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#2786177 - 06/20/16 12:57 PM Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing!
Jeff Berlin Offline
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Registered: 11/08/15
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Hi to all Bass Players. If you are interested in something that I feel might be important to you, read this and good luck with how this post affects your views about groove.

My pointing out deficiencies in how the electric bass is taught is done on the behalf of bass players who trust methods of teaching that have not been looked at correctly.

Bass players, students and teachers worldwide feel that groove and time are more important than playing the right notes which makes the learning of music less of a priority than playing in time. Bass teachers state that nothing is more important than a groove, a point that I heard stated on a couple of bass websites just the other day.

But this is a false principle of both learning and playing that can be proven here and now because no matter how one feels about this, it is hard to argue with the math.

In playing, groove or feel isn't the first thing to look for. It is the last!

Here is why!

The order of practicing or playing anything whatsoever on your bass requires you to first know what the notes are. You can't groove if you don't have something to groove with. So, if you want to get technical, in music, the notes are actually first in order of priority.

Next, after choosing the notes to be played, you need to know where the notes are located on the bass neck.

Next, you need to play those identified notes in between the correct frets on your bass neck using two hands to play the notes correctly.

Only after all this is done can someone find a good feel, a groove to perform those notes.

Notes are the first regard when playing bass. This is obvious when you realize that it is impossible to groove with nothing. In bass performance, groove is not the priority because in a musical performance there is no priority. Groove is a part of a whole, a shared ingredient of a quality performance of notes and feel. It is a false belief that nothing is as important in bass playing than having a groove. It is a philosophy hardwired into the belief system of bass players and educators all over the world that has compromised both the learning and the performing of bass. Bass teachers got things backwards by not understanding that musical pitch came first before the feel could be attended to. This oversight by bass instructors literally stopped bass students and self taught players from growing correctly as musically competent players because the proper order of both playing and practicing was reversed. Groove only takes place and can only exist in one's performance after one first learns the right notes to play.

Next, no one loses the feel or groove by seeking the correct notes to play because everyone, knowingly or not, have already first learned the notes and where they are located on the bass neck before one plays a bass line. Players involved in a performance don't look for the right notes while playing because they already know what they are. Everyone first learns what the right notes are in order to have something to play and subsequently to groove with.

Finally, I've always been puzzled why bass players put such importance on groove or feel, performance elements that are no more or less important than the other elements that constitutes a good bass performance. As with vitamins or a well functioning automobile, the whole is what makes things work.

Cheers and thank you for reading this!


Edited by Jeff Berlin (06/20/16 01:00 PM)

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#2786277 - 06/21/16 03:58 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Jeff Berlin]
Flemtone Offline
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I absolutely agree about learning the note positions, best-balanced hand position, etc for your particular key or line, but these should be rudimentary, aka 'well of course you need to know that first' kind of thing.

As an example, a dancer needs to be able to find a 'groove', no matter if ballet, swing, ballroom, jazz, square-dance, whatever. However, back in the very beginning of their lives, they needed to learn how to walk. After that came running, then skipping, then swaying - but they would never be more than technical dancers unless they had 'groove' to commune with the rhythm, the tempo, the other performers, the absolute emotion of the piece. I believe that's what bass teachers are referring to when they speak of 'groove'. Of course, many may just be saying that because that's the lexicon of bass - be 'in the groove', be 'in the pocket', without knowing what that really means. There are bad teachers all over the place.

Personally, I don't believe that 'groove' can be taught. I believe it resides within certain people and not within others. Pretty much everybody has a talent that will come to the forefront at some point in their lives. Some are funny, some are smart, some are intuitive, some are artistic, some are empathic...some have groove. Most have a combination of several of these qualities (and many more) but may be lacking in several as well. We all know the person who just isn't funny, and we all know the person who can make milk come out of our noses just by looking at us. We, as musicians who notice things like this, have heard players who are technically proficient, but who just don't 'feel' the music. It's not something you can put your finger on, it's just 'off'. It doesn't move you - it doesn't invite you into the groove as well.

That's what I believe 'groove' is - an ability to invite your audience to be just as wrapped up in the 'feel' of the music as the player(s) are. Certainly you need to know the notes, but anyone can learn those. You also need to invite your listeners into your head so they can appreciate the music as much as you do.

I'm a very simple player. I'm not all over the neck, bouncing here and there. I play for the groove of the music we perform. I still learn other styles, other tempos, other note combinations, but I don't drag them all out every time I play and flog my neck to show everyone how technically adept I am (which is 'not so much'). I play 'for the song' and, since the drummer and I have been playing together for 42 years (and with the guitarists for slightly less time), we have a great rapport to know what's coming up from each other. We invite the audience to share that same mindset and to be a part of our journeys. They appreciate it, we love doing it - everybody gets something from the experience. We all hit 'the groove' together...and it's magical.
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#2786410 - 06/21/16 08:19 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Flemtone]
Jeff Berlin Offline
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Registered: 11/08/15
Posts: 53
Groove is nothing unique, but rather a part of the several important elements of playing. If one element is missing then the performance is compromised. Groove isn't special! It is a part of several things that when combined, makes a performance unique, groove being among the noticeable parts! I've never understood why so many bass players regard it as something special beyond any other element that is a part of a decent musical performance.

But one point I would contest is any involvement of including an audience into how one decides to play. If you look at most top bass players when they are doing their thing, their focus is on their instrument and inward. A show is a different story as the music is worked out for the purpose of entertainment for the most part. The audience knows what is coming in most cases. But if you look at most videos during, say, a bass solo, nearly 100% of everyone that plays will be looking at their bass as they search for their musical core. In a bass performance, acknowledging the audience is a positive thing, but has no benefit in how one plays.

Cheers and thanks!


Edited by Jeff Berlin (06/21/16 08:27 PM)

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#2786443 - 06/22/16 05:58 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Jeff Berlin]
Paul K Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin
...snip snip...

Only after all this is done can someone find a good feel, a groove to perform those notes.
...snip snip....


Of course. But is it really a "thing" where teachers are teaching groove before notes? To me, this meme of "Groove Uber Alles" has always been intended to be directed at those of us who are already moderately technically proficient but still kinda suck....we play the right notes but we got the wrong song. It's a way to express that we've got to take off the blinders and open up our ears to find a way for the technically proficient notes to blend with the rest of what's going on. I've never heard that meme directed at the beginner.

Certainly, I'd expect a teacher/mentor/whatever to expose their charges to the concept of groove from the beginning....and have groove be considered one of the major goals. You know, for some inspiration.

Revisit: in my circles, that meme has really just been a way for someone to say, "Hey. You're playing too many notes. Leave some space. Play only the notes that actually add something...Goddamn groove killer, you are."

So. Not a good name for a band: "The Groove Killers"


Edited by Paul K (06/22/16 06:14 AM)
Edit Reason: I don't need permission Make my own decisions (Oh) That's my prerogative
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#2786817 - 06/23/16 06:20 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Jeff Berlin]
Bottom End Offline
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Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin
...Groove isn't special! It is a part of several things that when combined, makes a performance unique, groove being among the noticeable parts! I've never understood why so many bass players regard it as something special beyond any other element that is a part of a decent musical performance.
well, I've heard it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. The groove takes the bass player (and drummer) beyond a performance the audience watches or hears, and turns it into something that pulls the audience into as a participant.

Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin
But one point I would contest is any involvement of including an audience into how one decides to play. If you look at most top bass players when they are doing their thing, their focus is on their instrument and inward. A show is a different story as the music is worked out for the purpose of entertainment for the most part. The audience knows what is coming in most cases. But if you look at most videos during, say, a bass solo, nearly 100% of everyone that plays will be looking at their bass as they search for their musical core. In a bass performance, acknowledging the audience is a positive thing, but has no benefit in how one plays.
If a camera was put on the audience during the bass solo, the scene would be one of people going to the bathroom, getting another drink, or checking their email or Facebook, except for the three or four musos in front watching and trying to figure out what the guy is playing.

I am not very proficient a player, but I agree that the more a musician knows about music, the more a musician can do. There are bass players who do incredible things as part of a song, or as a solo, that amaze me, it's like magic because I don't even know the framework these players are building off of, yet once I learn a bass part, I realize why the player chose the notes he did, and I appreciate the technical perfection and the vocabulary, if you will, of the performer.

A good groove is like having a conversation with the listener, a groove says, "Hey i want you all to listen with me and we'll check this out together" versus a technically perfect solo is more like a speech, "Hey, everyone, listen to me!" Even so, the best speeches are the ones that have something to say, and draw the listener in to hear everything fully.



Edited by Bottom End (06/24/16 02:51 AM)
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#2788916 - 07/05/16 08:52 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Bottom End]
Jeff Berlin Offline
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Registered: 11/08/15
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Hi Bottom End. I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

The issue is learn vs playing. Groove tends to be the result of first having learned well how to play. The problem that I see is that bass players aim toward performing before they know how to actually play the bass. This seems a conflict in priority because before a bass player can draw anyone in, they have to know what they are doing on their instrument.

Most people have good time. If you view hand clapping worshippers in church or people dancing and clapping the Chicken Dance, they seem to do it together because of the human sense of time that allows for common beats to be felt.

Your not being a proficient player is why you may have problems playing grooves well. It is a sign that one needs to learn how to play better if they DON'T exhibit a good groove sense. Most of the the bass players that we admire all can groove in their particular styles and acquired this skill once they became experienced in both musical styles and instrument.

The problem that I see is that almost all bass players haven't looked at playing in its proper order. Groove is last in the order because it is a compensation for work having been done first. It has always been this way in playing the bass but ironically barely anyones seems aware of this. Once one learns their instrument better, their groove will improve because this is actually mandatory if they use the bass how it was meant to be learned and played.

Cheers.


Edited by Jeff Berlin (07/05/16 08:57 AM)

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#2788989 - 07/05/16 05:01 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Jeff Berlin]
Bottom End Offline
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Thanks for your response, Jeff. I understand your point much better now.
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Guitar solos last 30 seconds, the bass line lasts for the whole song.


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#2792260 - 07/23/16 06:27 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Bottom End]
jcadmus Online   content
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To be honest, I'm not sure groove can even be taught.
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#2793771 - 08/01/16 05:45 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: jcadmus]
Nicklab Offline
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Very interesting thoughts, Jeff. Thank you so much for sharing. In the interests of keeping this dialogue positive, what sort of fundamentals would you stress in the aims of bassists learning music? Are there specific pieces you have in mind that you consider valuable exercises?
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#2796202 - 08/14/16 01:16 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Nicklab]
Michele C. Offline
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I was striken by one comment stating "groove cannot be taught".
What is your feeling on this, Jeff? From what you said, I think you disagree.


Edited by Michele C. (08/14/16 01:16 PM)
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#2796229 - 08/14/16 03:37 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Michele C.]
jcadmus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Michele C.
I was striken by one comment stating "groove cannot be taught".
What is your feeling on this, Jeff? From what you said, I think you disagree.


Well to be accurate, I didn't say it definitively cannot be taught -- I said I'm not sure that it can. It's a fine point, but an important one.
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#2796232 - 08/14/16 03:50 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: jcadmus]
Michele C. Offline
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Originally Posted By: jcadmus
Originally Posted By: Michele C.
I was striken by one comment stating "groove cannot be taught".
What is your feeling on this, Jeff? From what you said, I think you disagree.


Well to be accurate, I didn't say it definitively cannot be taught -- I said I'm not sure that it can. It's a fine point, but an important one.


Great point, and I am still more interested in the answer.
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#2799771 - 08/28/16 10:51 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Bottom End]
Groove Mama Offline
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Originally Posted By: Bottom End
A good groove is like having a conversation with the listener, a groove says, "Hey i want you all to listen with me and we'll check this out together" versus a technically perfect solo is more like a speech, "Hey, everyone, listen to me!"


Boy, I couldn't agree with this more if I had said it myself.
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#2810043 - 10/19/16 03:09 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Groove Mama]
Jeff Berlin Offline
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Registered: 11/08/15
Posts: 53
Hi to all. I was away from this page and just noticed that some continued in the discussion of groove asking if I felt that groove can be taught.


I would answer by stating that I don't feel that it needs to be taught. I suppose that it can be demonstrated to students about how to subdivide the notes to acquire a better time feel in their playing. I usually go back into the history of music to see if there is any precedence of methods that bass players use to learn by. What I didn't find was any emphasis on groove in the learning process anywhere. It seems that literally 100% of all well known bass players in their particular styles learned how to groove but did it without instruction. This shows me that groove seems to be that kind of thing that everyone in music tends to figure out without the help of a teacher or a school.


I have always felt that bass education today is not helping bass players to improve, not anywhere where generic music to practice is not taught as an exclusive teaching approach! I admire the desire that teachers have to help bass players to improve. But I see so many errors in methods and philosophies that tend to prevent bassists from improving when paying to learn. In this thinking (and sticking with the subject we are talking about) I would simple say that groove doesn't need much attention in teaching. It seems to be the most overstated and overblown worry of bassists worldwide since bass teachers overstated its importance in the learning and playing process. It might interest people to know that groove is actually the last musical point of importance in the order of musical skills necessary to become a good bass player. I can prove this if anyone is interested.


Your thoughts will be welcome. Cheers from Jeff


Edited by Jeff Berlin (10/19/16 03:17 PM)

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#2810102 - 10/19/16 09:35 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Jeff Berlin]
jeremy c Offline
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Could you tell us what we shouldn't teach and what we should?

I give my students tons of music theory. I teach them how to read notes and rhythms. I make sure that they know how to play every kind of chord. I teach them how to play walking bass by using chord notes and connecting notes. I teach them efficient ways to use their left and right hand fingers. A reasonable number of my former students are now professional musicians.
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#2810105 - 10/19/16 09:52 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: jeremy c]
Jeff Berlin Offline
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Registered: 11/08/15
Posts: 53
It seems that you are doing things correctly. Music is the only proven item that guarantees students to improve.

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#2810133 - 10/20/16 06:11 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: jeremy c]
jcadmus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: jeremy c
Could you tell us what we shouldn't teach and what we should?

I give my students tons of music theory. I teach them how to read notes and rhythms. I make sure that they know how to play every kind of chord. I teach them how to play walking bass by using chord notes and connecting notes. I teach them efficient ways to use their left and right hand fingers. A reasonable number of my former students are now professional musicians.

Geez, I wish I lived near you.
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#2810777 - 10/24/16 06:44 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: jeremy c]
SteveC Offline
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Originally Posted By: jeremy c
I give my students tons of music theory. I teach them how to read notes and rhythms. I make sure that they know how to play every kind of chord. I teach them how to play walking bass by using chord notes and connecting notes. I teach them efficient ways to use their left and right hand fingers. A reasonable number of my former students are now professional musicians.


ME, too. Although I don't have any "a list pros" I do have students making a living playing so I guess that counts. I'm just happy that my kids keep playing after I'm done with them.

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#2810781 - 10/24/16 07:15 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: SteveC]
jcadmus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: SteveC

ME, too. Although I don't have any "a list pros" I do have students making a living playing so I guess that counts. I'm just happy that my kids keep playing after I'm done with them.


Where's the "like" button on this thing?
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#2810975 - 10/24/16 11:39 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: jcadmus]
EddiePlaysBass Offline
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Not sure if I agree or not, but I will share this. Last summer I went to see a local cover band. Bassist was a chop monster. He had serious licks in his bag, excellent slap technique, speed and agility ... And zero groove.

Seriously, he paid no attention to what happened around him (going so far as to play a Pearl Jam song a semitone off), would venture into slap territory and consequently speed up or throw off the entire band (in Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" no less) and was simply aweful at what he was supposed to do. With one exception: when he sang lead on a Volbeat tune.

Now, I am not the most technically proficient player. My lines are simple, hardly flashing and occasionally my playing is downright sloppy. Especially when I slap ... Something I try to fix smile But I get a lot of praise from other musicians for being "a groovy player".

Groove does not equal flash. Guess that's my point.
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#2810978 - 10/25/16 01:54 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: EddiePlaysBass]
The Geoff Offline
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If you can't feel it, you can't play it.

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#2810999 - 10/25/16 05:43 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: EddiePlaysBass]
jcadmus Online   content
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Originally Posted By: EddiePlaysBass

... would venture into slap territory and consequently speed up or throw off the entire band (in Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" no less)...


Slapping on Black Sabbath's "Paranoid." Okay, that just wrong.
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#2811166 - 10/26/16 07:43 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: EddiePlaysBass]
Paul K Offline
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Originally Posted By: EddiePlaysBass


Seriously, he paid no attention to what happened around him (going so far as to play a Pearl Jam song a semitone off), would venture into slap territory and consequently speed up or throw off the entire band (in Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" no less) and was simply aweful at what he was supposed to do.


There's hope for this cat. Groove can be taught if'n he's willing to learn. He needs to record himself and listen back. Simple as that. Me? I've had a tendency to play just a little too far ahead of the beat. It sounds great to me at the time, but awful on playback. And it's weird in that it sounds just spot-on but it grates on my ears in a totally weird way. But I was nose-blind to it until hearing the playback.

Yes...it'll then take him some work to fix the situation. But there you go.
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#2811178 - 10/26/16 08:09 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Paul K]
EddiePlaysBass Offline
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Originally Posted By: Paul K
There's hope for this cat. Groove can be taught if'n he's willing to learn.


I don't know him personally but from what I saw onstage I don't think he sees his playing as an issue. He was very "up front" in terms of spotlight.

I look at it this way: he was up there playing and I am commenting on it from the side line. He's doing something better than I am grin
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#2811225 - 10/26/16 09:46 AM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Paul K]
lug Offline
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Originally Posted By: Paul K


There's hope for this cat. Groove can be taught if'n he's willing to learn. He needs to record himself and listen back.


This, absolutely.
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#2811371 - 10/26/16 05:09 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: EddiePlaysBass]
jeremy c Offline
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Originally Posted By: EddiePlaysBass

I look at it this way: he was up there playing and I am commenting on it from the side line. He's doing something better than I am grin


He's not going to last long in that band.
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#2811408 - 10/26/16 07:40 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: jeremy c]
Paul K Offline
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Originally Posted By: jeremy c
Originally Posted By: EddiePlaysBass

I look at it this way: he was up there playing and I am commenting on it from the side line. He's doing something better than I am grin


He's not going to last long in that band.


Unless it's his band...or his van.
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#2813351 - 11/03/16 01:03 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Paul K]
Jeff Berlin Offline
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Registered: 11/08/15
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EddiePlaysBSS Said, "Not sure if I agree or not, but I will share this. Last summer I went to see a local cover band. Bassist was a chop monster. He had serious licks in his bag, excellent slap technique, speed and agility ... And zero groove.

Seriously, he paid no attention to what happened around him (going so far as to play a Pearl Jam song a semitone off), would venture into slap territory and consequently speed up or throw off the entire band (in Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" no less) and was simply aweful at what he was supposed to do. With one exception: when he sang lead on a Volbeat tune.


Jeff answered: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There is a manner of thinking that bass players seem to be stuck in, which is not knowing the difference between playing bass and learning how to play. Your comments are common ones. Many bassists state they heard a guy with technique and no feel and from this common observation, I tend to not believe what is stated but feel that these comments come from common beliefs about what good time and feel are all about. But, they usually seem to be false.

Your comments show me is that the bass player you mentioned hasn't learned the various elements required to play well, and probably shouldn't have been gigging in the first place, not yet anyway!.

Bass players in general have little to no idea about the requirements necessary to provide a good performance because they haven't learned what they are. Hence, the overstated importance of groove. What groove pundits haven't realized is that one can't groove until one first learns how to play. And amazingly, bass players really have never been aware that learning well is not an emotional experience, but simply a gathering of facts.

Take the English language; before one can write on this blog their feelings about my thoughts, they first need to have learned the grammar of the written English language. The learning of English is different than the emotional use of it which makes easier for any bassist to see that the learning of bass has to come before an emotional and time consistent performance takes place. But, bassists were never told this and for this reason, the educational system of teaching bass worldwide has led bass players toward rarely accomplishing what so many have paid to accomplish; they haven't been taught correctly how to play. Hence, the popularity of the word Groove! This term says everything except how to actually get one

The error in the bass community is not understanding that before having good time or feel, a learning environment has to first take place. When bassists state that "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" that they "heard a guy without groove" or they "heard a guy with technique but no feel" I believe that bassists are not aware of what is why I lament the quality of today's electric bass education and its educators. I can't find one place where the emphasis is on the truth of learning rather than the fantasy of playing well.

Thoughts?


Edited by Jeff Berlin (11/03/16 01:21 PM)

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#2813368 - 11/03/16 02:54 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Jeff Berlin]
jeremy c Offline
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Loc: Berkeley,CA,UNITED STATES
My degree in music came from a traditional classical music department. (UC Berkeley). I did not study bass there. I actually was a clarinet major.

I took classes in ear training, theory, harmony, music history and conducting as well as my clarinet lessons and performance classes which included the orchestra, the concert band, and (gasp!) the jazz band in which I played electric bass. I feel that this education as well as a career which included many years of six nights a week of playing in a cover band and thousands of hours of practice prepared me for anything.
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#2813393 - 11/03/16 05:32 PM Re: Groove is Not the First Important Element of Playing! [Re: Jeff Berlin]
Paul K Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 05/16/06
Posts: 3628
Loc: Ithaca, NY
Originally Posted By: Jeff Berlin


Your comments show me is that the bass player you mentioned hasn't learned the various elements required to play well, and probably shouldn't have been gigging in the first place, not yet anyway!.


Thoughts?


Ack! No way. The cat wasn't playing Carnegie Hall. It's way more important to get out of the house. Play good, play bad, but play. Certain things happen in the heat of the moment that you can't practice your way out of in the basement. And yes, we all sound FABULOUS in the basement. So this cat's gig is one aspect of practice. Break some eggs. It's not like anybody got hurt or anything.

(...and if he recorded the gig and listened back later on....)
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