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  1. This is just a tribute

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    Default Defining the "Pocket"

    As I was driving in to work today, listening to a recording, I took note of the drummer and the groove he set up and thought, yeah, he's right in the pocket. This led me to wonder just what "in the pocket" means.

    How do we define it? Can it be defined? Is it something that can even be broken down into a specific, tangible definition?

    As I pondered this and started to pick apart the groove I was listening to, about the only thing (on this particular recording) that I could maybe define other than the fact that the time was very good, is that the backbeats were just ever so slightly hanging on the back portion of the beat. Does that make sense?

    So what is it? Is it how the drummer places or plays the backbeat? Is it simply being metronomically correct? Is it the way that something is played? (Hats, snare, kick, all?)
    Is it the way the drummer sets their kit up to sound? Is it a combination of all of it?

    I'm just curious if anyone has any thoughts they would like to share on the subject about just what "playing in the pocket" means, and specific things you can do to achieve it.
    Patrick G.

    "95% of the average 'weekend warrior's' problems could be solved by an additional 30 minutes of insightful practice." -- Anonymous

    "Let's be honest... drummers don't have piles of money laying around, just piles of drums." -- Gord the Drummer

  2. Pearl/Zildjian/Vater

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    There should be alot of threads on this topic since it has been covered before, but I always tell the definition of pocket playing from the words of Dennis Chambers.

    When Dennis first joined P-Funk, George Clinton didin't want him to play directly on the click, he wanted it a little behind, just so it lagged a little but was still in time. Thus, the term he coined was play it "in the pocket".

    In my opinion, it means to play a groove really tight and just slightly laid back to give it a more funky laid back feel. Dennis is the king of this in his playing, and many other drummers do this. Its not something that can really be taught, it just comes from listening really careful and knowing where exactly to place everything.

    The term lately has been used far to liberally in my opinion, to explain anything from a drummer who has good time, to a drummer who can play a beat without messing up. The true definition means in my opinion, how I explained it above.

  3. Registered User

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    To me, "in the pocket" is that moment in time where you are just laying it down and the hairs raise on the back of your neck. And you know you are doing something great!
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  4. This is just a tribute

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevDRUM
    When Dennis first joined P-Funk, George Clinton didin't want him to play directly on the click, he wanted it a little behind, just so it lagged a little but was still in time. Thus, the term he coined was play it "in the pocket".
    But the rest of the world can't hear the click - is this in reference to the backbeat? If so, it explains what I was hearing this morning - the drummer was definitely laying back on the backbeat - it's hard to describe, it's like it was still on the beat, but it wasn't, you know? By the way, cool little tidbit of trivia - I had no idea that DC was the guy who came up with the term.
    Patrick G.

    "95% of the average 'weekend warrior's' problems could be solved by an additional 30 minutes of insightful practice." -- Anonymous

    "Let's be honest... drummers don't have piles of money laying around, just piles of drums." -- Gord the Drummer

  5. Registered User

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevDRUM
    There should be alot of threads on this topic since it has been covered before, but I always tell the definition of pocket playing from the words of Dennis Chambers.

    When Dennis first joined P-Funk, George Clinton didin't want him to play directly on the click, he wanted it a little behind, just so it lagged a little but was still in time. Thus, the term he coined was play it "in the pocket".

    In my opinion, it means to play a groove really tight and just slightly laid back to give it a more funky laid back feel. Dennis is the king of this in his playing, and many other drummers do this. Its not something that can really be taught, it just comes from listening really careful and knowing where exactly to place everything.

    The term lately has been used far to liberally in my opinion, to explain anything from a drummer who has good time, to a drummer who can play a beat without messing up. The true definition means in my opinion, how I explained it above.
    Good way to put it.....in the words of Chambers. Thanks Nev.

  6. Registered User

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    Quote Originally Posted by trickg
    I had no idea that DC was the guy who came up with the term.
    He didn't. People have been using that term for decades. Dennis' explanation is certainly a good one though.

    It is possible to delay the backbeat, creating a slightly loping groove but IMO it's best not to be too cerebral about it. This sort of stuff is better if it comes from the gut (or groin) than from the head.

    I know some drummers who get pretty anal about playing ahead of or behind the metronome or delaying backbeats. I'd rather put the stop-watch down and let my emotions guide me. Instead of worrying about whether I am ahead of or behind the beat, I'd rather just play until the groove finds that magical place that makes panties fall off. If I can make people dance, I'm happy not knowing how many milliseconds I am ahead of or behind the beat.

  7. I <3 Ludwigs.

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    I've always thought of playing "in the pocket" less a description of where you're playing in reference to the beat, as to laying down only what needs to be there with no frilly BS. My definition for pocket drumming is ?uestlove. Ahmir Thompson from the Roots. no fills, just a killer groove that makes every head in the room bob.

  8. This is just a tribute

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    ^^ Cool post coach, but is there anything that you can define, or maybe keep in mind so that your grooves find that place? Seriously, how do you get in the pocket? How can you tell if you are or aren't? I'm an old dog here trying to learn new tricks - while I'll always try to improve, I don't want to approach drumming with the idea of becoming raw chops personified. I would rather learn how to really sit in a groove and do some tasty fills here and there.

    Sometimes I'll sit down at the kit and start playing a pretty basic backbeat rock groove - eighths on closed hats, kick on one and three - and I'll just play that, nothing else, until it really starts to rock on it's own, simple as it is. Sort of Phil Rudd-esque. Is this a good way to approach it?
    Patrick G.

    "95% of the average 'weekend warrior's' problems could be solved by an additional 30 minutes of insightful practice." -- Anonymous

    "Let's be honest... drummers don't have piles of money laying around, just piles of drums." -- Gord the Drummer

  9. Dalmi Joedi - Jedi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coach McGuirk
    He didn't. People have been using that term for decades. Dennis' explanation is certainly a good one though.

    It is possible to delay the backbeat, creating a slightly loping groove but IMO it's best not to be too cerebral about it. This sort of stuff is better if it comes from the gut (or groin) than from the head.

    I know some drummers who get pretty anal about playing ahead of or behind the metronome or delaying backbeats. I'd rather put the stop-watch down and let my emotions guide me. Instead of worrying about whether I am ahead of or behind the beat, I'd rather just play until the groove finds that magical place that makes panties fall off. If I can make people dance, I'm happy not knowing how many milliseconds I am ahead of or behind the beat.
    100% agree. it's like when i saw Peart play with RUSH on the Counterparts tour after his BFB sessions and lessons with Gruber. it was as though he was thinking about which made it quite sterile though it was "technically correct". thank goodness he has let that fall to the side and just be himself as with what i saw on the 30th tour.

  10. Dalmi Joedi - Jedi

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    Quote Originally Posted by trickg
    ^^ Cool post coach, but is there anything that you can define, or maybe keep in mind so that your grooves find that place? Seriously, how do you get in the pocket? How can you tell if you are or aren't? I'm an old dog here trying to learn new tricks - while I'll always try to improve, I don't want to approach drumming with the idea of becoming raw chops personified. I would rather learn how to really sit in a groove and do some tasty fills here and there.

    Sometimes I'll sit down at the kit and start playing a pretty basic backbeat rock groove - eighths on closed hats, kick on one and three - and I'll just play that, nothing else, until it really starts to rock on it's own, simple as it is. Sort of Phil Rudd-esque. Is this a good way to approach it?
    yes it is. it is sort of like sex. do you need someone to technically explain why it feels good and what you need to do to keep it going?

  11. Band

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    Quote Originally Posted by trickg
    specific things you can do to achieve it.
    Surround yourself with the music. Listen to it, Learn it, Play it.

    Pick-up a copy of Earth, Wind, and Fire's Greatest Hits and play along. It is almost impossible NOT to follow these guys into the pocket.
    Last edited by duhhh; 11-30-2005 at 01:56 PM.

  12. Registered User

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    Quote Originally Posted by trickg
    ^^ Cool post coach, but is there anything that you can define, or maybe keep in mind so that your grooves find that place? Seriously, how do you get in the pocket? How can you tell if you are or aren't?
    Chances are good that you are probably already doing some of this stuff so forgive me if some of this is basic:

    TIME:
    Your time has to be pretty good before the concept of groove becomes an issue. Practice with a metronome and with your favorite records. Learn to play in time.

    DYNAMICS:
    Instead of thinking of dynamics as simply quiet and loud, I think of dynamics as a mixing board and a roller coaster.

    The mixing board concept addresses the relative volume of each component of the drum set. Take your Phil Rudd groove. Apply the following "mix" to the groove:
    Bass Drum LOUD
    Snare Drum LOUD
    Hi Hat: very quiet

    If you play it this way it will sound more solid and a little more sophisticated then if you play all components of the drum set at the same volume.

    Different dynamic mixes are appropriate for different musical contexts. You don't want to sound sophisticated when playing grunge or punk music (or even ACDC style rock) so you might raise the volume on the hi hat. For jazz the mix might be really quiet snare drum and bass drum and medium volume of hi hat and ride cymbal.

    The roller coaster concept is that all (or nearly all) components of the drum set are playing at constantly shifting dynamic levels--going up and down over time like a roller coaster, or waves at sea. In the context of one groove the snare drum part might include ghost notes, full strokes, accents and rim shots. The overall dynamic level is constant but there is also a dynamic undulation going on.

    A simple way to apply this concept is to play around with dynamics on the hi hat. Try playing your Phil Rudd groove again. Now add a slight accent on the quarter notes on the hi hat. (You could even play quater notes with the shoulder of the stick and off-beat 8ths with the tip.) After playing that way for a while, switch it around--put the emphasis on the off beat 8th notes. See how that feels.

    In a jazz context you could apply the roller coaster concept to the exercises in the Chapin book or the John Riley books. Instead of playing the left hand at a consistent dynamic level, vary it. Phrase those parts in such a way that someone would want to listen to it.

    The roller coaster concept isn't just for grooves either. As Jeff Hamilton might say, "Swallow some of those notes" when you play a fill. For starters, learn the motown fills (watch the special features on "Standing in the Shadows of Motown") and learn to play those fills with dynamic expression. Or take your standard fills and add some dynamic life to them.

    FINALLY

    If you have good control of mixing board and roller coaster dynamics then the only thing left is beat placement--playing ahead of or behind the beat. As I said above, I'd rather not get too anal about it. I might think of a favorite drummer while I am playing. For example I might imagine imagine that I am playing the part of Stan Lynch or Steve Gadd or Bernard Purdie in a movie. Just that thought is usually enough to alter my groove slightly--hopefully enough to put it in that magic place! If I see the other musicians relax or smile then I know I am getting closer to where I need to be.

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