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What is "Playing in the Pocket"?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by WillPlay4Food, Jun 20, 2002.

  1. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Like the topic says, what is "Playing in the pocket"?

    I see this reference everywhere, but have yet to see it defined / explained. Can you guys help me out here?
  2. iplaybass


    Feb 13, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Playing in the pocket means you are providing the skeleton of the song. It means not showing off, not playing out, not doing a 20-minute slap solo. You sit back and relax, and just groove. You play what is needed, no more, no less. Now another veteran Talkbasser will arrive and give a much better definition, and cut my post to shreads with sarcasm. Life's great, huh?:D
  3. Mikemike

    Mikemike Miscreant

    Jun 18, 2002
    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    For the most part, it means playing on beat, or tight with the drummer.
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    As expected, I'm going to disagree :D

    You certainly can play a 20 minute slap solo "in the pocket". In the pocket means grooving - generally means grooving hard. Which is why it's generally confused with not playing much, because playing a lot and setting up a great pocket is difficult, and so few bassists do it well.
  5. Tyler Dupont

    Tyler Dupont Wesly Headpush

    ya know when you're just humpin' along ? you're in the pocket :)
  6. iplaybass


    Feb 13, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Listen to him. Chances are he's been playing since I was running in front of cars in diapers. But for argument's sake, if you have a twenty minute slap solo that is in the pocket, I'd sure like to hear it.:D
  7. I've always thought it meant "right on beat" with the drummer. Verses some slow bluesy songs where the bass may opt to play just a fraction behind the beat for a more "laid back" kind of feel. Or some latin syncopated songs where you might play a bit ahead of the beat to give it that drive.

    Of course, I could be wrong. HA!
  8. jblake


    Aug 30, 2001
    Gray, ME
    The best way I can describe it is: you lock in with the rest of the band, you sit back and the music starts playing itself.
  9. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I don't think you're "wrong" at all bassmusic.

    "Pocket" is about like trying to give an answer to "How do I know when I"m in love?" ....for me. I know I could never explain a "method" or "process" on developing or recognizing either one. You know them when they happen.

    You can be a fine bassist and never play "in the pocket" if the music doesn't require it. So, don't define your value as a bassist by it. It's about music that begs you to know where the "spaces" are and filling them in with just the "right" notes at the "right" second(s).

    If you have a feel for that, you'll be in the pocket. Your bass and the drum beat will be so seamless, people may think Siamese twins are laying down the groove.

    In reference to what bassmusic says, you could be playing ahead of the beat/just behind it/right on top of it. "Pocket" is an embellishment to the downbeat, not mimicing it necessarily, IMO.

    I don't know if you can "learn" it because Jamerson and James Brown's bassists were always in my ear listening to my brother's transistor radio when I was a kid. If your butt couldn't detect where the bass should ground the groove, the downbeat, with the drummer's right foot, you couldn't be in the pocket.

    Another "pocket" bassist who comes to mind is Hamish Stuart of Average White Band. To a note-per-second freak wrapped up in the technical aspects, he may not get any respect. But to a pocket-player, he was heaven, IMO. He found the spaces so well, filled them with just the right note(s) for the perfect duration, and with such a "right tone" (which is often neglected), anyone with good rhythmic sense couldn't help but be seduced.
  10. similar question...how do you define 'groove'?
  11. If it causes some body part of yours to subconsciously move with the rhythm, particularly the hips, that's groove.

    IMO, of course.
  12. lazybassass


    Jan 23, 2002
    I wont be the first to make a immature comment,I wont be the first to make a immature comment.:D

    But to the defining groove question.For me its when i'm playing and everything is just flowing right. Everyone is playing flawlessly and it sounds great. Or maby thats playing in the pocket? Well thats either groove, playing in the pocket, one of the best feelings in the world or all of the above.
  13. What's so immature about involuntary gyration of the earlobes?
  14. I don't think you are quite right, the hips is close to the groove but not quite there.

    There you go, I was the first person to make an immature comment but I'm not proud of it.
  15. xax712


    Dec 25, 2001
    Northwest Arkansas
    I'm really surprised it took that long for an immature comment on a thread called "What's 'playing in the pocket' mean?" I mean every guy that read that looked twice and then came to his senses about it.
  16. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD

    When you stop hearing the music, and you start feeling the music.

  17. lazybassass


    Jan 23, 2002
    probably the shortest post here, yet summed it up perfectly IMHO.
  18. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    I have been waiting to say that one for soooo long. I thought that up a while ago, but never had the opportunity to post it.:D :D
  19. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    solid time feeling with emotion that is expressed strongly and powerfully without any wavering.
  20. I didn't want to do it, I was forced into it.

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