6 Steps to Groove Independence by Martan Mann
Have you watched a pianist or guitarist, who is also a singer, play and sing with complete freedom and independence? It’s difficult, but important, to develop this skill. When you can attain independence, it enables you to think more creatively and also phrase more musically. This is all about training the subconscious. It can be done by consistently practicing the exercises below.
Here are the six steps:
1) Sing the groove. Think of a groove that you want to play. It could be, for instance, a bossa nova groove, a swing groove, a funk groove, whatever. Start singing the groove. Yes . . . make up your own “groove language” and try to imitate the subtleties of the groove. In fact, really concentrate on the sub-divisions of the groove. It helps to think like a drummer.
2) Develop a bass line. You should think like a bass player. Bassists hold down the groove. They also lead the mind through the tune. Bassists are always thinking forward to the next chord. This can be done by using simple “lead-ins” or a complete quarter-note walking bass line.
3) Play and sing a simple progression using the groove. A good simple progression to use is the “II V Progression”. This uses the II & V chords of the II V I Progression, but without the I chord. You don’t want for it to be too complicated. Here’s an example of the II V Progression using a common bossa nova groove:
Remember . . . this is a very simple, basic idea of the bossa. It is strongly suggested that you listen intently to a real bossa. Listen for the subtle “flavors” of the groove. It is like an actor deciphering a dialect that they want to learn. Feel free to change the above groove to match what you are hearing.
4) Play and Sing the groove using all the inversions of the chord. Bounce around between the inversions. Listen to the top note of the chord as a melody. Do this over and over (in all keys) until it is totally subconscious.
5) Play the groove while speaking in complete sentences. Yes . . . I said, “speaking in complete sentences”. It is impossible to lock in (or “meter-beat) to the groove when you are speaking. We generally do not want to “lock in” melodies because it is un-natural and unmusical. Also, your mind must be fully engaged to speak intelligently. Try it. It’s very difficult. This takes practice.
It is suggested that in order to be “free” from the groove, you have to de-emphasize it. Consider imagining that you are hearing the groove softly in the next room. Make it unimportant so that you forget about your hands. In fact, don’t look at your hands. Imagine that you are not playing the groove.
6) Sing complete short phrases while playing the groove. Always think forward to a definite destination note. Try “talking” the music phrases. Think of carrying on a conversation. Eventually, you can sing or scat through an entire tune in this manner.
This can be applied to learning any tune. Develop the groove. Learn the chord changes. Play melodies freely and easily over the groove.
Practice, practice, practice.