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Thread: counting beats

  1. #1

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    hi, everyone..
    i'm a middle age guy who started playing drums a few years ago.
    i have been playing with a guitar and bass player, with songs that the guitar guy has wrote.
    when i play i count the beats in my head, i crash on beat one, do fills leading into the chorus, i find this helps to keep timing and to keep me in tune to beat one. it really helps if i'm kicking on the 16th note either e or a. or if i'm hitting the snare on the e or a
    i was talking to another drummer and he told me i have it all wrong and that i should play the rhythm, that i have to develop a feel for the rhythm.
    is this an advanced way of playing, were you no longer have to keep the count in your head.

  2. #2

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    I think it depends on the person. Unless I'm mistaken, I thought I read somewhere that Neil Peart counts, and I don't think anyone would think he's not doing it right. Personally, I don't count unless there is something a bit odd that warrants that I need to count rather than just feel it. I never really did count that much - not playing trumpet, and not playing drums. But, that's me - a lot of drummers better than me count, so I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with it.
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  3. #3

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    30yrs of playing and I still count. How else do you keep track of were you are in the song?

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northern Redneck View Post
    30yrs of playing and I still count. How else do you keep track of were you are in the song?
    For me it becomes an issue of just knowing the song - the only time I count is if there is something odd that happens in a song format, such as having a chorus go for 10 measures rather than 8, or having a funky turn-around on a re-intro that's something like 3 measures or something. Otherwise, it's also good to be able to hear the singer and lyrics.

    I think the OP was talking more along the lines of actual counting beats in the measures rather than counting blocks of measures for song format.
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  5. #5

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    I think for me it has slowed as time went by. At first, I would only do what was inside of a lesson book and had absolutely no skill outside of that. So definitely I counted out what I read and wrote for myself to play, and that's just how I stayed in time. Some guys like to keep time with their left foot on the hi hat, but I never really gained that skill as much as I would have liked to. I still work on it to this day but i'm just not comfortable with it. After 13 years of playing though, i've gotten lazy and slacking a bit so i've strayed somewhat from the original method of my lessons and now I don't count - I just operate on instinct and what makes sense to me. I get the feel of a song and then just play it, I don't really count it out during.
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  6. #6

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    im with trick. i dont count unless its needed, and then im mainly counting phrases and not beats. i just have a feel for things. i dont think either way is wrong, its just how you learn.

  7. #7

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    i never count beats , there are a few songs that i keep track of measures, but thats not very often, ive learned to FEEL where 1 is , it sure is easier than counting.
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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by atomcorr2 View Post
    i never count beats , there are a few songs that i keep track of measures, but thats not very often, ive learned to FEEL where 1 is , it sure is easier than counting.
    Same here: usually the changes(whatever they may be-tempo,etc.)are signalled by the song's words, the lead's playing or motions on his part, or the song structure which is memorized and followed. Usually 4/4 is so ingrained in drummers that other, "weird" time is worked out by counting until it's memorized and played as felt: without counting.
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  9. #9

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    I never counted beats. Just went by feel.

  10. #10

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    When doing covers, I've counted time silently in my head for certain tunes strange intros and explain alot to the other members the time which a song comes in etc. and visa versa. Most of the time never. But some songs really need the knowledge of this with obscure time signatures or measure lengths etc. When the singer is not around for certain hooks or key changes, it creates alot of issues so sometimes it's good to practice without the singer to get used to how many measures of this and that before the key changes into a new bridge or the chorus...etc. So more like counting measures and knowing their arrangement. For instance a song like "Achilles Last Stand" by Led Zeppelin ( a 10 and a half min. tune), we've broken that up into 5 parts..not counting the intro and outro, .A,B,C,D,E1, E2 and E3 ...the 3E's being the different snare parts in that tune (E3 has 8 measures but plays the same as E2's 4 measures. E1 doesn't have the two snare hits at the end of it.)....So many measures of A, then B so many measures, then back to A so many measures, then B again so many measures, then C so many measures, then D so many measures, then A so many measures, then B...etc.etc. It's pretty complicated and I'm still always learning myself. That song is a tough one. Darn it, I did it again. I think this has nothing to do with the original question...lol
    Last edited by Olimpass; 03-21-2012 at 07:17 AM. Reason: I dont even know how many times I've edited this post...lol

  11. #11

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    I'm with TrickG. I only count if I'm working out a tricky part. Otherwise it's all feel to me. Did the same when I played bass guitar.

  12. #12

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    Most drummers do not count when they're playing and it's not advised. You need to be concentrating on playing the music, not keeping your place in the count. The sooner you can get away from counting, the better. Playing "a lot" helps with this. Like a lot of things, the more you do something, the better you get at it.
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  13. #13
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    Only if its a time signature coming that I'm still not familar with other than that I count the money, slowly! Doc

  14. #14

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    feel comes from repetition

    subconscious counting comes from, long term repetition

  15. #15

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    When I first started playing, 31 years ago, I counted. But I stopped probably 25 or 26 years ago. I'm in agreement with the others here who say they don't count. I feel the music. I get a sense of the time signature and play what I feel. I will keep track of measures when it comes to a bridge or tricky transition when learning a new song, but after a few times playing it, it's back to feeling and just knowing when and where the transitions and breaks are, when and where to accent and when and where to put a fill and how long or short the fill should be. For me, it's all about feeling the music and "reading" the other musicians and that comes with years of experience.
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  16. #16

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    I only count when I'm trying odd signature stuff like Porcupine Tree, Rush, Tool, etc. Most everything else, 4/4 etc., I just learn and play it out using memorization.
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  17. #17

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    thanks for all the great info..hey does OP.. mean old person, if it did it made me laugh...i been riding and racing motorcycles since i was 7 years old and can wheelie my gsxr750 easily at 160k's, but drumming is my new challenge in life. i play everyday, and love it......

    before i started playing the drums i had no music background, i bought a bunch of self drum type books and started reading, vic firth's snare drum method book one ,lesson one, say's to count out loud and tap your foot on each beat.
    i do find that over time and playing the effort of counting the beats has gotten a lot easier, and i'm getting to the point were it's almost second nature. but i still count to some point.
    i listen to music and i start counting, when i hear the crash as the music changes, and i'm counting one , it's a good feeling.
    i really try to hear the kick pattern, but some stuff is way to advanced for me to understand it yet.
    i'm looking forward to the day, if it ever comes that the feel of the music will guide me.
    when i first started playing with the guy's, a punk style, i was a bucket of sweat by the end of the session, now i'm more relaxed, and don't cramp up as much..
    i like what everyone had to say: itchie put it pretty good, and along with everyone's input help.
    i have a long way to go and loving it..
    thanks again everyone...

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekel View Post
    thanks for all the great info..hey does OP.. mean old person, if it did it made me laugh...
    Ha-ha! It means, "original post" or "original poster"
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  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by drummer View Post
    Ha-ha! It means, "original post" or "original poster"
    now that's even more funny...

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by itchie View Post
    feel comes from repetition

    subconscious counting comes from, long term repetition
    Absolutely. When playing, whether along to a CD, or jamming or performing with others, the count is 'at the back of my mind', but I suppose my brain is so used to multitasking that I'll also listen to the melody and harmony at the same time, so whenever playing with others, if I hear a sudden change or break, thanks to years of playing in different styles and genres I can pretty much 'turn on a dime', so to speak. When learning trickier things like certain odd meters, 5/4, 7/4 and 7/8 time signatures have become second nature to me over the years because not only have I learned them as a student, but I hear them all the time when playing or hearing Greek, Armenian or Middle Eastern music....I'm just 'as home' playing that as I am with 4/4 Western music, due to the fact that my muso buddies are of all different backgrounds. Nevertheless, when there is a trickier or longer time signature such as 9/8 (that one's always a diabolical one no matter what) or however longer a beat cycle is intended to be, counting is vital.

    Or another case is Latin clavés, the six 'underlying' rhythms that underpin almost every Latin rhythm with a few notable exceptions. Latino musicians who are born into that rhythmic culture will take the clavés for granted - they, of course, can just 'feel it' as naturally as we non-Latinos feel the downbeat and backbeat in a 4/4 rock rhythm - however, when you first have to learn to play a bossa nova pattern, and especially when what you play with the hands goes against a steady pattern with feet on a bass drum and hi-hat, before you do anything, you have to know exactly how to count the 'bossa nova clavé' because that will tell you where to play the rim-click/cross-stick pattern with your left hand on the snare. If you didn't, you'd be playing just any old-how, but most certainly not a bossa nova. It is only once you have mastered the bossa nova, fully understanding that you have to obey the clavé that that's when you can just feel it, which what I've been able to do. But not when you're just learning to conquer it and make it part of your playing. My Latino mates tell me that when you first encounter a new rhythm, the first thing you need to be thoroughly clear about is what clavé does it obey? If you're playing 'guaganco' on the congas, be aware of the rumba clavé. If it's 'mambo', then it falls under the son clavé (Latinos might refer to this as the 'mother' clavé, as it is usually the first one that any student of Latin music first learns before moving onto other clavés and rhythms). And so on. Also, another thing to be aware of is that you'll quite often not land back on the '1' of each bar....there are a lot of offbeats emphasised in Latin rhythms. So you definitely need to count, not just feel it. Really, you should do both.
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  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by drummer View Post
    Ha-ha! It means, "original post" or "original poster"

    If it's op, it means original poster.

    If it's OP, it means Old Person, That would be me.

  22. #22

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    I count when I'm having some kinda internal problem...like daydreaming for instance. Counting is good I think. Music is a very mathematical art form at its root.

    all the best...

  23. #23

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    grrrr.... stupid laptop... I had a great responce and the darn thing blinked out and is gone... I'll try to redo it.

    If I'm kickin' back with the boys jammin covers of SRV, or a blues shuffle, maybe a Billy Joel tune or whatnot, we don't count. We feel it. We become it. We play...

    However, I recently had a gig playing a very advanced score for a rock musical which had all sorts of very challenging parts. One song had alternating bars of 5/4 and 6/8. Once you get in that rythm it's easy to keep going and forgo counting, but when you have a specific hit or pick-up to make, or a 2 measure rest that you come back in with a fill 1/2 way through the bar.... well, you're NOT gonna play it WITHOUT counting beats.

    My point to you is that the advice to "feel the music and NOT count" is WRONG.
    I also feel that the advice to "count even the simplest beat mechanically" is also WRONG.
    (I know nobody really said that, but it's illustrating a point)

    The answer, simply, is BOTH.

    If something is difficult, or you have a specific beat to make a specific hit... then count it out. But if you're jamming a familiar tune, then leave the math behind and enjoy yourself!
    Last edited by CycleDude; 03-20-2012 at 07:47 AM.
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  24. #24

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    Many a years ago.........and I do mean many, I was taught, especially in jazz, a drummer ALWAYS kept the count with his hi-hat! In basic 4\4 time, always on the 2nd and 4th quarter note. Now, it's second nature for me to keep time that way. Different time signatures have different counts, for example, 5/4 time, it usually played on 2nd,3rd and 5th beat of the measure. It was explained to me that alot of musicians listen for this, much as a conductor has a certain position that his baton is in on certain beats in a measure.

    Even these days, you can hear the hi-hats on these beats on alot of songs. What it does for me is to help me never lose my place or rhythm. And lets others know exactly where they are at, or supposed to be at.....

    Just another thought that came to my mind when I saw this thread.
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  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by CycleDude View Post
    grrrr.... stupid laptop... I had a great responce and the darn thing blinked out and is gone... I'll try to redo it.

    If I'm kickin' back with the boys jammin covers of SRV, or a blues shuffle, maybe a Billy Joel tune or whatnot, we don't count. We feel it. We become it. We play...

    However, I recently had a gig playing a very advanced score for a rock musical which had all sorts of very challenging parts. One song had alternating bars of 5/4 and 6/8. Once you get in that rythm it's easy to keep going and forgo counting, but when you have a specific hit or pick-up to make, or a 2 measure rest that you come back in with a fill 1/2 way through the bar.... well, you're NOT gonna play it WITHOUT counting beats.

    My point to you is that the advice to "feel the music and NOT count" is WRONG.
    I also feel that the advice to "count even the simplest beat mechanically" is also WRONG.
    (I know nobody really said that, but it's illustrating a point)

    The answer, simply, is BOTH.

    If something is difficult, or you have a specific beat to make a specific hit... then count it out. But if you're jamming a familiar tune, then leave the math behind and enjoy yourself!
    +1...there are times for counting....when I'm unfamiliar with a song or a type of music....I have to count. If it is basic 4/4 with minimal difficulty, or any music you are familiar with.....just feel it.

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