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learning to find/create the pocket

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by low5_er, May 11, 2006.

  1. low5_er


    May 9, 2006
    I have a question for anyone who has had experience with this.

    What is the pocket? Could someone define it? How does one create and stay in the pocket and how does one really make a "DEEP" pocket? Does it have anything to do with "feel" (behind/ahead/on the beat)? If so how, if not, why not?
    And when I am woodshedding, how does one practice pocket? Does one use a metronome? How does one guage consistency and accuracy?

    I know this is a lot of questions, but I don't know if I'm asking the same things or really asking about a whole can of worms. I could really use some help figuring this out.
  2. malicous


    Apr 25, 2006
    Los Angeles
    "The Pocket" is a mystery to mee too. I would like to know the answer. I didn't really hear that term in the country I came from and learned music in.
  3. Yes, the pocket has everything to do with time feel.

    Playing with accuracy and consistency is difficult if you try to achieve it mentally -- you need to turn it into a physical thing, and then you will have the pocket. Feel the beat in your stomach, that's the best way I can put it. :)
  4. remo


    Jan 15, 2005
    IMO the pocket is when you have total control over playing slightly infront of and behind the beat. Pushing and pulling certain notes can totally change a bassline from sterile to TOTAL GROOVE. It's when you are locked in with the drummer, can ride the groove but are not playing quantised like a robot with no feel.. it's FEEL!!! its' when every note has it's purpose, every note length is perfect for the groove, every slide, ghost note and gliss sends shivers down your spine... the pocket is bass player utopia.
  5. The BurgerMeister

    The BurgerMeister musician.

    Apr 13, 2006
    Big Bear, CA
    oh my. +1.

    i got shivers just reading that.

    the pocket is mighty nice.

    this guy's in the pocket: :cool:
  6. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Cleveland, OH

    he's got it right. just practice along to cd's and the metronome. the best way to find it is by jamming with drummer and other people. the more experience you have doing that, the more likely it will be that you'll find the pocket.
  7. The BurgerMeister

    The BurgerMeister musician.

    Apr 13, 2006
    Big Bear, CA
    i will say, like these people before me:
    the best way to find the pocket is by practicing... especially with other musicians.
    it has as much to do with rhythm and time and note placement than it does with communication... both expressed and non-.... (like when you and the drummer just sync up so perfectly....almost accidentally.....)
  8. Playing in the pocket is a discipline, and a fundamental requirement for a bass player. And developing the skills to play 'in the pocket' requires lots of patient practice with a metronome.

    All that said, it also helps a great deal if you are working with a drummer who knows how to lock-down the time. The better the drummer is, the easier it is for you to find and maintain the pocket as a team.

    THAT being said... you should not have to rely on a drummer to find, create or maintain the pocket. So you should always train with the idea that it is your job to create and maintain it. For me, what has been helping lately is physically moving. Whether I am sitting or standing, it helps a great deal to go inside your head, visualize the groove - see people dancing - imagine the percussion/drum beat - feel the way the beat makes your body want to move - and start rocking back and forth, walking, tapping your foot, whatever. But allow the beat to physically manifest itself in your body. It takes a great deal of the 'thinking about it' off your back and makes it more of a natural response. Also realize that rhythm is everywhere. So when I walk down the hall I use my foot steps to create a rhythm in my head and I begin to think of a groove. You don't have to be jammin' with the band to be groovin'! ;)

    Live the groove - Love the groove - Be the groove! The groove does not stop when the music is over. It lives on in the ether. We rhythm section members tap into that unseen vibe when we strap on our instruments and begin to channel it. It is our job to tune in that vibe and turn it out as something that the rest of the world can experience. We don't necessarily 'make it' - we channel it. Close your eyes, Grasshopper... Let the groove move through you... :ninja:

    One final word - Metronome
  9. Go find the best drummer you can to jam with, Listen to the kick drum pattern, relax, and feel the rhythm of every note you play as if dancing with the love of your life!
  10. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    when you're not playing in the pocket, you are intellectualizing when you should play each note in time: now, now, wait, now.

    when you are in the pocket, note placement in the rhythmic context of the song becomes obvious. when you are in this place, all micro movements + sounds that you do (that they'll never invent notation for) such as releasing a note, start of a slide, length of a slide, ghost notes, etc. happen *automatically* on natural subdivisions of the beat that have the net effect of *reinforcing the groove*.

    a weak analogy: it's like playing the actual note that the song requires is only the bass drum. Then adding to this fundamental musical statement, a ghost note is a high hat, a slide is a tom, a release is closing a high hat, etc. And all these things happen in a rhythmically coherent way. If it isn't happening, the bass drum may be correct, but everything else is kind of a random mess and it just doesn't groove. Furthermore, there's no way you can actually consciously will all these things to happen in a rhythmically coherent way. Your body and its fine motor movements have to get to a place where they are one with the groove.

    Best way I've learned to do this is play with other people. Barring that, play with a drum machine. The cool thing with a drum machine is that you can experiment with playing slightly behind the beat. The drum machine will be exact. When you flam the notes slightly behind the kick and snare, you'll discover a whole new different feel.
  11. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    I don't get it. If the drummer is randomly moving the time around, I don't see how you can live in the pocket.
  12. Well the way I see it, if you are playing with a drummer it is up to the both of you to create the pocket. What I meant by 'not having to rely on a drummer to create the pocket' was more along the lines of saying if you DON'T have a drummer it is up to you to create the pocket. That is where the visualization and feeling the beat comes into play.

    Now if your drummer is weak or cannot seem to lock into a groove then you can use your strong sense of rhythm, eye-contact and facial expressions to try to coax him/her into joining you in the pocket - but if the drummer can't hack the groove then the discussion of who makes the pocket is moot. That pocket is gonna have holes in it no matter how hard you try to create it.

    If your drummer is 'randomly moving the time around' I would say he is doing the piece a disservice... I may be wrong here - I have been wrong before - but I would imagine that a drummer who is not locked down is not doing his job.
  13. I think the best way to learn about pocket playing is to play with different drummers. Some keep near-perfect time and some don't, some can execute elaborate fills on time and some slow down to catch all the hits (while others speed up fills for the excitement), some equate louder with faster and softer with slower.

    No matter what the drummer does, the bassist's job is to negotiate a tempo with him and be very atuned to how the beats and accents are lining up. It all starts with listening. Sometimes staying in the pocket means following the drummer into the weeds, and other times it means pulling him back onto the path. At times it is necessary to stop in practice and say, I think you are getting off tempo here or I think our rhythm is not lining up in this section... let's figure this out.

    Other things can be negotiated while playing. If I hear the drummer pick up a really cool accent, I'll mimic it or do something else that complements it. The better drummers I've played with sometimes hear something nice in my line and pick it up as well, moving the groove in a little different direction. If the bass and drums form a good pocket, the vocalists/soloists should not even be aware of tempo or the beat, they should just enjoy riding it.
  14. These are great comments! I love the description of "negotiating with the drummer" - I cannot think of a more appropriate way to describe the way a bass player and drummer should work together. And the comment re: "...sometimes following into the weeds, sometimes pulling them out..." - Brilliant!

    Some drummers are hermetically sealed, razor's-edge, rigid, while others are flexible, loose and pliable - No human is a metronome and fluxuations in time are inevitable, so being able to effectively "negotiate time" with the drummer is essential.

    Nice comment!
  15. flatwoundfender


    Feb 24, 2005
    For a perfect example, look up "The Meters", the whole band plays in the pocket.

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