Is counting in during songs unprofessional?

Erberderber

Senior Member
Hi all,

I played a little gig last weekend and at our rehearsal last night, our singer told me that I have to stop clicking my sticks and counting in when we have little stops during songs. He says we look like amateurs and that no serious top bands do that. Really? I'm pretty sure tons of top bands do it. I also think the audience appreciate it as it shows the band are keeping it all under control. So we tried them without and I bobbed my head instead, which actually worked ok, but seriously? Is it bad to click your sticks and shout "1,2,3,4" every now and then?
 
I guess it's a matter of taste. James Brown walked in time to the tempo of the next song to cue the band-that can be a nice effect as there is no lull. When it's an intimate atmosphere where the singer creates a mood, it might be better not to have a pause and then count in. But I wouldn't call it "unprofessional".
Also, I would think it's easier to pull off when everybody knows the prefered tempo well and when there's an intro. Cueing a whole horn section visually to nail a figure right at the start, should be less prone to failing when just counting in normally.
 
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MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Not at all. It's much more professional than standing there looking at each other.

If stick clicks, counting, or hitting the hats is unacceptable, have your singer (the one who doesn't like it) come up with phrases to say instead of clicks. For example, we had a song called "Lost Nation". Instead of me clicking it, the singer would yell "welcome to the Lost Nation" and we would start. The words were the count off, no clicking involved.

The more consistant and prepared your performance, the better it would be. We practiced this stuff in the jam room.
 
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GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
In an orchestra the only counting in is by the conductor-if you count out loud or just use your fingers or hands will get the Wrath of Khan upon you by other musicians-and you must be an amateur hack. But bands in general somebody is counting in to start the song-we haven't mastered telepathic powers to read each others minds. But once a band gels there is a weird connection that almost seems telepathic doesn't it? On track and even if go off track it seems a collective oh yeah lets do it a bit different tonight-we all look at it other just smiling so we are really still on track. I guess you call that artistic expression being in the moment. And isn't that what music is all about-every performance is unique and in the moment. A great band takes that band bond and joins a whole audience in musical bliss for that moment. You can count on it LOL
 

Fritz Frigursson

Senior Member
i wouldn’t do it for every song, because some songs sound better without clicks at the start, but yeah i would do it occasionally. or just do the count in with open hats
 

sumdrumguy

Senior Member
I played a little gig last weekend and at our rehearsal last night, our singer told me that I have to stop clicking my sticks and counting in when we have little stops during songs.

I've played with bands where everyone has great sense of time. Once songs started no other overt tempo cues were needed. I've also played with bands where folks are all over the map. It's like taking a group of anxious dogs for a walk, with all of them pulling in a different direction.

In your case, does anyone in the band actually need a reference of when to come in from those stops? If they do, there are other less distracting/more musical ways than stick clicks: HH hat chicks; a simple fill that reinforces the tempo, etc.

I am sure you, and the singer, are after the same goal - a good show for your audience. These kinds of discussions are all about manifesting that.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
our singer told me that I have to stop clicking my sticks and counting in when we have little stops during songs.

I guess it depends on the length of the stop. How many songs have a stop of longer than one bar, where someone could actually lose the time? Whether it's unprofessional or not, I agree that obvious counting or clicking doesn't sound good.

When I say obvious, I mean apparent to the audience. In one of my bands we play Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf) and there's a 2-bar break before the chorus. The singer needs a little guidance through it so that we come in right on "Born..." so I quietly play the cymbal bell all the way through that space. It's not a count, and I'm not clicking us back in... I'm just playing (quietly) through the break. It's just a tempo reference that sounds musical and probably goes unnoticed, except to the person who needs it!

That's not to say there should always something going on during a break, good players should not be having a problem making it through one bar without losing the time.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
I think stick clicks, counting in songs is good.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
This seems to be about more than a mere dispute over "counting in." Other troubles are boiling in the cauldron. You don't have a very high opinion of your singer/guitarist. You portray him as an incompetent musician who selects the wrong chords and drops his picks amid performances. A band without respect is a band with a short shelf-life. You and he might have a sit-down centered on improving relations. The only way to quell resentment is through candid communication.
 
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mikyok

Platinum Member
Hi all,

I played a little gig last weekend and at our rehearsal last night, our singer told me that I have to stop clicking my sticks and counting in when we have little stops during songs. He says we look like amateurs and that no serious top bands do that.
Your left foot is your friend. Same as a stick click but not as loud

I understand your problem some 'musicians' have shocking time. If it's at the stage where you're going to those lengths to keep everyone in then maybe you need to find some cats who can count!

Alternatively, get gig tight and the problem solves itself
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I think stick clicks, counting in songs is good.
Counting-in is one thing, I think the question was about getting through a stop/break in a song.

I rarely do clicks at the top of a song, either a verbal count or hi-hat hits is more acceptable to all.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
How many songs (and hit songs) were recorded with the count...or stick clicks...as part of the song? A lot. So that right there validates it being professional.

Should pro football players not have any talking either before the play starts? Does that look unprofessional? Umm no, it's cool. Same thing.

It seems to me that this is typical of musicians overthinking stuff. The audience does not give a care or have an opinion about stick clicks unless they are a musician. If even then. I like hearing/seeing the stick click but I'm way biased. I feel it gives the audience a little glimpse of the inner workings of a band. I probably overthought that too.

The singer rarely knows about the nuts and bolts of music.

Generally, most (dedicated only) singers should be told to make themselves useful and to just go lay down lol
 

moxman

Silver Member
Saw her Standing There - 1-2-3-4! It's part of the song. Who wants to argue with the Beatles Lol..
Stick clicks, verbal counting, nodding your head, slapping your thigh with a stick, hihat foot, lip reading.. they all work. I think the trick is to make it loud enough or visual enough that everyone on stage can hear it or see it... but the audience might not even notice it.
In the middle of a song during a break or a sudden tempo change (like in a medley).. it's good to agree on how to cue it. But even if it's not audible I always keep my foot going silently on the hat so the tempo doesn't drift. Sometimes it's looking at your bandmates and mouthing the words.. even the expression on your face as the eyebrows lift etc. there's all kinds of ways. The main thing is everyone has to be on the same page.. if any band member comes in sloppily because of the count then you need to up the visual/audible signal! (or they need to practice their parts!).
There are lots of song or medley changes where a count is not needed.. the tempo change becomes part of the song and everyone just 'knows it'.. and jumps in to the new tempo.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Hi all,

I played a little gig last weekend and at our rehearsal last night, our singer told me that I have to stop clicking my sticks and counting in when we have little stops during songs. He says we look like amateurs and that no serious top bands do that. Really? I'm pretty sure tons of top bands do it. I also think the audience appreciate it as it shows the band are keeping it all under control. So we tried them without and I bobbed my head instead, which actually worked ok, but seriously? Is it bad to click your sticks and shout "1,2,3,4" every now and then?

Well, there’s silence, and then there’s *silience*.

If there’s a break or pause, mid-song, sometimes it’s meant to give surprise to whatever is coming next. If you state the time (with sticks or left foot hi hat), the surprise is ruined, right?

Obviously some musicians have poor time/rhythm and these moments can cause some awkwardness in the sound of the band. But if the goal is to use silence in order to add tension or surprise, then stated time is contrary to that goal.

However, in my experience it’s most often the vocalist who misjudges the tempo during these breaks.
 

BruceW

Senior Member
Most of the time our when we need something counted in, our guitar guy usually does so, verbally. Not over the mic, side to the band. Some songs I count in. One or two are counted in on the hats as part of the songs. None of it is made out to be a big deal. Turns out many of the songs we play either start with just the guitar, or just the drums, so there aren't as many instances of needing a count as one might think.

There is one song we play where there is a pause near the end of the song, guitars held out, me on the cymbals.... then I do a 4-click stick click to bring in the ending. I make a big show of that one, intentionally, raising them over my head hair-metal style. ;)

For most shows, I don't think counting in a song is a bad thing.
 

TMe

Senior Member
Sometimes the click, or count-in doesn't sound great. In that case, somebody needs to provide a visual cue, to make sure everybody's on the same page. Alternatively, I'll leave 1, 2, 3 silent, then flam the snare on 4 before the band starts on one.

These days, though, I'm more likely to play 1, 2, 3, 4, loudly, on a big cowbell. Everybody loves cowbell so, why not?
 
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