The Compositional Drummer

The Compositional Drummer

Information for the career minded drummer and musician

The All Important Groove


Groove Generation


4/4 ||: 1&  2&  3&  4& | 1&  2&  3&  4& :|| repeat intro once…


That rhythmic groove was recorded in 1983, The single sold over 6 million copies in over 5 countries making him the "King Of Pop”… If you haven’t guessed by now it is the rhythmic groove to non other than Billie Jean. The song about one particular groupie trying to pen a kid on poor Michael. "He He”


Billie Jean, like many other successful Pop songs had the drawing power of “The Groove”.  Think about how many Hit's are groove oriented… Van Halen’s - Jump,  Queen’s - Another One Bites The Dust, The Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams" and many more.  Outside of the Lyric and the Lyric Story the rhythmic groove is another of the most important aspects of songwriting. Why? well in popular music most people like to dance to the rhythm and enjoy the pulse, or commonly know as, “The beat”. So what better place to start the writing process than with rhythm or “Groove”.  It is everywhere in the composition even the melody.  


So how do you begin in groove writing? Well, I get my recorder, iPhone or whatever. Set the metronome to a comfortable tempo, and "mouth doddle" around with “bass and drum "motives” (short little rhythmic ideas).  Try to not downplay the importance of what I call “Daily sketching” This might, for some, be a corny process but it is, never-the-less an exercise in developing short ideas that could later be developed into entire songs.  Now as you begin experimenting with these ideas you might get an idea for a melodic “Hook”  that could possibly become the Chorus for the song? If that happens, take care to make sure it is not “Sing Songy” and overly “Rhymie. We will talk about melodic development in future discussions.  Also, play with the dynamics of the groove. Accent certain beats to see if it enhances the feel. The displacement of the beat and time signature changes are EXTREMELY POWERFUL songwriting tools.  


While engaging in this process remember a few things. When writing genre specific music stay true to the genre. Rock drum grooves have no place in an R&B tune and vice versa. The feel of the song is just as important. Screamer rock vocal melodies don’t belong in a Pop song. That’s a bit exaggerated but trust me. I have, on occasion seen it all with students. 


In conclusion, try not to overthink this entire process. Just flow and be purposeful in your development of genuinely good ideas. Step away from it for a day or two. Bounce the ideas off of co-writers. Development is the key to crafting something great. After all,  what’s that they say about Rome NOT being built in a day.


I will leave you with what I think is the best example of what I’m talking about. Michael Jackson explaining how he came up with the Hit song  “Who Is It". Listen for the dynamic articulation of the lyric. The attention he paid to detail is simply incredible. Watch from the 8 minute mark and until next time, keep writing!



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