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Six Steps To Independence From The Groove

I think we all know the “groove” when we experience it.  It’s the emotional pulse that we feel when listening to music.  In playing jazz, rock or pop music, it’s very important to first set up a strong groove.  However, once you start playing the melody, it is equally important to be independent from the groove.  In other words, the vocalist or instrumental soloist is literally playing over the groove.

The problem for pianists (and also guitarists) is that they are often playing both the groove and the solo.  It’s an important element of style that both groove and soloing should be distinctly different.  For instance, think of a pianist or guitarist playing a groove while also talking freely to the audience.  It takes a lot of practice and experience to develop this freedom.

That is the purpose of this lesson.  Here is an organized lesson to achieve this goal of independence.  We have a gland in the center of our brain called the Corpus Callosum.  This gland organizes all the activities between right and left in our bodies.  You literally have to train this gland to allow us to separate the groove from the rest of your playing.  But, this is necessary to give you a professional style.

Below is a step-by-step method to achieve this goal.

Step One:  Clap And Sing The Groove.

  1. Decide on a groove that you want to learn.  Choose a simple repetitive chord progression.  A good example would be just playing the II to V7.  Another example would be to play a  I VI II V diatonic turnaround.
  2. Play it over and over until it is totally subconscious.
  3. Try to play the subtleties of the groove.  Get into it’s dialect.
  4. Think of the subdivisions of the groove.  For example is the groove basically in duple or triple meter.
  5. Play the groove in all keys.
  6. Play chord substitutions.
  7. As you play the groove over and over start making small melodic changes which add to the depth of the groove.

Step Two:  Talk While Playing The Groove.

Just start speaking in complete sentences while playing the groove.  Maintain the exact groove in your hands while you are speaking.

Step Three:  Count Against The Groove.

Count quarter notes, eighth notes, quarter-note triplets & eighth-note triplets against the groove.

Step Four:  Sing Musical Phrases While Playing The Groove.

  1. Break up the phrases using different melodic rhythms.
  2. Have all the phrases start in the middle of the measure and end on the first beat of the next measure.  Always think “over to one”.

Step Five:  Play What You Are Singing.

Train your hands and fingers to exactly play what you are singing.  Don’t let the fingers “lead”.

Step Six:  Stop Playing The Groove.  Feel It.

Stop playing the exact groove.  But, don’t stop feeling it.  Think modally.  Play over the groove.


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Martan Mann is the author of the Online Jazz Study Course, JazzSkills for Piano (  His website:  He can be contacted at (408) 234-2364