It’s the thing that makes you bob your head a certain way when listening to a track. The thing that can make you feel a certain emotion, and the driving force of any great song. Also referred to as the pocket, soul, feel, or vibe - A good Groove is hard to beat.
Over the last 3 or 4 weeks, I have been spending a lot of time working on my programming chops across multiple genres, and during this period, I’ve been studying some of my favourite Grooves in an effort to quantify what it is about a Groove that makes it feel so great. The short answer is that it’s tough to define.
Perfection In The Imperfections
If I had to sum it up, I’d say that the perfection of a good Groove lies within the imperfections. This may seem like a cheesy answer, but it’s true. It’s truly amazing what the subtle nuances of timing ‘in between the beats’ can add.
I mean let’s face it, we live in a world of click tracks and quantized performances, and in many ways, our ears have become accustomed to listening to this type of material, but no matter who you are, what genre you listen to, everyone knows a good Groove when they hear it.
Working in a Grid based DAW timeline is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it affords the benefits of flawless editing, reliable timing, and in general - a fine-tuned workflow for music production. But on the other hand, it has the ability to strip away the soul of a good Groove if you’re not careful.
So in a world of Quantizing, click tracks, and Grid based music production - how do we inject a little Soul back into our tracks? Well, there’s a number of different way’s to approach this. One of the best options (just my personal opinion of course) is actually “playing” or “performing” vs programming. But this is much easier said than done. Another one that comes to mind is going through the process of “Humanizing” our MIDI tracks - either by adding random (automated) deviations in timing and Velocity, or manual editing. But in the end, getting a Groove to “feel” right can still be difficult.
MIDI Groove Templates
Thankfully there are other ways we can approach this as well, with respect to programming or sequencing. One of which is actually quite a simple concept. “Borrowing” the timing (and potentially the variations in Velocity) of a performance - and applying it to your own productions. MIDI affords us the ability to translate musical performances into musical Data, and it just so happens that the Data extracted from a performance can be stored AND applied to other files, such as Audio and MIDI.
So with all these MIDI Files available - it’s just a matter of importing, and extracting. There are those who say that an MPC has a certain type of Swing, that’s unique to the unit. The same can be said for various pieces of hardware. Quantizing your performances to a Groove extracted from MIDI (from these devices) may be just the ticket. And having the ability to store those Grooves for instant recall at a later date, is super convenient.
In this video, I demonstrate how to create & store Groove Templates from external MIDI Files in PreSonus Studio One.
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