People Who Count Off The Song At A Different Tempo To The Song's Actual Tempo

PQleyR

Platinum Member
Have you experienced this? I just don't understand it.

Nick McBrain is the primary suspect in this case. And here, as well.

Has anyone else played with people who did this? Or maybe you do it yourself, in which case...why?
 

Coldhardsteel

Gold Member
If this is referring to, say...

Counting off at 150...

And then actually playing at 120...

Then yeah. I've seen that before. Mostly my disbelief lies in how the other musicians understand what to do. Terrible performance technique.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
In a rehearsal situation I love to lock it in at where it was counted off at, and when the rest of the band does their normal thing of sliding all over the place they find me not budging an inch. Then we stop and they ask me what's going on and I tell them that's where they counted it off at. Good times. At that point they realize their mistake or they let me count them off. Arrogant, huh?
 

Timekeep69

Senior Member
Yeah, one listen to Live after Death and you can hear Nicko do it on nearly every song. That's one tight band when they can pull it off with a 60 bpm count off into a 140 bpm song.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I've noticed that with some bands, where everyone has rehearsed and gigged a lot together, the count off becomes less about establishing the tempo as it does just making sure everyone starts on the same "one". Everyone knows the material so well that the proper tempo is internalized. So the details of the count off become less important.

One band I was in, the others thought a four count off was a waste of time. So I'd count 2, and we were off, and a 2 count really doesn't give one much of a chance to establish tempo. But we rehearsed so much, and gigged often, that wasn't much of an issue.

I've noticed some bands, there is just a "one" count, and that's it. Think Led Zepplin's "Black Dog" as an example. I've noticed in some Dream Theater songs, they'll pause, and Portnoy will just do a one count to bring everyone back in.

There used to band in LA that was super tight, and they never counted off. Ever. I asked the drummer how they could be so tight without ever counting off, and he looked at me, and just said "well, we don't need too".

The which is just a long of saying, I have no idea what Nicko is doing, but you figure that band has been together for so long, and do so many gigs, that he could probably count off at any tempo and the band will still play the right thing.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
It's a stuff up. Nicko's obviously always started it wrong but everyone knew the tempo they wanted to play and did it anyway. The wrong start now seems to have become part of the song and become "right". I bet if his hat taps were in the actual tempo it would be distracting for the others.

Bo, I know that feeling where someone starts a song off at the wrong tempo and expects me to do a cleanup job and come in at the right tempo. A couple of weeks ago at rehearsal the keys player started a song at a ridiculously slow pace (no doubt to compensate for his tendency to race). I decided not to clean up and came in at his tempo. Everyone was looking at me aghast, almost expecting to stop playing as we ploughed on at a funereal pace, but I just smiled and kept going. Bizarrely, while the song felt weirdly slow at the time, we agreed that the recording sounded much better. A nice bit of dumb luck :)

I've also heard a few recordings from rehearsal where my count and my following beat are off. Agree with Steel, it's terrible performance technique. I've seen this mistake happen in a number of bands and, while sometimes you can get lucky, it's a sure sign that the old metronome needs dusting off ...
 

Tropellor

Senior Member
Hey Guys,

I've always laughed when I listen to Epic by Faith No More live at Brixton Academy (here)

I suppose it's a sign that the band have played the song a MILLION times, and it doesn't matter what tempo it's counted in as, they're always going to play it at the same tempo.

If i'm doing a live session and am unsure about the tempo live, I always write the tempo on the setlist and use my metronome on mute to guide me for the count in, it's saved me a few times!
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
I've noticed that with some bands, where everyone has rehearsed and gigged a lot together, the count off becomes less about establishing the tempo as it does just making sure everyone starts on the same "one". Everyone knows the material so well that the proper tempo is internalized. So the details of the count off become less important.

One band I was in, the others thought a four count off was a waste of time. So I'd count 2, and we were off, and a 2 count really doesn't give one much of a chance to establish tempo. But we rehearsed so much, and gigged often, that wasn't much of an issue.

I've noticed some bands, there is just a "one" count, and that's it. Think Led Zepplin's "Black Dog" as an example. I've noticed in some Dream Theater songs, they'll pause, and Portnoy will just do a one count to bring everyone back in.

There used to band in LA that was super tight, and they never counted off. Ever. I asked the drummer how they could be so tight without ever counting off, and he looked at me, and just said "well, we don't need too".

The which is just a long of saying, I have no idea what Nicko is doing, but you figure that band has been together for so long, and do so many gigs, that he could probably count off at any tempo and the band will still play the right thing.
This is all true. In fact, a drummer I used to play with did this, and we managed to come in correctly. The thing is, why is it difficult or undesirable to count in at the right tempo? The drummer I worked with actually couldn't do it, yet he could play the song at the right tempo. I can't get my mind around it.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I've noticed that with some bands, where everyone has rehearsed and gigged a lot together, the count off becomes less about establishing the tempo as it does just making sure everyone starts on the same "one". Everyone knows the material so well that the proper tempo is internalized. So the details of the count off become less important.
More often than not, this ^^ seems to be the reason behind it.

In fact, I know there've been times where bands I've played in have been guilty of this ourselves.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
In fact, I know there've been times where bands I've played in have been guilty of this ourselves.
And when it happens a WTF vibe ripples through the band until the song has fully settled into its tempo :)


This is all true. In fact, a drummer I used to play with did this, and we managed to come in correctly. The thing is, why is it difficult or undesirable to count in at the right tempo? The drummer I worked with actually couldn't do it, yet he could play the song at the right tempo. I can't get my mind around it.
Just lack of focus, isn't it? Also, if he's done the tempo count the wrong way many times before then that's what's hardwired into him.

Most of the time I start songs and instinctively know it's right, or at least "within range", as our singer puts it.

Sometimes I start them and "know" it's right but it's not.

Sometimes I'm unsure so I sing a line of the song in my head that will sound rushed at "adrenaline tempo". Occasionally it will still not be right and that's where the count and song start may differ.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I've worked with plenty of people who do this. Heck, there are some well-established MDs in this country whose tempo memory is abysmal. If you've done the material enough the band will usually just slide in at the right tempo, but if you're subbing/depping, it can be a real nightmare as a drummer because you sometimes get the sideways looks when you're 10 BPM too bright or slow based on the count-off.

Of course, any count-in is a blessing if it's in the right ballpark. I'm used to only getting two beats or even an upbeat. Depending on the context, often it's only a nod or a cue and we're off. There are some old school MDs who do everything that way. You're simply expected to know the material well enough to hit the tempo every time. Again, if you've done the stuff a lot, it's no problem. When you're depping for someone, it can be a bloody nightmare.

I've done what Bo does - i.e. keep trucking along at the counted-off tempo until someone realises there is a problem, and that can work in some circumstances. But you have to be careful. Sometimes you need to be sensitive and adaptive, so over time I try to figure out the tendencies of the person doing the count-in and adjust to that. I have one guy I've worked with on and off for years both on ships and on land, and he counts everything off a little quick (unless he's got a metronome handy) and tends to push when he plays. We know this, so we ignore the count off and tend not to follow him when he starts to rush.

And while we expect concentration and focus out of everyone on stage, if you've played the same material every night for several months or years, it's understandable that the concentration is going to wane now and again. So if I know an MD is having one of those nights when he's counting everything a little slow, I just whisper to the bass player that we need to stay on top with a wink. In the end, the MD/conductor is starting the tempo, but he can wave his hands all he wants, if the rhythm section is driving in one direction, the band will follow. Half of them aren't looking at the MD anyway. ;)

Perhaps that's arrogance, or perhaps it's just taking to heart what JR Robinson said, that "the drummer is the leader of any modern band." Tempo and feel are our province. Other guys get to do harmony and melody, but we have to deal in tempo, rhythm and subdivision. So whether I'm the actual leader or not, I try to find a way to take an active role in the process of getting the right tempos, etc. Every situation varies and you have to be diplomatic and not step on toes, but we need to take an interest. It's best for the music -- which is the most important thing -- and for me and my reputation (such as it is) in the end.
 
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Lex

Senior Member
Who says we can't get to do harmody and melody? I agree that rythms and feel are what are considered our main territory, but EVERY melody has a rythmic pattern.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Who says we can't get to do harmody and melody? I agree that rythms and feel are what are considered our main territory, but EVERY melody has a rythmic pattern.
Don't misunderstand me, I think we need to be VERY aware of harmony and melody. In fact, I think that's essential. We need to know the songs we're playing, and understand the tension and release of harmony so we can better create rhythms which compliment and emphasise those elements. But, like it or not, we're there to colour and accentuate harmony and melody. I can't look down at my drums and say, "okay, now I'll play Middle C on the snare drum because it's the 4th of that chord...." or "I think I'll play a run on the Locrian mode here to really add some fuel to the fire...."
 

The Bassist

Senior Member
Sometimes I find myself accidentally starting too slow or fast on a count in and think "crap, I'd better fix this before it's too late" because after the song's in progress, it becomes much more difficult to adjust the playing to the correct tempo without it sounding bad.

Although, this is also why I stopped letting the guitarist count in... he'd often give count-ins of 6, accenting the 1 and 4 in extremely slow tempos even though the song would be in 4/4 and be much faster. It would throw him off more than the rest of the band anyways.
 
Yeah, one listen to Live after Death and you can hear Nicko do it on nearly every song. That's one tight band when they can pull it off with a 60 bpm count off into a 140 bpm song.
They know those songs so well, that the count just tells them when to start the song. In that case, it makes sense: the slow count is just giving them plenty of time to get ready.
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
That's an interesting thought, I'd not considered that side of things. That does make sense.
 

synergy

Senior Member
I guess it depends on what you use the count in for? There are some songs with my band that I do count in the tempo and there are others that I give them a standard 4 count unrelated to the tempo of the song. It's just to give everyone a standard let's all start on one type deal
 

BradGunnerSGT

Silver Member
In a rehearsal situation I love to lock it in at where it was counted off at, and when the rest of the band does their normal thing of sliding all over the place they find me not budging an inch. Then we stop and they ask me what's going on and I tell them that's where they counted it off at. Good times. At that point they realize their mistake or they let me count them off. Arrogant, huh?
I wish DW had a "like" button so I could click it on this post. That's exactly what happens to me. :)
 

Phat_Rolls

Senior Member
I probably do this, but it's because I'm counting in to start, not necessarily counting in on the exact tempo (though I will ball-park it... not gonna count in @ 180 BPM when the song is 75). We're all musicians, we all know how fast/slow the song is supposed to be (we've practiced it many times after all), the guys in my band don't rely on the drummer to the point to where they don't even remember the tempos to the song, so it's more of a cue to start the song.
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
I've just thought of another good example, the studio version of 'Junkhead' by Alice In Chains. That's the other way round to Nicko, much faster than the tempo. Strange.
 
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