What Are Your Favorite Songs That Groove?

Efa Etoroma, Jr.
Efa Etoroma, Jr.

The concept of “groove” can be hard to pin down. That single word alludes to the rhythmic character of a composition, the feeling with which performers play their parts, and a certain ineffable something that catches the ear and sinks right into a listener’s core.

Creating rhythmic patterns that sit right in the pocket requires both swagger and comprehension; an intellectual awareness as well as the complete reception to a flow state — seemingly simultaneously.

For the latest episode of Themes and Variation, Mahea and I caught up with the estimable drummer and producer, Efa Etoroma, Jr., who even created an entire free Soundfly short course on this very subject, to try to define what might just end up being indefinable. Our conversation runs the gamut of all things groove — from legendary virtuosity to beats that just feel good, this one’s all about “Songs That Groove.”

Listen to the full Episode 32 right here:

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For more information on writing funk style grooves, check out Efa Etoroma Jr.’s free course, Writing Funk Grooves for Drums and Bass.

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Episode 32 Highlights

1. Efa perfectly defines the term “pocket.”

Efa: “I think it’s like a combination of timing, consistent timing, and your attitude, and then also understanding the history of what you’re playing, or understanding how it relates to the context, and kind of understanding the vocabulary that you play that will fit in the thing, so it’s a lot of things. So that’s why it’s kind of hard. It’s hard to be like ‘just play with more pocket’ it’s like ‘uhhh’… you know maybe 5-10 years, a couple bad decisions, you know hahaha.”

2.  Carter on a unique approach in “Wngs.”

Carter: “Just on the track too, so if you listen super carefully… You don’t even have to listen that carefully but maybe on a first listen you might not notice it but there’s at the very least a ride cymbal that feels very random in the background, I think there’s just a whole other groove happening as well but just listen a little and see if you guys can pick that up.”

3. Mahea on the public perception of slap bass.

Mahea: “I feel like a lot of musical techniques that have some novelty to them do feel like parlor tricks until you learn how to harness them. Like a glissando is one of the first like dumb things kids or anyone that plays at a piano but when you can do one perfectly timed that goes from the note you want to the note you want, it’s no longer a parlor trick you know? And that’s kinda how I feel like, the people who really have slapping down, it is it’s own art.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Every other week, and with every episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new collaborative Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in the episode and more, which you can add to and enjoy. Here’s this week’s collaborative Spotify playlist!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

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