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Developing "Groove" - tips needed

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Octaves, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. Octaves


    Jun 22, 2012
    Well, i've been playing close to three years now and feel confident playing straight up 4:4 stuff with a range of note values.

    Now comes the tricky bit: groove. Like Meshelle Ndeocello and this guy: (Erykah Badu cover), they are able to place notes in unpredictable or unusual places and make it sound "groovy". I have no idea how to develop this skill. I'm going to start by trying to break down a few Erykah Badu songs), however, i'm wondering if there are some exercises, YouTube resources (or other) or instruction books i can get pointed to?

    I've worked my way though Progressive Funk Bass, but the problem with those books is that they teach in limited ways with two bar exercises (although i have worked out that most bass patterns are a one bar phrase, followed by a second bar "answer").

    Any help on "groove" would be greatly appreciated :)
  2. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    to me, groove is the understanding of how to manipulate the space between rhythmic values, related to the pulse. I am a drummer first (BME, Percussion as main instrument) so I have studied this a lot. I feel like groove comes from being able to subdivide the pulse down to the 16th note in duple time, or the 8th note triplet in triple time. Once you can do this, it is then a matter of playing (or omitting) the partials of these subdivisions effectively to create syncopation. This results in the manipulation of those small spaces in time.

    Peter Erskine said it best at a clinic one time :" Space is what makes groove"

    Think about a drummer like Chad Smith, or a bassist like Ndeocello or Esperanza Spalding, or Darryl Jones...they manipulate the subdivision first, but then also understand the tension that is created by playing with placement of the rhythms...Smith waits till the last possible second to bring his backbeat snare hand down...this creates tension that results in the "pocket" that we all talk about and it makes the Peppers phat. Same for the above mentioned bass players...they delay the plucking of the string (on the properly chosen subdivided partial) and that creates the tension that is translated into groove.

    They are also 100% keen on what the drummer is doing...where he is playing the subdivision (usually the right hand on some cymbal), what KIND of division it is (8th notes, 16ths, 8th note triiplets, 1-&-uh pattern etc etc), and where the back beat is,as well as the space definition that is happening between the kick and snare

    It also totally depends on the demand of the style...a "groove" by Duran Duran would not work in a Jackson 5 song, and both songs have their own groove.

    So in short,
    1.subdivide the pulse
    2. understand how to mess with your attack to either be behind or ahead of the chosen rhythmic part
    3. listen to different styles and see what is the common subdivision, and rhythmic part choice

    then play along...
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Break down a few Erykah Badu and MeShell songs...that's a really good start to understanding it, at least for the styles they play. Break down some others as well, and dig deep and go and listen to their influences as well. It's one of those things that comes with time and immersing yourself in the styles you're trying to nail.
  4. Ed Friedland's book, Bass Grooves: http://www.edfriedland.com/books/ goes into this subject in lots of detail. He gives examples of all the different subdivisions (and how to isolalate individual "groovey notes"). The book also covers how the bass interlocks with the drums and gives loads of examples in different genres.

    Working through this book really connected my theorecical understanding of rhythms with my more inate "feel" for grooves.

    There's alot of work to do, but I'd highly recommend it.
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    UpThe Iron had some nice comments!
    Something I used to do...displacement (like Iron said, knowing what/where the subdivisions...)
    So, if this is a 1-bar figure-

    Try moving it to the right by an 1/8th note-
    l__&__e&___&a4___l1_&_ etc
    Now the notes are maybe not where you would expect them to fall.
    Some are so skilled at their internal clock, they can move about the bar at will & make it groove...and eventually (maybe) land it back on "1" when it's needed.

    Also, study other genres. Afro-Cuban rhythms, West African rhythms, etc.
    Meshelle Ndeocello is big on Go-Go rhthms...what makes those tick? How I can use them in what I have going on?
    Another thing...study the drum kit...study rhythms played by the various Latin/African percussion instruments.
    There are some stock Ago-go rhythms...learn a couple & add bass notes.

    I played in a "free" (mostly originals) Funk-Jazz band with a drummer that wanted me to go beyond 2-bar figures...think 4-bar...eventually...no bars!
    When I first hear drummers like Cornell Rochester (Blood Ulmer's Music Revelation Ensemble)...it was total abandon & bombastic. Later, I realized it was a bar at the beginning...and a bar the the end. Still sounds bombastic, though.
  6. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    IMO you can groove roots, so it's not so much the actual notes you play as it is locking with the drummer and the two of you grooving together. This did not sink in till the second reading of Ed's book on Bass Grooves. On the first reading I was hung up on what notes to play and missed ...... how to play them.

    ..... If the kick is doing boom, boom de boom, you do boom, boom de boom.

    It's those de booms that lock the groove in. Took we longer than most to realize this. I think my problem came from I came over from rhythm guitar and I did, and do, have an internal clock. Problem being my internal clock was still playing rhythm guitar not bass guitar. I knew I was supposed to lock with the kick drum, but, the how escaped me. The strum boom was there the bass de boom (that double kick) was not.

    I think this article got me to thinking about the how. http://bassmusicianmagazine.com/2010/02/bass-blessings-with-steve-gregory/ Yes I do play Praise.

    All that said; how do I practice at home? I now divide my time between learning the song's we will play this Sunday, chord progression, order of the verses, where the lead breaks will be, etc. Then putting the songs aside and playing along to generic drum track. It's those many and varied drum tracks that have now entered my life that I need to spend some time with. I need to be ready to play THE de boom John will use for that specific song.

    Long story to say; the groove comes from you and the drummer locking in together. Perhaps a third reading of bass grooves is in order. Ed gives us so much some of it does go over my head...
  7. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    I've completed Ed's 3 method books and will be done with his Building Walking bass lines book shortly. His "Grooves" book will be next.
    In this book he advocates the use of and supplies the programing of a drum machine for a deeper understanding.
    At first glance the book looks to take a broad approach to many different rhythms starting the path of specialized study after that.
    I have a DR880 which I use allot but hate to program (takes too much time) besides it comes with a bazillion preprogramed drum/bass riffs and a manual that categorizes/labels the different rhythms.
    Ed's book also comes with a CD.
    My plan is to skip the drum machine program part and rely on the CD back tracks and the DR's preprogramed stuff.
    You really can't go wrong with anything Ed puts his name on IMO.
  8. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Listen to lots of music that grooves. It will sink in.
  9. bobicidal


    Mar 28, 2013
    San Jose, CA
    I try like crazy to lock with the drummer but sometimes the drummer is not in the groove! :D Better to lock than not lock, I guess.
  10. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    It's really difficult, if not impossible to groove from a purely academic perspective. So much of it is about feel.

    One thing to consider, at least as an exercise, is to focus more on leaving holes for the snare rather than locking with the kick.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I disagree somewhat. A lot of my favorite basslines run roughshod over the drummer and completely ignore him or her. There are times to lock and times to unlock.
  12. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    totally true!

    Once again, going back to the space thing. Sometimes a "groove" is created by the bass player playing against - or more appropriately, within - the bass drum hits.

    also, contrast can create groove. Think of King Of Pain by the Police...in verse 1 and 2, Copland and Sting are playing with each other more or less...cool groove 1. Then in the 3rd verse, Copland goes to the constant "ands" on the bass drum, and Sting continues to play the same bass line from the other verses....total contrast, that creates a second groove that is one of my most favorite! This groove is a more tension based groove, while V 1 & 2 are more of a "locked in" kind of groove

    Tommy the Cat by Primus is another great groove where the bass and bass drum are not really "ghosting" each other. Claypool fills in the space that Alexander is creating by the minimalist bass drum line. Also, the combo of the hi-hat pattern and the bass drum pattern suggest the actual groove rhythm that Claypool is doing on the bass...manipulation of space, knowledge of parts, all driven by the style...
  13. bobicidal


    Mar 28, 2013
    San Jose, CA
    +1. I was kidding, sorta. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had to accept how a drummer will play a specific part and lock with him for the good of the team.
  14. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    That depends on how bad he is. Really. I have played with drummers that I had to zone out. I will take a small hit for the team, but I won't allow a bad drummer to take the team down.
  15. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Keep listening to stuff that grooves AND transcribe. Write out rhythms of bass parts, drum parts and percussion parts. The writing part is important because it will give you a clearer idea of where the notes are falling (and where the silences are).
  16. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    It often comes down to how the beat is subdivided and the agreement among players on that subdivision. You can listen to Glenn Miller, Bob Marley, or Black Sabbath. They are all (in almost all cases) playing 4 beats to the bar. But they swing, or subdivide the beat radically different from each other. They'll all hit 1 in the same place, but where they place the quarter notes is not the same. There can be an even bigger difference with 1/8 notes.
    The important thing is that everyone agrees on how the beats are divided.
  17. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...and vice-versa. They (das drummer) may ignore the bassist' s figure/groove.
    This one guy would play his ride in 4/4 (primarily for yours truly)…with quarter notes...the rest of the kit may be in 5...or 11. If I played "time", he mighta played 1/2 time against me. Or vice-versa.
    He liked moving his kick into the backbeat, too.
    Ouch, my head used to hurt.
    Different ways to lock was a lesson learned with that gig.
  18. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    I am me
    Rhythmically speaking:
    Sometimes the groove is created when I'm ahead of the drummer. Sometimes the grove is created when I'm behind the drummer.
  19. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    When my head and body moves with the beat I'm grooving. If your head is not moving your not grooving. :cool:
  20. Octaves


    Jun 22, 2012
    Thanks everyone :)

    I've decided that i am going to do two things:

    1. Practice single note grooves to drum tracks

    2. Takes grooves from songs that i like and play them to drum tracks, and try to develop them somehow.

    The two things I've realised are:

    1. I've fallen into the one bar groove trap (thinking i've got to repeat it over a bar)

    2. That most grooves have a question and an answer, eg, two parts (i think). I guess, technically, a groove could remain the same forever with a few fills, but it might get boring. But, then again, a groove is a groove, and may not necessarily be defined by a particular set of note placements. I've heard grooves where note placements change, but the overall 'groove' seems to remain.

    Has anybody used Anthony Vitti's Fingerstyle Funk books? I'm a big fan of his.