The pocket (musical term)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by MikeLynn, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    I've read and heard this many times and I sort of feel I've gotten the idea, but I'd like to make sure I didn't get it wrong.
    When somebody says, "You've got to stay in the pocket.", does it mean that when you're trying to play a melodic line, it should correspond to the particular chord that's being played plus the appropriate, harmonically correct, extensions?
    I do realize that it might be a tough nut to crack for those who are not musicians and I appreciate your answers even more than usual ;)
    Thanks a lot for your contributions, explanations, ideas
  2. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    Just to give you more context-you're playing a solo over the ONE chord in twelve bar blues and you should stay in the pocket. Just hope it might help :)
    Thanks a lot. I realize that this is not a music forum, but it's still about the language :D
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Sorry, Mike, it means nothing to me:)

    Let's hope some more musically-inclined foreros come on board...
  4. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    Thanks anyway, Loob, I kind of thought it might be a bit too "particular" a term for many "common people" to tackle, but I just wanted to learn a bit more about the language and music and, to be honest, I have no idea what the equivalent in my language could be. I have a few video lessons and Bass Player and Guitar Player magazines and the term "POCKET' seems to be pretty common among musicians, not that I'm one, but I'd love to get as close as possible.
    The reason I asked this funny question is that this forum is and has always been so universal, helpful and open-minded, that I hoped ththereare would be somebody who knows what the definition is
  5. tomzenith

    tomzenith Senior Member

    English - Britain
    I've heard it used before in similar contexts (particularly blues improv), and I too have never been sure of what it means (I've always suspected that the people who said it didn't know either..). I've always assumed that it means 'stay in the scale', and certainly that seemed to get me out of trouble. In this case it probably just means don't wander too far out of the blues scale.

    EDIT: Though looking around on the internet I've seen quite a gew references to drummers who can't 'stay in the pocket' - and unless they're playing tuned percussion with blues music I don't think it can mean 'can't stay in the scale' - presumably it must mean something more like staying in time (and repeating rhythms etc.) :confused:
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  6. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    In other words it might mean you're supposed to play the right thing at the right time :)
    That's basically the way I understood the message. However, it sounds a bit vague and ambiguous, a bit similar to legalese-you know the words, but you just don't get the message :D Welcome to the club, you can't imagine how happy I am not being the only one who's got a wee problem here.
    No irony or sarcasm, I'm being quite honest-a rare exception indeed :)
  7. tomzenith

    tomzenith Senior Member

    English - Britain
    I think that's basically the message yeah.. ;) Nice to have one little mystery solved!

    EDIT: just found this, which seems to suggest it's just a drumming term. link.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  8. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States

    I found this link over in the Spanish-English Forum.

    It's very informative.

    It sounds to me like the pocket is a very spiritual-like place musicians go to in their minds to "feel" their music. They get in this "zone" and the music flows like a natural extension of their psyches.

  9. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    AngelEyes' link is great. I just called a professional drummer friend of mine and he confirms that it is more than just playing the right thing at the right time. It is good timing, balance, competence, solidity, and coordination with other players as a foundation, with an extra added layer of "sparkle" to it. It is an indefinable extra that gets communicated as a feeling that the music has "come alive". Playing the right thing at the right time could be mechanical; "in the pocket" is an artistic experience, like the difference between an actor who says the right lines standing in the right place, going through the motions, and an actor who connects you directly to the work of art through what he does. The actor disappears and it's really that character talking directly to you.
  10. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States

    All I did was look up the word pocket in our dictionary here. ;)

    That took me directly to threads already posted on the Forums.

    MikeLynn, next time try that, and you'll be surprised at all the help you'll find that's already here someplace else. :tick:


    Oops...sorry. I have to correct myself. I looked up stay not pocket, and it was in the English-Spanish dictionary. Don't ask me how I ended up there! :D
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  11. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    Thanks a lot to all of you. I was a bit afraid that I might have exceeded the focus of this forum and my posts might be deleted as something inappropriate. It sure is good to see that there are people who are open-minded and willing to help. It is amazing to see that music, and not just music, can expand beyond the "commonly approved" limits and boundaries. Thanks for your patience, your time and, especially the link(s)
    P.S.I've played with quite a few musicians and some of them were no virtuosos :D, but it simply worked great and then there were people, musically educated, with an amazing command of the instrument and the final result was pretty close to nothing to say the least, trying to avoid any vulgar expressions. Ir simply stank and they were a lot better musicians than me. POCKET and no POCKET... That's the way life is gong down and we just can't see it, some of us, most of us?-not just in music, it's about relationships, the environment, polution, the global crises and I'm going to call it a bight before it starts to get boring :D
    Thanks a lot to all of you for your time
  12. Redshade Banned

    I am not a musician, only a music lover but I recall that in the 60s/70s
    expressions with a similar "feel" were: "getting it on", and "getting into a groove (man)."

    I think the final word should be left to the late great Duke Ellington
    (c 1931):"It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)".
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  13. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    I'd definitely go alohg with that, Redshade, because Duke was-or still is?-one of the few who DID know what this was all about.
    Big thank you to everybody who tried to help me-this is what makes this forum so amazing-people who do not mind spending their time to share their experience, knowledge, skills and expertise with those who need a helping hand.
    ThAnK YOU :)
  14. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    As a former drummer, the explanation in Tomzenith's link makes sense to me. Hitting the snare drum (in particular) slightly behind the strict beat creates a very distinctive and rhythmically satisfying feel, but is not easy to do consistently, at least not until you "get" it. Certain drummers were famously good at judging this timing to perfection (I think John Bonham from Led Zeppelin was one). I'm not sure why "pocket" was chosen, but it seems right that there should be a word for it. I absolutely agree with James' and AngelEyes' comments in #8 and #9.

    Having said that, I've never heard this particular term for it before.
  15. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Maybe this "pocket" is experienced on two distinct levels.

    One is an actual thing - like perfect timing, instinctive rhythm. It's a literal expertise in certain areas of music that separates the ordinary from genius.

    Maybe the other level is the actual mental/psychic state of being that must be reached in order for those special people to perform at this higher level of artistic talent.

    MikeLynn, you might find delving into this and this an interesting complement to your interest in a pocket. Surrealist Automatism is used in many areas, not just music - specifically free-form jazz - but it seems to have a lot in common with my second example of what a pocket might be.

    Maybe you'll want to explore it further.

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2009
  16. Emerald01 New Member

    I think this topic is actually appropriate as it was heard quite a bit of this season of the U.S. of The Voice. In fact, I have been watching back episodes and started just kind of wondering. Then they kept saying it, and I had to Google it. I guess I have been in the kind of group that uses that terminology. ;-p

    Thanks for posting this here. Came right up at the top of my search.


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