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Groove in music

How is groove connected to pulse and entrainment processes? Hans T. Zeiner-Henriksen discusses how it all intertwines.
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Groove is a term that is often used in relation to rhythmic music. Usually it refers to a quality in the music as in this track lacks a good groove, or we need a better groove to make this song work. So what signifies a good groove? Groove, as a quality, is usually defined as an urge to move. You just can’t sit still, is a typical saying when the groove is good. So it’s related to movement, to the body, to bodily pleasure. Moreover, grooves are repetitive. A certain part can be repeated many times. Why? Well, since you have to learn how to react with your body, learn the moves and then you repeat it and enjoy, again and again.
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If that constantly changed, you wouldn’t have been able to predict how to move. But again, if the groove is too static for a long period, you might find it boring. So good tracks have both repetition and variation usually. The most common grooves used in dance music and modern pop music are very pulse oriented. There is no doubt where the pulse is. Sometimes, the pulse delivery can be so powerful by itself that it forms a good groove, but usually there are other elements that pull in other directions. Doo-doo-doo-doo, ga-ga-ga-ga-ga, goo-goo-goo-ga-ga. Another type of groove is when the sounds that communicate the pulse give tension or suspension, or if they pull or push in various directions.
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Unn– cha-ca, gu-chu, ba-ca I’ll end this video with a short movement oriented analysis of a groove from a dance music track. First, the combination of bass drum, hand clap, and hi-hat. These three communicate the pulse. The bass drum presents the downbeat. And zooming in closer on the spectrogram, we can see that it has downward pitch movement that makes the downward feeling even stronger. On this sonogram, you can see that the bass drum sounds, they have a pitch movement downwards, a descending pitch movement. It doesn’t go unnh, but It goes unnh, which also makes it, when you move to it, it makes it unnh-unnh-unnh. You feel this movement downwards when you listen to it.
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In between the bass drum sounds there are hi-hats on the offbeats, which you can see in between there.
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And I’ve drawn a so-called, possible movement curve that shows how most people move to this sound. T-ch-t-ch down on the bass drum, up on the hi-hat. Every second bass drum is combined with a hand clap sound that gives more energy to the beat. And in between, on the offbeat, or upbeat, we have hi-hat, a high frequency sound that may pull us upward. So I draw a possible curve for an up-and-down movement that can be experienced through, for example, head nodding or body bouncing. With the low point being the bass drum, even lower to show more energy when the snare drum is added and upwards to where the hi-hat hits.
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The groove here also has a pattern and a vocal-like sound that works to make it more exciting. Vocal sounds also present the possibilities to sing along, make a similar sound, sound-producing action. Later in the track there is a synthesiser sound with a pattern that also follows the same path of moving upwards in pitch in line with the this up-and-down movement. Dancing, moving to music, is a very creative and personal activity, so it is impossible to predict what kind of movement the music will produce. Still, good DJs and good producers know how to make it work.

How is groove connected to pulse and entrainment processes? Hans Zeiner-Henriksen discusses how it all intertwines.

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