Updated on March 3rd, 2018
Before we jump in to the 5 tips to improve your groove we will define what a drummers groove actually is first. ‘Pocket Drumming’ is what we nearly always refer to when we talk about a drummers groove.
‘Pocket Drumming’ is setting up a beat that is very strong and compelling. This very strong and compelling beat should have such a solid tempo that it becomes a ‘Comfortable Pocket’ for the band to play to.
The aim of a solid drummers groove is to lay down a beat with steady and perfect technique, with few fills or frills. The drummers groove should drive the music on. Now that we have defined the drummers groove lets look at our 5 tips to improve your groove.
Tip #1 Use a metronome while practicing
Timing, timing, timing. It’s all about timing when you are trying to lay down a steady groove. The key here is to stay in the pocket, and this can only be achieved by perfect timing. And old musicians joke goes something like this:
“One man asks the other man, how do you know when a drummer’s knocking at your door?”, “The knocking gets faster”.
Although this is intended as a joke there is some truth behind it. This often goes for new drummers. When they first join a band they tend to get excited, which leads them to increasing tempo while playing a song.
This can be killing for the other band members and totally ruin a song, or even the bands’ vibe. To avoid this start practicing with a metronome, it will help you become skilled at maintaining tempo.
Tip #2 Play in front or behind of the beat
What really gets your groove going is playing a drum note just before or after the true beat. It creates a groovy sound and feel. However, this technique is extremely hard to master.
Playing a drum note off beat can cause the drummer to entirely get off beat when he or she fails to recover the true beat. To master this technique always practice with a metronome so that you can easily recover true beat. Mastering this technique will take you a lot of time but it’s worthwhile, we guarantee!
Tip #3 Don’t overdo it
Pocket drumming is all about creating a beat that drives the music, that being said when you are pocket drumming it’s not your task to add o the music. Your task here is to provide the band with a steady groovy beat to play along to.
The groove you create is enough, your fills and frills should be kept small. A great way to make you look skilled is by mastering tip #2. When you master the groove you will surely be recognized as a skilled musician.
Tip #4 Chill-out and ride the groove
When you master the right techniques to lay down a good groovy beat for the band to play along to. All you have to do next is take your mind away from the technique and learn to relax and chill-out while playing the groove.
You should now aim on experiencing (feeling) the groove you create and learn to ride it. When you master this along with technique you are surely to be a great groove drummer.
Tip #5 Listen to amazing groove drummers
Another great way to get inspired and improve your groove is to listen to amazing drummers that have mastered their grooves. To get you going here is a list of great groove drummers: Questlove, Kenny Aronof, Hal Blaine, Matt Chamberlain, Steve Gadd, Jim Gordon, Roger Hawkins, Gerald Heyward, Al Jackson Junior, Jim Keltner, Zigaboo Modeliste, Andy Newmark, Jeff Procaro, Bernard Purdie, Ringo Starr and last but not least Clyde Stubblefield A.K.A. Jabo Starks.
Now that you know the definition of pocket drumming or groove playing we suggest you get started with these 5 tips and try to get your groove on. Don’t be fooled into thinking that groove drumming is simple just because there is no room for flashy fills. Getting your groove on is one of the most difficult things there is to drumming. So good luck with mastering this technique and feel!