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'Groove' - is it all-important

‘Groove’ – is it all-important, or does the band just have to play the way they feel?


My name is Elden Friesen.

I recently finished producing my first full length CD with a rock trio called 18 rabbit. They sound like Audio Slave/Electronica.

It has been a challenge that I have enjoyed and lost some sleep over at the same time. I found my self wanting to hear the music played in a different way than the way the band played it at times.

I often had to explain to them that I'm not wanting to change the part that they just played but simply move it. Meaning I would like to hear the bass guitar to played in the back pocket instead of way ahead of the kick drum. Or sometimes the guitar played in that back spot to give space for the bass which had something important to say.

At times I would play the instrument to show the band what I meant. But it became evident quickly that they didn't have the ability to play the part like I was playing it even though they said they could hear the difference between the performances.

Have you ever taught someone to play the part they have created in a different spot than where they naturally feel it? It also raised questions about what the band is about and do they really want to walk down this path that I'm wanting lead them

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I think there is a lot of commercial value in learning this though it is incredibly humbling to relearn how to play your instrument when you have been playing it for so long one way. The fans of their music on the other hand will enjoy it regardless of the way I would like to hear it played.

So I find I like the music but it doesn't move me. It all sounds the same to me, each song has the same kind of groove to it. Groove is everything it influences the attitude of the song, It give the band a distinctive sound. It changes the way the song is mixed.

You're no longer struggling to make the sounds come a live because each part has it's own space it just comes together so easily. It's what makes your toe start tapping or your hand reaching for the remote.

And when you change up the groove from song to song you take the listener on a journey giving that someone a sense of depth and experience from the music they've just encountered. I would go so far as to say sound quality is not as important.

Just listen to the music from the 50's and 60's. The sound quality isn't as good as today but it's still fun to listen to. My question for you is how do you deal with this as a producer?

Mutt Lange for example will spend months with his engineer moving tracks in time in his computer till they sound perfect to him. Yet it's no longer the performance of the artist but the persistence of a computer geek and to me the songs though they sound perfect and played flawlessly lack that quality of humanity that makes them great.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about having many years of recording and listening experience though this subject seems to never be talked about. So the way it's described can throw people off or make the issue even more confusing.

Because there is no clear way of describing how to be emotive. I will ask the artist to push the beat ahead, or try to sit on top of it, or put it in the back pocket behind the beat. I realize that this is very rudimentary and that a groove has many more combinations than these first three but I think it's where you have to start if your going to learn this.

What are your thoughts about this groove thing?

Elden Friesen welcomes your comments.

David Mellor

Producing Lauren Balthrop

Producing Lauren Balthrop

One song and only one day to professionally produce it! Can it be done? Find out as the pros at Dubway Studios in New York City take you on a recording and mixing adventure in this first edition of our new Docutorial™ series we call SongCraft!

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David Mellor