Learning to sit in the pocket

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by jsorvik, Jan 17, 2002.

  1. jsorvik


    Mar 22, 2000
    I have been playing bass for a couple of years now, and I am finding out more that I don't know every day! But one thing I really want to improve is my rhythmic ability. What are the best ways to improve my sense of rhythm and my ability to sit in the pocket and give more "groove" to what I play.

    Are there metronome techniques that help?

  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    Different teachers have different methods. I know Jeff Berlin and Ed Friedland use a metrnome often. I am not so sure of it's value. I like playing with real live drummers!.

    As I work with a drummer and really start listening to them more than myself (as I start to hear myself as a member of an ensemble as opposed to primarily listening to myself), I try to play off different drums. Create a groove with the kick drum or, my favorite, the ride cymbal.

    Play inside, outside, on top of the groove. Allow yourelf to experiment. This can be very useful for the drummer as well. Listen to groove players you like and really analyze how they do it. Transcribe their lines and their feel and try to apply some of it to your own playing.

  3. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Heh, I know Ed Friedland uses it but I'm not quite sure about Jeff Berlin ;)

  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I used to study with Ed Friedland and his approach to the metronome is to use it to help develop your own internal time. Until you have a good internal time sense you can't groove well because you are always trying to reference the time from others (usually the drummer).

    Here's a link to an older Bass Player article he wrote about this:

    He also is a firm believer in working on all possible rhythmic subdivisions of the beat. For example, in one bar of 4/4 there are sixteen places you can put a sixteenth note. Listen to a good funk player and he will play various groupings of sixtenths. In any one beat, there are only four possible sixteenth notes, if we ignore the case of playing all four you have these possibilities:

    1. four ways to play a single sixteenth
    2. six ways to play two sixteenths
    3. four ways to play three sixteenths

    That's a total of fourteen rhythmic permutations you can try over ONE beat. The fun part is mixing these together in one bar: 14 x 14 x 14 x 14 possibilites (65, 356!!!).

    Anyway, Ed has covered a lot of this stuff in his monthly "Right Foot" column in Bass Player over the last year or so. If you have any of these issues, try working through some of the exercises he provides.

    Here's one that is online:

  5. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    I would have to agree with ALMOST everything you said. If you are not referencing time from the people you are playing with (as they are from you) than what are you referencing the time from? If you are not playing with other players you might as well play solo (oh yeah, I forgot - I do play solo - as does ED).

    Subdividing the beat is wonderful, but you better be with the drummer and play with them, accenting and influencing the nuances of the rhythm. Perhaps that is why I dislike playing with a metronome so much. It does not really give you any nuances.

  6. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    If you were not playing debbil's advocate, I'd be worried ;)

    I would agree with your statement:

    I just do not believe that a metronome is always the answer. It works for some but it is not a panacea. I have never felt comfortable with a metronome. I have never needed it to develop my sense of internal time (and it is one of the things that I pride myself on). That being said, being able to play with a click (and making that click disappear) is an essential skill for a rhythm section player, especially in the recording industry.

    WOW! what a great statement. What musical environment does the metrnome reside in :D

    I was in the city last Monday doing a photo shoot with a great, young photographer (who happens to me my nephew). Didn't have time to stop by the museum to say hi.

    If you know any NYC nucians looking for great photos, contact me. My nephew is REALLY good.

  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I think we're in violent agreement here Michael :)

    Of course you reference your time from what others are playing, but how often do we hear bands fall apart when trying to come in after a drum or bass solo (i.e.. noone can tell where the heck ONE is any more)? We all have met players who can't play their way out of a paper bag unless someone else is feeding them the time.

    I will say this: after doing this exercise for about a month the very next gig I did I could tell immediately who in the band was speeding up the tunes. I had never been able to pinpoint it before.

    The subdivision stuff is again just an exercise to get your ear around what it sounds and feels like to do syncopations in sixteenth notes. If you wanna play like Rocco or Jerry Jemmott, this sort of thing really helps.

    Ed emphasizes doing this sort of stuff at real slow tempos until it's second nature and rock solid. That way there's no uncertainty when playing at fast tempos.
  8. Originally posted by Mike Dimin
    Different teachers have different methods. I know Jeff Berlin and Ed Friedland use a metrnome often. I am not so sure of it's value. I like playing with real live drummers!.

    Jeff don't use of metronome.
    And in my opinion you are right, metronome are not value in any educational mean. This give you tic tac time, and the time and feel will be inside of you.
  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
  10. Ed I don't know if your questions are sarcastic, because english is not my first language, but I will explain.

    Maybe I'm not a pro bass player but I'm a university math professor and when you deal with students you are not suppose to improvise, you should use certified method. When you use the metronome you push your student to play in time a piece of music that he don't know and when the student know the piece, why he have to use a metronome? he need to intenalise the time. When the student play with a band he will have a drumer not a metronome, and he have to deal with that.
    I know that some respected teacher like Ed Friedland use metronome.

    In 1994 many universities start using graph caculator in his basic math couses. What happen, student have to deal with a calculator (that they don't know have to use it) and with algebra (that they don't know either). This method was a disaster. In music student have to deal with a metronome when they doesn't know the piece.

  11. Here in Puerto Rico you can buy a box of Tic Tac anywhere.

    When I say improvise is about teaching method.

    As a matter of fact in the begining the universities didn't have a music department the musicians student had to study in the math program.
  12. gordotone


    Nov 22, 2001
    I think what everybody agrees on (so far) is that good (i.e. musical) time should be internalized. When you practice with a metronome it forces you to internalize the time.
    Why? Cos' if you don't, you're going to fall off it! To learn to play musically, you need to feel steady time and then be able to push, pull, in general play with feel. So a metronome really is a good practicing tool. If you feel stiff playing with a metronome, you are fighting it and actually need to practice more. In the studio the metronome is your friend. A good studio musician knows that the click (metronome) is a reference point for the time, it is not the groove itself! The groove is what you play.
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