Updated: Oct 24, 2022
What does it mean to "groove" on a musical instrument? It's very loosely used and sometimes a quite subjective term used by musicians and even fans! We say things like, "Check out that awesome song! It's so groovy!" The best players out there are known for having tight, well-focused playing styles.
In this blog, we plan to demystify the word groove and break it down into its mathematical fragments where Dividing the Beat, Understanding the Time Grid and Knowledge of the Pulse is at its core. Let's start by taking 4 musical notes, E F# G A (for example) which are part of the E minor scale (minor is awesome for the funky stuff!), and playing them at quarter notes (right on the pulse).
While playing this, we focus on all the important beat divisions systems we know of - Quavers, Eight note triplets & Semiquavers
You can use:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & to count Quavers/Eight Notes
1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a to count Triplets
1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 3 & a to count Semiquavers/Sixteenth Notes
Our South-Indian rhythm language, Konnakol also has catchy and easy to sing phrases that can help with beat division
Tha : Pulse
Tha-ka : Divide by 2
Tha-ki-ta : Divide by 3
Tha-ka-dhi-mi : Divide by 4
Once you have been able to count while playing these notes on your instrument, then you've set up your GRID strongly in your mind. This allows you to access any of the divisions which you seek to play.
The first thing for you to do is play the notes in a repeated fashion on every subdivision. This is a good start for us to build on!
Let's focus our attention on Eight Notes (Quavers). There are 4 primary beats (1,2,3,4) and 4 sub-beats (&). We could displace beats by placing them either before or after the down beat (pulse). For example, the note F# played at the 2 of the bar can be moved later to the 2&. of the note A played at the 4 of the bar can be "anticipated" to the 3& of the bar.
Apply this same principle to Triplets and Semiquavers and you get a whole lot of rhythmic phrases. A few Eighth note options are notated for your reference:
You've now created a host of possibilities for groove creation and it almost feels that we have "more" time, although that is not scientifically true! In between the beats, we can also squeeze in our favorite ghost notes and try to imagine that you are jamming
along with an "imaginary" drummer friend. As all bassists do, we need them Drums!
Please watch our lessons which teach you a "hit-selling" Bass groove from Urvasi by AR Rahman.
In this part, we focus on the positions and techniques on a bass guitar, a good sense of time goes far in making a bassist stand out in a crowd.
In the second part, we focus on Groove and Working on our timing as well as deconstructing it so that you know exactly where to land your notes.
Urvasi was the first song to be composed for the soundtrack of the 1994 film Kadhalan. Here's a video of the bass player Keith Peters, also dubbed the Boss of the Bass, doing what he does best:
You can watch our video lesson here
At Nathaniel, we have an active bass program as part of our 6-month semester, Music Method. This course teaches you the techniques of playing the Bass, right-hand engine-like control along with left-hand dexterity. Fretboard geography is covered in great detail and focuses on Intervals, Scales, and Chords. We strongly focus on rhythm fundamentals and develop your Music Theory and Ear Training over a structured curriculum. You can consider learning online (virtual) or even offline (Bangalore). Learn more from expert faculty at Nathaniel School of Music, by signing up for our courses here
You can download the handwritten notes to this lesson on our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/posts/how-to-groove-on-73455073