I Got the Feelin'......
I got the feelin’ that some of you might not know what ‘on the one’ means, and are wondering what the hell that has to do with drumming. I’ll do my best to describe it.
The phrase ‘On the 1’, as I have understood it, refers to James Brown and his desire to emphasize the first beat of every bar, or ‘the one’. It can mean a few other things in music, but, for me, the interpretation above is the most important. Even the least enthusiastic musical layman can feel it in his very soul when the drummer doesn’t hit that down beat in the right spot. It’s like a needle being dragged across a record on a turntable. Given that playing on the ‘one’ correctly is our most important, and often overlooked, job as drummers, what better name for this apparel company?
I have an idea what most of you are thinking,”Woah, there, Joey, I am as funky as Bernard Purdie wearing light blue polyester bell bottoms at Bootsy Collins’ house.” I thought the very same thing for many years. It wasn’t until I worked with producer Michael Beinhorn that I found out just how wrong I was.
While in the studio for my band’s last record, Michael told me to drive the song like John Bonham or Clyde Stubblefield. “Oh, I got this”, I immediately thought to myself. I knew how to play ‘Stairway’, and I’d played plenty of James Brown songs in a cover band I was in circa 2008. So, game on, right? No, sir. Once I listened back to my tracks in the control room, what I heard was the song being played “correctly”, but the groove was, at times, non existent. A gigantic hole in my playing was found, and in front of my all-time favorite producer. Ouch, dudes.
What this recording session told me was the following - I tend to drag snares after a crash or hi-hat bark on the downbeat, and that I tended to drag the downbeat after adding a pickup kick drum on the ‘ah’ of 4. While these issues didn’t happen all the time, they were prevalent enough to show me how important playing the downbeat, or the ‘one’ is when you are trying to drive a band. And since driving a band IS our job, playing that ‘one’ in just the right spot should be our number one priority.
To determine where your groove stands, tape yourself playing to a song like “Billie Jean”, “Whole Lotta Love”, or “I Got the Feelin’”. The easiest way is with your phone because you can’t hide a lackluster groove behind slick production. Now listen back, drums only. Does it move you? Does it move like the original song? Or, does it sound hesitant and lack confidence? If you answered the latter, then it’s time to get to work! Play to groove oriented music, record yourself often to locate weak points, and concentrate on fixing them! Don’t let your groove chops hug!