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Groove Is in the Heart

Beyonf the Realms of Conventional Guitar Thinking - Part VI
As an addendum to my last piece, Strumming To Help Your Drumming, in this installment I'd like to address one of the most simple-yet-effective elements of creating memorable and driving music... the groove. I'm not talking about the dictionary's definition; "A long narrow furrow or channel", or that which is found on a vinyl record, but rather, the element in music that sets the mood and feel in the rhythmical sense. To put it simply: "The groove is what makes your body move!"

"Too often in our pursuit for technical prowess and exhibition we forget just how much impact a simple groove with the proper spirit and delivery can have."
Just like the borrowed Dee-Lite title of this piece suggests, groove really is in the heart. It's the unseen force that literally compels you to "shake that thang". It is not heard and interpreted with the head, but rather, it is felt and reacted to by the body. Sure, any ol' rhythm pattern is technically a "groove", but a true groove carries a weight far greater than, say, any simple drum machine or MIDI pattern could. A true groove, to me, is one that lives, breathes, jumps and swings, taking the listener on a rhythmic ride into the very core of the song itself. The groove is, after all, the foundation of almost every song ever written.

I believe it was the great Bootsy Collins who once said something like: "Groove isn't about what you play... it's about what you don't play." Well, despite who said it, truer words, baby, truer words! That's pretty much the gist of this piece. And it's not so much about the "holes" in a groove either, but rather, the power of simplicity. Take one of the more recent WN thread examples, Rage Against The Machine. Granted, these guys aren't setting any new records in the realm of technical excellence, but what they've achieved as a humble 4-piece unit surpasses some of the most technically-gifted of bands, which is due in large to the groove-oriented foundation of their music. I mean, when was the last time you saw a festival crowd of oh, say, 50000+ people dancing and moving in time to the odd-metered stylings of Dream Theater (whom I personally love)? Rage's grooves will make any concert-goer move, even if they don't personally agree with the band's lyrical message. If you're human, you can't help it. Rage and good groove-oriented bands in general will see a staying power with their music simply because it makes people want to move when they hear it.

There is just something about a simple groove that the drummer in all of us can relate to, and that's why sometimes less really is more. I urge you all to explore simpler grooves sometime, even if it's to just get back in touch with the basics, y'know? Too often in our pursuit for technical prowess and exhibition we forget just how much impact a simple groove with the proper spirit and delivery can have. So, until next time... remember to use your head for more than a saddle horn to keep your guitar from falling off. J

[And for some entertaining outlooks on what some cats think "groove" is defined as, check out the GrooveQuest Archive.]

Craig Smoot — Musician, Web Site and Info Systems Developer — is 1/2 of the guitar team for Black Label, and also runs Hellecasters.com and Rivera.com in his spare time.