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How to develop a SOLID groove on a Bass Guitar

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: