There are few people who have as deep an understanding of and reliance on the concept of Flow as musicians. A musician strives for this everytime he or she picks up a plectrum, taps a key or pounds on a high hat. They call it ‘playing in the pocket’.
This mystical term for finding a groove is found in the rhythm and bass section of any piece of music. An audience may not even realise when it’s found, but if you step back and watch a crowd you’ll recognise it; Feet are tapping, heads are bobbing, eyes are closed and everyone seems to be connected and in tune with each other – without even knowing it, without ever discussing it. That’s why they say music has the power to connect people across languages and other divides – ‘playing in the pocket’ is the key to unlocking this for the musicians and the audience.
From a musician’s point of view ‘playing in the pocket’ is actually about teamwork – it’s about finding a space where the individuals and their skills combine to form a single unified force. ‘Playing in the pocket’ is the glue that turns a group into a band. It’s no exaggeration that when a bass player and a drummer find the pocket together, the combination is powerful beyond words and the affect is tangible.
It’s the glue that turns a group into a band.
Example. I was once dragged to a concert, by my then girlfriend, where the headline act was a band that I didn’t know. I had the time of my life. It was truly awesome; better than any big name concert I’d ever been to. Every song seemed like it was destined to be a hit. So, I duly went out and bought their breakout album. I hated it. I am convinced that the reason is this; live, that night, they found their pocket and I felt it – something that clearly they hadn’t been able to replicate in the cold, formulaic setting of a studio.
Years later a colleague of mine who is a big Bruce Springsteen fan – he would say the biggest – explained it to me further. He said; “Springsteen never plays the same set twice. Never. His band know this. They know him. He can change-up the playlist at any given moment drawing on a back catalogue of hundreds of songs, and his band will find him ‘in the pocket’ in the matter of a beat. That’s how in tune they are. That’s why he’s ‘The Boss’. That’s why the best way to experience his music is Live.”
This experience of spontaneous, cooperative, effortless, excellence is exactly what we talk about when we say; Feel the Flow.