maandag 25 november 2013

In the groove?!

In rhythmical (vocal) music, musicians often talk about this thing called 'groove'. And I've been asked for some explanation about this topic many times. Because most of the times, we talk about groove as if it's something that's just 'there', but a lot of people don't really know how to discribe it. I'm gonna give it a try! 

First, if we say that a certain song has a 'groove', we imply that the song has some sort of rhytmical feel. Let's say that in the music genre we (or at least I) work, almost every song has a groove. By which I mean; you can hear an ongoing rhythmical feel. I think that's what makes our genre ours. Even though I hate putting music into boxes, most classical music has no groove, while pop, jazz, folk and other styles we sing often have. So that's why I think 'rhytmical music' kind of explains the pile of genres we all like to sing together. You might also say 'non-classical music', but that doesn't sound really nice, does it? But to be honest, we are still waiting for someone to come up with the perfect name for our type of music...

The groove. When I was a student in Holland, I was explained that the groove of a song is the combination of the rhythm and bassline. It's what makes a song recognisable for us. I you put on a song like 'I want you back-Jackson 5', 'I wish-Stevie Wonder' or 'Thriller-Michael Jackson', of course everyone instantly links the groove to the song. But to be honest, maybe groove should be just about rhythm, and not so much about tones...

Therefore I have another discription of what makes the 'groove'. It consists of three components. The first one is the pulse/tempo. It should be steady and (alsmost) the same every time you play a certain song. the second on is subdivisions. If you have a song with a rhythmical feel, let's say 4 beats per bar, there will be different types of notes in one bar. If you find the shortest one (for example an 8th note or a 16th note) you're able to fill up the whole bar with these notes. So now every beat has 2/4 subdivisions, possibly going very fast. The third one is accents. Once you feel that the pulse/tempo is steady and every beat has subdivisions, it's time to make the groove! Within all of the subdivisions, there are accents. Once you are able to sing the accents while you internally still feel all of the other subdivisions, you are able to 'get into the groove'! 

And then, to make it even more complex, there's also a thing called 'timing'. If you want a song to be laid back or 'stuwend', as we say in Dutch, (like pushing or in front), you must implement this timing into the subdivisions feel. There's for example also a difference between heavy swing and light swing and this is also shown in the 'groove'...

I'm looking forward to hearing what you think! 
Hug, Merel 

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Sounds about right :) I might be able to elaborate on your description. From my experience with some recording software, in which you have the option to derive the inherent "groove" from a certain drum loop (in order
    to use it as a framework onto which you can quantize the rest of your midi parts and samples), i came across something that might add to your description of timing; A lot of drummers (which i wanted to sample) seemed to make use of an alternating timing throughout a certain number of bars (usually one or two). They could, for instance, time "the one" normally, push the second and the third beat and then lay back on the fourth (or something). They do this on different levels of division. You can find these tricks in many dancetracks as well and they can have very unexpected and interesting results. Since i first learned about this it has been my interpretation of the word groove. If you look deep enough in many of todays hiphop and R&B beats i think you'll find it. And i think classical music has groove just like any other form of music because the way i see it it comes inherently with rhythms being played by real people as apposed to computers. You see i think it's in the imperfections. (I've always regarded randomness as a goldmine but that's besides the point) A lot of drum machines initially don't have groove until you programe it in. Another, less controlled and less effective way of doing this is by "Humanising" your rhythms which basically means you ad imperfections / randomness. This livens up the beat and gives it groove. This is the reason why the 808 drum machine became so popular in the first electronic dance music. It generated its sounds realtime, i think with the help of noise generators going through filters and dynamic effects. Using this method resulted in small imperfections which gave it groove and made it feel lively in comparison to most other drum machines. I hope this helps. BTW, Love your blogs! See you tomorrow ;)

    1. A very specific groove: