The search for "THE POCKET"

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Michael Case, Feb 13, 2005.

  1. I'm wondering, is getting into "the pocket" somethig mental, technical, spiritual, or a combination of three?

    Also I'm curious what kind of work my fellow TB'ers have done to get there. For all the talk of "the pocket" there really is little information, and it really is an important part of what we do.
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Mental and a fourth: feel.

    The groove part of the pocket is feeling 'the feel', and then making everything you play in the context of that feel.

    The 'Zone' part is all about playing outside of and beyond yourself. Getting rid of the need to 'sound good' or 'play hip' or 'not **** up' or 'be in tune' or whatever other mental blocks that you set up for yourself have to be dropped. Get grooving (this keeps the gig) and then open your ears and enjoy the music. The stuff will really play itself -- if you let it.
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Oh -- and have your homework done before you get to the gig :)
  4. Thanks Ray, I know about the homework part, my thought on the subject is that we never really seem to investigate how to reach the ideal of playing in the pocket and this has become a large part of my search lately. I'm looking to get that feel where my lines are moving "up and forward" without rushing or being to pushy. From what I hear when I listen it seems like the greats had this ability to make a quarter note line just bounce, float, or dance. I guess that's where I'm looking to go and wondered if there was a technical approach. But I do hear what your saying and have had that experience a couple of times (at least to my ears) and want it to happen more.
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Just turn on the tape machine and the metronome. Play, listen back, adjust, rinse and repeat until it swings :)
  6. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Gotta listen listen listen. Like your mind and ears have to rise above your instrument and focus on everything else. Whenever I feel the groove getting shaky, I look at the other players' feet. Listen to what's being played relative to the piano player's tapping or the drummer's hi-hat or bass drum foot. Try changing things like putting more or less space between quarter notes and see how the other players react to it. If someone else starts to rush or drag, dig in a little harder on 2 & 4 until they get the idea. Listen to the hi hat more than the ride cymbal. Time will usually loosen up on the ride before it does on the hi hat.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Damn, I just knew I was leaving a step out. No wonder I can't swing yet! Thanks Ray! :)
  8. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I dunno. That's cuttin' the gig, which is job number one, but you can't lead somebody to play in the pocket. AFTER the players can trust that each other to take care of the mechanical things like time and changes, THEN we can move onto musical matters. That might come instantly -- "Yeah!" -- or it might take a long time and some serious work with your favorite drummer.
  9. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    you have to learn how to discern between on top of the beat , on the beat and behind the beat and the spaces in-between them.

    elvin jones is famous for playing on top of the beat

    zigaboo modeliste is famous for playing behind the beat
  10. zigaboo modeliste????????????????????? :crying:
  11. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    True, except I don't see time as a "mechanical thing". Too many things affect time; humans are not metronomes. We need ways of communicating our sense of time just as we need to pay attention to others'. Accenting 2&4 may be simplistic, but sometimes may be necessary. I've seen Chick Corea do similar things. I don't think anyone reaches a level where they can take time for granted.
  12. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    It's not basing my sense of time on someone's foot tapping, it's looking for clues to understand theirs. Locking in with a recording or a metronome is only part of the equation. See my response to Sam. :)
  13. Thanks for the replies all. My post is coming more from listening to cats like PC, Ray Brown, Ron Carter to name a few. Their quarter note lines seem to have a feeling of moving forward and up or bouncing, they don't feel heavy and ploding. I've been in situations where it just happens, the time feels great, the soloists find it easy to play over the rhythm section, and even if it rushes a bit it doesn't matter because we do it together and it feels good. I've had times where no matter what I try, pushing ahead, laying back, right on I still feel like it ain't grooving. I've recorded myself with the nome and somedays it's good and some :( . When I listen back, even on good days, I feel like I'm missing something in my APPROACH that I could be addressing.

    Anyway, Ray's post answered my question best. To make my question a little clearer I was asking what one would do to make that light bouncing feel an automatic part of one's playing (more to do with the practice room not the gig).

    It's strange, I feel like this topic is one of the least addressed. And once it is everybody starts talking about ahead and behind the beat, and digging in when someone rushes or drags (which to me is the surest way to kill any chance of groove). Just my $0.02
  14. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Don't get hung up on my word "mechanical." Keeping a pulse is just basic stuff. Call it "rudimentary," "fundamental" or "obvious" if you like. I try to keep my tempo steady as I humanly can unless the music calls for something else. I certainly don't excuse sloppy time by saying, "I'm only human."
    No comprende. I communicate my sense of time using sound and ears. You must be getting at something else; sorry for the web-gap.

    Geez, again, either I'm missing something or I can't wait to hear you play. To me, accenting 2 and 4 to some extent is an essential part of straight-ahead jazz bass playing -- you're either doing it or you're reacting to the absence of doing it. The question is "exactly how" not "whether."

    Once again, either we're not communicating or I'm missing something. A steady pulse is fundamental / mechanical / obvious / insert-your-word-here. If I'm playing with a drummer and I CAN'T count on a steady pulse then (like I said to Brother da Mook) it's all-but-impossible for me to make that big, honkin' pocket. If I'm paying ATTENTION to the steadiness of pulse it's going to tend to make it harder for me to focus on musical concerns. If I don't have to drag some so-called drummer onto tempo then I can be more musical. Frankly, if I can't take a steady tempo for granted, the gig's a drag and I had better be getting paid REAL WELL because I could be working or hanging out with my family.

    Hopefully this is all a giant miscommunication. In any event, let's not horse a dead beat.
  15. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    It's all good, I think it's the giant miscomunication you mentioned.

    My original post was throwing out ideas. Reading back my "looking at feet" comment, it did read a bit silly. I do, though, believe that time is visually perceived as well as heard. When I said shaky groove, I didn't mean train wreck. It was more getting in to the minutia of what makes it solid. Like the 2 & 4 thing, sure we accent it, sometimes more or less depending on the feel. Like you said, "exactly how".

    I should have paid more attention to my wording of things. Didn't mean to raise eyebrows. I love that we have this opportunity to discuss these things, and certainly appreciate everyone's perspective. :)
  16. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Wow, Elvin was always the example of swingin extremely hard on the back side of the beat to my group of peers and mentors. George Garzone loves to tell the story of his rhythmic epiphany when he was playing with Elvin and was rolling toward the top of the beat and Elvin went *WHACK* and "straightened my spine out" and drug George back into the trenches. I don't hear this on certain early things (the Sonny Rollins live sessions at the Vanguard have an Elvin on them who's a little joyously reckless and out front), but all of the Coltrane stuff and "Speak No Evil" are beautifully back-of-the-beat to my ears. Of course, maybe he just makes me *think* that, but perception is all we have to go by.

    I always think of Philly Joe and Tony Williams as examples of "top-of-the-beat" drummers. Jerry Bergonzi likes to draw a visual representation of "the beat" on a piece of paper in which a center line represents the metronomic thing, and the bass might be on top of that line a bit because of the nature of the sounding body of the instrument, and the drums often happily fit just below that line a bit, and the soloist can swim around the whole space at their pleasure, and the wider the space around the line that the ensemble can comfortably move within the "better" (more under control, authentic, flexible, whatever) the music sounds.
  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    After years of playing a lot of duo with limited 'groove' success, I've struck upon a philosphy that not only works there, but in any situation. I groove and make those that I play with groove with me. You have to trust yourself and make your own poo swing. If you're swinging, then nobody has a choice but to join in.

    A bad habit/mentality that I had previous to this was that, as a student, I always assumed that the other (older) guys that I was playing with were right about 'time' and groove. As I continued my journey I then got into the head-space that a grooving group (particularly a duo) was the result of an understanding and equal input in the maintenance of a groove. Better than 7 out of 10 duos that I played with would ALWAYS slow down and feel tired. I then started working both with the exercise that I mentioned the The Mook above, and also taking that feel that I had developed with the tape and metronone and playing it from note one whenever I play. It's amazing, but it's both easy AND effective.
  18. Technical: Open string quarter notes, at various tempi, but one tempo for a long time. You want to talk Zen, play nothing but open G's for 15 minutes at quarter note = 80. Then 15 mins. of nothing but open D's, etc. Some may scoff at the notion of looking at this as mechanical, but I believe it helps in developing consistency, endurance, and of course callouses. It allows you to focus on the right hand and arm without worrying about the left. There is a kind of circular motion which you should become aware of and cultivate. Plus if you're not locked in after the first 5 minutes there's maybe something wrong with you.

    After a couple days, or a week, or whatever, use different combinations of string crossings, 2,3, and 4 note groupings. Ex: DG DG (repeat ad nauseum) or ADG ADG or AGDG AGDG. Don't shortchange the E str, as this one requires a slightly different stroke.

    I did these exercises when I was just starting out, and again later when I was working on increasing my comfort level and proficiency at faster tempi.

    Mental: Know what note(s) you're going to play next, and where you need to shift/what finger to use. Last - second indecision, or uncertainty of fingerboard geography will likely cause rhythmic innaccuracies. If this means you have to work some stuff out ahead of time, so be it. Work out the fingering and practice it (technique) until you reach the point where you can do it on the fly. Knowing your theory cold will help (Chord-scale relationships, voice leading). Knowing your fb intimately will help. Practicing scales and arpeggios is crucial, for technical and mental.

    Spiritual: Read Mike Crumpton's thread "What I learnt from gigging", with contributions from Chris Fitz and others about being in the moment. Also my post on immersion in the "Behind or In Front of the Beat" thread.

    Ray's point about trusting yourself is a good one, but in order to trust yourself you have to earn it - by putting in the practice time, getting gig experience, and gaining confidence which comes from that experience. Also, a good feel is something you alone can have. Bouyancy, then, is more of an individual thing. Being in the pocket, at least IME, refers to the groove that occurs between yourself and one or more others - a group thing.

    Mi dos pesos.
  19. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    The sports analogy I always use is Relax, and Play hard. No one ever starts a baseball game with "WORK BALL", or "THINK BALL." Even on the suckiest gig, if you can find some fun, and you can convince your bandmates to also, you're 90% in the pocket. I don't think anyone gets there by being uptight or thinking too much. I guess it's kind of a "zen" thing.
    I agree with Ray about making it irresistable for your bandmates, you can't force them, but if what you're playin' is happening they just can't help themselves.

    -played with The Meters. Also check out Al Jackson, he played with Booker T and Aretha Franklin among others...understated, but seriously "in the pocket."

  20. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    London, UK
    This has sort of already been said, but being really, really comfortable with the instrument seems to me to have a lot to do with being able to create the constantly swinging, foward motion feel talked about. I definately notice I swing 'more' lower down the neck than when I'm getting up towards thumb position (so of course I'm working on playing a lot up there to get over that).
    This isn't to disagree with any of the more theoretical or zen answers, but like Ray said, the bassists given as an example (Chambers, Carter and Brown) have definately done their homework.