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Groove vs. Riff?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by wannabe_bassist, Nov 3, 2002.

  1. wannabe_bassist

    wannabe_bassist Guest

    Jan 25, 2002
    I see people talking about Grooving and playing Riff's. What is the difference? And could you supply some examples?

    I need all the help I can get!
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Riffs have become associated with heavy rock guitar bands and are typically, short 1-2 bar repeated figures - like Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" - most famous ever! ;) Led Zeppelin - "whole lotta love" and dozens more.

    Groove to me implies something funky rather than rocky - so R&B-based, funk stuff "grooves" - but it has taken on wider connotations and usually implies something that is "danceable" - makes you want to get up and dance!!

    So - some Led Zep riffs are quite odd and difficult to dance to, but a groove is always danceable.
  3. I think a riff is a predetermined pattern, as Bruce says, that's repeated over and over again, often with all instruments playing in unison.
    A grove however isn't necessarily something that's been completely predetermined. It's got more room for improvisation although some form of pattern can be found.

    ...and yeah, you can dance to it.
  4. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    A riff is a musical phrase, usually of a more rhythmic than melodic nature, that is repeated a number of times. It can be played individually, in unison or in harmony.

    A groove is a very different thing. Groove is all to do with the timing and dynamics of the notes that wither an individual instrument or group of instruments are playing. Unless being played completely inconsistently or incompetently, any group of musicians playing together will have a groove, from classical chamber quartets to symphony orchestras right through punk bands to reggae, funk and jazz. How clear that groove is can vary massively, and just because you don't want to dance to it doesn't mean there isn't a groove. However I would suggest that the root of the groove lies in its ability to make people want to dance (whether you do or not is a personal thing).

    As a bass player you are often required to create a deep groove, and in doing so you may or may not be assisted by the musicians you're playing with, whilst playing prescribed riffs that are either your own or the song writers. When playing riffs it is very easy to become somewhat introverted and excessively focused on what you're doing and trying to get the riff 'right' to the detriment of making the riff groove. When riffing, try to relax into the groove, even when playing fast and on top of the beat, concentrate on smoothness and eveness and on complementing what's going on around you.

    As a writer, I tend to build songs from riffs which in themselves suggest the harmony and groove (and thus emotion) of the piece, often creating a one bar riff on the bass with no changes and then developing that on the computer with midi sequencing. I started recording some of these on the bass last week and really nailing the groove (especially accompanied by a drum machine where you are required to bring so much more to the groove than with a drummer) has proven seriously taxing.

    To get the hang of really grooving when playing riffs, record yourself whilst playing with a drummer, drum machine or metronome and then listen carefully to the recording and think about what you should change or accentuate in your playing to really get the groove happening.

  5. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    i think a riff can be a groove, but thats just imo and ymmv.
  6. Erlendur Már

    Erlendur Már

    May 24, 2000
    Can't riffs be groovy?
  7. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Nope, sorry, I'm afraid they have to be mutually exclusive. A tune can either have a riff *or* be groovy - people's minds can't handle both.
  8. David Watts

    David Watts

    Aug 12, 2002
    Alexclaber has found the groove with his reply.

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