Session Guitar: The Importance of Playing "In The Pocket"

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vancouvermatt

Great article, Ron. I'm a bass player, and for me, playing in the pocket means becoming "invisible" or "disappearing". What I mean by that is this: I can hear or imagine the song in my head as we play, and I know what I'm supposed to play to play it properly. When I hit the right notes at the right time, I no longer hear myself; I just hear the song. But when I flub a note or miss a beat, then I start to hear myself, and that means I'm screwing up. When I disappear into the song, and just become 'one' with the song, then I know I'm in the pocket.

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GeorgeMarinelli

Ron, spot on. Hit the nail on the head (excepting the part I contributed:). It's such an evasive, elusive thing, but when I get to play with a drummer that has 'it', I just feel like I'm in a big comfy couch and don't have to work as hard. And as guitarists, we don't want to take it for granted and detract from that pocket, so it's really important to be able to lay it in all the right places, lean behind the beat if necessary, and play on top if that's necessary. Old soul and R&B records are fantastic sources. Guys like Steve Cropper and the Motown cats invented so much.
Great stuff as always Ron,
gm

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RonZabrocki

Playing behind the beat, or on top of the beat......maybe that's going to be another blog topic! You may be better suited at that one! Thanks for the participation! Cropper is mentioned in my next blog!
Ron

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valleeman

Hey Ron,

You're right....no way to explain the pocket. The pocket is a good example of an aspect of musicianship where one strives for perfection in an imperfect world. A great deal can be said about the issues that one encounters in an imperfect world.

Generally, as an individual or as a group of individuals, those fleeting moments of perfection occur more and more frequently with experience. Perfection is a very temporary thing, but excellence is something within our grasp that can be sustained. Good subject for a book.

Toodles,

Ed Vallee

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RonZabrocki

Ed Vallee from STEVE SMITH AND THE NAKEDS AND THE LATE GREAT CLARENCE CLEMONS! Experience is the key! GREAT observations and thanks sooooo much for posting!
TOODLES!
Ron

dalebfast

In the pocket? Oh, i'm sure I have experienced this, but to do this with musicians you have just met?
I have SO much to learn....

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RonZabrocki

Thanks for posting! The more musician's you play with, the more you will understand! And we all have so much to learn! You never stop!
Thanks again!

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suemenhart

Great article Ron. As a vocalist, I have played with many, many musicians - some who get it and some who don't. It's so much easier to sing without having to scream over everybody playing over each other. p.s. nice pic of Steve!

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RonZabrocki

There ya go Sue...it's a matter of respect for the artist and the music! Ya gotta know your place in the song...then we all win!

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PRMike

Great article. I think what Mr. July said is so true. The pocket has it's birth in the rhythm section and if happening will lead others to the pocket. Every band who thinks they got it together should have their bass player and drummer read this article. Properly done, the guitarists out there will find a new and happier place to be and grow.

"Most musicians have empty pockets. This is so there is room for them to play there." (Yeah - that's me trying to make us all feel ok with the fact that most of us musicians don't make much money doing what we love.)

Looking forward to the next Ron Z moment.

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RonZabrocki

You said it! EVERYTIME I've played with a happening rhythm section I smile inside and out! There's a freedom knowing that these guys are not only supporting but inspiring, freeing, lifting. I know I sound better when the rhythm section is "on". And I'm not sure my playing is necessarily better, but when you got a couple of guys playing like a locomotive under you, life is sweet! And LES JULY is one the deepest grooving players I know! Does not matter what instrument he plays...it's all beautiful. Thanks so much for commenting and giving your views...it means alot to me!

gitarzz

When I was a kid (17 or so) I was in a bluesy rock jam with some poeple that I met through mutual friends. They were die hards from the Haight Ashbury days so they had some years on me for sure. They told me they liked my potential but I gotta learn to play in the pocket. So, at 17 do you think I said, "Sure! I'm on it!"? No, it was more like, "Huh?".

I'm in my forties now and I was asked to sit in with friends who I met through my business partner and even though I have a lot more experience with "The Pocket", I still have to find it.

You have to take the time to get a sense of the other musicians and their styles. But at the same time you have to play like a marksman shooting a new pistol... don't limp wrist it. Play with confidence. Now is not the time to try something you read about here. Now is the time to play what is already second nature to you. If a moment comes for you to rip, let the dragon free!

It's sorta like a musicians social contract. You can tear it up but only if it's ok with the band ~and~ you keep it within the context of their playing. 'In the pocket' if you will.

I'm not a session guy at all. Just a music lover with a guitar.
Rock 'n' Roll

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RonZabrocki

GREAT comment! All ya need is love...and a guitar! The more you play with other musician's, the more confidence! Sounds like you'd be fun to jam with! I bet your pocket is deep! Thanks for reading!

gitarzz

Thanks Ron!

Something I wanted to add. Last week I had a jam with a drummer I'd only met once and a bass player and key player that I'd never met at all. Now, when someone looks at a band or orchestra what they see is teamwork to create one piece of music in harmony. In an orchestra I imagine that description fits.

But in a band... teamwork just doesn't work. Teamwork implies that everyone holds up their end. When I was playing with these guys I was certainly holding up my end but when playing in the pocket you're also attempting to lift the others higher. To inspire and be inspired. This little band of musicians is a fellowship.

When I was driving home later that evening, I felt like I had three brand new 'old' friends...

...'cos I played in the pocket.

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RonZabrocki

Yeah...there is a connection made that bonds us all together for life.
You also mentioned lifting higher...that happens to me everytime I've played a session or performed with "A" list players....you just seem to be lifted up and you take that with you to the next adventure!

stevedunn

Great article. In working with Ron over the years I have often been reminded to listen to whats happening with a song and play in the pocket. Ron is for sure one of the guys who is always in the pocket achieving "super-omni-galactic-one-ness"

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RonZabrocki

But...Steve....Is that good?

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fegtri17

Well you said it all ... Playing along with the band ... Feeling how the others feel and add your own feeling to that mix and making the song progress ... I mean ... That is what playing music with other people is all about ...

Hard to do with strangers you don't know ... at least that's what I think.

I never heard of the expression "the pocket" before reading your post though !

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RonZabrocki

Great comment! The Pocket, I guess, is a bit old school...but still used in NY! Thanks for reading! As far as it being hard to do with strangers, in the studio, we often play with musicician's we just met...just gotta use your ears and respect the groove! And in your words, that is what playing music is all about!

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fegtri17

Yeah exactly what I was thinking yesterday evening -> Play with your ears ...

Myself being somebody who listens to people rather than talk to them in real life made a little bit easier for me to achieve that play with your ears thing.

I must say ... When I first read your post yesterday I did not think it was a great subject. But after you showed your interest in seeing the point of view of the readers on the subject, I just threw my comment to see where it would lead.

Then I read the other great comments and found that it is a great subject which gives A LOT to think about.

All these thoughts made me realize that it is important to try to be aware of where you stand in that pocket thing because it is going to make a better musician out of you.

Thank you for bringing that up mr. Zabrocki !

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RonZabrocki

Thankyou! And call me Ron!

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RonZabrocki

HEY! I would love to read here what you guys and gals have to say about the POCKET! And by the way...that guy in the pic is STEVE DUNN! Great songwriter and singer....may know more about comedy than the pocket...jury still out!

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