Pat McDonald - Drums and Percussion
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Groove...

   What does it mean when someone says "groove"?    In a musical sense, I think it describes a certain intangible that is easier to feel that describe.    When the music feels perfect, the notes that everyone is playing line up in sync, the time is solid, the attitude behind it all is sticking out like a sore thumb-that's when it's grooving.    There are a lot of drummers who are hardly ever mentioned without the word "groove" in there somewhere.     Jeff Porcaro, Steve Ferrone, Bernard Purdie, Jim Keltner, Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, are all drummers who are known more for their "groove" than their ability to play a bunch of flashy drum stuff.    They play for the music, they strive to make it FEEL good always and they have a personality in the way they do it that makes them instantly recognizable.

 

I spent a lot of my formative years practicing along to records in my bedroom trying to copy the drum parts that my heroes played.    Over time I found myself paying more attention to the "drummy" drumming.   The technically challenging, difficult, frilly drum stuff caught my ear and I wanted to be able to do it.   I think a lot of younger players go through that to some degree in their development.    It was tough to learn to pull off those Neil Peart licks and Dave Weckl chops and when I reached the point where I could do it pretty well it gave me a sense of accomplishment.   I don't regret the time I spent doing it the slightest bit.   However, as I get older, I've begun to see the beauty of the simple stuff a lot more clearly.     Anyone can learn to play a shuffle in 11/16 and play 17 over 9 while doing quintuplets with the hi hat foot and keeping quarter note triplets rolling on the bass drum.   All it takes is some practice time (a lot of it!) and the desire to learn it.    But to me, it's busywork.   It's cool and impressive but no one is gonna get it but another drummer.     But to lay down a big, fat, nasty, funk backbeat and lay the notes in the music JUST SO every bar is one of the hardest things a drummer can do.    The guys who  do it well just slay me!    I've developed a  deep love for the groove and the way it makes me feel when I play it well.

 

One important point that seems to challenge us all as drummers is maintaining consistency in grooving.   A lot of guys (myself included) struggle with making things feel great night after night and band to band.   One thing I've discovered is that the grooving itself is NOT only the job of the drummer.  It's the job of everyone on the bandstand.    If you're on a gig, playing well and feeling inspired to lay it down as solid as granite but somehow it just isn't working right, listen closely to what the other players are doing.  If EVERYONE isn't focused on the time and the feel then it becomes impossible to REALLY make the music groove hard.    I wish every music instructor in this world would insist that his/her students buy and USE a metronome when they practice!  And that goes for everyone who plays an instrument-from guitar to kazoo!!!    The ONE common element between ALL musicians is time.    Drummers don't directly deal with harmony as they play.  We don't need to make musical decisions about note selections over particular chords or harmonic substitutions.  But a lot of other instrumentalists tend to get caught up in those thoughts and don't begin to consider the fact that they ALSO have to play whatever they play IN TIME with the rest of us!     Most of them are told from their earliest lessons that the DRUMMER'S job is to keep time.   Almost as if they think "I don't need to concern myself with that."  That's just bad thinking as far as I'm concerned.  Time is what we deal with as drummers.   And we tend to be hyper-critical of it in our own playing.   But when we're onstage trying to make the music feel good and the other guys onstage have no concept of the subtleties we're addressing it can feel like emptying the oceans a thimbleful at a time.  It's just impossible!    However, on those magic nights when everyone is really listening and focusing on the groove, there's no denying it.   It's the greatest feeling you can have as a musician.   It feels like the music is playing itself and we're all just along for the ride.   And the gigs I do when I know the rest of the band has a grasp of that concept are by far my favorite gigs to play.   Groove is a hard thing to describe with words but when it's happening, you just know it.    And the more it happens to me, the more I want it to KEEP happening.    Playing drums is a talent.   Playing MUSIC on the drums is an art.    And being able to GROOVE is a major piece of the puzzle for all of us.

 

 

Good luck and groove hard.......

 

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