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"Hearing" vs. "Counting" Chord Changes


MartinJ

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I've been playing in a regular weekly blues jam this summer, and I have my I-IV-V Blues DOWN. Usually someone will show me another simple progression or two for other various - sometimes non-Blues - songs each week, too. (I've only been playing the bass for about 6-7 months; before this I played NOTHING at all.)

 

Normally, I'm VERY careful to count measures so that I know when to change chords; we don't usually have a drummer. But lately I'm noticing a strange phenomenon, and I'd like to know if this could be a bad habit for me.

 

Sometimes I'll completely lose my place in the song, but - and I don't understand or know how to explain this - I'll just feel when the chord is about to change. It's weird, but kinda cool. And what's even stranger, I'm hitting it right on about 95% of the time - WITHOUT counting!

 

Is this a bad habit/trap, or a positive development?

C.V.: Snowboarder (1983-), Bass Owner (1996-), Chemistry Teacher (1997-) & Serious Bass Student (2003-)
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Originally posted by MartinJ:

Sometimes I'll completely lose my place in the song, but - and I don't understand or know how to explain this - I'll just feel when the chord is about to change. It's weird, but kinda cool. And what's even stranger, I'm hitting it right on about 95% of the time - WITHOUT counting!

THATS AWESOME!!! Thats what playing blues is all about!! And sometimes the Hokey Pokey!!!

 

Good Job ;)

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Trust me, don't worry about it. Nobody ever says "Will Lee, man...boy can he count those measures!"

 

As long as you're coming in in the right spot, and you CAN count it if you have to, then it's fine to not count if you're feeling it in the right place.

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I wouldn't sweat that stuff...

 

The more you play certain material, the more you can anticipate musical changes without counting them... rather, you FEEL them. That's a good thing.. it means you're playing without having to think about what you're doing.

 

I rarely count anymore, unless I'm re-learning something I haven't played in a long time.

\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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Yep...it's a growth thing.

 

Remember that blues form is pretty standardized. So you'd expect to get those right.

 

Just as an entire form is standardized, chord progressions over 1,2 or 4 measures will occur over and again. You are developing a library of these...the most significant in jazz is the omnipresent ii-V7 progression. This helps you anticipate the direction of the harmony.

 

As a corollary, Western (as in Western Civilization) music is written with harmonic motion by leading tones as it's primary organizing force (other cultures use rhythm, sonority, melody, or "non-functional" harmonies.)

 

Because of that, notes are introduced into chords to suggest and give weight to then next chord in sequence. The most common of these tones is the seventh. As you learn to listen to harmony, and understand more about music theory, you will even get better at anticipating chords.

 

Still...counting is important! Continue to practice counting skills...it will help you with time, music reading....a ton of other things.

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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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Congrats, man. You're growing as a musician.

 

I'd practice your counting still. The ability to count really well will help tremendously when and if you start taking gigs where you have to do a lot of sight reading.

 

Try playing The Black Page by Frank Zappa and not count like a mofo. It's like, hard and stuff.

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I count when I have to, usually if I'm learning a new piece, or if I'm less confident of it, or if there's something special I've got to watch out for, that kind of thing. (I almost always count hymns, though.) But I like to get to the point where it feels natural & I can be there without counting.

 

In fact, the transition can give you an odd feeling. Sometimes I'll learn a written part, & as I'm playing it off the sheet music, it feels like it's coming out of a different part of my brain than when I turn away from the sheet music & play it by memory. I don't know if that makes any sense. The latter always feels more natural, more intuitive. I think that's part of why, when I play certain songs, I actually prefer to have a chart with measures & changes only, & no notes; it's not that I can't read the notes, it's just that I want it coming out of that other part of my brain.

 

Maybe I'm talking crap.

 

But yeah, Martin, it's good when the changes move from your head to your gut. Think of it this way: would you rather be the guy who usually can't anticipate a chord change unless he counts his way into it? :freak:

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Originally posted by dcr:

In fact, the transition can give you an odd feeling. Sometimes I'll learn a written part, & as I'm playing it off the sheet music, it feels like it's coming out of a different part of my brain than when I turn away from the sheet music & play it by memory. I don't know if that makes any sense. The latter always feels more natural, more intuitive. I think that's part of why, when I play certain songs, I actually prefer to have a chart with measures & changes only, & no notes; it's not that I can't read the notes, it's just that I want it coming out of that other part of my brain.

Not at all crap... I can read music, but I don't like to for that very reason. It feels... forced, to me. As if there's not much feeling there. However, if I learn the part by ear, or by a chord chart, I feel like it's more my own...

 

Even if it's not.

"Bass isn't just for breakfast anymore..."

 

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Originally posted by Addix Metzatricity:

... I can read music, but I don't like to for that very reason. It feels... forced, to me. As if there's not much feeling there. However, if I learn the part by ear, or by a chord chart, I feel like it's more my own...

 

Even if it's not.

My son is a fine french horn player, but he hates playing with an orchestra. He'd rather improvise or play by ear. That limits his choice of bands, but he's happy.

 

Just a few weeks back I learned a song "by feel". I realized I wasn't always getting it when I played without the CD, so I counted it. The song was in 7/8, and the phrase went across two measures (with slightly odd rhythm choices). I pretty much had it, but once I figured out the count, I could feel it better. I guess the two work hand in hand!!

 

Tom

The song was "Fall" by Mrs Grundy - BenLoy's band

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Not at all crap... I can read music, but I don't like to for that very reason. It feels... forced, to me. As if there's not much feeling there. However, if I learn the part by ear, or by a chord chart, I feel like it's more my own...

 

Even if it's not.

I can't realy read music properly (I write down the tab and the bass line on a separate sheet for hymns... just play the chords otherwise) but find that if I "get" the bass line i.e. "this note is here because its a minor chord" or "now to play a passing note to get to the next chord" I can play a lot easier. Incidently I only have to count as I tap out the rythmn the first time I see the music (2 or 4 times)...then I've got to get my head around all those crazy notes :)
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