Settling into a Groove: A Guide for Bass Players

Bass Groove

Photo by Scott Fegette

One of the most important things we do as bass players is to create and lock into a groove. When I practice this I prefer a drum machine to a metronome.

Here’s a guide to working with a drum machine to master the groove:

1. Set the tempo and style.

  • Choose all the styles you are trying to be competent in, jazz, rock, funk, etc. and work them. One style at a time though.
  • Set the tempo to something easily within your capability. For example, if you are just starting out don’t set a swing beat at 250 bpm.

2. Play a simple line and lock in.

  • The complexity of the line is not important, but rather how well we lock in with the beat and the drums.
  • Simpler is better for this exercise. You can increase the complexity of your line over time after you lock in.

3. Keep mentally connected to the beat of the drum machine and make sure every note locks in.

  • Keep your attention on the beat of the drums and your beat.
  • Put all else out of your mind, just lock in with the beat.

4. Change up your line or make it more complicated if you wish, but always stay locked in with the metronome and never stop playing

  • Feel free to get creative with your line, but never at the expense of locking in.
  • No matter what you play, it must groove.

5. Feel it in your body.

  • You won’t think the groove, you will feel it.
  • Don’t make your lines more complex unless you are feeling the groove physically.

6. Keep grooving in for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, or longer

  • Once you get the groove, see how long you can hold it.

Groove on!

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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  1. Some good points Donovan.