Layers of groove

Last night I played a duo set with the great guitarist Jamal Millner opening for Haiti’s RAM Band at The Southern Music Hall in Charlottesville. RAM Band had 11 musicians on stage and of those musicians sometimes as many as 7 were playing drums or percussion. They had a kit player and three hand drummers rolling through every song of the night. The other 3 musicians moved between either bass guitar or horns and percussion. The overall impact was a deep groove.

Watching and listening to RAM Band reminded me that a key element to groove is layering. Preceding that is of course the time aspect of music - the tempo of a song and how the musicians agree/disagree on that tempo. That time component (more fluid in a communal setting than your metronome aspirations lead you to believe it can be) is the foundation defining how hard the music grooves. But where things really start to dig in is in layering the rhythm with some parts static (unchanging) and other parts dynamic (changing).

Frozen Cats

Fear can make for an inability to stay present with the music you are playing. Fear of what? Common suspects are fear of inadequacy, lack of knowledge, lack of experience, fear of inauthenticity. So are those concerns accurate? Yes. No. Partly. Maybe. Who cares.

Connection with others and with the music you are playing matters more than your strengths/weaknesses in musicianship. Of course your technique partly defines the music but it may be that the intention of the music and your commitment to presence matter more than flawless execution. Regardless, it’s too much to assume that the impact of your music is defined strictly by musicianship or your paranoia thereof.

Sound like water

When soundproofing a space the analogy often used is to imagine a boat in water. If there are any holes in the boat it will take on water. Similarly, if there are any holes in a building those will allow the passage of sound (outside to inside or vice versa). What this translates to in practice is a whole lot of caulk.

Recording Observations #1

  1. Auto-tune and time correct are risky not as tools but in their implications for music and future musicians. Moderation is prudent practice here.

  2. Chops in sound engineering are always secondary to taste. No matter how much you know or don’t know, your taste and translation of that taste through recording/mixing will be the first thing listeners respond to (or don’t).

  3. Drums can sound more realistic by employing extreme measures such as radical modification of a kit or heavy processing of a recorded kit sound.

  4. Effects such as compression and delay are groove-based, they work in time.

  5. Endless options are not very helpful. Limitations can be.