I believe we all need more groove consciousness. Goove is good. Groove is groovy.
What is a groove and why does it make us happy, why does it make us want to dance?
To me, a groove is an energetic wave of music that picks me up and takes me with it. Its a drum pattern or rhythm arrangement that sucks me in and moves and pushes me. It makes me want to dance and move. Its not mental. I don’t have to think about it. It just happens.
Grooves (in music or drumming) are made from simple patterns that always, 100% of the time include SPACE..air, breathing room..and at least and equal balance of space to sound. With out the space there is no groove. With out the groove you only have noise. So many of us know how to make sounds, how to make drum rolls and repeat phrases but do we know how to make or leave space?
Leaving space is surrendering, its the yin energy as opposed to the yang energy of making, producing (notes) and achieving. Good music, good drumming is a balnce of both space and notes. Of yin and yang if you will.
Let me give you an example please. If we walk into a completely empty room, most of us are going to have a feeling of wanting to put something in that room. No one likes to hang out in a completely empty room. Maybe we want to put furniture in there. Perhaps a painting on the wall, a place to sit or eat. But most of us are not going to want to fill the room with all of our belongings, with so much stuff that we can not move or breath.
Most of us are not thinking, “this is great, I can put every item i have in this room and everyone else’s until we can not even see”!
For many of us when we are playing music, especially drumming music, drum jams or drum circles there is always a tendency for us to try to fill every possible space. Most of us hand drummers over play.
Think about funk music in the 60’s and 70’s. It was (and still is) so beautiful because it was minimalistic. James brown? Simple grooves with space. It was groovy, filled with grooves. It was about what you didn’t play just as much as what you did play. Something is played and it is framed by the space. If there is no space there is no frame, there is no definition..
I have been going to many drum circles recently. And I am enjoying them. I see the positive attributes. And I see many of the people actually trying to play together. In South Florida there are many people bringing in traditional patterns and integrating them into the drum circles. Exposing people and ending the tendency towards monotony or playing the same thing all night. I am very happy and excited about this!
The worlds of traditional and drum circles are indeed effecting each other and its a beautiful thing. Also, there are many, many more people who can hit the drum now and make correct sounds. But many people have stopped their studies too early. There is much more to learn! I also see that at many of the drum circles some of the better players playing there are trying to fill every possible space at all times.
In my opinion there is also, too much competition under the guise of playing off of each other. Some people have learned only enough to fool around at the drum circle. They have not learned the dynamics of how to play together in harmony which are more important then how to solo or play long rolls.
I ask you this. Why can’t drummers at drum circles give others space or do i dare say, take turns and allow others to solo one at a time? To take turns. Kindergarden, sand box, share?
I read the following on Jasons Djembe’s page on Facebook:
“Respect everyone else’s musical space.
The easiest way to kill a vibe is by jumping in and adding your two cents too soon, while someone else is still trying to build something. Just let things happen”.
Sometimes we think we are being more creative by adding more. Over playing. We come from a “more is better” lifestyle. More notes is better. Some folks can’t play a simple part, and they just want to move about the whole time experimenting and fishing around. They think they are being creative but they are not in the groove, they are not in the pocket.
And of course, everyone wants to solo,solo solo. Even when they are not soloing they want to move their parts around. They want to add, add, add. They think they are being creative.
If you have experienced any of what i am talking about. If you have experienced feeling the groove, deep in your gut, the power of funk music, of funky drumming of a master drummer, of a professional drum ensemble then you will understand what i am saying. Playing a million notes is not playing a groove. Filling every possible space is not harmonious.
Often times players simply don’t want to hold basic accompaniment parts for others at a drum jam or even in a class. They feel it is not fun.
If you are not having fun playing a simple part or holding a basic accompaniment part its because you do not have the groove. You are not in the pocket. You are in your head. If you play your part correctly then it is in the groove and pocket then you don’t need to be soloing to feel creative. You can and should have just as much fun playing an accompaniment part as soloing.
If you are hitting it right. If you are coming from the correct space, not an ego space a “we place” not a “me place” then you will see, you will feel the groove and understand that playing an accompaniment part on a djembe is playing a groove.
Playing, expressing and soloing at the same time as others simply does not work. It does not sound good it does not feel good. it’s too much furniture in the room. Its the baggage piled to the top and no place to breath. If it worked, if it was musical it if was groovy, then there would be recordings and videos of this to experience. There are none.
The only time everyone playing whatever they want at the same time sounds good is if you are not listening to anyone else and only listening to yourself.
I notice when I am soloing at almost every drum circle some of the other drummers start to solo at the same time. When I stop they stop. When i ask them why they say they are playing off of me. They are not playing off me. I know the feeling when you hear something and you want to respond. However, there are only so many notes that can be crammed into the music room.
Now before you jump in and trash drum circles.. or defend them please realize that this article is meant not to demean drum circles. It is about how to make them and really any jam or drum session better. Please hear this! Lets listen to others and not use the drum circle, jam session or even playing on stage as a way to get lost in our own separate world. Include others. Drumming is about bringing people together and that means listening to to others as well as “doing your own thing”.
Drum Circles are not going to go away, and as drummers we have choices we can make to make them better. As I have said, I see a lot of improvement in the drum scene here in Florida and this can happen else where too. With a little sharing, patience, positive energy and open-mindedness (on both sides) this will continue to happen, and there will not even need to be “sides”. ‘Cause it’s all about the groove!