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Do you count?


ibescotty

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Do you count out every change in a song or is it feel?

 

Usually I just feel my way through, but a particularly tedious song exposed my lack of counting.

 

Turn it on again by Genesis

 

This song rides one note forever and has some really weird time changes to it. We play it in B (Not sure why). The song was easy enough in the end but made me think. I hardly ever count!! I just know when a change is coming usually. Is that the case for everyone? Seems that I've developed my own autopilot for getting through songs. The song in question doesn't follow the usual formula and threw me at first run through. Don't worry I got it the 2nd time!!!!

 

I guess most songs today are fairly predictable in that aspect. At least in the rock/pop sense and that's what we play mostly.

 

Thoughts, comments, is this post totally bassless? ;)

 

Swing it!!!

Double Posting since March 2002

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You should spend some time specifically practicing rhythms.

 

Get Louis Bellson's "Modern Reading Text in 4/4" book, and start on page 1. Read the rhythms.

 

The idea is to get used to counting so you can feel more unusual note and rest durations without counting...because you've played them before.

 

I don't count unless I need to clarify something, I play through it a couple times while counting to make sure I get it right. Usually the feel becomes apparent after that.

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Depends on the song. The normal 4/4 stuff is easy enough, but some can require counting during a two-measure drum fill or similar places. 3/4, 6/8, and 12/8 stuff usually require some counting until I get a good feel for the song, and even then may need some counting (depends on beer consumed usually.)
Ah, nice marmot.
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It depends for me. For some songs I lose track of when I am supposed to do a change, and then all of a sudden, I go into the change without stumbling. In that case its feel. Some songs I do have to concentrate in order to do a smooth transition.

 

Example of feel: playing over the Lead part in "Come together" Beatles, since our guitarist takes an extended lead on that song.

 

Example of Concentration: playing over the Lead part in "Adam's Apple" by Aerosmith.

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You play "Turn It On Again" in B because it's in B, man. :D In a song like that, it's best just to listen to it until you can just feel the changes coming, like a curve on a familiar road. It's best to count through them first, though. I have played that song before, and I don't think I'd have been able to play it as well while I was still counting to thirteen to get it right. It's ultimately much easier to hit those accents more like a bump in the road.

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."

 

Les Paul

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I know I sound like an idiot here... I never count time signatures. I find that too confusing. Rather, I concentrate on learning the "feel" of the part in question and work on nailing that. To me, counting keeps me from feeling the musicality in a song. I'm more concerned with the way the whole thing works together.

For example... my Brit-pop band has a few songs with wacko time signatures -- 7/4, 7/8, 12/9, 3/4, etc. The singer is a math teacher, and he could quote you chapter and verse about the reasoning behind these signatures. I don't try to hear the signatures -- I just look for a nice place to stick the downbeat and work from there. To me, an odd signature only works when it sounds natural, not just odd for the sake of being odd. Consequently, I don't count... I just try to create parts that fit into the big picture well. Once I learn the songs properly, I just play the songs -- not the parts.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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It's all feel for me, unless it's a very odd time signature, or there is a shot coming up that follows a 5/4 or 6/4 bar, or something like that.

 

I find that if I count during song that have a strange syncopation between the drums and bass, it usually screws me up more than if I run by feel. We cover the Lyle Lovett/Al Greene version of 'Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away'. I nail it every time, as long as I DON'T count.

 

:D

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So far I've had success watching the keyboard players left hand when I get lost counting which on my way to 13 happens often!! Maybe I have ADD!!! I have always been mostly feel. I was just wondering if that was a good thing. Seems like that's the way most of us approach this stuff. Lets leave the counting to the drummers!!! :D

Double Posting since March 2002

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I count all the time, but I'm not even aware of myself counting. Does that make any sense?

 

I've been through the Bellson book mentioned, also his companion volume, Reading Rhythms in odd times, also Robert Starer's Rhythmic Training (a very difficult book) and many other things. That was 30 years ago.

 

Now I'm aware of time all the time but I don't have to count out loud.

 

I can listen to a band and remark, "interesting, that section was in 15" without having to consciously count.

 

The only time I have to count out loud is when reading one of those pages where you have a four bar phrase. Then it says repeat the phrase 16 times. Then the whole section repeats twice. Then the next section comes in with a rest! You better be counting, especially if you're sight reading on stage and have never heard the piece of music before.

 

I honestly don't know how you play a simple bass line like Papa Was a Rolling Stone or Walking on the Moon without counting. I'm talking about playing the bass line by yourself without a drummer or band. None of my students can do it, except those who have learned to count.

 

"Feeling it" is great, but when you can't feel it, counting will help you get there.

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Originally posted by ibescotty:

Turn it on again by Genesis

The sections in the song that are in 13/8 time, I found it easy to learn by thinking of 6/8 time and just adding one additional beat every second bar. I hope that makes sense :freak: I play that song on piano and it's very tricky the way it has all the different time signatures, 3/4, 4/4, 2/4, and 13/8, and yet it sounds very natural. Tony Banks is a bad boy :thu:
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Yeah I guess the gist of it is that I never really thought about it either until this song came along. Sounds like Jeremy has an internal metranome in his head. Probably aquired with years of experiance. Sombody get me a surgeon!!

 

Swing it!!!

Double Posting since March 2002

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I'll count odd stuff, but sometimes it's as much to keep the band together as me. We do that in The Allman Bros. "Blackhearted Woman", which is in 4/4 except for two parts in 7/8. We all face each other and count out loud - as good as my drummer is, it's too easy for us to lose where "1" is on that.

 

Mostly it's feel, with some foot-tapping. I will count progressions (like JeremyC, only I don't usually have it that thick). I read infrequently, but force myself to count bigtime so I don't start playing by feel and lose my place (which happens :eek: ).

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Yeah, counting is a good idea when learning or reading a new tune.

 

If a song has particularly odd hits or an unusual feel I'll often revert back to me school days and sing through the rythm with a conducting pattern. This can really help to internalize the whole thing.

 

On stage though I rarely count. Unless I'm keeping someone else on target.

 

D.

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Like I said, I count a new song until I get the count right, then I internalize it until I feel it more than I count it. I find that it's not as important to count out all the beats as it is to know where 'one' is. Like you said, CDMN, looking for a nice place to stick the downbeat - or, looking for the place where someone else stuck it.

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."

 

Les Paul

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I don't often count while I'm playing.

 

I often count when I'm NOT playing. (i.e. - if I'm sitting out for half the bridge, etc.). That said, even when I'm "counting," it's still kind of a feel thing - more like I'm paying attention to the bars as they go by. Like this - even a bar in 5 will have either a 3+2 or a 2+3 feel; 7 will feel 3+4 or 4+3 or 2+3+2, etc. ... So even the "odd" time bars start to be more "feel."

 

When I really count my ass off is odd little breaks where the whole band is out, that are "timed" - think the chorus after the solo in "Jungleland" on Born to Run (I know, Bruce counts it off, but if he DIDN'T) ... Oh, and also I click into "meter-head" when a song slows down -I start subdividing in my head to ensure I'm putting the beats in the right place (even if the guitar player doesn't).

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I always count on hymns; you just have to. I generally count when I don't want to rely on my sense of feel. Sometimes I'm not feeling the way other people are, & they win; my urge is always to syncopate, it seems, & sometimes I'll have to count in order to overcome that urge. But most of the time I'm a "feel" guy. I suppose I should count more. Forcing myself to sight-read Jamerson, while getting a feel that can't be put into notation, really helps. And you do begin to notice how some frequently recurring rhythm patters look on the printed page, & you don't have to think about counting as much--sort of a combination of feel & counting, as Jeremy said.

 

Transcribing music into notation also really helps your counting skills, because you're going in the other direction, translating a feel into marks on a page.

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I'm absolutely, positively in Jeremy's camp again.

 

{SOAPBOX MODE ON]

I believe every measure must be counted; every rhythm. In school I was taught that a musician must count and sub-divide the beat to one division below the beat of a song. A song that contains eighths must have an underlying sub-division of 16ths. Now, I don't do THAT...it's pretty distracting.

 

But I believe you must have a tape running in your head: "1-te-2-te-3-te-4-te" all the time. I believe this is fundamental to playing good, groovy time, avoiding rushing, reading rhythms accurately.

 

Virtually all the musicians I play with do the same thing.

 

I teach counting rhythms aloud to all grades. I have my college private students to walk around the room, stepping in time, and counting both their music and sub-divisions.

 

When I walk to the parking lot, I PRACTICE COUNTING TO EVERY STEP.

 

I don't listen to any music without counting it's pulse...it's sub-conscious with me.

 

When I conduct my orchestra (3 groups per day) I count with my right arm AND my mouth...reinforcing trouble rhythms to sections. I also emphasize rests by yelling out "2" or "te-3-te"

 

I have made it a habit to encounter troubling rhythms in textbooks and analyze them.{/SOAPBOX MODE]

 

The biggest problem with learning to read music is to learn the counting. When you are reading a new selection, you have to count HARDER and MORE...not less.

 

Please, I don't want to sound like a braggart. Even with all of the counting I do...I falter...I rush...I misplay rhythms....I lose concentration. That just makes me work harder.

 

I don't want to offend anyone here...but I believe that when someone tells me they don't count, I get a picture of a band that plays poor time. Now, you may not be counting my system, but you are counting.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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I find that on songs which have really boring bass lines that i get lost if i dont count. You know when u stay on E forever then change to an A for 2 bars and go back to E again. How do you tell just how long forever is if you don't count it? And when playing in a time other than 4/4 i need to count (showing my rock heritage). I also find that counting helps when you have other band members who have trouble with time such as those multi-tasking guitarist/singers who play out of time or drummers who can't stop for a dynamic change and restart in time.

 

But i believe you need to both count and feel the changes, if you don't feel it how then can you do a groovin lick before the change?

Providence over serendipity any day.
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I remember back to 1979 when I played in a jazz quintet that was put together by a keyboard player to play a few tunes he wrote for his college compositions class. He did a few numbers that were in odd times, one in 15/8 and another that was built on a three bar bass figure where the first two bars were in 10/8 and the third bar was in 11/8. There was a great drummer in the band and he gave me some pointers. A lot of odd time tunes will have accents that allow you to group your count. For example, the one in 15/8 we grouped 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2,1 2,1 2. On the second tune with the three bar bass phrase I quickly learned how to feel that one, and remembering to add that extra 1/2 beat every third bar.

 

My bass band "Bassed on Jazz" does some odd time tunes as well. We do "All Blues" in five and "Killer Joe" in seven. Like Jeremy, musicman, and DBB stated, counting is a good thing. Even though you may feel the groove after a while there comes times especially in jazz situations where the soloist is playing over the bar lines and can mess with your head. In those situations I find it good to count.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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You're being very musical. Counting is another tool to use when needed.

 

Many non-musicains are amazed when they see you playing in the 2-5 fret area. All of a sudden you're up at the 12-15 fret area ripping out a lick and back you are to the 2nd fret; All without looking! Why? Cause you're rehearsed.

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Okay, I reneged!!!!

 

Tonight I had a recording session with the Women's Chorus of Dallas...we were doing CHRISTMAS MUSIC (in case you ever wondered how early you had to record such stuff!)

 

They were doing a thing called "Jamacian Noel" which has the following rhythm pattern:

 

|whole measure rest|whole measure rest|r-r-r-r8|r8r844|22|

 

Does that make sense? it would be counted:

 

(1-2-3=4)te|-te-te 3 4|1 3|

 

Anyway, we were recording this, and I was counting like a demon. And the piano player, who'd rehearsed the group, and the singers were not counting. And as hard as I counted, I wasn't with them...they were going by feel!

 

This forced me to do the same thing! and when I relaxed and did, we were together.

 

And it really irritated me, 'cause we were rushing. But oh, well...it's their gig.

 

And it made me think: a strict adherence to counting in "feel" music doesn't allow for rhythmic give and flow.

 

So okay. I will admit that there are musical situations where counting doesn't happen...

 

In that case, rhythmic discipline is traded for temporal fluidity.

 

Okay...this doesn't happen in symphony music, by and large.

 

And, if you are gonna do it...make sure that you are adding rhythmic life, and not muddle.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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I very, very rarely count when I am performing a piece of music. When learning or practicing something, yes, I do count. But I find that counting while performing can be distracting, I want to be listening to the entire ensemble when performing and not try to count where my next entrance is.
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Counting is essential. Regardless if you count consciously or not, we all do it. What happens if we're going by feel, but we feel something different from the rest of the band? The feel for the whole band goes right out the window. That being said, I primarily go by feel on tunes I know with musicians I know. If I'm in a new situation, I count and sometimes have to count for the others who seem to forget that 3 comes before 4. So, I guess it's a mixture of both. I wish I could say I just feel my way through every song (there are times I've had to), but, I don't like to lie.
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Wow look at that. Two distinct methods arise from the ashes. Feel and hard counting. Well I now count to 13 in "Turn it on again" and my bandmates are happier for it. There are other times I've caught myself counting as well. Didn't even know it. In the end though it looks like I feel the music first. If there's a tricky spot then I'm counting.

Of course feel doesn't mean I'm not counting, just that I'm not conscious of it I guess. I'm sort of letting the music take me along for the ride while maybe focusing on a neat rythm that the drummer has going on within said time signature. Or maybe there's a really cool rythm that the 6 stringer's got going that I can latch onto. Or maybe there's a really cool riff in my head to go along with the song at that time. I know when we play "little Wing" I'm having a lot of fun with the bass line by the end of the song. I'm not really counting through at that time because I'm creating. I never play that song the same way twice but I always get complimented on it.

Double Posting since March 2002

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This is so interesting.

I'm wasn't kidding when I said I never count. I don't -- not to keep in time, anyway. But I was thinking about it last night at rehearsal, and, as it happens, I do other things that keep me in time. I tap my foot, bob my head, etc. I think that qualifies as counting, even if I'm not conscious of it. We rarely (if ever) record with a click track, and we don't tend to have a problem with time slips. Then again, I've also been playing with this drummer for about 10 years now, so we know each other pretty well musically.

 

Generally speaking, I just play with the drummer, and we keep each other in time. I do, however, sometimes count the number of repetitions of a pattern I have to play in certain songs sp that I don't screw up.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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I guess it should also be noted that there are really two very different kinds of counting, and I am relating this to Dave Brown's post about the importance of counting every measure...

 

There is 'subconscious counting', and there is 'conscious counting'. I believe as musicians we all have a subconscious clock that allows us to play in time. When a bar which requires a tighter focus comes up, because of an aberation or whatever, we are able to lock-up our conscious mind to that clock. So as Dave said, the clock is always running.

 

I find the real skill to build on is that of 'trusting' your subconscious clock. Our drummer NEVER consciously counts, and yet he is the KING of making the shots and cues and finding his way back to the one, after an odd passage or whacky off-beat solo or break. And he is truly clock-steady.

 

So I guess the question of the original post could be modified to ask....

 

"Do you, or how often do you, 'consciously' count, and when?"

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