The groove is the pulse of the song and every song has one, regards of the genre of music. The stronger the groove, the more people relate to the song, so it’s really important to make sure that the groove is emphasized during a mix. Here’s an excerpt from the 3rd edition of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook that shares some tips on how to find the groove and make it strong in your mix.
While it’s true that sometimes the groove may be the result of a single instrumental performance, usually it’s built around the interplay of a number of instruments, especially in complex mixes with a lot of tracks.
Normally the groove of the song is provided by the bass and drums, but it’s important to determine if another instrument like a rhythm guitar, keyboard, loop or percussion is an integral part that makes up the pulse of the song.
Usually this can be easily identified as an instrument that’s playing either the same rhythmic figure as the bass and drums, or a multiple of the rhythm, like double time or half time.
After those additional rhythmic elements are discovered, here’s one way to build the groove:
1. Find the instrument that provides the basic pulse of the song (like the drums).
2. Add the lowest frequency instrument that’s playing the same or similar rhythmic figure (usually the bass).
3. Add any additional instruments playing the same or similar rhythmic figure in order of frequency from low to high.
4. Add any instrument playing a similar rhythmic figure, like half or double time.
5. Add any instrument working as the rhythm arrangement element (remember the section about arrangement elements in Chapter 5?) and providing motion to the song (like a shaker or tambourine).
The groove may be attributed to only a single instrument, like in the case of a power trio (guitar, bass and drums) to three or even four instruments on rare occasions. If you’re not sure, the best way to determine what’s playing the groove is to try mixing in different combinations of instruments along with the rhythm section to see if the pulse gets stronger, weaker, or stay’s the same.
Tip: If a new instrument adds to the pulse of the song and the pulse seems lessened if it’s muted, then you have an instrument that’s a big part of the groove.”
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blogs. Get the third edition of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook here.