ah-1, ah-2, ah-1, 2, 3, 4

beatdat

Senior Member
How do you count off a song?

I like to count off "2, 3, 4" or "2+, 3+, 4+", but it depends on the tempo. For faster tempos, I'll usually count off two bars, such as "1, _, 2, _, 1, 2, 3, 4", which is fine, but our guitar player wants this count off for all songs - regardless of tempo. This seems unnatural to me for slower songs, and sometimes makes it harder for me to nail the start of the song. When I can, I count off the song with what I think works depending on its tempo and feel. All in all not a big deal, but it got me remembering how the count off in school bands was an upstroke on the 4+ and that was it - that baton was coming down on 1 and we had to be ready for it.

So what about you guys? Same count off all the time? Is it song or tempo dependent? Is it vocal, stick-clicks or a mix? And while you're counting off a song, are you subdividing the time in your head at all?
 

SYMBOLIC DEATH

Senior Member
For me and my band it's 4 quarter notes at the tempo of the song regardless of the tempo. We know the songs and are able to subdivide as needed. I'm also on a click so I can keep them on track if needed.
 
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MntnMan62

Junior Member
You are spot on. When you count off a song it MUST consider the tempo of the song to be played. The song's tempo dictates the count off. If the count off is the same for every song regardless of tempo, then all it serves to do is know when the first note is played. After that, it's a free for all. And with music where multiple people are supposed to play in a synchronous fashion, a free for all only works for one style of music: Avant Garde. Your guitar player is about as far off the mark stylistically and compositionally as he can be. As far as how it's done, doesn't matter if it's vocally, stick clicks, grunts or foot stomps (Zappa was famous for those). And as for subdividing, simpler is usually, but no always, better. But it always needs to reflect the tempo of the song.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
How do you count off a song?

I like to count off "2, 3, 4" or "2+, 3+, 4+", but it depends on the tempo. For faster tempos, I'll usually count off two bars, such as "1, _, 2, _, 1, 2, 3, 4", which is fine, but our guitar player wants this count off for all songs - regardless of tempo. This seems unnatural to me for slower songs, and sometimes makes it harder for me to nail the start of the song. When I can, I count off the song with what I think works depending on its tempo and feel. All in all not a big deal, but it got me remembering how the count off in school bands was an upstroke on the 4+ and that was it - that baton was coming down on 1 and we had to be ready for it.

So what about you guys? Same count off all the time? Is it song or tempo dependent? Is it vocal, stick-clicks or a mix? And while you're counting off a song, are you subdividing the time in your head at all?
What your guitarist suggests is best and the standard way to count off a jazz/swing tune. I find it works well in all genres really.
I spend 30 minutes each week just practicing count offs for the music I'm playing.
The BeatMirror app is awesome for this as it starts your count off then drops off and monitors your tempo so you can practice really nailing those first few notes/bars.
 
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Bo Eder

Platinum Member
For kicks I like to count off up to 27 really fast, and then start the tune where it's supposed to be. It keeps everybody on their toes ;)
 
In one previous band, our last song of the set was usually a song that started with just the lead guitarist and me. We'd look at each other, I'd yell, "go!" and we'd both start, sometimes even at the same time. It used to sort of frustrate the singer, but the bassist thought it was funny, and any musicians in the audience would always comment on it later.

Anyway, I don't generally recommend that method.
 

beatdat

Senior Member
For me and my band it's 4 quarter notes at the tempo of the song regardless of the tempo.
Going by your bandcamp page, those would be damn quick count offs.

I spend 30 minutes each week just practicing count offs for the music I'm playing.
I've tried that, but I never know when to stop. Still a good idea.

The LiveBPM app is awesome for this as it starts your count off then drops off and monitors your tempo so you can practice really nailing those first few notes/bars.
I really should get one of those.

If the count off is the same for every song regardless of tempo, then all it serves to do is know when the first note is played. After that, it's a free for all.
I've never thought of it like that. I can see that, which is why I base my count off on the tempo and feel of the song - I'm trying to get into the song before it starts.

and any musicians in the audience would always comment on it later.
I take it they commented favourably? Because it's pretty cool to watch.

For kicks I like to count off up to 27 really fast, and then start the tune where it's supposed to be. It keeps everybody on their toes ;)
Playing a thrash version of this?

 

SYMBOLIC DEATH

Senior Member
Going by your bandcamp page, those would be damn quick count offs.
Quarters170 to 205 generally, with an average tempo in the 185-195 bpm range. Once you're use to it, it's not bad. 10 years ago it was north of 240, but I'm old now and grew tired of dealing with the up keep those tempos force you to do.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
Four clicks at tempo, unless its in 3/4 or 5/4 or 12/8.
12/8 I just click 2 slow beats, but also count out loud “3 & a 4 & a”

For most jazz gigs the leader clicks their fingers for a while then eventually counts us in.
 

hawksmoor

Senior Member
What your guitarist suggests is best and the standard way to count off a jazz/swing tune. I find it works well in all genres really.
I spend 30 minutes each week just practicing count offs for the music I'm playing.
The LiveBPM app is awesome for this as it starts your count off then drops off and monitors your tempo so you can practice really nailing those first few notes/bars.
I use Live BPM all the time, but how do you mean the app starts your count off? I'm concerned that I might have an older version.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
At least you get to count it in. Still trying to get our guitar player to let me count him in. He plays an intro to each song, but always does it faster than he want the tempo to be. So I have to either come in at the correct (mismatched) tempo, or slow it down in a couple of measures- neither seems very professional. But that's how we do it still, until I can convince him otherwise.
Vent!
 

hawksmoor

Senior Member
We do Sex Machine in our James Brown/funk set and the singer counts it off like this:'ONETWOTHREEFOUR' Then we all ignore him and come in at the correct tempo.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
It varies according to the feel of the song. Generally I like a bar of half notes and a bar of quarter notes for the count off unless it's a 12/8 song or something that's slow enough to have plenty of space between quarter notes. Most songs I play someone starts the songs by themselves and the rest of the band falls in. I only start or count off like 5 songs between all the bands I play with. I wish I could count all the songs off. That way I would have easier tempo control.

As it is, I have to play it how it's started. Sometimes when I can feel I slow down compared to the rest of the band, lately I have been thinking that it's not a meter issue with me as much as it's a subconscious "I don't quite agree with this tempo" thing. Yea that's the ticket ha ha.
 

MntnMan62

Junior Member
I've never thought of it like that. I can see that, which is why I base my count off on the tempo and feel of the song - I'm trying to get into the song before it starts.
To me, that's the whole point of counting off. You establish the tempo as well as the feel of the tune. To have to adjust the tempo after you've started is, well, unprofessional.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Usually 1, 2, 1234 for medium to bright tempos. Maybe 2 3 4 or 1 2 3 4 on ballads. 1 2 3 1 2 3 on a waltz. If the horn has pickups or if someone's playing an intro I prefer no countoff. For odd meters I'll establish eye contact, give them a visual on the tempo, then count one or two measures. Usually you can tell from the countoff whether it's supposed to be swing or straight 8ths. I think people tend to speak more staccato on straight 8th tunes. This is all for a jazz setting.
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
Years ago in San Francisco I'd count off in German: eins fi dri fere (not sure that's how it's spelled). I later changed to just "On your marks, Get set...Go!" That seemed to work the best. NO sitting around discussing how to start/stop a song we'd played a dozen times. We were a rock band and didn't need a conductor to wave a baton or count us down, we just nodded to each other and BOOM!!!! Off we went.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I'm pretty okay with most count offs.

My one pet peeve is people who count the song at a different speed than they intend to play it. Drives me up the wall. It's not the start of a race, you're literally supposed to be giving the tempo with that count.
 
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