Nov 25th, 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 

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