4 Top Drum Teachers Discuss The Groove

TIBBS: But if a guy’s time is really lousy, like lousy ...

PEDERSEN: ... There’s not much you can do.

TIBBS: Yeah, I mean, obviously we’re all human beings, nobody’s perfect like a machine, and we shouldn’t be, either. But I think that it’s a different thing, having great time and great phrasing and a great feel. They can all work together, but if you’re just like, “Your time, your time, your time,” at the end of the day it’s like, Okay, you play great time, but there’s nothing else there.

PEDERSEN: Yeah, you can forget it real fast, can’t you? A guy with great time doesn’t mean you’re going to remember his playing. But everyone’s going to feel it in a different way. We’ll talk about groove and time, and they are together to some degree, but there are some great drummers who rush like mad. I mean Stewart Copeland changed the face of drumming, because of the passion for the instrument and the cool things he played, and there was no time going on there whatsoever. But yet it was fantastic. But that’s where we learn about our time playing, too, because we’re trying to find a groove position. And we have our own thing, but the search for something else is where you gain that constant in time, because it’s understanding it. And that’s what we try to give to the students. But that takes time. You know, they get to see it; they get to suddenly go, “Okay, now I know what groove is.” But then, often, that busts your confidence for a little while and you have to get it back and go, “Oh, I’m not great. I’m not perfect.” You’ve got to be real careful as a young player, to be able to look at that and go, “Okay, that’s not great, but while I’m working on it I still have got to keep bashing it out with the same confidence I did before.”

WAYMIRE: Well, confidence is the big thing, and I think a lot of our individual grooves, too, do come from our inconsistencies. It’s the things that are not perfect in the groove that make us individual more than what’s perfect.

Groove Roundtable

(Left) Ernest Tibbs

DRUM!: When you do manage to lock into a groove, how do you maintain it? What’s going through your mind?

WAYMIRE: Just enjoy.

PEDERSEN: Exactly. It’s like surfing. You just get to enjoy that time.

GALANE: It has to do with the band, too. No egos and no power trips in the band. At least for me, when I’m playing, I always hate that when the guitar player’s trying to show off and stepping all over the feel. [Group laughter] But when everybody’s on the same page and everybody’s serving the music, ride the wave, right?

TIBBS: Yeah, we’re serving the music. We’re giving to each other, not just taking.

PEDERSEN: And when you start thinking about it then I think it’s gone. Because the whole idea of a great groove is when you’re communicating. But as soon as you’re thinking then you quit communicating.

GALANE: I had this student, he was really struggling with [a shuffle], right? And I asked him, “What do you imagine when you play that?” And he said, “Nothing.” And I told him, “Say you were in a movie. What scene would describe that shuffle?”

PEDERSEN: Well, that’s very advanced — that’s very advanced thinking. Did he get it?

GALANE: And he said, “It’s kind of late, everybody’s tired. Like, maybe like a smoke-filled jazz club or something.”

PEDERSEN: That’s very cool, man.

GALANE: And then he tried it again, and you would not believe the difference. Just by imagining being in this smoke-filled club. I personally do that, you know? And if I can help a student that way, I try that too, but it really helped him.

DRUM!: How does your physical approach to the instrument, how you actually move, affect the groove?

WAYMIRE: If you change your position, it’s going to change the way you play. But some of the stuff that comes out, you just do it, you don’t think, “I need to move my body back to lay this back,” or “I need to lean into it,” you just kind of start to do it after awhile.

GALANE: It’s like walking, right? You do something since you’re two years old — and everyone walks different.

TIBBS: Yeah, absolutely. I always go back to Steve Gadd: You notice his body, and it’s in his body, and it’s a natural thing. He almost dances.

WAYMIRE: And he moves a lot, actually. His body is very involved with his time.

PEDERSEN: He was a tap dancer, wasn’t he? And so was Rick Marotta — a lot of those guys.

GALANE: Buddy Rich.

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