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Alright, if you haven’t yet listened to the links I put in yesterday’s post, then do that first before reading this. Hopefully you enjoyed the tracks and were able to appreciate how effective they each are in establishing a feeling within you as the listener. Sometimes the feelings are emotional (the deep sorrow in Barber’s Adagio), and sometimes the feelings are physical (the “pump-up” quality of the Foo Fighter’s All My Life).
So I’ll pick up where I left off and again state my thesis: music operates/exists primarily in the “feelings” realm. I want to suggest that we as drummers/musicians, in light of my thesis, only use the term “feel” to describe the way different grooves (patterns) evoke emotional/physical feelings within listeners… even within ourselves as we listen to our own playing. Synonyms for the way I’m defining “feel” would then be words like vibe or atmosphere. This allows us as musicians to view the notes that we play as sources of feelings for other people, and to talk about them as such. In that case, we wouldn’t use the term to describe someone’s pocket or groove, even though those usages are very common. However, “feel” would be helpful in describing the differences between various genres and sub-genres in music, because those differences often exist most obviously in the realm of vibe/atmosphere.
“I love the feel of East Indian music.”
“Wow, what you are doing in that chorus has a really great feel.”
“This producer always creates songs that feel exactly like the lyrical content.”
“The direction we are going with this particular track feels really strange”
Examples of mis-use:
“Man, listen to that drummer’s feel!” (not so good)
“Man, listen to that drummer’s pocket!” (better)
“I love all the different feels that latin percussionists use.” (not so good)
“I love all the different grooves that latin percussionists use.” (better)
The point is, I want the term “feel” to reference the emotional landscape of a song/groove, and thereby remind myself of the reality that music always deals with listeners in the currency of feelings. And when I’m not talking about feelings, I’ll use a different word.
I really can’t understate the importance of viewing/understanding/talking about music on the feelings level, because it helps us approach music on the ground level. That’s why I love using the word in this way! I’m sure I’ll write more on the world of musical emotions in a future post sometime, because it’s totally dominating my thought process on music these days.
Next up in the terminology series is one of my favorite words in the musical dictionary. Understanding the way musicians use the word “feel” is a SUPER important aspect to being a successful instrumentalist, because the whole art form arguably hangs on this issue.
I’ll start by positioning the discussion around emotions, and the way the broader culture uses the word “feelings.” When I watch a sad movie, I “feel” sad. When I go on vacation, I “feel” relaxed. When someone upsets me with a hurtful word or act, my “feelings” get hurt. The mental pictures/experiences that come to mind when one thinks about the examples I just referenced are why I LOVE the way the word “feel” is used in the music world.
My thesis is this: I believe music exists primarily in the realm of feel and feelings. Rage Against the Machine vs Moby, Joss Stone vs The Beatles, Common vs Vince Guaraldi… if you’re familiar with these artists then these comparisons all display a sharp contrast in how the music makes you feel.
In fact, I’m deciding right now to cut this post short and finish it up tomorrow in order to give you some homework for today. To make sure we are all on the same page on the way I’m associating sad/happy/angry/calm feelings with music, I’m going to continue with the comparisons. I want you to:
1. Listen to this and think about how it makes you feel, both physically and emotionally. Also think about which points in the experience made you feel it most and least.
2. Listen to this and reflect on it in the same way. In fact, you might want to not even watch the video on this one, so you aren’t influenced by the visual, though that is an important part of being a performer. For now I’m just wanting you to identify feelings that purely music evokes.
4. Lastly, see what kind of feelings hit you while listening to this.
…and then check back tomorrow for the rest of the post…
Now, the point again is to get specific definitions for specific words. Drummers use the word “groove,” (as well as beat/pocket) all the time, except often with very different (even interchangeable) intentions and meanings. As a drum teacher, I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s maybe not very helpful to my students when I use all these different words in an indiscriminate way. Enter the Terminology Series, where I’m doing my best to nail down terms and definitions once and for all. I certainly don’t claim to be “right” about these definitions, so please come back at me with disagreements or clarifications that you think I should consider.
So… “groove”… what is it? I definitely use the term a lot when what I really mean is how I’ve already defined “pocket.” The word “feel” can also be swapped out for “groove” in many instances. However, I’m deciding to lock the term down in my own speech as a synonym for “pattern.” I suppose, if it’s a synonym, then I should just use “pattern” and be done with it, but I like groove better because it implies musicality and physical influence. Calling a particular groove a “pattern” just sounds too stiff and mechanical to me.
“What groove are you playing there?”
“I’m having trouble learning this groove for the gig on saturday.”
“The best way to learn linear funk lines is to transcribe a bunch of David Garibaldi grooves.”
There it is. Pretty simple and straight-forward. Everybody knows what a pattern is, so what I’m getting at should be clear. But I’m dropping “pattern” from my vocab in favor of “groove,” and the benefit is having the overtone of actual MUSIC behind the word instead of just math. Anybody have any thoughts?
Terminology Series review:
Beat = a count in the measure, like “beat 1” or the “e of 3.”
Pocket = an ability to assess and perform a groove consistently
Groove = a pattern of notes on the drumset