It’s all in the groove

Hey everybody,

I wanted to share an important lesson maybe I haven’t ever truly absorbed until recently. Skymonk was rehearsing yesterday for our show at Crema Coffee Lounge in Hartsville, SC this weekend and we were working on a tune called ‘To Have and to Hold”, one of our newest songs and also one of our tougher songs. I, like many of you, have this great energy about new songs, convinced that this song will literally make people crap themselves from sheer joy and awe from the message conveyed through the tune and the construction/structure we put together and just how AWESOME IT IS, BLAH BLAH BLAH… (sigh) That rarely happens without illicit assistance, but nevertheless…

However, this song in particular, seemed to be getting worse over time. The more we rehearsed it, played it out, its grand rise to being the superior, exalted piece in our setlist, in my mind, had changed course and become secondary at best. Even up for just being cut all together. Then Sunday happened. We rehearsed and that song was placed last in our round before we wrapped up for the day and we played it. It wasn’t great.

That look that everyone gives each other where a tune is ok but not outstanding and nobody is really sure how or why it got to be that way starts getting passed around. I was unsure why it was bad. I felt helpless. There’s not much I can’t stand more than working for months on a tune to have it die in front of us and I can’t put my finger on why

Then Ben spoke up and said, “Just be sure you’re not rushing it, it’s gotta breathe.” Scott spoke nearly at the same time saying, “Take a huge breath before you play this song, you have to get the groove right.”

And there it was. I’m rushing this song and have been for a long time. They’re both right. And now I’ve noticed something about myself. It happens WAY more than I want to admit.

I rush songs.

A lot.

I get excited, which is good. but rushing a song because I’m excited is bad. Rushing songs turns music to mud. Uncomfortable, clarity-less, hard to listen to, mud and robs the experience of any shade of groove, which for me has become more important than almost any part of the way I play music. I’m forever searching for a better sense of groove and can’t stand when I can’t find it, when my group doesn’t jive together.  I like what Ethan Hein wrote about groove;

“But what is groove, exactly? It isn’t just a matter of everyone playing with accurate rhythm. When a classical musician executes a passage flawlessly, you don’t usually talk about their groove. Meanwhile, it’s possible for loosely executed music to have a groove to it. Most of my musician friends talk about groove as a feeling, a vibe, an ineffable emotional quality, and they’re right. But groove is something tangible, too, and even quantifiable.”

So trying to explain it is difficult, but not impossible. What is groove?

To me, groove is a song that feels comfortable between everyone, the perfect energy, perfect pace. Nobody is trying to do something crazy. Just simple. Not necessarily basic, but effective. The relationship between everyone is a certain feel and when it is right, it is absolute magic, something seemingly unstoppable. And when it’s wrong, it’s clear as mud.

So we played the song again. I started the intro riff at a pace that I felt was a crawling tempo in comparison to what we just did. And then it happened. We fell into that groove that I hadn’t heard in months with this song. Beautiful, elegant, clear separation of all the parts, glorious, frigging groovy music. It just felt better.

You could use this as a metaphor for your life. What if we slowed our lives down for a second, took a breath, focused our energy at the right things, at the right pace? I know that when I’ve rushed other projects at work, school, or even something as simple as dinner, it turns to crap usually. Taking the correct pace, allowing the thing you’re working on to breathe, let that steak cook and stop flipping it, is a good way to look at life. Don’t rush today, let it be what it is — you’ll find the groove is a much better.


Until next time,


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