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  #1  
Old 09-08-2013, 06:39 AM
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Default Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I tried to learn drums by just playing and interacting with it but it didn't teach me much and progress was slow. After watching lessons online and taking a few I learned how to count in a lot of different ways.
In the beginning it was helpful to build independence, it was a reminder to the left hand to hit the snare every time I shouted "2!".
After three years I don't feel I need to help my independence anymore by counting but I still do it whenever I learn something new and always try to figure out the notation of a beat/fill I'm learning. So I know what I'm actually playing.

Recently I've realized that maybe that slows down my progress a lot and I should just try to listen carefully and try to reproduce the same sounds without thinking and counting while I'm doing it. I had great success learning a beat today that way. I still can't put in notation but I know how to play it.

So now I'm thinking that I should stop counting or at least stop counting 16th notes. Had a great teacher(truly amazing drummer) that always told me to stop thinking so much and just count the quarter notes(mainly with the hi-hat foot and not actually counting it out loud in words) and maybe very rarely 8th notes if you really need it but never 16th notes...

I think the brain picks things up easier if you don't try to make sense of it and just listen to the sound.

Want a discussion here! :> I now think that the less counting going on, the better.
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Old 09-08-2013, 06:58 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

Agreed. After a period of early development, counting becomes more of an internalised function. There is less of a need to physically count (especially out loud), in order to have our patterns line up. The concept never leaves you.....and it's always used to fall back on when working out new or tricky parts, but it certainly becomes less of a crutch. After a while "internal feel" seems to take over the need to "count" per se. Especially with respect to having our notes fall within the grid. You're still counting, it's just that it becomes far more automated.
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Old 09-08-2013, 06:59 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

Counting is important when you might not know how to play something, but a lot of times feel is just as important. Once you know how to play something and stay on top of it, counting manually doesn't matter because you do instinctively.

I don't know if that makes sense, and it sounds kind of lazy, but I don't think counting is necessary for regular grooves once you know how to play. Of course, if you can't stay in time, counting helps.
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Old 09-08-2013, 07:35 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I'm still convinced it can be a bad idea to think of beats as where the 16th notes are placed all the time instead of thinking the sounds in your head like:
"BAM chicka boom chickadi dom chicka boom chip" I would count that in my head:
"1 and 2 and a 3 and 4 and"

I guess that's the real problem, I hardly can sing out drum beats and it feels weird because when whenever I feel the need to sing out a drum beat I just sing out the count instead.
This must be really bad for your progress as a drummer, beginner videos should focus on how to count with drum sounds in your head instead of numbers so you get a better feel for the music.

I think Tabla drummers get taught how to count musically and have different word depending on what it sounds like when you hit it.
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Old 09-08-2013, 08:25 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

Counting aloud uses up brain resources. When you stop counting out loud it's easier to flow. But the person who can count aloud and play will understand things better. Closing your eyes frees up more brain resources too. But you miss so much of the other's body language when you close your eyes. So like anything, the harder things bring the nicer rewards. If you can count out loud and play your stuff, you are really understand how everything lines up. I admit there's stuff I play that if I had to count the quarters it would throw me off. The count is internalized, but somehow, speaking it out loud makes playing it harder. I guess I'm using most of my resources to play it right, and if I have to count out loud, my computer gets overloaded. A solid internal 1,2,3 and 4 doesn't seem to use up the brain resources like counting out loud does, at least for me. So counting out loud is harder, and in this case, better.

Just another thing to work on.
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Old 09-08-2013, 11:29 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I know drummers who count bars..... but 16th notes?

Try to learn the whole song, not just the drum part. That way you always know where you are in the music. If you can learn to find the pulse of the music you will always know where a fill starts and ends.
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Old 09-08-2013, 03:39 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I count when I'm sight-reading. Once I know where all the bits go, I "diddle dum".
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Old 09-08-2013, 05:53 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

counting when learning something or transcribing a piece.....absolutely

but the last thing you want to be doing when making music is counting

record yourself 2 times

first just feel the music ...you will sound like you are inside the tune

second time count while playing.... you will sound like you are playing an exercise to music

one thing ALL musicians need to understand is that practicing and playing music are two completely different things and we should never mix the two
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Old 09-08-2013, 06:47 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
counting when learning something or transcribing a piece.....absolutely

but the last thing you want to be doing when making music is counting

record yourself 2 times

first just feel the music ...you will sound like you are inside the tune

second time count while playing.... you will sound like you are playing an exercise to music

one thing ALL musicians need to understand is that practicing and playing music are two completely different things and we should never mix the two
This. 100%. Performing is just that, not an exercise.
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Old 09-08-2013, 06:58 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

It's a problem I still struggle with a lot. I think internalizing the count and learning the "feel" of the music just comes from time, experience, repetition, and practice. Not an exciting answer or magic potion solution but the only one Ive come up with.
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Old 09-08-2013, 07:02 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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one thing ALL musicians need to understand is that practicing and playing music are two completely different things and we should never mix the two
It's a bit of a relief to hear this. I assumed you would take a hard line and say that while performing, one should be able to count out loud without sacrificing anything. I don't want to be counting when I am gigging. It's hard enough to count out loud while practicing. That said, being able to count out loud at practice is very beneficial and can only make you understand the notes and how they relate to the pulse better.
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Old 09-08-2013, 07:19 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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... That said, being able to count out loud at practice is very beneficial and can only make you understand the notes and how they relate to the pulse better.
This is exactly correct. I literally only count the beat when I am learning something specific, or trying to explain a beat to someone else. You have to understand where within the beat each element of a groove should go. Once you've learned that, though, you should be listening to the music, and not a count in your head. The most I might ever do is count sections of music in case one is long and I need to know where I am; e.g. I might have to play a part something weird like 11 times. Unless I keep track of the one and count it out in my head, I have a chance to lose where I am.
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Old 09-09-2013, 06:06 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

great advice below. also check www.halgalper.com for his thoughts on NOT thinking while playing. epic stuff that will help your live playing.
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:14 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I do it exactly like you guys do it... counting when I'm figuring stuff out and practicing and then when I got it I don't need to count.
I do it to make sure I know what I'm doing and that I'm doing it correctly.

But what I suggest is to stop this while practicing and learning new stuff as well and just hear the new stuff and try to imitate the sound of it. Learn by ear instead of try to visualize in your head where all the notes goes....

Just like learning a new language without doing any study, just interact with people. It goes waaaay quicker than thinking about the grammar the first 100 times and then let go of the grammar. I picked up a language in less than 2 months just by being surrounded by natives who couldn't speak any other language. I was forced to pick stuff up quickly just like a baby do and I did.
Another language took me years of studying the grammar etc to come up to the same level.
I'm sure the person without grammar do more mistakes but he will eventually correct them himself. Just like a person just learning drums by ear and trying to imitate without counting or know what he's playing. I'm convinced that when learning more complex rhytms it's easier not trying to place every note out and just listen and try to imitate the sound of it first in your head and then on the drums.
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:29 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

Just like a language, you can pick up the basic vernacular after time immersing yourself and making a few mistakes.

The complex bit is when things go beyond the 'standard' vernacular and into the musical equivalent of 'scientific terms', i.e. advanced theory, polyrhythms and non-repeating material. In those circumstances, study is crucial. To be able to interact effectively in those situations you need to have a basic understanding of the terms and in some advanced musical circumstances, the basic understanding isn't necessarily obvious upon listening.

With the drums in particular - where there are often multiple things going on at once - a basic understanding can be picked up with relatively little 'study' once you understand the everyday conversational language. It certainly helps to study early on, with tools like the counting and the like, so that you can train your ear to hear what is going on but once you've gone beyond that, you can certainly play with intuition.
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:32 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I think you're right, actually. I did an experiment with a Grade 7 piece: I got my instructor to teach it to me by ear (he had to learn it in the usual way). I had great difficulty memorising it, but once I did, I remembered it better, and I played the piece more fluently than usual. I liked it too; he hated it with a passion.

A bit tricky to do this with written music and nobody to play it for you though, so one does have to be pragmatic.

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I'm sure the person without grammar do more mistakes but he will eventually correct them himself. Just like a person just learning drums by ear and trying to imitate without counting or know what he's playing.
By the way, not every person is a "he".
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:51 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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Just like a language, you can pick up the basic vernacular after time immersing yourself and making a few mistakes.

The complex bit is when things go beyond the 'standard' vernacular and into the musical equivalent of 'scientific terms', i.e. advanced theory, polyrhythms and non-repeating material. In those circumstances, study is crucial. To be able to interact effectively in those situations you need to have a basic understanding of the terms and in some advanced musical circumstances, the basic understanding isn't necessarily obvious upon listening.

With the drums in particular - where there are often multiple things going on at once - a basic understanding can be picked up with relatively little 'study' once you understand the everyday conversational language. It certainly helps to study early on, with tools like the counting and the like, so that you can train your ear to hear what is going on but once you've gone beyond that, you can certainly play with intuition.
Well, possibly, but you dont need to know the technical term for a beat or a linguistic term to use it correctly. or even why it is used, some things just come naturally. Children learn to communicate perfectly well by imitation, and without knowing they are conjugating verbs etc. I know two 7 year olds who are bi lingual and dont even think about the technicalities of each language it is all done by instinct.
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Old 09-09-2013, 09:00 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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Well, possibly, but you dont need to know the technical term for a beat or a linguistic term to use it correctly. or even why it is used, some things just come naturally. Children learn to communicate perfectly well by imitation, and without knowing they are conjugating verbs etc. I know two 7 year olds who are bi lingual and dont even think about the technicalities of each language it is all done by instinct.
I'm not disagreeing with you in the slightest. Language is an intuitive thing. Knowing what something is called is not the same as knowing how it works.

However, there are some circumstances where simply throwing yourself into music won't get results quickly enough. If you've been playing Rock all your life to a good standard and are suddenly thrown into a Jazz environment, you're probably going to have to sit down and study. Your ears won't be attuned to the new language straight away and by studying, you can look at what others have already learned rather than having to learn everything from scratch. By having something written down in front of you and listening to it at the same time, in my experience, makes you able to hear what you otherwise wouldn't.
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Old 09-09-2013, 09:52 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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I think you're right, actually. I did an experiment with a Grade 7 piece: I got my instructor to teach it to me by ear (he had to learn it in the usual way). I had great difficulty memorising it, but once I did, I remembered it better, and I played the piece more fluently than usual. I liked it too; he hated it with a passion.

A bit tricky to do this with written music and nobody to play it for you though, so one does have to be pragmatic.

By the way, not every person is a "he".
Haha sry, I actually wrote it he/she then I was thinking if I should write himself/herself then I thought maybe it should be oneself and then I thought "who cares!?people understand!" =P In Swedish we invented a new word a year ago that's neither he or she. I guess word would be just E doing the same thing in English ;>

You don't really need someone to play it for you if you can sing out rhytms after reading a piece of notation.The money beat: "Boom chick bap chick boom chick bap chick"
or listen to examples. The problem is that it takes a lot of practice until it comes natural and I feel stupid for not starting with it from day 1 =/ I really struggle to make up drum sounds in my mind.

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I'm not disagreeing with you in the slightest. Language is an intuitive thing. Knowing what something is called is not the same as knowing how it works.

However, there are some circumstances where simply throwing yourself into music won't get results quickly enough. If you've been playing Rock all your life to a good standard and are suddenly thrown into a Jazz environment, you're probably going to have to sit down and study. Your ears won't be attuned to the new language straight away and by studying, you can look at what others have already learned rather than having to learn everything from scratch. By having something written down in front of you and listening to it at the same time, in my experience, makes you able to hear what you otherwise wouldn't.
I think counting is good for learning how to read music the same way grammar is great for learning how to read.

But when I learn how to say a new word in English the first question isn't "how is it spelled?". I focus on the sound and then I imitate my friends. Why should drumming be any different? Why can't I learn jazz just by listen carefully what a teacher is playing... A lot of great musicians just learn playing by ear why would drumming be any different. And if drumming ain't different, why don't kids learn how to count learning other instruments...? correct me if I'm wrong but I didn't count learning violin anyway. Eventually after months my teacher started using a metronome and let me play to the quarter notes but never told me to count out loud...

I also think that counting shouldn't be needed when you are a fluent reader in music, you can hear the whole piece in your head as you're reading and then you just play what you hear, like reading a piece of text out loud. You don't think about the grammar...

BTW I'm not 100% convinced I'm right that's why I continue the discussion... I haven't been convinced I'm wrong either though...
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Old 09-09-2013, 10:02 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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I'm not disagreeing with you in the slightest. Language is an intuitive thing. Knowing what something is called is not the same as knowing how it works.

However, there are some circumstances where simply throwing yourself into music won't get results quickly enough. If you've been playing Rock all your life to a good standard and are suddenly thrown into a Jazz environment, you're probably going to have to sit down and study. Your ears won't be attuned to the new language straight away and by studying, you can look at what others have already learned rather than having to learn everything from scratch. By having something written down in front of you and listening to it at the same time, in my experience, makes you able to hear what you otherwise wouldn't.
Having stuff written down and listen to it at the same time must be the best I agree. But why do you need to count if you can hear how it should sound? Shouldn't tapping your left foot with the quarter notes be a better way to keep time...
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Old 09-09-2013, 10:04 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

Now you've got me thinking. When I used to play the piano, I never counted - I just sang the rhythm of the notes, as you did with the violin. I wonder if it's a drummy thing.
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Old 09-09-2013, 10:49 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I'm continually tapping my left foot, usually with the my heel with the front of the foot applying pressure to the pedal. I'm not actively 'counting' I'm just keeping the pulse going. It's a habit I've only picked up in the last few years and it comes from playing in a Swing band, where I would 'rock', heel-toe to play every second beat. Sometimes I'm tapping in quavers too when it's a bit slower. I don't even notice I'm doing it most of the time!

I'm not speaking about Jazz specifically, I'm talking about when you change styles. With that said, some styles are more intricate and require more movement - Jazz is one such style. When I first started learning to play Jazz, I couldn't hear what the left hand was doing (and I still struggle) and with my reading skills as they are (poor - not through lack of trying) it's sometimes hard for me to pick up comping, even with repeated listening. Watching a teacher is different because you have two sensory inputs - your eyes and your ears. Combining both gives you a better all-around picture although I'm sure with enough practice and practise, it's quite possible to hear all of the details.

Sometimes, you're just not sure what to listen for. Having a secondary sensory input (visual) gives you more information.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:21 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I don't think you can compare drums to any other instrument. The notes are short, and they are for all intents and purposes, non pitched. Musical time, and by default, the feel is the drummers main #1 output, generally speaking. I can't imagine playing drums and NOT knowing where the one is. It's so internal by now that I can't escape it. But saying it out loud is harder than thinking it, especially when triplets and dotted notes come into play. So if you can count out loud while executing beautifully, It can only solidify your drumming. Not saying I can do it all the time. But I do know that it is very solidifying. For me, vocalizing the pulse is like a 5th thing to coordinate.

Anybody ever have trouble talking with someone while playing? Like you have to time the start of your sentence on beat 1 and then you have to blurt it out real fast? Very familiar with that lol. Getting better with it though.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:28 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I think the closest instrument that we usually hear (in terms of function in a band) is the bass.

I can play the guitar and sing, talk at the same time. Talking is a little tricky but it's not so bad. I can't play bass and sing well at all, unless I've practised the song a thousand times. I can sing and play the drums but only at a particular level - backing vocals and simple leads but I find it harder than with the guitar.

It's telling me something about how I'm playing the instruments. I think the more I'm concentrating on specific timing, the less I can talk or sing. With the guitar, I'm usually playing rhythm, so my right hand is strumming and the movement - whilst rhythmic - isn't specific and doesn't require fine timing control. I can fingerpick and play just fine too but I can't sing when I'm playing any lead. When I'm playing finger style on the bass, I really struggle. It's like playing lead on the guitar.

For me, the differences are practice, proficiency on the instrument (although I've always been able to sing and play the guitar) but mainly the fact that the bass and the drums are highly rhythmic and talking or singing can interfere with the rhythm in your head.
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Old 09-10-2013, 12:07 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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but mainly the fact that the bass and the drums are highly rhythmic and talking or singing can interfere with the rhythm in your head.
Right there. It's a high skill when you can play 4 way coordination with your limbs and talk in a rhythm that is completely independent from what you are playing. Singing that meshes with the music is much easier than talking that doesn't mesh with the music.
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Old 09-10-2013, 01:14 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

"hear" the subdivisions. "Feel" the larger notes.
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Old 09-10-2013, 07:04 AM
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Anybody ever have trouble talking with someone while playing?
When I used to sing backups I found it difficult but, oddly, I have no trouble talking while playing (or in an iron lung, for that matter). As long as the lines are simple, of course.

As for all this counting, internalising etc stuff - I only count odd timings that aren't internalised. If the experts say something is correct there's a good chance that I've done the opposite for the past 30 years. I often feel like an ignorant git here :)

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Old 09-10-2013, 07:26 AM
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Anybody ever have trouble talking with someone while playing?
Depends. If I'm playing something easy, or even something complex I've played a 800 times, I can easily carry on a conversation. If I'm stressing my brain to play something difficult and un-familiar, I have a hard time.

Singing, though, tends to mess up my drumming. Trying to manage pitch and all that nonsense while also being the groove have been much more difficult.
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Old 09-10-2013, 07:35 AM
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Right there. It's a high skill when you can play 4 way coordination with your limbs and talk in a rhythm that is completely independent from what you are playing.
I don't think this can be true, because I can do it. I've just checked, and I can play a song and recite nursery rhymes, and I can play a song and have a conversation with the cat.

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Old 09-10-2013, 07:35 AM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I saw a Greg Bissonnette clinic the other week too and he sung some old love song while playing a beat... and broke up the time in a myriad of ways, and then soloed while still singing the song.. it was pretty amazing (I laughed a bit), and now I have no excuse not to learn to sing while I play. I never liked counting though... never did, and now that I try I realize it's actually a bit of a challenge.

Dave Dicenso has a book called 'universal rhythms' where you play fills and beats while singing a rhythm.. this has been really good fun for me and I think it has given me slightly better ability to separate my head from my body.
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Old 09-10-2013, 01:28 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

I think that internalisation is always the key, hence why you hear about a lot of players who brag 'Yeah I practiced 12,000 hours last week, I'm amazing ;)'

The process of playing something over and over in different combinations is the process of detachment as I like to say, training your body to take over, so you then can focus on singing, skyping, brushing your teeth, while playing odd time linear grooves.

Itís always crucial to play with a metronome, as this is a good reference point - it also helps if your struggling to read something break it down and work with the metronome to build up that counting process in your mind. I always used to have a metronome count on the skip beat in a jazz ride pattern when practicing my comping, or have wide open spaces with your metronome, for instance the 1 in every 4 bars. It helps internalise time, and helps you not focus on counting the whole time youíre playing.

Counting is good, but you shouldn't really NEED to count when playing. You should have this internalised in practice. Some people may shout HERESY at this next statement but... If you can modulate between subdivisions with ease, you can technically relate everything back to 4/4. It's a bad habit, but it's never let me down yet. Find your own way of interpreting time and internalise it. When you get it, it opens doors. Good Luck!
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Old 09-10-2013, 04:38 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

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Originally Posted by BacteriumFendYoke View Post
I'm not disagreeing with you in the slightest. Language is an intuitive thing. Knowing what something is called is not the same as knowing how it works.

However, there are some circumstances where simply throwing yourself into music won't get results quickly enough. If you've been playing Rock all your life to a good standard and are suddenly thrown into a Jazz environment, you're probably going to have to sit down and study. Your ears won't be attuned to the new language straight away and by studying, you can look at what others have already learned rather than having to learn everything from scratch. By having something written down in front of you and listening to it at the same time, in my experience, makes you able to hear what you otherwise wouldn't.
Afraid I cant agree with that. I dont need to know how something I play works, just that it works.

Also, Jazz, Reggae, Drum and Bass, Latin, its all just music. Its all the same language. If you want to play exactly what someone has played before, then you will need to study them. If you want to come up with something new or creative, not necessarily.
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Old 09-10-2013, 06:21 PM
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Afraid I cant agree with that. I dont need to know how something I play works, just that it works.
But don't you WANT to know?
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Old 09-10-2013, 06:38 PM
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Afraid I cant agree with that. I dont need to know how something I play works, just that it works.

Also, Jazz, Reggae, Drum and Bass, Latin, its all just music. Its all the same language. If you want to play exactly what someone has played before, then you will need to study them. If you want to come up with something new or creative, not necessarily.
So how do you efficiently learn that language? Thrash around in the dark, listening to records and guessing or study what others have done in a logical manner and progress based upon the prior experience of others?
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Old 09-10-2013, 06:51 PM
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So how do you efficiently learn that language? Thrash around in the dark, listening to records and guessing or study what others have done in a logical manner and progress based upon the prior experience of others?
Easy, tiger! It is (in my experience) possible to learn something by picking it up. But, based also on my own experience, real appreciation and proper understanding come from study.
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Old 09-10-2013, 07:11 PM
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That's my point. There's a difference between being able to imitate and being able to understand. You may very well get to a point of innate understanding by simply listening repeatedly and imitating but why make it so difficult for yourself? Once you understand the rules, then you can break them.
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Old 09-10-2013, 07:56 PM
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Default Re: Thinking too much while playing (counting)

Counting out loud is good when learning new material. It's a difficult task because your voice speaking out loud will act as if you have a 5th limb operating.
My advice is to practice with a metronome and try counting different subdivisions while playing what ever your practicing.

For example try counting just the quarter note pulse instead of all the sixteenths.
I know it's not fun and it's tedious practice at times but it will really help you to internalize the 1 and find your way back to it in and out of fills etc...

I hope this helps
Jason:)

Last edited by JasonLech; 09-10-2013 at 08:10 PM.
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Old 09-10-2013, 08:33 PM
mikel mikel is offline
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So how do you efficiently learn that language? Thrash around in the dark, listening to records and guessing or study what others have done in a logical manner and progress based upon the prior experience of others?
No, Its music. I dont study it, I play it. Its not a GCSE. I play what I think compliments the music, rather than thinking " Now this is a Jazz song, I need to learn (study) what Chick Webb, Joe Morello etc etc played, and then I can do what they did".

Because you study types of music before you approach the genre, douse not mean we all have to do the same. Music, to me, is all about feel and emotion. If I can get out what the music suggests to me, I am happy.
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Old 09-10-2013, 10:04 PM
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No, Its music. I dont study it, I play it. Its not a GCSE. I play what I think compliments the music, rather than thinking " Now this is a Jazz song, I need to learn (study) what Chick Webb, Joe Morello etc etc played, and then I can do what they did".

Because you study types of music before you approach the genre, douse not mean we all have to do the same. Music, to me, is all about feel and emotion. If I can get out what the music suggests to me, I am happy.
Not for the first time, or the last I expect, I draw on flamenco.

Flamenco just IS. However, it can be learned, and the more it is learned as well as felt, the more informed it becomes. I don't know a single exponent of the genre who can't explain what they are doing, or how it comes about.

Studying crystallises innate knowledge.
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Old 09-10-2013, 10:45 PM
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No, Its music. I dont study it, I play it. Its not a GCSE. I play what I think compliments the music, rather than thinking " Now this is a Jazz song, I need to learn (study) what Chick Webb, Joe Morello etc etc played, and then I can do what they did".

Because you study types of music before you approach the genre, douse not mean we all have to do the same. Music, to me, is all about feel and emotion. If I can get out what the music suggests to me, I am happy.
At the risk of throwing out a strawman, are you opposed to studying all music?

I come from a background where music and study are hand-in-hand. I studied advanced theory at University in my first term but instrumentally, I'm mostly self-taught. I'm not suggesting for a second that we all do the same. Not at all. Knowing what others have done beforehand, though, does give you a basis from which to work and if you're a student with serious ambition, you can't expect to go in naÔvely and discover all the nuances for yourself. That's why we have teachers, it's also why we have methods, syllabuses and why we have an education system.

Can a child independently learn mathematics and use it effectively? Absolutely. Can a child learn a language by imitation? Absolutely. Then why do we have an educational system? To provide context.

I'm all for outsider art (look at The Shaggs, I love that band) but they are an exception. If you're serious about being a player, you need to draw on detail and it is unrealistic for a student to be able to pick up the detail without the appropriate training.

Let me throw out an example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ11cArknek

The beginning is straightforward and relatively easy to pick up in terms of what is being played. Get to around the 1.00 mark and you're going to struggle to pick up the nuances - even if you're an advanced player. It's going to take you at least several runs through to pick up the ghosting, the bass drum placement, the tone changes and the tom embellishments. There's a lot going on - and stylistically, this is probably about as straightforward as Tony Williams gets.

How long do you think it would take for somebody with no prior knowledge of drums to imitate that track and to learn the language? I'd wager years.

Likewise (I'm talking about the guitar):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yobcwSYmdew

Good. Bloody. Luck.

Now, as somebody that has studied theory, I know that large parts of the middle section (2.50 onwards) is in a wholetone scale. That narrows it down to two sets of notes on the fretboard that Fripp could be playing. If I hadn't listened in context, worked out what a wholetone scale sounded like, I would probably spend years thrashing around on the fretboard looking for the answers.

Now let's move onto something even more complex, rhythmically and harmonically:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZtWAqc3qyk

You'd have to be a bloody genius to pick that one apart just by ear. That is a score you need to study, it's a score you need to pore over and then attempt. It's not something you can transcribe by ear.

Harmonically, this is simpler:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2E058Ep99Y

Fancy picking that one apart just by ear? That's one instrument.

How about this one?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp3BlFZWJNA

I'm not saying that studying is the be all and end all. Listening is equally important. Learning to transcribe is important but without a context, without a progression and without guidance, it can be difficult, even nigh-on-impossible. Some pieces of music are dense and require a score to play. Imitating a stickman is easy, imitating a Van Gogh is much harder and requires knowledge, experience and study of the techniques.

Musically, most of the music that we play the drums on is the musical equivalent of a 'stickman'. Now, I'm not saying that's a good thing or a band thing. Complex music isn't necessarily any more effective aesthetically or artistically. Music is about what stimulates you and what speaks to you. In my case, all of the pieces I've listed move me very deeply (particularly the last one).

There's a reason we study and that's to gain a deeper knowledge of background, context and technical expertise. It might not make you a better composer or make an overtly-technical player a better musician if you only approach it academically but if you balance up the needs of technical ability and musical intuition, using a combination of listening, imitating and study then you're equipping yourself with a wide range of tools that allow you to be a more creative player and musician.

Why limit yourself?
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