Let’s start by explaining the term “playing in the pocket” and what a pocket drummer is. It’s a term used to depict a drummer or other instrumentalists when they play in such manner that portrays extremely solid groove, and with a notable feel. When you maintain a great metronomic pulse (also known as keeping time) as a drummer, and produce a really good groove feel and sustain such feel for a longer time in an unwavering manner, it is often called a deep pocket. Having a pocket also comes with having a groove.
In terms of history, “pocket” as a term used in drumming or other instrumentation can be traced back to mid last century, associated with the backbeat – it connoted that the backbeat is somewhat delayed, resulting in a “relaxed” or “laid back” feel. The Snare Drum is the backbeat, striking beat 2 and beat 4.
When the drum beat sounds just the same time that the drummer strikes the Kick Drum, it implied that the Snare Drum was quite frequently played a bit later compared to the middle point between the Kick Drum’s two consecutive pulses. Often, musicians as well as those who have ears for music were oblivious of the science behind this; however, they coined a term or phrase for it, which is “the drummer is playing in the pocket.”
On the other hand, in recent time, playing the pocket has somewhat broadened in the sense it is being used. So, in the recent implication, it points that if the drummer and the bass player (or simply two musicians) are feeling the down beats jointly, and adding beat 1 simultaneously, both players would be referred to as being “in the pocket.”
So, How Can You Learn or Improve Your Pocket Playing Grooves?
As mentioned earlier, playing in the pocket entails setting up a very compelling and strong beat, in such manner that the groove is laid with a really solid tempo, causing it to produce an easy-to-flow-with, or comfortable pocket for every other member of the band. In essence, what is being referred to is, a technique that is completely steady with minimal frills or fills, making the music to drive on.
Now that you have a grasp of what pocket drumming is all about, and that the groove sets the mood, you can take advantage of the following tips on how to learn and improve on pocket drumming;
Tip #1: Use a Metronome to Practice.
The metronome you use doesn’t matter, whether it is the digital option or the traditional type. When it comes to having a great groove laid down, and staying ‘in the pocket’, what matters most is timing, which is also the key. Using a metronome to practice is a great way to become skillful at keeping up a tempo that is steady at all times.
Tip #2: Play In Front or Behind the Beat.
If you truly desire to transform a drum beat to real grove, then you must not take this highly effective technique leniently. However, it is usually quite challenging to master this technique of playing in front or behind the beat. An amazing approach to add bunches of groove to a beat, even the simplest of all beats is to play a note exactly prior to the true or real beat. Use a metronome to practice the technique. Be patient while trying to build on this technique since it will make huge demand on your time. But, at the end, the returns on your time investment will be worth it.
Tip #3: Eliminate the Showy Stuff in the Meantime.
No doubts, every drummer loves to be known as a skilled and accomplished player, which is why we take pride in adding our unique flair when making beats. But, when it comes to pocket drumming, all the emphasis is on the groove, the sound is not significant. You may be wondering what this implies. The thing is, when learning to hone up your skill in pocket drumming, your responsibility is to drive the music, you have no business with adding to its content. Therefore, cut back on the fills. You should concentrate on setting the groove instead.
Tip #4: Play in a Relaxed Manner and Ride the Groove.
In addition to learning the drum pocket playing techniques outlined so far, you also need to know how important it is to be relaxed and drive the groove as you play. By now, you should know that feeling is basically what drives groove, which means you will definitely lose the groove if you concentrate more on your playing. So, becoming a great pocket drummer has its secret in not only playing the music, but feeling it as well. Remember also that the rest of the band is relying on the comfort pocket you are expected to lay, for exploitation. And of course, when you play in a relaxed manner, you catch fun as a pocket drumming player.
So, go ahead and practice what you’ve learnt so far about how to become a pocket drummer.