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Getting the groove

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by yehongxiang, Apr 20, 2010.

  1. yehongxiang


    Dec 15, 2009
    I've been playing for five months now and I think I have a problem.

    I've got a good teacher, and have learnt a lot of things ranging from theory, to slap/pop, tapping and just playing the right notes at the right time. I don't wanna sound like I'm blowing my own horn, but I can more or less hold my own when I'm playing with people who had more experience than me.

    However, I've noticed a problem. While I can play most songs from beginning to the end, I don't seem to have any groove/feel to it. It just seems very robotic to me!

    How do I get the groove?
  2. That's a great question and hard to answer directly, for me it's analogous to, 'how do I make a great solo'.

    Couple things I can share FWIW:

    First, one of my favorite quotes from a GREAT bassists and teacher:

    ""When I talk about time I like to define that because people have different concepts of what time is. I define it as two different things. There is one called absolute time which is the space between two points. It's like the space between two stars in the universe. In space we measure distance by how long it takes to get from one point to another. This time is absolute, 60 seconds in a minute right? Time feel is an interpretation of the space between these two stars, or between points A and B. If you look at points A and B as 7am and 7pm then the space between them is filled with the events of that day. These events can be of infinite quantity. What happens between two quarter notes is the same thing. How you fill that space creates your own personal feel, and is variable, but those two points are absolute"."

    Next: To really understand rhythmic concepts, syncopation, etc. I use all the same drum books any percussionist has in their library. Syncopation by Ted Reed is a good start.

    Having said all that, "groove" is a much more abstract concept, kind of like mind vs. brain - so while a solid foundation in the academic and philosophical side will certainly be nothing short of beneficial, ultimately, the groove is in you, you just need the tools to get it out.

  3. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Do you dance, yehongxiang? I don't think I can define "groove," or chart it mathematically. Maybe it's just that I don't know what I'm talking about. But when I hear a groove, it makes me want to dance, and when I'm playing, I find myself getting into a groove when I let go a little and let my own body move to the music. It's the way the rhythm gets beyond that strict mechanical perfection and becomes a little off, a little asymmetrical, the way organic life is.
  4. It's just MILEAGE and listening to anything you can get your hands on. The groove will come from those two things and your own style.

    Speaking of robotic, you can't get any more robotic than Bill Wyman...one of my all-time favorite bassists. So it's not all as bad as you might think.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    you've got to be kidding! go listen to "miss you" again and tell me that. wyman didn't have a lot of chops, but he was far from robotic.

    to answer the op's question, you have been playing for 5 months. that is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and you are probably right where you should be after 5 months. but instead of parlor tricks like slapping and tapping, study more music, learn how to read music, get a teacher who teaches you how to play music on the bass instead of just playing bass, and when you have a solid musical foundation and a whole lot more experience than 5 months, grooving will come easier and easier. and stop with the impatience. some people work on their stuff for years and years before they start to get it.
  6. Getting the groove. I was told that the groove can not develop until you start moving your head. If your head is not moving to the beat the groove will never develop.

    So relax and move your head.
  7. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    The groove comes from the ass. Get up and shake it. The only way to get it is to feel it.
  8. And don't give up the one.
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    unless you play reggae, where the "one drop" style of bass gives up the one. or unless you play latin styles where the bass often hits the and of 4 instead of the one.

    hitting on the one is very much a james brown funk style thing, and is not necessarily something you want to do in all styles of music.
  10. As it was mentioned earlier...groove is about the Dance of music....you don't have to jump around like a mad man (sometimes it can add to showmanship)....but don't just stand there looking at your neck...let your body get into it...feel the drums...a lot of grooven has to do with punctuating what the rhythm is doing...there is a time to be strong and a time to be sweet...but there should always be POWER in the groove...you are not fighting with the drums but you are sparing with them. Throw your head into it...your neck and your back... Your body. If you are playing GROOVES correctly ...women can't help but move because as Howard Stern (Private Parts) proved as well as a few other studies...women resonate to low frequencies and can't help responding to it. I have seen it! Watch the sexiest chick dancing and see what she is moving to. if you are playing grooves and they AINT dancin you are not doing it right!
    I will post it again....watch this and you GOTS to feel the GROOVE and look at what the players are doing with thier bodies even those sitting down! BTW the Horn players are almost 70 years old....they will be 70 next year!

  11. I want to add this as well check out the middle break. In both examples, this and earlier post, you can't hear the ebb and flow of time. some stuff is before the beat and some after....

  12. Music director at our church asked me to backup some gospel (rhythm guitar) they had for a special event. She wanted an "and 4" strum. I'm country, changing to the "and 4" was a real chore.
  13. yehongxiang


    Dec 15, 2009
    Thanks for all the advice! I guess it's time to let myself go! I suppose as I practise more and become more confident in my technical ability, I'll be able to forget the fretboard and just move along to the music.

    This may sound defensive, but I wasn't being impatient. I was just worried that I'm doing it wrong. :)
  14. IMHO, a lot of the "groove" can be found exactly where notes begin and end. If you look at a steady stream of eighth notes, at first it seems like there isn't much room for interpretation: you just play two equally spaced notes every beat, and that's it. But some people's eighth notes will groove a lot more than others. Why is that? If you listen carefully, you'll notice that one player's notes may start a teeny bit late (relative to the hi hat) and leave a little space before the next one, while another player's notes may start right on the beat and last for their full length. It's a subtle thing, but it can make the music feel really different. Different feels will be appropriate for different styles of music.

    Try putting a simple pattern on a drum machine and play a simple pattern, even just steady eighth notes, and see if you can make it feel urgent and tense. Then see if you can make the same part feel relaxed and laid back. Can you make the up beats loud and the down beats soft, and vice versa? Can you make them all sound exactly equal? There's a lot to explore in these very subtle areas.

    Keep listening, and good luck!
  15. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    One of my favorite examples of an eight note bass groove that really grooves is the Larry Graham style of alternating short and long notes. The short notes are emphasized, so it has a quarter note feel. It's very rock and roll actually, and you can hear similar examples in a lot of punk rock, rockabilly, etc.
  16. progrmr


    Sep 3, 2008
    Columbus, Ohio
    As a beginner (I've been playing for about ~1.5 years) I find that my "lack of groove" comes from a couple things:

    1) getting off the root while staying in the same chord
    2) Walking across chord changes

    Especially #2 - I've been doing a lot of blues in lessons for the last 6 months or so, very simple style to get down, but my lines don't sound very good because I don't have cool walks and turn arounds that depart from the standard form. I've seen several bass players though playing blues and the lines never get boring because they know how to mix it up.

    For me this is just a lack of experience - I intend to hit up my bass instructor tonight about working on chord changes specific to blues and get some practice on that. Also learning to read music, so I'm sure that as I progress there some doors will open in examining the techniques behind walking across the chords - then the groove will come :)
  17. Victor Wooten's Groove Workshop is GREAT for "defining" this.
    "Groove" is 1/10th the notes you play and 9/10 how/when/where you play them (and don't play them).
    You'll probably sound "robotic" until you focus less on the notes and more on the how.
    I've only been playing for a little less than 2 years and I've gotten comments on my groove from much more experienced bassists because, although I don't have a lot of theory under my belt yet, how I play what I do play makes for a good groove (usually;)).
  18. petergp


    Apr 16, 2010
    Buenos Aires
    well as said above, if theres groove you cannot help but to fell the rhythm in everyy cell of your body! its just impossible. youll groove when not only your fingers are in the pocket but your ENTIRE being is in it.

    you can't hold no groove if you ain't got no pocket!
  19. dogofgod


    Dec 24, 2009
    I find that learning music theory helps immensely when it comes to finding the "groove" because it is essentially the roadmap of how someone else percieved the groove, which you can try to emulate and therefore learn groove theory oneself. never underestimate yourself, try to create your own song on the bass that is unique to your organic soul. it sounds stupid, but one must let themselves go into the landscape of the music in order to appreciate, complement, and enhance what is already going on.

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