How do you keep track of where you are in a song?

Thecowslayer

Senior Member
Hey everyone,
I was wondering how everyone keeps track of where they are in a song while playing. Generally, I will try to listen to the vocalist if the song has vocals, but I am trying to find a way to keep track independently from the singer, so I will know how the song goes no matter if someone else messes up or not.
 

groove1

Silver Member
For every song I play I first try to learn the melody "in my head"...I'm not good at remembering lyrics, so I don't rely on that...anyway, sometimes singers mess up the lyrics
and if you are relying on a certain lyric it could throw you off. After getting the "melody in
my head" I learn the overall form or structure...how many measures in the A section, the
B section etc...what is repeated and so forth. I don't count while I play but somehow I always
know where I'm at in the song. I'm interested too in others responses to this.
 

makinao

Silver Member
It depends in what I can hear in the venue. WIth good monitors in a nice stage, no problem. But in problematic setups (which is rather often) I have to zero in on a particular element of the music I can hear. For example, I always memorize the chord changes. So if all I can hear is the bass, thats it.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
It depends in what I can hear in the venue. WIth good monitors in a nice stage, no problem. But in problematic setups (which is rather often) I have to zero in on a particular element of the music I can hear.
I remember that from my rock days. A messed up onstage sound is the pits - I'd even rather work in an office than deal with that (almost). It would bother me when the sound guy would assure us that the sound out front is great ... it's like, "So you're telling me that I'm flailing around without being able to hear critical elements of the music and this mess is crystal clear for the punters??"

The worst was one of my first gigs ever many moons ago. It was in a town hall with the kind of acoustics that helps a speaking voice at the front of the hall carry to the back. Very live.

The guitarist was to play 4 bars of a riff and then I come in. He starts it up and I can't make out a single note - all I can hear is a dull roar "wrrrooooouuuuuggghhhh"

I had no idea where the spot was where I had to come in. So I just guessed blindly. The sound was so poor I didn't even know how close my decision was or how the others coped. The others must have adjusted because we finished the song at the same time :)

Cow, you just have to really know the song. Not only from a practical playing standpoint, but to also understand the song's message or story, what it's trying to say. It shouldn't be an issue unless it's a weird or complex number.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I have to know the song. By that I mean I know the bass part, the chord changes , the melody and the lyrics.

So..... no matter who messes up I know where I am. I sing every song to myself when we are playing anyway, that way I feel the whole piece, not just the drumming. I get more out of the music and the gig by doing that.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Hey everyone,
I was wondering how everyone keeps track of where they are in a song while playing. Generally, I will try to listen to the vocalist if the song has vocals, but I am trying to find a way to keep track independently from the singer, so I will know how the song goes no matter if someone else messes up or not.
That's a good start, but don't just passively listen-- sing the song yourself (even if badly) and you won't get lost regardless of what else happens. Having a good sense of your stock phrase lengths-- two, four, and eight bars-- will help, as will knowing the structure of the song-- the order of the sections, and the number of bars per section.
 
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plangentmusic

Guest
Like I keep track of where I am in a sentance....or, more accurately, in an idea.
Pretty much. I never understood why a drummer (or anybody) would need vocals in the monitors. When you record, you don't hear vocals. Learn song form, hear the differences in chord changes and count measures of four. If you don't develop that, you'll always be in the dark.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Relying on the vocalist is always a bad idea.
Particularly because they can screw up, and you don't want to be throw off by that. The vocalist is also listen to the drums for cues, so if you're waiting for singer to give you a cue, and singer is waiting for you to give a cue, well, you could end up going around and around in circles.

I always know where I am in a song, because I know how many bars in each section of the song, and I either count or feel how many bars have by, and I know how many bars are left, and thus I always know where I am.

A good explanation is in this thread:
http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=699569
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Every musician should know the song form. That's what it comes down to, the song form or you could call it the arrangement. It should be second nature.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Pretty much. I never understood why a drummer (or anybody) would need vocals in the monitors. .
I want the vocals so I know if/when they screw up, and I can adjust accordingly.


(ok, that's partially a joke, but there is an element of truth to that).

When you record, you don't hear vocals.
True. heck, I've recorded to nothing before. I knew the song well enough I didn't even have the rhythm guitar or bass or anything. And yes, it came out rather well. Although I'd certainly rather have at least some music in my headphones.
 

hvymtlmike

Senior Member
When originally learning/writing the song, I count measures. After practicing it enough, I get a feel for it and it becomes almost muscle memory. I can tell exactly what's going on and what's coming up next from memory with hardly any brain power. I NEVER rely on the vocals. For one, I can't always hear them that well in the monitors (depending on the gig, and two, once at a show we had a breaker flip and the vocals were cut out. The band kept playing the song as it was supposed to be played and when they got the mics up and running he came back in where we were in the song. It looked much more professional on our part to continue and not rely on the vocals.
 
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plangentmusic

Guest
Yep. This ^^^



So I can hear what the hell they're prattling on about. There's more to a live show than just counting measures and there's more to stay on top of than just lyrics.
So singing is prattling on? Hmmm. : ) You do realize there are chords accompanying those words? That's the music. That tells you where you are.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
So singing is prattling on? Hmmm. : ) You do realize there are chords accompanying those words? That's the music. That tells you where you are.
Chords accompanying lyrics? Well, who knew? Has this been happening long? Why wasn't I told? Man, knock me down with a feather. And here I've spent all these years thinking I was playing in a drum and vox duo. I wondered what all those other guys were doing on stage.

Not my angle mate.....but I reckon you already knew that. No worries, I'm partial to a stir of the pot myself. ;-)
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Chords accompanying lyrics? Well, who knew? Has this been happening long? Why wasn't I told? Man, knock me down with a feather. And here I've spent all these years thinking I was playing in a drum and vox duo. I wondered what all those other guys were doing on stage.

Not my angle mate.....but I reckon you already knew that. No worries, I'm partial to a stir of the pot myself. ;-)
Excellent laugh to start the day! "I'm partial to a stir of the pot myself" ... hahahahaha
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Chords accompanying lyrics? Well, who knew? Has this been happening long? Why wasn't I told? Man, knock me down with a feather. And here I've spent all these years thinking I was playing in a drum and vox duo. I wondered what all those other guys were doing on stage.

Not my angle mate.....but I reckon you already knew that. No worries, I'm partial to a stir of the pot myself. ;-)
I'm dying with laughter over here!
 

SticksEasy

Senior Member
I depend a lot of vocals and solos to navigate through music. I know about how long each song is, so for the most part I can just play, but sometimes I wonder a bit and need to look at what the others are doing.
 
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