Tom Brechtlein: Opening Your Ears Wider
In our last installment, we talked about delving into your experience as a player to come up with new ideas for grooves. We’re going to expand on the subject a little more by looking at an experience I had while rehearsing with Robben Ford And The Blue Line. We were trying to figure out what type of groove should be used on a tune called “Real Man.” Roscoe Beck, our bass player, suggested using a rhumba. I looked at him and said, “Are you kidding?” He said, “No, just try it.” I figured I’d give it a shot, and took the standard rhumba pattern and added very little to it to give it a little heavier groove (Ex. 1). When we got to the guitar solo section I changed the pattern a little bit so I could use the ride-cymbal bell (Ex. 2). This gave the groove a little lift behind the solo. This particular beat can be heard on the CD entitled Robben Ford And The Blue Line on Stretch Records (plug! plug!). The tune was written by John Hiatt.
We play a tune on the Blue Line gigs called “Lovin’ Cup.” We tried this tune out at a sound check. Robben started playing the guitar part, then I came in with a drum groove. We played for a minute, then Robben stopped the band. He told me that the drum part was too slick and started singing a rhythm that closely resembled the snare drum part in Ex. 3. Then Roscoe sang the cymbal part. I translated what they were singing onto the drums and came up with the part in Ex. 3. When we started the tune up again it began to feel good. This is a good way to get a tune to feel right when you don’t know what to play. Let your band mates sing a rhythm to you and then translate it onto the drums. Simple, really, but effective.