How do you count while playing drums?

Herzeleid

Member
Hello, what are some ways I can successfully count whatever normal/fancy beat while playing drums. I really need help with this so I can be able to cover songs with my band and just to be better safe than sorry with it.
 

blinky

Senior Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

I never count, maybe I ought to?
Sometimes I have to count odd times though:
5/4 I count 1,2,3,1,2 for example
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

It's like anything

practice slow.. slow the beat down and count. Out loud even

once you get it speed it up

1,2,3,4
1, and, 2, and 3, and 4, and
1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a

I've been playing in 5/4 a bunch so its becoming pretty natural. My band seems to want to write in 11 or 13 these days which I tend to count more. especially when time signatures change every few bars.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

I'm not sure what you mean by "how do you count". I count silently but sometimes my lips move. I count in my head, silently.

I have always counted in my head while I play. To keep in easy to count, for simple rhythms, 2,4,8 beats per bar etc., I only count the "one".
My bass drum is usually playing on the "one" and "three" or on every beat in the bar. So basically my counting follows my bass drum.

With more uncommon rhythms, 5/4, 7/8 etc., I count every beat, in my head.

I guess the real answer to your question is; you need to practice playing to music while you are counting.
After you learn to do it you can then simplify it by only counting the "one". Then the other three beats will flow naturally so you won't have to concentrate on them.


.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

I don't think there's any way to dumb it down further, you simply have to count. If you find that hard you need to work on it. I don't count but I don't really find that it's necessary. I don't think that way, I know how things feel and sound. It's only when I read or write notation that I find my counting could improve.

Dave Weckl says he doesn't count either, so that's one pro you can take it from (versus many who do count).
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

As you learn a time signature or a new piece of music, it's common to count until you learn the rhythmic structure. Then it becomes ingrained. It just takes practice.

Very few people need to count in 4/4 for very long. Time signatures based on 3 (3/4, 6/8, 12/8) are also fairly common in popular music and become ingrained quickly as well. Most other time signatures take some "getting used to" for a majority of people. For example, I had trouble learning "Take Five" because I kept hearing a sixth beat. In that case, I counted in my head.

Another great tool is a metronome with a different sound for beat one. It can be difficult to find one in an odd meter if your click sounds the same every beat. You can practice the odd meter until you find one every time without counting.

For more complicated meters like 7, 9, or 11, most people create subdivisions of 2, 3, or 4 to make counting easier.
 

Hewitt2

Senior Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

Drummers who play in a live setting frequently need to count the band in, esp. at the beginning of the song where you need to confirm the correct tempo for others.

This is a skill just like anything else, but being able to count out loud (and often do some amount of playing along with the cymbals, clicking sticks, and/or bass drum to support the vocal count-off) and correctly come in within the stated tempo is critical to being an effective live player.
 

Jankowske

Senior Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

Counting out loud is handy for figuring out rhythms; in school band, we would count and sing parts aloud for sight-reading.

Downbeats are a number (1, 2, 3, etc.), eighths are "and" (written as "+"), and sixteenths are "eee" (written as "e") if they're after a beat or "uh" (written as "a") if they're after an eighth/before a beat. So straight sixteenths are counted as "one eee and uh two eee and uh etc." and written as "1e+a2e+a etc." Also triplet eighths are sometimes said as "one trip let two trip let" or "one la lee two la lee". That's the best I can describe it.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

Practice counting along with songs you are listening to.

Count every measure like 1234, 2234, 3234, 4234 etc.

This will make it much more useful than just repeating 1234.

Learn to count and then feel 4,8,16 and 32 bars.

Notice how we move the downbeat naturally when we count. most people would count "1234" with the 1 starting on beat one.However, when you get to 21,2,3,4 you will find that "twenty one" ENDS on the beat one, it actually starts on the "4" of the measure before.

Once you can feel that, you just need to put the time in and you're golden.
 
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

There are people who never count and there are people who always count. I want to be in the second group but, being lazy, fall somewhere in the middle.

I strongly feel you should be counting, all the time. A lot of drummers 'count' using a moving limb (left foot, etc) but this is variable time. A count in your head is - once learned - like your own little portable metronome. Counting makes playing charts easier. Counting makes it easier to remember ostinatos.

As far as how to do it: yeah, basically, play a beat and try to count. If you fail, slow down. You should be able to play while counting loud and play while counting soft. You should be able to count downbeats while playing upbeats, and all the mixtures. If you've never done it or have been lazy about it, it will be frustrating and irritating. But I'm a big fan of it.

Technically the best advice I received (unsolicited - the guy knocked on my drum room door and yelled at me for forty minutes) was to count small. Don't say "one, two, three, four", say "wuh, tuh, thuh, fuh" - keep that syllable short. That helps you actually hit the beat, not just hit somewhere in the beat.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

Neil Peart said he always sings while playing rather than count.
 

Herzeleid

Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

It's like anything

practice slow.. slow the beat down and count. Out loud even

once you get it speed it up

1,2,3,4
1, and, 2, and 3, and 4, and
1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a

I've been playing in 5/4 a bunch so its becoming pretty natural. My band seems to want to write in 11 or 13 these days which I tend to count more. especially when time signatures change every few bars.

When I try counting while playing a beat that isnt the standard basic 4/4 beat I get uncoordinated
 

makinao

Silver Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

Once I've determined the tempo of the pulses, my reckoning of rhythmic patterns can be based on either the time signature, melodic/lyric cadence, or chord changes, or a combination of these. For example, when I practice the chorus of Jeff Beck's "Scatterbrain" I end up playing along with the melody instead of counting 1 to 9.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I almost never count anything unless it's new and I'm trying to figure it out, but even then, I first go for the time signature (or the phrase length if it's compound time) and then the subdivisions. I can pretty much count everything using just groupings of 2s, 3s, or 4s, usually.

For example, my band plays a song (that I wrote!) that's in 21/8, but it's really a compound time with three bars of 5/8 and a bar of 6/8. Then I break it down once more so that it runs like 123 12 123 12 123 12 123456. I was just screwing around on guitar one day and came up with the melody that just fell that way, so I didn't set out to make it weird and didn't stop to count it until I had it committed to tape.

I really enjoy odd-times, but only if it serves some larger purpose. Getting mathy for its own sake get tiresome pretty quickly, and I know this one isn't too bad because when I showed it to the other guys, they latched on to it without needing to give it much thought and without having to count it out. I just told them what it was first to let them know it wasn't straight.

I do find myself needing to count things based on 3s a lot more often for some reason, but it's still just until I get it internalized.

The other weird thing I noticed is that if a song is just outside of my comfort zone tempo-wise, even if it's just 4/4, I'll count it for a bit until I'm feeling it. I hit on this idea from my bass player brother who noticed the drummer in his band got a lot more tight on the songs he was singing. His theory was the guy's drumming would get more comfortable the less he was thinking about it, as would happen when he was more focussed on singing.

I think he was onto something with that insight.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Counting can be thought of like singing if you do it right.

Since we know how to count sub-divisions, we can use those markers to "sing" drum parts with the markers.

For example counting out the basic jazz ride pattern, we also get the quarter pulse in that count. So: 1-trip-let, 2-trip-let, 3-trip-let, 4 trip-let

If you "sing" that rhythm, it makes it way easier to play the same rhythm on your kit parts.

"You can't play it if you can't say it".

And on another note, we really shouldn't count as we play "for reals". Counting to me is how I work out a part initially or figure out how to notate something. When I play, I stop counting and start listening to the band, and keeping the basic pulse in mind.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Re: How do you count while olaying drums?

When I try counting while playing a beat that isnt the standard basic 4/4 beat I get uncoordinated

you mean in a different time? or changing the beat?

If you start playing more complex beats, (in 4/4) the counting doesn't change.. if its hard for you it's because it takes practice. I don't "count" so to say when i play 4/4 these days but its always there in the background of my mind... 1e+a2e+a3e+a4e+a (16th notes)

I keep that pulse and the 16th notes are there but as you speed up you may only count 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +.. or 1,2,3,4 (I play to fast to say "e" "and" "a") most of the time lol


I could start counting out loud at any point in my playing because its natural. but I have played for years.

I suggest slowing things WAY down, and using a metronome.. I mean painfully slow.. and just count and play. You'll get it.

If you mean changing to 5/4 or something its 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + etc. same for 16ths.

if you are having a hard time counting in 4/4 don't try getting to complex yet.. small steps go a long way

playing 11 I usually have to count. or when my band writes different time signatures for what I play compared to them because I can get lost.

For you guys that don't count and just hum the tune I can sort of relate.. my "singer/screamer" has parts of the songs I use a ques for my playing.

watso is right though. Count to learn the part and get it down. once you know it you shouldn't have to count it anymore
 

Herzeleid

Member
Well put it this way, how do drummers record drum tracks over guitar tracks?
I was told they give the drummer a post it note with the structure of the song, (4 bars verse then 8 bar chorus ect.) And they play along to the song and count while they play to know when to switch beats or do fills into the next phase.

Im asking because Im in a band and we're doing covers, so I need to know how to count things in without becoming uncoordinated to know when the chorus comes in or when to get back to the verse ect.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Well put it this way, how do drummers record drum tracks over guitar tracks?
I was told they give the drummer a post it note with the structure of the song, (4 bars verse then 8 bar chorus ect.) And they play along to the song and count while they play to know when to switch beats or do fills into the next phase.

Im asking because Im in a band and we're doing covers, so I need to know how to count things in without becoming uncoordinated to know when the chorus comes in or when to get back to the verse ect.
Man, I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, but it really sounds like you guys just need to spend more time practicing. These things only come from practicing and learning to just feel it when 4/8/16 bars have passed.

Yeah, you can count the whole way through, but typically there are enough cues along the way where, after a few run-thrus of the song, you'll just Know. Plus, you're playing covers - everyone should already have a pretty good grasp of the song's "roadmap" before you ever start rehearsing it. That's just the homework part of it. If you were doing originals where no one's heard the song yet, that would be one thing. But covers? Yeah, that's just everyone doing their homework.

If the band is putting the screws to you (as the drummer) to keep the count and hold them all together, then they aren't really holding up their end. It really falls on everyone to know where in the song they are and to hit the changes. It's a coordinated effort.
 

Herzeleid

Member
Man, I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, but it really sounds like you guys just need to spend more time practicing. These things only come from practicing and learning to just feel it when 4/8/16 bars have passed.

Yeah, you can count the whole way through, but typically there are enough cues along the way where, after a few run-thrus of the song, you'll just Know. Plus, you're playing covers - everyone should already have a pretty good grasp of the song's "roadmap" before you ever start rehearsing it. That's just the homework part of it. If you were doing originals where no one's heard the song yet, that would be one thing. But covers? Yeah, that's just everyone doing their homework.

If the band is putting the screws to you (as the drummer) to keep the count and hold them all together, then they aren't really holding up their end. It really falls on everyone to know where in the song they are and to hit the changes. It's a coordinated effort.

How about the songs that have strange measures like, 3/6/12 ect.
 
Top