Groove, Space, and Dynamics

Posted by on Jul 11, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Groove, Space, and Dynamics. Three things that we can always have more of in the music we create.


No matter if you make your livelihood playing music, or if you’re a newbie, it’s good to be reminded of the fundamentals of playing music together as we begin our rehearsals.



~      A common pulse – we need to be feeling that underlying regularly recurring beat…maybe we’re all bobbing our heads at the same time [but not like metal heads, no offense metal heads]

~      The correct tempo – there’s a reason songs are written at a certain tempo…they work that way!  [and yes, I will be using my metronome app]

~      Always listen and respond to each other – focus on interacting musically, call and respond, give each other room

~      Know what makes the song “work” – is it the kick drum pattern, a downstrum pattern on the guitar, a piano riff?

~      Ask “Are the parts fitting together? Do they ‘lock’ in place?”

~      Ask “Are we playing on the same ‘side’ of the beat?” – the more on the “backside” of the beat, the deeper the groove [within reason, of course].  If one of you pushes the beat and another one drags the beat [even if your both paying the identical tempo] it won’t groove.



~      Man, this is the final frontier…most bands never get there [okay, on to the positive]

~      The notes are as important as the space [or the “not notes”]

~      Ask “Where can I add space or lay out?”

~      Ask “Where am I not needed or crucial to the music?”

~      Ask “Where can I let someone else shine?”

~      Ask “Can I play fewer notes, beats, harmonies?”

~      Ask “Would my part sound full if I played it alone?”  If so, then it’s likely too much – play things that would sound too empty if played solo

~      What if you had a rule that said that on every verse of every song, at least one person has to lay out?

~      Ask “Am I playing as ‘small’ as I can? Am I playing as ‘big’ as I can?”

~      Ask “Do I need to play the whole song?” “Does everyone need to start playing at the beginning of the song?” [think like a symphony]

~      Ask “What number is each section?” Assign a number [1-10] to each section, for example, Intro: 8, Verse One: 4, PreChorus: 5, Chorus One: 7…


Now here are some ideas for how to play with different dynamics on each instrument:


One hand – two hands

Block chords – moving/arpeggiated rhythms

Play a higher register – play a lower register

Play a melodic riff/pattern only – play the chords

Lay out – play


Acoustic Guitar

Capo high – no capo/full chord

Pick – strum

Muted strum – full ringing strum

Finger pick – pick using a pick

Lay out – play


Electric Guitar

EBow – picked lead

Muted strum – full ring strum

Clean – distortion/other effects

Melodic lead – strum

Lay out – play



Play staccato – play legato

Play higher strings – play lower strings

Play whole note rhythms – play quarter, eighth, or sixteenth rhythms

Lay out – play



Hi-hat/kick pattern – hi-hat/snare/kick pattern

Closed hi-hat – open hi-hat or crash “hi-hat”

Straight groove/beat – lots of fills

Use lighter sticks/hot rods – heavier/wood sticks

Lay out – play


Aux instruments

If you play woodwind, strings, or brass…please don’t play all the time!  You’re beautiful, really, but hearing a wondering clarinet though a whole set is just not helping the overall sound.



Sing light and breathy – sing with full voice

Sing melody – sing harmony

Sing lower in your register – sing higher in your register

Lay out – play


So which ones of these ideas stood out to you? How do you think of these fundamentals when you play?

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