Does anyone actually count while playing?

aaronmcd

Member
Hey, I've been learning drums cuz I'm generally good with rhythm. And I see stuff online suggesting "how" to count in time and count 16ths and stuff. Yeah, I get it, I passed 2nd grade math. But despite me being an engineer and really good with math and numbers, to me its easier to just feel the measures out. Like my whole body feels time in like 64ths or something I don't even know. Its just like I have a continuous rhythm stream in my body whether there is music or not and I hit the drums on the proper 8th or 16th or whatever. Even if there is no music and before I started practicing drums, I tend to have some continuous background rhythm going on. Like literally i move my feet to a random ass rhythm as I type this at 12:30 in the morning and no I'm not counting. Its automatic.

I have started purposely counting while doing some independence drills, but that just adds a layer of indepemdence making it harder. Is it ok to not count if I never have trouble knowing where I am? Its kind of similar to when ppl tell me to "keep time with my right hand". I'm like, my hand doesn't keep the time, the core of my being keeps the time. My hand has to be trained to FOLLOW the time.

Anyway, is there a right and wrong way to keep time? Im a super beginner at drums so I don't wanna get caught up in what seems easy if it will hold me back later.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Yes. And, no.

You're right in that everyone gets to a point where they don't need to count per se. And feeling the pulse, the measure, or the turnaround, takes precedence with little to no difficulty. But counting is also a skill that many find the need to return to, if only intermittently. Many players will encounter a tricky pattern, sticking, fill, measure etc that may initially entail the need to be counted out......just as if they were a beginner again. At least for a time. Until it becomes in grained and that feel takes precedence again.

Counting can definitely be a valuable skill to have. And there's certainly a good reason why a beginner is encouraged to develop it. But ultimately, you're also correct in assuming that there does indeed come a time when "feel" takes over and the need to count needs far less reliance.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
The act of actively counting is not as important as the ability to count.

There will be sections of songs, or entire songs, that you probably won't count for. You'll play it entirely based on the intuition that you developed from when you were learning to count. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be able to begin counting, or describe where you are in the count at any given moment in the song. You need to get to a point where identifying the location of any note in the count is second nature, or at least very close to it....

Example: The 'E' guitar line begins on the & of the 1. If it takes you more than 30 seconds to figure that out, you need to work on counting.

There will be songs with lots of open space where your intuition may not be sufficient to know where to come in. There will be songs with moderately complex parts where you may not have the option of navigating the melody or instrumental lines. You're going to need to count for these cases until it becomes intuitive.
 

BertTheDrummer

Gold Member
Yes. And, no.

You're right in that everyone gets to a point where they don't need to count per se. And feeling the pulse, the measure, or the turnaround, takes precedence with little to no difficulty. But counting is also a skill that many find the need to return to, if only intermittently. Many players will encounter a tricky pattern, sticking, fill, measure etc that may initially entail the need to be counted out......just as if they were a beginner again. At least for a time. Until it becomes in grained and that feel takes precedence again.

Counting can definitely be a valuable skill to have. And there's certainly a good reason why a beginner is encouraged to develop it. But ultimately, you're also correct in assuming that there does indeed come a time when "feel" takes over and the need to count needs far less reliance.
I think this is how I am. After so many years of playing music, I generally subdivide in my head. However, sometimes there is a lick I'm trying to learn or develop that I just have to count out. Or if I'm playing a song that has like an odd 5/4 or 7/4 or 9/8 or whatever measure or something thrown in to it.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'll count certain phrases until they become ingrained. For example, there's one song that has an uncommon guitar intro. It starts on the "2", and is syncopated enough to sound correct at any starting point in the phrase. And no, I don't get a count-in. So if I don't establish the "2" to get the correct phrase so that I know where "1" is, I'd be lost. Think of the intro to Led Zeppelin Rock & Roll, or Beatles Baby You Can Drive My Car. Unless you know where they begin in the measure, they are very deceiving.

I may also count through an odd-time measure or break.

But for general playing, no counting for me. I've been playing pop, rock & blues so long, everything naturally falls into 8 or 12-bar phrases. That is, if I started playing a solo beat, I would probably put a crash in after 8 bars without even thinking about it.

Bermuda
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
Two situations when I deliberately count:

The number of phrases at the end of a song eg. Nutbush - Our singer sings 8 x 2 bar phrases at the end, then we stop on beat two. I count those 8 phrases out loud or else I stop at the wrong time. Same with 5 lots of "Ooh, don't you look back" at the end of "Don't Stop".

The other time is if I'm playing "Take 5" I have to count 5 continuously, especially when its the drum solo.
 

Alex Sanguinetti

Silver Member
Hey, I've been learning drums cuz I'm generally good with rhythm. And I see stuff online suggesting "how" to count in time and count 16ths and stuff. ....

Profi drummers only count bars or/and beats (the denominator, the pulse) when they are reading certain sections of music in a chart, so they don´t make a mistake. Specially if you are playing an "odd time" tune and have to play a phrase starting in an unusual place of the measure.

The counting you are talking about it¨s really beginners count. Most I see and it´s recommended I consider it wrong, some other not.
 
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SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I think you get to a level where you kind of like counting along. Especially, rests. If you count, you don't need to play as many notes, which helps with technique, and makes your accents more dynamic. You can also get away with an off note here or there.

I'm no pro, but I don't worry about counting until I've established a relationship between the parts in the groove, and can play it fairly smoothly, that's when I start counting my beats.
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
That is actually a joke with my guitarist : I can't count above 8 ! Of course I can :) but I don't while I'm playing or do a fill, I only count during breaks, while I don't play then.
 

Masheanhed

Senior Member
My question is does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? If so I can't imagine why. We've all got time enough to cry…

Sorry...I couldn't resist ;)
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Do I count while playing simple stuff no. Can I count while playing yes.

When I teach I always have students count while playing. It's like being in high school and showing your work. Once you can do it, you don't need to do it all the time. There are certain parts in my bands songs when we play in 7, 9, 13, or have back to back measures with different time signatures I NEED to count as my parts don't line up with the guitars. The same thing applies, once I play the song hundreds of times I don't usually count it anymore.

If it's difficult it's because you don't have the beat or groove down enough. Once you do it should get easier. I had a drummer tell me to try and say the alphabet while playing a groove. Try holding a regular conversation... I can do this with the stuff I can play with in my sleep.. once I get into more independence and weird time I can not. It's a good test to find out how well you know something and how much freedom you have with it.

I suggest learning with it as once you progress knowing how to count will help you keep time, and really help you when you start syncopating or subdividing stuff.

If your beginning I think you really need to be able to count in 16ths. (One, E, AND, A.....2, E, AND, A......3, E, AND, A. 4, E, AND, A) as you get better, start playing faster you won't count like this, You may count 1/8 notes, 1/4 notes, measures etc.


You will advance way more being able to do it, and then once you stop doing it you have made your life even easier. Bobbing your head is a layer of independence and can throw people off even. Think of people who play guitar and sing... Independence takes a long time to learn, take your time and do it right.


If it's tough, slow it way down, I mean WAY down until you get it, then take your time speeding it up. Drums is a lifetime journey and takes years to get good. The bonus is once you get counting down, you don't have to work on it much because it stays with you for life. but when I am learning a new song that has multiple time signatures I'd have a really tough time learning it if I couldn't count. If I played 4/4 cover songs all day it may be different.

My vote is 100% necessary. To be honest I don't know many good drummers, guitar players, etc that can't count and play. I used to teach for years and once students could learn to count they improved much faster.
 
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ineedaclutch

Platinum Member
I did learn to count and play, and it has helped me in one crucial area. Subs. Where I'm in a group and know the tunes in and out, but there isn't sheet music available. Being able to tell a sub bassist, singer, key player, etc. that we're coming into the pre-chorus in F# in 4, 3, 2, 1, bam has been invaluable. "Hey fella, big jab on the ah of 2 in (starting on ah of 3 of the previous measure) 1, 2, 3, 4". Counting forward and backward from any point in the measure, while not necessary, is a nice talent to have in your pocket should you need it. It can't hurt.
 

aaronmcd

Member
Thanks all! I'm on a phone, so multi quote is difficult, but it seems the general gist is no, don't count all 16ths, which is what I was mainly posting about. I do "count" if you consider mental beats as counting, but adding in all the "ee"s and "ah"s is tough. If I just count "BUH-du-ba-da-BUH-du-ba-da..." as mental beats or just body movement/head bob, rather than mental vocals "one ee and ah two..." it isn't that hard.

The other counting beimg discussed is measures but I'm just barely at the point where I am learning whole songs. So far I've almost got down "You shook me.." and "Take it Easy". And I do kinda count bars sometimes. If its like 7x4 bars of a beat, ill be sure to note each time 4 bars end or remember exactly where the next accent or fill or change comes in. Or if there are a couple bars of rests (take it easy, toward the end) ill count but not in numbers, just in mental "beats".

When you all say you count rests and bars, are you actually counting numbers or just imagining/head bobbing/feeling the number of beats? Does it matter? Maybe if its like 16+ measures its better to count it out?
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
When you all say you count rests and bars, are you actually counting numbers or just imagining/head bobbing/feeling the number of beats? Does it matter? Maybe if its like 16+ measures its better to count it out?
I tend to count in the most apathetic/economic manner that allows me to play the part. This ranges from "not at all" to "almost every note" depending on the complexity of the part.

When playing a part that exceeds my ability to count, I tend to phrase it. Why waste half a brain counting when you can simply play "Banana Banana Terracotta Terracotta Banana Terracotta Terracotta Pie" or some other phonetic mnemonic device.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I have started purposely counting while doing some independence drills, but that just adds a layer of indepemdence making it harder. Is it ok to not count if I never have trouble knowing where I am?
No. Count out loud, at all costs, when learning independence or damn near anything else. Yes, it's another layer of independence. Get used to it -- no whining! It doesn't matter that you "never get lost", because eventually you will encounter some difficult rhythms and music, and then what? Counting out loud will help you to acquire new material more quickly, and, down the road, it will be a useful tool that you will use to conquer more difficult material, when you finally encounter a piece of music that you do not "get".

You don't need to count every subdivision (i.e. "1e&a2e&a..."), but instead, count the things that are changing within each measure.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I do "count" if you consider mental beats as counting, but adding in all the "ee"s and "ah"s is tough. If I just count "BUH-du-ba-da-BUH-du-ba-da..." as mental beats or just body movement/head bob, rather than mental vocals "one ee and ah two..." it isn't that hard.
Learn to count "1e&a2e&a..." OUT LOUD. It will take some practice, but it will be worth it. While counting out loud, improvise with simple beats and fills.

The other counting beimg discussed is measures but I'm just barely at the point where I am learning whole songs. So far I've almost got down "You shook me.." and "Take it Easy". And I do kinda count bars sometimes. If its like 7x4 bars of a beat, ill be sure to note each time 4 bars end or remember exactly where the next accent or fill or change comes in. Or if there are a couple bars of rests (take it easy, toward the end) ill count but not in numbers, just in mental "beats".
Sure. You can just count each measure as you being to play it and not count the other beats, i.e. "1 (2 3 4) 2 (2 3 4) 3 (2 3 4) 4 (2 3 4) and so on. This is really helpful for long sections where not much is happening with the drums.

When you all say you count rests and bars, are you actually counting numbers or just imagining/head bobbing/feeling the number of beats? Does it matter? Maybe if its like 16+ measures its better to count it out?
Sometimes, if you have a long stretch of measures, it's better to count out groups of 4 measures. Rather than count all the way to 16, just count up to 4, four times. Practice doing this out loud as you play. Literally force yourself to say "1" out loud, on beat 1, as you're playing.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It depends.

When practcing certain stickings and independence, sure. Also when sight reading certain things.

Things I know well or typical 4/4 stuff, probably not.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
An interview I saw with Neil Peart, he said he sings along to keep time. Easier than 1 & 2 &…...
 
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