding of harmony, time, groove and tone is essential to achieve the job at any levels.

    I still practice my chops by practicing melodic contents in an harmonic context while working on my endurance and speed.
  7. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Who says it has to be either chops or groove? They are not mutually exclusive. At 55 I'm chipping away at bass as a hobby, albeit with background as a pro bone player many years ago, and I work on both chops and groove. I love taking a drum loop, starting with simple groove, and then working into more elaborate lines/solos while still trying to hold good groove. I'm never going to be flashy slapper/chopster, but my dexterity continues to improve. Of course, I also become increasingly aware of sucky, sloppy little stuff, but if I'm hearing it, then I know what I need to work on. I can't believe how ham-handed I was when first mucking about with the bass.
  8. No, no, I'm not saying it's chop vs groove, not in that sense. All I'm saying is that by the time you get to a certain age it becomes a game of diminishing returns. In order to get Wooten or Berlin good you've got to dedicate a massive amount of time, which obviously the younger bassist has. Most of us might be better served by sticking to the "bass as part of the rhythm section" paradigm. Like I said, I'm going on 58, and it would probably take me the rest of my life to develop Hadrien Feraud/Alain Caron chops, if I even live that long!
  9. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    To continue on this i would like to add that even if kids have more time to spend on those fancy chops imo, they don't work on the more essential stuff if no one guides them to.
  10. I've heard that players are split into two groups: those that practice over 25 hours per week and those that practice under 25 hours per week. I think there's a good point in there somewhere, and 25 hours might be the watershed/cut-off on average.

    For me, chops/groove are opposite sides of the same coin. Meaning, most total band material ends up needing a balance of both, either within or between songs. "Elite" level? Yeah, nope. But GASing for gear, getting a new bass and stretching within new instruments and tunes -- ALL GOOD regardless.
  11. Are you working under the assumption that it takes less time to develop a groove, than it does to develop chops? In other words, is it easier to play truly in the pocket than to play fast stuff? I would have to disagree. Both take years and hours of study. Both ways of playing take technique, experience,and massive ears for the style of music you play. Don't sell the groove short.
    Joe Porter
  12. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Since I have no chops, I'm stuck in the groove.
  13. bottomzone


    Oct 21, 2005
  14. +1
  15. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    I'd almost dare say that 95% of all gigs are about being able to lay down a fat groove and not doing anything too flashy or 'chop intensive'.

    As far as diminishing returns once you reach a certain age, I can see that and understand that. That said, I don't think that's an excuse to quite trying. It's just that you should focus on things that are more reasonable and likely to be achievable.
  16. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I think you should always try to do harder things when you are learning because otherwise you'll be stuck at one level.

    I also think the way you play can limit what you will be able to do.

    I'm 28 and I've been playing for 12 years now with a college degree on the DB after 7 years of playing. My new challenge on bass is to go through the collection of music sheet by Victor Wooten, on the DB I still have a lot to work on especialy with the acro technic.
  17. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    I've never felt the need to be a world class bassist, but I take pleasure in working fairly steadily to be as capable as I can be and explore the instrument/music in general.

    Now that I think about it, I definitely lean more heavily on chops and "mathematical" side of things. I might be groove impaired. 90% of what I write is not in 4/4 and I've never been inclined to groove anything else.
  18. Chrisk-K


    Jan 20, 2010
    Maryland, USA
    If you don't have chops, how can you groove?
  19. henry2513

    henry2513 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2011
    Los Angeles, Ca
    I want both world class chops and groove, I think I'm capable of it and I'm willing to do what it takes to get there.

    I'm married, 35, I have a demanding full time job with a 1.5 hour commute each way, a new baby boy, work out 3-4 times a week but I still manage to put in 3-4 hours a day during weekdays and more during the weekends. I'm definitely putting in over 25 hours a week. I quit playing for 16 years and been back at it for 8 months so I have a lot of time to make up for, I shouldn't have quit because I'd be a world class bassist now but my life would probably be drastically different and I might not have my wife or my kid, two things that I wouldn't trade for anything.
  20. Ivan M

    Ivan M

    Aug 2, 2010
    Bronx, NY
    I say Groove gets you the gig, chops help you keep it, LOL!

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