The Importance of Groove
Groove is a concept of music that becomes very intuitive to experienced musicians, yet is somewhat difficult to completely describe. Basically, every view of what a groove actually is boils down to the rhythmic feel of a song. Some musicians also refer to this as being in the pocket of the song because it is vital to be completely in rhythm to get a groove going.
How to Groove
Getting a Groove Going: It is hard to categorize what a good groove is because each genre has its own views as to what the groove should be like, in addition, even from one bassist to the next in the same genre, a groove can be very different. Generally, a good rhythm section can keep the same general rhythmic feel to the song, even if they have a few different actual parts.
Most songs with grooves based around straight eighth notes won’t usually switch to triplet notes partway through the song, because that can end up being rather jarring. However, a sixteenth note gallop bass line might be able to drop back to quarter notes, half notes, or whole notes to give a slower groove for part of the song without the same jarring feel because those types of notes can still highlight the main accents behind a gallop line. On top of that, a good groove can completely violate that as long as it sounds good, so this is merely a rule of thumb.
Developing a Sense of Timing
As someone learn to play bass guitar, the most vital thing they can learn is developing a sense of timing. Without a good sense of timing, there really is no way to create a good groove. A bassist with a good sense of timing can create a far better groove with three notes and basic fingerstyle plucking than a bassist with no sense of timing, but lots of two-handed tapping, slap-pop, progressive scales, and other virtuoso techniques. Groove is a rhythmic concept, so it is only natural that playing in time is vital to developing a groove.
One misconception many people have is that rhythm is an inborn skill, which is not the case. A person develops a sense of rhythm by practice, and while some people might have an inherently easier time developing a sense of rhythm, it is quite unusual for a person to be completely incapable of developing one. A bassist that takes a little time each day to practice with a metronome will eventually develop such a good sense of rhythm that it will become second nature to them.
How to Practice with a Metronome
At the most basic level, there are a few rhythmic patterns that every bassist should start to develop using a metronome. First, focus on the bigger, slower intervals such as whole notes (one note every 4 metronome beats), half notes (every 2 beats), and quarter notes (every beat). With those down, a bassist should focus primarily on eighth notes (2 notes per beat), triplets (3 notes per beat), and sixteenth notes (4 notes per beat).
Even if the particular genre of music a bassist plays doesn’t use them, it is still a good idea to have these intervals down perfectly. It is very important that each of these notes are identical to one another, and that some notes aren’t a little longer than others. It is also important to use the metronome when working on bass guitar lessons, to make sure you are properly timing those exercises as well.
Eventually rhythm will become second nature, but until then using the metronome is vital to ensuring the proper timing needed to lay down a good groove.