Where's The Pocket, anyway?

Mr. St. Paul

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I have to agree with the folks saying you got it, or you don't. We had a guitar player join an r&b/soul band I was in a few years back and it just did not work out. He grew up on 70s rock and that's all he knew. He claimed he wanted to stretch himself, but he never bothered learning the songs properly. And could not get in the groove to save his life. The bass player (an excellent pocket player, by the way) tried to help him out by telling him, "In this kind of music, what you don't play is just as important as what you do play." The guy looked at him as if he were speaking Esperanto.
 

sax4blues

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Let me describe where there is the complete absence of pocket, my church worship band.

The leader/keyboard/singer is a one man band who plays by feel, his feel, which generally extends phrases or pauses.
The drummer is a rusher, always pushing the tempo.
The bass player, while generally solid, doesn't seem to listen to anyone else, he's "locked in".

So where does this leave me? Always guessing, always adjusting/reacting. My confidence for hitting a note or phrase is very low because I don't know if I'll be in sync with anyone else. My primary focus is the keyboard/singer then the drummer, I almost never listen to the bass player. It works out, I have fun, and the congregation is always complimenting how great we are.
 

Edgar Allan Presley

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I disagree with the notion that players with good time are born not made. I've noticed that it comes with practice. My sense of time is the surest tell whether I've been practicing every day. With daily, focused practice, my sense of time is sharp. When I relax, my sense of time does too.

Sure, there are people who never get it, like some people are tone deaf. But among people who have decent rhythm, time is a matter of practice.
 

Linderflomann

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Sure, there are people who never get it, like some people are tone deaf. But among people who have decent rhythm, time is a matter of practice.
It's also a matter of knowing what to practice. Guitarists simply have no clue. Ask drummers and percussionists and they have a million and one exercises. If you do them religiously, you will improve. How much can you improve? I'm willing to bet a LOT. But because so many people both don't know what to practice to get there, and / or think "you either have it or you don't" they never realize what's possible.
 

Edgar Allan Presley

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It's also a matter of knowing what to practice. Guitarists simply have no clue. Ask drummers and percussionists and they have a million and one exercises. If you do them religiously, you will improve. How much can you improve? I'm willing to bet a LOT. But because so many people both don't know what to practice to get there, and / or think "you either have it or you don't" they never realize what's possible.
People who say you don't need to practice scales often fail to recognize practicing scales with a metronome is just as much a rhythm exercise as it is the notes. Scales are a perfect basic pattern to develop a sense of melody, intonation, dynamics, and most importantly, time.
 

cousinpaul

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It can't happen for me unless the bass and drums are locked in. On guitar, it might involve playing around the snare rather than over it or leaving a hole for a different instrument to fill. I'll echo Getbent's comments on syncopation and interlocking parts.
 

klasaine

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Let me describe where there is the complete absence of pocket, my church worship band.

The leader/keyboard/singer is a one man band who plays by feel, his feel, which generally extends phrases or pauses.
The drummer is a rusher, always pushing the tempo.
The bass player, while generally solid, doesn't seem to listen to anyone else, he's "locked in".

So where does this leave me? Always guessing, always adjusting/reacting. My confidence for hitting a note or phrase is very low because I don't know if I'll be in sync with anyone else. My primary focus is the keyboard/singer then the drummer, I almost never listen to the bass player. It works out, I have fun, and the congregation is always complimenting how great we are.
Sadly ... I can relate.
For the last month I've had a steady, 4 nights a week theater (pit band) gig for a new musical. The first call band is great: Keys, guitar (me), cello and drum/percussion kit. All of us have to have a rehearsed sub in case we can't make one of the shows. The sub for the keyboard player is a fine player but their time 'feel' just absolutely sucks. I mean it's disconcertingly laughable. Can I match their downbeats is the game I play for an hour and 45 minutes when they're there.

Victor Wooten in his book "The Music Lesson" discusses this topic at length. *Great read by the way!
 

4pickupguy

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Its actually pretty easy to hit the groove in a live setting as long as everyone is relatively competent musicians. The feel is overt and dominates, so you feel it and click right in. Its like riding a wave. You are being propelled along. The more you do this, the better you’ll ge. Now, imagine you are doing a solo acoustic gig…. Now you timing is laid naked for everyone laugh at and call their friends, cuz that’s zactly what it feels like. If you can’t groove it won’t groove.. Playing with people is crucial as is doing the brain modeling of an internal clock. Guitar players practice techniques to the failure of time/feel and I am the king of doing this!! Also, want to be forced into good time/feel? Write a song!! Nothing lays bare your rhythmic prowess like writing a well crafted song. You have to feel it to write it in the first place.
Famous players that I love with flawless time/feel:
1. Mark Lettieri
2. Steve Morse
3. Hendrix (yes Hendrix, sloppyness isnt his time/feel, its other things)
4. John Mayer
5. Jim Schuler (local guy here in D/FW)
6. Jack Gardiner
7. The Beatles
8. Eddie VanHalen
9. ZZTop

Players I love where I think I can spot time/feel issues (and don‘t care):
1. Eric Johnson (my all time fave)
2. Angus Young
3. Andy Sommers
4. John Harrington



Don’t buy some the “people can’t ’learn’ better timing” thing. Everyone’s brain can be modeled and trained and an internal clock is like anything else. I might not ever be a Mark Lettieri, but I can be a groovier Fletcher Redwine. Onward Upward!
 
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teletail

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Guitar forum users will find the one pro musician out of a thousand who says they don't use a metronome and use that as evidence for why they don't need one either.
Most People don’t use a metronome because they Can’t use a metronome. Developing solid fundamentals is hard work and most people are just too lazy. They try to excuse their ****ity timing as “playing with feeling.” I know lots of people who play with feeling AND have good timing; it’s not one or the other. The truth is that most people with poor timing don’t play very well either.

Now get off my lawn and go practice with a metronome!
 

Milspec

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I believe that being in "the pocket" is really the musical version of a runner's high. Most think they understand what it means, but get it a little wrong.

I was an avid road runner / marathoner for 35 years and I can count the times I experienced the runner's high on 2 hands. Most confuse the body's switching to burning fat or a "second wind" for a runner's high, but they are not the same thing. The "high" happens when the body is in perfect synch with breathing, pulse, pace, etc. to the point that running feels effortless. When it happened, I used to start to laugh at how easy I was moving and would just fly. Unfortunately, it didn't last. I would experience it for about 1/4 mile and then would start to over-think it and it would all fall apart.

You can train yourself to be a better runner, but you can't force the effect of the runner's high. You find it with the very elite runners, but the average runner will never master it. Playing in "the pocket" is likely the same way, most will not be able to master it....there are just some people who have a natural ability to do great things.
 

Dostradamas

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It is a rhythm thing.
To me were the drums and bass lock in is the pocket.

The whole song rides the rhythm and the pocket is that spot that always feels right
 

TokyoPortrait

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Hi.

Sorry, can’t help with ‘the pocket.’ All I know is that apparently I have good time, but I also know my groove sucks. Mechanical me.

But, I can help with

keyboard bass

Get thee unto Hardoff, and find a ¥15,000 - ¥20.000 or so bass. Or less. I paid ¥12,000 for a rough Squier 60s CV Jazz Bass. It really was a score - cosmetics aside, plays great. Gone are the midi keyboard pokings.

And it’s a holiday, do that today and you’ll be Golden.*

Pax/
Dean
* I want to throw in a wink there, but the emoji are greyed out
 

Jupiter

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Hi.

Sorry, can’t help with ‘the pocket.’ All I know is that apparently I have good time, but I also know my groove sucks. Mechanical me.

But, I can help with



Get thee unto Hardoff, and find a ¥15,000 - ¥20.000 or so bass. Or less. I paid ¥12,000 for a rough Squier 60s CV Jazz Bass. It really was a score - cosmetics aside, plays great. Gone are the midi keyboard pokings.

And it’s a holiday, do that today and you’ll be Golden.*

Pax/
Dean
* I want to throw in a wink there, but the emoji are greyed out
I HAVE a bass in the house, but I don't especially wanna learn how to PLAY a bass...there's a whole 'nother rabbit hole...

Golden Wink hehe I get it
 

ndcaster

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simple, this



it's when you feel like the pulse is actually a part of whatever you're playing

as if the click were part of your own phrase but not directly stated
 

FenderGyrl

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I was in the studio last weekend. Played some guitar and lead lines on a bands remake of White Wedding.

The drummer and bass player were friggin solid. The drummer was fantastic. I tracked three times. I was lifted by playing over the track these guys laid down. It was IMO some of my best playing of the last few years. I got that feeling that I was just allowing the music to flow thru me. I was still high on Monday morning sitting in my office at work.

Thats the Pocket to me. When your moved by other musicians to the point where you feel like a music transmitter.... it just flows thru you.

Yeah... the Pocket.
Like catching lightning in a jar.
 




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