Do You Always Count?

wraub

Well-known member
Coming at this from a different perspective, I've spent a couple of decades as a bass player, and I almost always count while learning a part, but hardly ever while playing it. Not in 4, obviously, but a 13/8 or 21/8, or even some countings of 10 may require me to find the count, but after that It's pretty much all feel.

On drums, at first playing this way, I would tend to rush fills, for example, and come out a beat, or even a half beat, off the main pulse. Counting while playing is quite useful for me on drums, whether because it is the main pulse and I'm more locked to it, or because I am still learning, rather than just playing. Maybe both. I do notice though that I am counting less while playing, and my "drum time" :D is better internalized.
Still gonna do it for now.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
I try to count when I listen to TOOL! Then I get dizzy and nauseated and I'm done. :sneaky:

Seriously, I understand what the OP is saying. Even after starting drumming over 35 years ago, there are songs that I simply have a hard time finding the beat, figuring out time signatures. So I will sit and break them down sometimes trying to find the count.
 

SomeBadDrummer

Well-known member
If I'm sight reading on a rehearsal or gig, and there's a multi-bar rest, I might be counting to myself to not get lost in the chart.

As far as whether counting can be good or bad, I lean toward the opinion of others here that say it's for beginner level drummers, and starts to get in the way when you reach the level of live performance. The drummer's job is to be the glue that makes the band work together. And that means having the ability to make adjustments to time anywhere in the bar it becomes stretched or compressed because of some other musicians in the band interpretation of time. And that ability is based on experience and familiarity with the style of music you're playing.

Practice with drumset method books is the best way to achieve that familiarity IMHO. I think it forces you to think in terms of bars and not just pulse.
Hey @rhumbagirl I'll probably screw up the quote function again, but here goes.

I agree that the drummer is the glue, and that no amount of counting can account for other bandmembers' diversion from the tempo. It's been a long time since I played with a band, but in my experience I am the timekeeper and the others have to follow me. I mean, can't have SomeBadGuitarist (or SomeBadBassist) rushing or dragging me through a tune! So do you adjust the tempo to the other musicians' interpretation of time?
 

SomeBadDrummer

Well-known member
buy it can be done if you are used to living in that world. I remember first hearing the YYZ solo on Exit...Stage Left, and after about a week of hearing it, I could pretty much count it all, or at least perceive what it would look like if written out...but again, I had been doing school band for a few years and was learning how to live in that world at the time...

for me, it would have been trickier to notate which instrument he was hitting - like which line or space to put. the note head on - which is not a counting thing...
THIS ⬆
I agree, if familiar enough with a tune you can almost 'see' it (sort of like the Matrix). However since I have not been in 'that world' for many years my music reading skills are nowhere near professional level at this point; the more difficult thing than counting is which drum or cymbal to strike at which time with what force and speed, while controlling both feet per the chart. Makes my brain hurt even thinking about thinking about it.

Having said that, I would not be surprised if there are drummers who can play YYZ from sheet music (maybe not without some practice :)), even without ever having heard the song/solo played.
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Hey @rhumbagirl I'll probably screw up the quote function again, but here goes.

I agree that the drummer is the glue, and that no amount of counting can account for other bandmembers' diversion from the tempo. It's been a long time since I played with a band, but in my experience I am the timekeeper and the others have to follow me. I mean, can't have SomeBadGuitarist (or SomeBadBassist) rushing or dragging me through a tune! So do you adjust the tempo to the other musicians' interpretation of time?
The short answer is yes, but a lot of factors are in play including the experience level of the other musicians you're playing with, and how blatant the time issues are. Live performance doesn't give you the fortitude to become unglued. And since we're all practicing to perform live, it makes sense that drumming is not simply a metronomic exercise. No one else in the band has a better sense of time as the drummer (all things being equal), hence it's the drummer's responsibility to be flexible.

But my experience comes from someone who is asked to fill in on the spot or short notice. I haven't married a band since my high school days. Hence my opinion probably doesn't apply to those who practice for months together before their first gig.
 
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Nictarine

Silver Member
I count when I'm playing a time signature I'm not comfortable with, once I get the pattern down I stop counting. It's definitely beneficial to know how to count, it comes in handy on occasion.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Well I hope I count (I've always been insecure musically so I hope the other musicians think I contribute) however in any case the band can count on me to be there early and try my best. I hope that counts? When I played with an orchestra I'd count parts because you'd be tacit then go then change tempo, then tacit, it was everywhere LOL.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
The short answer is yes, but a lot of factors are in play including the experience level of the other musicians you're playing with, and how blatant the time issues are. Live performance doesn't give you the fortitude to become unglued. And since we're all practicing to perform live, it makes sense that drumming is not simply a metronomic exercise. No one else in the band has a better sense of time as the drummer (all things being equal), hence it's the drummer's responsibility to be flexible.

But my experience comes from someone who is asked to fill in on the spot or short notice. I haven't married a band since my high school days. Hence my opinion probably doesn't apply to those who practice for months together before their first gig.
...BUT, I have played bass in many bands where I was the central time keeper because the rest of the band didn't have the sense to feel it pulling (apart sometimes)...so in many instances the drummer is not keeping time. In that situation, all of the people need to be flexible still, like mentioned above. In my metal band, I am definitely the time keeper. Our drummer completely learned by watching videos and playing along to albums, and while he has done outstanding for that kind of learning, if you put a click on, the train quickly comes off the tracks...so I reign him in with my bass parts...I write specific "Re-railer" parts for him to key into within the songs...and I tell him that, but in a more diplomatic vein...

I have been working with him to become better at understanding organizing pulse and subdivision -at his request - but he also gets real frustrated if he doesn't get things correct the first time, so sometimes I just have to let it go
 

SomeBadDrummer

Well-known member
...BUT, I have played bass in many bands where I was the central time keeper because the rest of the band didn't have the sense to feel it pulling (apart sometimes)...so in many instances the drummer is not keeping time. In that situation, all of the people need to be flexible still, like mentioned above. In my metal band, I am definitely the time keeper. Our drummer completely learned by watching videos and playing along to albums, and while he has done outstanding for that kind of learning, if you put a click on, the train quickly comes off the tracks...so I reign him in with my bass parts...I write specific "Re-railer" parts for him to key into within the songs...and I tell him that, but in a more diplomatic vein...

I have been working with him to become better at understanding organizing pulse and subdivision -at his request - but he also gets real frustrated if he doesn't get things correct the first time, so sometimes I just have to let it go
Band mates: you can’t trust em to keep time and you can’t just fire them for being bad rhythmists. That’s why I feel like this is 100% the drummer’s responsibility, but maybe I’m too old school.

Frankly IMO the ability to not rush or drag without the aid of ANY electronic assistance is essential to every drummer’s success. As you know it simply takes a natural ability or eons of practice hours to get there.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Band mates: you can’t trust em to keep time and you can’t just fire them for being bad rhythmists. That’s why I feel like this is 100% the drummer’s responsibility, but maybe I’m too old school.

Frankly IMO the ability to not rush or drag without the aid of ANY electronic assistance is essential to every drummer’s success. As you know it simply takes a natural ability or eons of practice hours to get there.
yep...and for me personally, it is focusing on the subdivision of the pulse while playing. The subdivision fills the space between the pulse in my head, and acts as the regulator of the space. It took me about 4-5 good years of working with a met to really get this control down at all tempos
 

ZenR1

Well-known member
One thing to look at is Billy Ward's 'Big Time' - this is more for playing that learning perhaps - he discusses counting on a larger scale, so rather than 1 + 2 e + a 3 + 4 e + a you might just count the 1 2 3 4... or maybe just the 1. This can be very grounding for the internal metronome, but not trip you up with all the little subdivisions that might get in the way of what people are calling 'feel'
Hey I really like this idea. I'm gonna have to watch this. I gave it a shot when I was practicing and it immediately loosened me up and felt freer and more flowing.
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
I count when I'm working something out. During a performance, I don't, I just innately feel where the tempo beats are, even in odd times, because I counted it all when I was working it out.
 

J-W

Well-known member
Oh like it says in the link. People have funny ideas about how you develop good time, or whether it's even possible for everyone to.
"Jazz drummers can get almost phobic about the 1 and 3, like they're the white beats that will show everyone how ungrooving you truly are if you acknowledge them. "
I'm not familiar with the term "white beats". Please explain.
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Steve Smith's view


11:35
It's cool to get someone else - a pro like Steve - agreeing with you. I admit I talk half the time out of my ass - don't say it - but it's from my own experience. At 12:30, Steve is explicitly clarifying counting for practice, and not for live performance.
 
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