How to learn ‘Groove’

 August 30, 2017

By  alswainger

The bad news – Despite what everyone wanting to sell you a book or instructional course may tell you, no one can really teach you. It’s just too subtle a thing.

The good news – What a good one-to-one teacher can help you with is develop a good, reliable process for how YOU can teach you… Once you know how and what to look for all you really have to do is listen to your favourite records!

Active listening is the key.

The only way to ‘get’ groove, feel, attitude or whatever word you want to use to describe it is to listen closely to the music you want to emulate. Over and over and over again.

There is a really obvious difference between the playing of someone who listens for pleasure and someone who has just done some superficial listening because they needed to learn a few songs.

Pay really close attention to what your instrument is doing in the mix. Then start to pay attention to what the other instruments are doing too. Listen to how the instruments interact. Could you sing along with lines from any part? Know the music so well that you could sing any of it without the recording. Do all of that without even picking up an instrument. Once you start playing along you impose your own preconceptions of what you think the music is doing, often instead of what it is actually doing. I see people do that quite often, with their instruments turned up so loud they can’t hear what they are playing along with. Once they start doing, they stop listening.

Listen first.


Then listen some more.

We effectively teach ourselves intuition by doing that. Once you know what you are expecting to hear and feel the groove will take care of itself. Learning what notes to play on particular songs is really the icing on the cake as far as groove goes. If it doesn’t feel right then none of the rest matters.

Happy listening!


​Al has performed, recorded and taught all over the country and internationally for more than 25 years.

Highlights include sessions, tours and workshops with :

Peter King, Grice, Paul Jones, P.P. Arnold, Scott Hamilton, Siobhan McCrudden, Gary Bamford, Gilad Atzmon, Mike Outram, Alan Barnes, Ant Law and many more as well as h​is own projects :

Pointless Beauty, Biophosmos, Snow Giants and Mahatmosphere.

As an educator he has taught for schools, colleges and privately for more than 25 years and has a BA (Hons) / PGCE in Music.

Your Signature

related posts:

  • And then; once you can emulate you have to forget everything you learnt and BE part of the music. You slip into greatness when you stop thinking and automatic pilot kicks in.

    • Totally. It’s worth going back every once in a while though. What you take from a style is obviously the ‘you’ bit but it can be interesting to see the difference between what you think you remember happening and what really is. Sometimes it’s quite a surprise!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Get in touch