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Working on Grooves

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by David Abrams, May 29, 2003.

  1. What do you recommend are good ways of developing your ability to play good grooves in jazz? Clearly, R & B, Hip Hop, and other types of music are very groove-oriented for the bassist. But a good jazz bassist is also appreciated for how good she or he is in having good grooves. Any suggestions?
  2. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    "Groove" is one of many terms we use where we assume the listener has the same definition as we do.
    To me, groove is a consequence of your feeling for the music, not a conesquence of mechanical calculations and exercises. That's all I can do for starters. Jump in, anyone.
  3. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    O.K. Here's my $0.02.

    For me, groove's all about working together successfully with other musicians in performance to create the illusion that you are hearing one single instrument.

    Use a metronome as much as possible in your practice. It's a standard that other musicians are likely to agree upon, and if they use it too it will increase your chances of grooving with them. If you play in an orchestra, then honor the conductor's hand motions and you'll be grooving.

    I don't play in an orchestra yet, but when I play with a pianist I want to hear the both of us as if we are one instrument no matter what my solo is. Alternately, in my rock and roll cover band days I wanted to have every note I played begin with the kick drum to sound like I was playing a cannon and not an electric bass. That's grooving for me, so I use my metronome constantly and listen to myself as much as I can stand it.

    I've read about some people getting off on rushing or laying back on the beat. Miles Davis is supposed to be famous for laying back, but I don't understand what he's doing that way. I don't hear him ignoring the beat at all and being sloppy in his playing. I hear someone who understands the beat well enough to chop it down into the tiny marks on a ruler between the big marks and doing something with them. At least, that's how I would want to approach laying back in a jazz combo.
  4. What EL JUAN sez, but use the metronome wisely. You want the groove to sound tight, but not stiff. There's at least one prominent electric bassist (*coughjeffberlincough*) who abhors and eschews the use of the metronome completely for this reason.

    To me, it's rare to go into a gig cold, without having played with the drummer, and put the groove in the pocket right away. I find that playing or practicing with the same guys (who hopefully share your groove-oriented mind set) over time will yield good results. I don't think its really something that can be taught or broken down.

    Of course, listening to and playing along with your favorite funky recordings can help, and I'm sure there are guys here who will be glad to offer listening suggestions.
  5. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Yep, it's about the overall effect, the whole enchilada...

    It's about you and the drummer -- and the others -- how you feel time and the pulses.

    It's about hearing longer rythmic structures than just the bar (4, 8, 16 bar chunks.)

    Was close-listening the other day to that absolutely classic LP Lester Young made with the Oscar Peterson trio in the early 50's. First cut is "Ad Lib Blues" (might have the cuts in the wrong order; I mean the first one, anyway.) Ray Brown is playing a basic quarter note walk, but check out his treatment of the beats within the bar. There's a consistent treatment of "1" across all the bars, same thing with "4" across all the bars. "2", "3", same thing. For example, his "4" always feels like a little period at the end of the bar. He's so awesome -- you can tell from that one track that you're dealing with a bassist who is EXTREMELY at home with the rythym of this music.

    Post-post note: in my hurry, I'm not explaining myself very well. What I mean is that Ray seems to have a separate but consistent treatment of each beat in the bar. Not just playing in time, but each beat has a slightly different feel to it, and that feel is the same in every bar.
  6. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    The only time I had the priviledge of hearing Jeff Berlin play was on an Allan Holdsworth recording (I think Heavy Metal) way back when I was a kid...what an awesome bass player. I'm not Jeff Berlin though, so I'm keeping my metronome as something of a consolation prize.

    Checking out what Stevie Wonder has to say about the groove (and play!) in Sir Duke is another good starting point...Nathan Watts too baby. Stevie echoes Donosaurus's assertion about the groove.

    I can't wait to hear and dig into what Ray Brown has to offer. There's so much great music to get inspired by and learn what it means to groove from.
  7. Another vote here for practicing with a metronome, all the time. It won't teach you what groove is all about, but you need to develop a good sense of metre, which is different from rhythm, or groove. You need to develop your internal clock that tells you where 1, 2, 3, 4 is.
    That has to be as constant as you can possibly make it. You can then experiment with playing on the front or the back of the beat, syncopating, dragging or pushing as the 'groove' dictates, or allows, but you gotta know where you are in relation to that 1, 2, 3, 4 all the time.
    IMHO, the metre thing is the most important fundamental.
  8. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    The nice thing about the nome is it's always the same, it's a machine.

    A good drummer (or any other player in the ensemble, but the drummer is your key partner here) is distinctly not a machine.

    Ergo, you groove all you want with the nome, you develop a solid sense of time, but that's YOU. Now you gotta take it out and get the groove going with other people.

    The groove that results will be the product of all the musicians' training and experience, but it will ALSO be the product of their inter-personal musical chemistry (which may be unique) and of such ephemera as whether we're all "feeling musical" at the same place and time. Has the drummer got the shakes? Did he get laid last night? Are they foreclosing on his mortgage? (Substitute for "drummer" whatever you want here. Sustitute yourself.)

    Yes, of course you should work with a nome. But you should also get as many hours as you can on the groove meter, making grooves with other players.
  9. A good drummer (or any other player in the ensemble, but the drummer is your key partner here) is distinctly not a machine.

    I have to agree. To me "Groove" is all about Bass and Drums. A Band "any Band" is only as good as their Bass Player...BUT...A Bass Player is only as good as his/her Drummer...

  10. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Palatial Dave,
    My experience is such that I totally disagree with this. Some of the most swinging, memorable gigs I've ever played were without drums. The nicest compliment I ever got was when I played a duo - unamplified guitar (Gibson L5) and bass. It came from Teddy Wilson. Yeah, that Teddy Wison. Remember the Jimmy Giuffre Three? Have you heard Benny Green, Russel Malone and Chris McBride? I played a Brazilian gig of harmonica, two guitars, and bass, and I have done many duets with a tenor sax. In fact, we wouldn't let the drummer on the stand.
    The bass player you describe above is not much of a bassist, in my book.
  11. Hey Don,
    Yes I understand what you are saying. I would much rather play without a Drummer than play with a bad one. I have play alot Drummerless and yes it can be a great thing holding it all together yourself...BUT...I have played with Drummers that sucked and it makes for a long night. I didnt mean not playing with a Drummer was Bad...just playing with a bad Drummer is worse..;)

  12. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Now, I get it. Yes, there are drummers who are not only bad, but so into themselves that they can't be moved by the bassist, and that makes for a bad, bad gig. Had one of those recently myself.
    There's a story about Ray Brown finding himself in a recording session with drummer that just couldn't cut it. Ray had a plane to catch. Story is that Ray simply dug in and WOULD NOT allow the drummer's time to be bad, and he caught his flight. But how many of us are that good?
  13. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Lester Young used to say to drummers: "Keep it simple, no bombs. Just tickety-boom for Prez."

    It's great sport to pile on drummers -- and gawd knows those neanderthals deserve it -- but you can be a hack on any instrument.

    You can't groove with ANYONE if they're not listening, not musically sensitive, and not part of the ensemble.
  14. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    I have noticed, as I age, and my ignorance is interupted by the occasional flash of insight, how very apt and descriptive is the lingo developed by jazz musicians. Like "Groove".
    I am certain the term was inspired by a record playing on a turntable. The turntable rotates, The needle placed in the groove, and it stays there till the end of the music. That is precisely how a groove feels when you are in it. No effort required to stay, and great resistance to get out.
    So how do you get in the groove? Like the record player you must have a constant speed. Tempo does not have to be mechanically perfect; it can breathe, varying slightly, but must never make a quantum jump to a new tempo. Competent rhythm section players must have an accurate internal clock. But tempo is only the beginning.
    This thread asks about jazz grooves. THE jazz groove, IMO, is Swing. How is a swing groove created and maintained?
    OK, the bass is walking, playing quarter notes.
    The drummer is playing a rhythmic pattern on the ride cymbal and two and four on the high hat. Cool! But does it swing?
    A grooving swing feel must embrace two seemingly contradictory impulses. It must create a feeling of constant forward motion, moving ahead into the future, while being completely relaxed and slightly laid back. The forward motion is partly achieved by the architecture of the walking bass line. Properly crafted, it carries us measure to measure, chord to chord, and delineates the form.
    The real secret to a swing groove is to feel the quarter note pulse as an entity occupying space within time. That is, each beat having a beginning, middle, and end, an area of time that surrounds a point (the exact center of the beat).
    Musicians will refer to in front of, or ahead of, the middle or behind the beat, or back of the beat. Different styles of modern music emphasize different parts of the beat. Swing lives in the middle to back of the beat. A phat swing groove cannot ever be achieved playing on the front of the beat. A great analogy is "push the beat/pull the beat". If you wait until the beat is half or more completed then you "push" it as you play. If you "pull" you are grabbing the front of the beat, pulling it into place.
    In my experience, most players pull on the beat. It is as if they cannot trust themselves to nail the middle of the beat, and are so afraid of missing it they must jump ahead and help the beat come into being. This is why most players, when they have tempo problems, speed up. (Those that slow down end up being culled from the herd very quickly, but the "rushers" hang on, because it is not as mortal a sin).
    So, to really swing, you must be patient and relaxed, allow the beat to occur in it's natural time, then KICK IT'S ASS! Play each note with conviction, gusto and intregrity! Once you decide where it is, be relentless! When you see the booties swaying and hear the fingers snapping, you'll know.
    A caveat: this approach only works with a like-minded drummer. The cats who pull outnumber those who push. Understanding and feeling the different parts of the beat can help you adjust to different drummers time feels, and effect a happy compromise that can still swing, still Groove.
  15. moped10


    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Here's MY suggestion- Take a break from listening to all these guys philosophise/theorise/wax poetic and play along with a Motown box set- Grooving requires action more than blah blah blah;)
  16. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I'll pass, thank you.
    I'll also employ all the moderator skills I possess and not comment further.
  17. moped10


    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Motown bass lines not groovy enough for you Don? You have to admit, you truly groove when you don't have to think about it-
  18. I am finding all these comments and suggestions very helpful. When you hear the compliment that "The bass and drummer are really locked in together" or "The band's really locked in", I suppose that is what you are defining as a "good groove".

    But Fred W's comments made me think of another question: The bassist has to be able to have a really good, constant groove, but also to have a good swing, I have heard some jazz musicians comment that the beat needs to be not always even, but varied. I wish Ray Drummond, who's such a great groover and great swinger, would try to explain this further. I heard that he feels some younger bassists do not have such great swing, because they play too evenly. What do you folks think on this point?
  19. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I bet that, if he was properly quoted, he was talking about how players approach the dotting of the eighth at different tempos. The comment may have been along the lines of, "Some peoples' time doesn't bounce enough so I don't think it swings" or some such.

    Next time somebody complains that my beat is too steady I'll let you know.
  20. Great thread!

    No Drummer? No problem!

    AS THE timekeeper in a bluegrass band I can commit a host of sins and get away with only a questioning look from one member or the other, wrong note, wrong walk up/ down, etc. But let me miss the beat and the whole group sort of glares.

    Kinda powerful in a sick way. ;)

    OK, I get glared at more than I care too admit. :oops:

    Blessings all


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