Pocket, What Does It Mean?


We’ve heard about pocket so many times but what does pocket mean, and do you have it? We thought we would poxk delve a little further to understand who is widely recognized as having a deep pocket to better help you create one.

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Written by Josh Teitelbaum & Jake Nicolle


To me, pocket implies the point at which a song feels just right.

When you hear the pocket, it sounds perfectly comfortable and groovy.

When you play in the pocket, you are serving the song and making it feel good.

The musical importance of pocket cannot be overstated enough; it is paramount in any style.  Furthermore, pocket allows the musicians around you to feel supported and grounded in a solid sense of time.

Often times, it is the rhythm section’s responsibility to establish the pocket, for which a groove or song can be built around.  As drummers, we have huge influence as to how a song feels, and how it moves from beginning to end.

Below are some of my favorite drummers who have an uncanny ability to play what’s right for the song, form the pocket, and create a solid musical foundation for the rest of the band to sit on top of.  The effect that these players have had on my, and so many other drummers’ musicality is unmatched.  My list of influences is by no means limited to this list, but these are some of the guys who have had the most significant impact on my playing and feel.

Steve Jordan

To me, Steve is the king of pocket and groove.  Steve’s ability to lay it down and sit perfectly within a tune is unparalleled. He heightens the band’s energy in any musical situation he’s in, and makes those who surround him sound infinitely better.  In my opinion, THAT is the most important quality of a drummer

The following video perfectly displays Steve’s infectious, head-bobbing sense of groove.

Here are a few videos that display how inspirational Steve has been to my playing.

Steve Gadd

One of the most recorded drummers in history, Steve Gadd is a household name for every musician.  He’s one of the most musical drummers ever, and is the epitome of a guy who plays for the song. It’s no wonder he’s a first call for musical giants like Eric Clapton and James Taylor, and can be heard on countless records ranging from Steely Dan to Chick Corea to B.B. King, and so much in between.

Here’s a glimpse into Gadd’s playing through many different styles of music.


A few videos that display the “Gaddisms” that I’ve picked up over time.

James Gadson

One of the funkiest drummers on the planet, James Gadson has influenced nearly every drummer, whether you know it or not.  He’s played on some of the biggest records ever, and lays down one of the thickest grooves imaginable, yet the perfect feel for each song he’s been a part of.

Here’s Gadson with one of my all-time favorite’s, Bill Withers, throwing down one of his slick 16th-note grooves.

Here’s a bit of James’ influence on my playing.

Bernard Purdie

One of, if not THE most recorded drummers in history.  Most musicians and non-musicians, whether you know it or not, have heard records with Purdie on it.  He’s recorded with everyone from Aretha Franklin, to James Brown,  to The Beatles, and hundreds more.  When you hear / see him play, it doesn’t take long to realize why his playing is so desired.  Purdie finds the pocket and sits there.  He plays what the song needs, and creates an infectious groove while doing so.

Here’s the famous “Purdie Shuffle”:


A bit of my playing that’s been influenced by Mr. Purdie.

Aaron Sterling

One of the most in demand session drummers today, Aaron Sterling is a huge asset to whoever is fortunate enough to have him play on their record.  His creativity and level of proficiency in the studio is one of the best ever.  Not to mention, his groove is MASSIVE which attributes to his “fat” sound.

A true studio junkie, here’s a short sample of his creativity…

Effect he’s had on my playing:


The King of New Orleans funk, Zig’s work with The Meters has had a profound effect on my playing.  His influence can be so easily recognized on so many of today’s drummers.   His pocket, his groove, and his funkiness are undeniable.  There is a certain feel and “swampyness” that can be felt in Zig’s playing that is authentic and comes straight from his roots of growing up surrounded by the New Orleans culture.

Dig in to Zig’s discography, and your playing will forever be changed:

Here are a few clips of my playing that have been influenced by Zig.

Clyde Stubblefield/ John “Jabo” Starks

The funk duo Clyde and Jabo were the glue to James Brown’s sound, and helped mold so much of what soul/funk drumming has become.  The syncopated grittiness that perfectly suits every track that they blessed is forever embedded into the landscape of funk and soul music.



How the funky drummers have rubbed off on me:

John Bonham

John Bonham is one of the most iconic drummers in Rock’s rich history of players.  His groove is infectious.  His power is unprecedented.  He still however manages to play just what’s right for the song, and has such an identifiable sound.  His playing with Led Zeppelin has left a lasting impression on so many of today’s drummers and musicians.

Here’s one of his signature grooves.

Bonham’s influence on my playing:

Motown Drummers

Benny Benjamin, Uriel Jones, "Pistol" Allen

Motown is all about Soul.  And you can’t have soul without pocket.  These drummers created a signature sound that has gone on to influence millions who came after them.  They were the heartbeat to so many classics and hit records.  They have each had a MASSIVE influence on my style and groove.

I’d highly recommend checking out this whole film:

Here’s a Motown influenced groove:

Stevie Wonder

Drums is one of Stevie’s lesser-known talents, overshadowed by his unmatched songwriting and vocal abilities.  With that said, he has a very unique style of playing, that comes straight from the soul.  He can groove his butt off, and in many ways it has left a big mark on my playing.  His playing can be heard on countless tunes of his, including the hit classic, “Superstition.”  Stevie is my all-time favorite artist, and similarly one of my all-time favorite drummers.

Stevie is one bad mamajama!

Heavy influence on me:

Levon Helm

Levon was a musical drummer, with one thing in mind when playing…to serve the song.  His singing, songwriting, and mandolin skills molded him into the incredible musician that he was.  Levon always created a solid foundation for all of the records he did with The Band, thinking about how his parts can work together and fit into the overall composition.

 Levon is one of my all-time heroes, and had a larger-than-life personality to go along with his impeccable musicianship.  His spirit will forever live on and influence my outlook on life and music.

Check out Levon groovin’ on the classic remake of Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” by The Band:

Here’s Great Divide’s take on The Band’s version of “Don’t Do It”:

David Garibaldi

Garibaldi’s funky, linear playing has seeped its way into my groove building and sense of pocket, as it has with so many other drummers.  He has had such a heavy impact on funk/soul music, and the way that grooves are approached.  His subtle ghost-noted, syncopated grooves are reminiscent of the music of James Brown, with his own signature Garibaldi spin on it.

Here’s a glimpse into Garibaldi’s FUNKY feels:

Trying to capture the funkiness:.

Brian Blade

Brian Blade can do it all.  As one of the most versatile drummers on the planet, he can swing his butt off, and then throw down a groove and sit in the pocket like no other.  The conviction that Brian Blade plays with is undeniable.

These two performances say it all:

Displaying a bit of what I’ve gathered from Brian Blade’s playing:

Al Jackson Jr.

One of the most influential drummer in Soul music, Al Jackson Jr.’s playing can be heard on countless tracks from Al Green, Otis Redding, Booker T, and so many more.  His passionate approach to groove is translated perfectly through each note he plays, which has had a massive impact on countless drummers around the world.

Here’s Al Jackson Jr. on one of favorites from Otis Redding.

A little bit of his feel that’s seeped into my playing:

The author:


Josh Teitelbaum


Hailing from California, Josh is an avid student of everything groove. Spending a great deal of his time playing gigs and studying the greats, Josh has developed a phenomenal feel and presence online with his steady flow of groovy videos that lack no degree of pocket. Check him out online today for more and follow his weekly posts on everything related to the pocket

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