Defining "Feel"


Senior Member
Had a student ask me to define what "feel" means in relation to drumming/playing music. It began a series of discussions. He is a big Vinnie fan. I pointed out VC's playing on Sting's "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You." I explained that it's not about WHAT Vinnie is capable of playing; rather what fits. Then we got into the idea of grooving and giving a tune it's pulse...and decorating it to "fit the mood." I played Roxy Music's "More Than This" and pointed out how musical Andy Newark's drumming is and how dramatic the fills are on that tune. Then I got into some busier playing; like Mike Clark's amazing stuff with Herbie Hancock and Weckl with Chick much those players are responding to the others' performances. It was one of those rabbit holes in teaching that helped me learn a lot, as well.


"Uncle Larry"
I try to simplify things just as much as I can and my take on defining feel good feeling is the drummer's quarter note? He doesn't have to stick to the quarter note, playing around it is fine, but whether it's in your face or implied only, the quarter note is it. The more the quarter note can be felt, even subconsciously, the more feel music has. For music to dance to anyway. In my opinion. The quarter note pulse is what drives the music in my mind, and it's where the feel lives. That pulse has to be at just the right speed, the right volume level, with really nice inner kit volume balances, (strong kick and snare with a non-overpowering hihat or ride) and of course to be locked in to the tempo with rock solid steady meter.

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
Feel is the individual lope a drummer (musician) applies to a groove through the use accents and/ or adding or subtracting notes.



Platinum Member
You can always demonstrate it. Play a totally mechanical 4/4, keep the sticking as rigid as possible, make it sound cold like an 80s drum machine. Then play the exact same 4/4, the way you would normally play it, nice and loose, make it come to life.


Platinum Member
If I had to give it a definition id say "It's a combination of meter, touch, and choices.
You could also say feel is a combination of groove and touch.

Dynamics play a huge part. the ghost notes and accents make a huge difference in the sound of a groove. Although, some grooves or beats can have feel with no ghost notes. Think classic rock beats or ACDC for that.

That goes to timing. 2 guys playing the same thing sound very different. As MrInsane said. if you quantize something, it loses it's feel. if he and I played even a simple money beat, it will sound different. 20 guys can play something and one guy will just "feel" better to listen to.

Lastly when I hear a drummer with good feel, it just fits. It's because he is making the right choices and playing the right thing. Tossing in linear chops or 16th note grooves with a ton of ghost notes over an ACDC song would ruin the feel.

It's the same as saying someone has good groove, but I tend to use feel when their dynamics are on point as well.


Platinum Member
I’m not sure how I feel about it. You can “feel” your way through a song but that isn’t playing with feel. Seem feel is not so much what you play but how you play it -it enhances the song beyond a simple groove with accents or melody or a back beat or even tacit that makes a song pop. Makes a song “feel” just right.

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
You can always demonstrate it. Play a totally mechanical 4/4, keep the sticking as rigid as possible, make it sound cold like an 80s drum machine. Then play the exact same 4/4, the way you would normally play it, nice and loose, make it come to life.
Yeah I like MrInsane’s idea. Find two drummers playing the same song. One with feel and one without.

Let me throw a wrench in the machine. Last night my band was playing Old Love by Eric Clampton. I was playing it with as much feel as I could. I just love that song. But one of my Guitar players was rushing a little. The other guitar player was dragging behind the beat. And they were not stopping at the breaks. So no matter how much feel I played with, the song sounded choppy and did not have the right feel. My point is feel is a whole band thing. If you happen to be playing drums with a bunch of great musicians who have great timing, then you have the opportunity to play with feel. But sometimes the other band members can ruin the feel to the point where there is nothing you as a drummer can do to bring “feel” into the mix.

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Well-known member
Feel is about touch and how you react to the sense of sound.
More specifically it's how you take in the sounds around you from the other musicians and put out a drum beat that feels nice to the players and the audience.
I believe this is what differentiates feel and pocket.
Pocket is about how big of a soft spot you provide the other musicians playing.
Feel is about manipulating that pocket to produce a harmonious groove for the music.

It's possible (likely) for a drummer to have both deep pocket and strong feel. It's also possible, with the correct group of musicians for a drummer to have a good feel without a deep pocket. The deeper the pocket, the greater the number of musical situations that a drummer can sit in on and make the music feel good...

At least that's my interpretation...


Gold Member
Feel is a little loaded. Could mean a number of things. I've found it to have at least three connotations. 1) Diminutively, as in something that is deemed unnecessary to think about further. 2) Analytic tactile touch eg. eg rough, smooth, slick etc. 3) An internal emotional state eg a feeling.

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Feel is a little loaded. Could mean a number of things. #3) An internal emotional state eg a feeling.
You bring up a very interesting aspect of playing with feeling. Music is a very emotional and spiritual thing. Someone in the audience might tell you that you were playing with a lot of feel on that last song. Maybe even the bass player felt locked into your playing. When in reality everyone except those two thought you sucked. And maybe when you think you are playing with a lot of feel and groove, in reality it did not sound too good. Kind of like when you record yourself and discover you don't play as good as you thought you did.

In fact if you had 10 drummers listen to you play, would they all agree that you were playing with feel and in the groove?



Platinum Member
Feel is insanely difficult to define.

From a players point of view it's like a subconscious hightened sense of awareness.

You're playing for the song whilst seamlessly fitting in with the band you're playing with. You need a good ear to be able to do it.


Senior Member
To me feel is rhythmic manipulations of the pocket. The pocket itself may be debated and not all “pocket” players have feel. Once a drummer changes the pocket, he/she is going for feel.


Platinum Member
Sounds like defining "love" which is kind of hard to define-cause sometimes people have a funny way of showing it. You can't scientifically measure love nor I doubt feel. It's a descriptive human term for something uniquely human. Though animals may mate for life, etc. there's no evidence of "love" but how do you determine that anyways. Seems even when drummers play with feel it's unique to "their feel" so if I played it with "feel" well it would feel different. That just makes it harder to define or measure-is it just unique and "emergent" from all the unique kinks of our genetics/physiology/anatomy/brain that doing the same thing it comes out different? I've been digging on some Jeff Beck and Vinnie is such a drummers drummer-and I can try and emulate his playing and even when I'm close it seems mechanical and without feel. Seems that's the magic we try to grasp in emulating others-not just mechanically playing it but with the same "feel" that makes it uniquely Vinnie or whoever.