If you find yourself in a position with your bass in hand where you are wondering, “How do I groove?” or “How do I get a better feel when I play?” and the first resource you turn to is a book on how to groove, I encourage you to read this post before you open that book.
How to groove on bass guitar and generally the concept of groove is a more discussed concept and disputed topic in the world of bass guitar and drums than perhaps any other instrument. Not to say that it isn’t something that is brought up among guitar players or even saxophone players, but with regards to bass and drums, groove is the instrument. Having a tight, well focused feel to your playing is a hallmark among the best players out there.
But interestingly, bass players starting out think of groove as a thing or a formula that needs to be memorized and can be repeated and once it’s found – that it! – it’s found. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as I’ll touch on in this article. Groove can’t be found in a book. Groove simply is and you and the people you happen to be playing for will let you know if you’re music has a soul and has a feel to it.
^ NOT How to Find a Groove! ^
If I Can’t Get Groove From A Book – How Do I Get It?
There are no shortcuts. You need to play. And you need to listen.
Now, I can already hear you shouting at the screen that you have been playing and you have been listening to music – and I am by no means going to call you a liar – but ask yourself this:
How did Clyde Stubbelfield get his funky feel behind the drums?
How did James Jamerson develop the feel to play the lines he did with the Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye?
How did John Entwistle learn to play how he did with such power and feel?
Bear in mind: bass and drums in the context in history that they were being played in were relatively NEW! There weren’t many experts and books and analyses like there are today. There weren’t a whole lot of musical precedents at that time.
Those players mentioned above PLAYED A LOT and LISTENED A LOT and from taking those two concepts and then going out to play with other musicians did they learn to apply what they played on their own, listened to on their own and made it work for them. They didn’t read about how to groove – they played. A lot.
Good News, Everyone! You Too Can Play and Listen A Lot!
I don’t want to conclude this piece without giving you some kind of a point in the direction. Here is my take: if you’re trying to develop your groove
1. in silence, i.e. there are no other musical interactions around you
2. to a metronome or
3. to a book, then none of these tools set you up to groove in the first place.
Playing by yourself CAN, depending on how you do it (I’ll cover that more in a later date).
But for now, consider something with a bit more structure like some backing tracks, built with a funky drum set or some kind of groove already built into the track. If what is playing around you is funky and moves, then all you need to do it plug yourself in. The musical work, in essence, is being done for you and all you need to do it listen to what’s going on and play something.
I recently finished up a series of drums for bass players to play along to. You can get 10 of these tracks free here.
Time to put some groove in your Thursday! Here’s drummer Bernard Purdie doing what he does best: making tight grooves.