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Westenra

Do you count when you play?

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Gone back to basics and learning how to sheet read, so far and so good. However I'm having a little trouble with learning rhythms by counting...

When I play a passage with a metronome I find it very hard to count, read and play simultaneously, with heavy emphasis on the counting part, the latter two are progressing smoothly. Playing to the backing track though and it's easy, my rhythm and timing are locked in but I'm simply not counting, just going with the rhythm.

Obviously there is no right way or wrong way, but I'd like to know what the vast majority of people do. Should I keep practicing on counting to create the rhythm or continue with my inner rhythm?

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Unfortunately there are rights and wrongs here. You MUST count if you're going to get the rhythms you're working on nailed. It's a new endeavour, so progress will feel slow, but you're doing the right thing by persevering with it. Remember, if you don't sound or feel bad in the practise room then you're likely not practising! 

"Don't count, just feel the beats..." is the single worst piece of advice for you in this situation. It is categorically wrong: either we get this stuff right or we resort to hit and hope guesswork. There's a lot which can go wrong inbetween the beats of the bar. 

Try doing the counting/rhythm practice away from the bass to cement the idea of subdivision and counting. Naturally, it's easy to play with a backing track because we parrot what we hear to an extent. It's an uncomfortable and slightly strange feeling to be able to play something fine as long as it's not solely read from the page, but it gets better ;-)

Pulse is definitely helpful/necessary; but always be aware that the pulse can be quarter notes, eighths, sixteenths etc. Easier to subdivide/count 16ths to nail a 16th note rhythm than count 1,2,3,4 heavily and then break down the ibternal subdivision of the beat.  The actual beats of the bar (including 1) are less important in a way, as they will take care of themselves. I've never heard anyone play a barline....  

Good luck. It gets better, honest!

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Answer: I count sometimes....

Mainly when the arrangement is stripped down

 

Most of the time I sort of 'sing' the rhythm (and melody) of the line in my head as we go along....

 

I know

 

I'm weird.

 

One thing I do know though~: our  drummer NEVER counts when he's playing and he's unable to play to a click - the click puts him off....who'd have thunk it? a drummer that doesn't count the rhythm?

Yet we've been going as a band, well over 30 years...

Counting rhythm is a myth - totally unnecessary

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2 hours ago, Twigman said:

One thing I do know though~: our  drummer NEVER counts when he's playing and he's unable to play to a click - the click puts him off....who'd have thunk it? a drummer that doesn't count the rhythm?

Yet we've been going as a band, well over 30 years...

Counting rhythm is a myth - totally unnecessary

This may feel true, in your limited experience - but couldn't be more wrong.

The OP is trying to learn  new musical skills - that are part of a much larger stylistic musical world and that have been tried and tested for a considerable amount of time. Tried and tested by people who use and rely upon these skills to make music and teach others to do the same.

This isnt a case of what the majority thinks is right - especially as the majority of folks on this forum don't read music etc. 

Yeah, internal rhythm is part of things - but it's rarely reliable without some training. Assimilate then internalise. Speaking from personal experience the difference is well worth the effort and frustrations involved. 

It boils down to this: more advanced musicians/pros or orchestral musicians etc who read regularly all count. Often whether they are reading or not. That's how things are. No shortcuts exist (unfortunately!).  

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1 minute ago, The Jaywalker said:

This may feel true, in your limited experience - but couldn't be more wrong.

 

Limited?

How is my experience limited ?

I've been playing nearly 40years, I've toured Europe and USA, I've played on 9 albums.....how is that limited experience?

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Ah! Ok,  I'm not trying to cause offence, perhaps my meaning could have been clearer.

 When it comes down to it, where you've gigged and what you've recorded isnt relevant to the actual musical content concerned in this discussion - especially given the ill-informed assertion that "counting is a myth - totally unnessary..." I don't doubt that you didnt need the skills the OP is working on to accomplish what you have. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as it's how rock music functions. There are, however, other musical arenas out there in which these skills are useful or essential. Your own experience or opinion is not transferrable in that regard.

The OP is asking specific questions with regard to the mechanics of learning to read music and subdivide rhythm whilst reading and playing. I was trying to help with that. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 13/11/2017 at 00:23, Westenra said:

...When I play a passage with a metronome I find it very hard to count, read and play simultaneously...

I'd like to humbly suggest that, in the case cited, the metronome is perhaps too fast. As an experiment, and using a piece which shows up this phenomenon, try slowing down to half-speed. Is that any better..? If so, increase the speed slightly and progressively, until the counting becomes more difficult, then reduce back a notch or so.

Hope this helps.

Edited by Dad3353

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As with every other aspect of bass-playing - or musicianship generally - it all depends on context.

Most of the time, I feel the beats and I have no need to count.

Some of the time, I feel the song itself ... I've heard it so many times that I just know when to come back in or play that fill or whatever.

And on some songs, I have no choice but to count and frequently to ensure that the drummer is counting.

The perfect example is Substitute where we discovered early on that the only way to ensure that Paul and I came back in nice & tight after the stops was to count in unison, so we made that counting part of the song.

"I look pretty old but I'm just back-dated yeah ..." TWO THREE FOUR ONE TWO THREE

 

Edited by Happy Jack

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I count a lot and as I'm self taught, I'm not sure where this comes from, however, when I was younger we used to listen to a lot of stuff that featured odd time signatures and counting was essential if we were going to attempt to play any of this stuff. That said, I find counting especially useful when playing music that I find uninspiring to play - e.g. most interpretations of the Blues - it stops me getting lost when the next miserable solo comes along. :dash1:

Translating this to Sheet Music I do look at the read the rhythm before playing, but this is where it often goes wonky - but I'm not trying to earn a living playing / reading music. ^_^

One thing that I learned early on, is that music has a mathematic base and I often bear this in mind when I hear the phrase 'you just have to feel it' - music will always work break down into manageable countable elements some how and I don't like guessing.

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My take... to be a great performer / musician you don’t need to count.

to learn to be a great reader you need to count at first... check your doing it correctly,., then you can internalise what a written rhythm feels like and can stop counting! 

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If it's not in 4/4 I count whilst learning a song until it becomes second nature.

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Generally no.

Although I need to on 2 songs. The intro on whole lotta rosier waiting for the vocals during the short break after the opening riffs. Haven't got the feel of that yet and can't afford to mess it up. There is a push to A on Everlong that I need to count too.  Again,  can't afford to get it wrong. 

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I didn't expect so many replies in what I thought was a quiet corner of BC!

I should've mentioned in my OP that I've been playing on and off for 10 years but only recently (as in this past summer) I've wanted to expand my basic knowledge and learn theory, improve my muting technique and be able to sight read (guess ear training should be in there too!)

Up till now I've just used tabs constantly and Guitar Pro which helps with rhythm. But I've come to the realisation this is a crutch that I want to do without and learning how to sight read is the way forward.

its just very tiring at times when it feels like you've taken a massive step backwards and having to learn how to count, read and play when I was doing all of this previously (and with much greater accuracy and speed) with the aid of tabs. But I am making progress and it feels rewarding, it's just this particular area of doing all things at once that feels like challenge I can't wrap my brain around, even when I set the metronome to 60bpm. I find it much easier to parrot!

16th note rests to me currently feel like an impossible task!

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I find I count religiously on some songs but on most I tend to start out doing it but after a few run through I have it pretty much there and then it just comes down to either ‘feel’ or other musical cues. Some songs I never count on, they just seem to work. So I guess it’s a case of I use it when I need it and I don’t when I don’t. Probably not that helpful really, sorry.

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If I count along with a song it's fine for a short while but then my counting goes way off as I just familiarise myself with the rhythm. It's a weird concept I know but when I count along with anything I just loose my timing completely, it's like my brain can only do two things at once; remember what to play and physically playing it, add a third variable and I slip up!

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4 hours ago, Westenra said:

I didn't expect so many replies in what I thought was a quiet corner of BC!

I should've mentioned in my OP that I've been playing on and off for 10 years but only recently (as in this past summer) I've wanted to expand my basic knowledge and learn theory, improve my muting technique and be able to sight read (guess ear training should be in there too!)

Up till now I've just used tabs constantly and Guitar Pro which helps with rhythm. But I've come to the realisation this is a crutch that I want to do without and learning how to sight read is the way forward.

its just very tiring at times when it feels like you've taken a massive step backwards and having to learn how to count, read and play when I was doing all of this previously (and with much greater accuracy and speed) with the aid of tabs. But I am making progress and it feels rewarding, it's just this particular area of doing all things at once that feels like challenge I can't wrap my brain around, even when I set the metronome to 60bpm. I find it much easier to parrot!

16th note rests to me currently feel like an impossible task!

Yeah, that's totally natural frustration - "I can play this...why the jeez cant I read and count it..?!?"

16th rests can be dealt with by counting and feeling the pulse as 16ths. Don't use 1-e-an-a as a lot of textbooks will suggest. The syllables are too long. Ta-ka-di-me is much more rhythmic and percussive, being derived from Konokol, the rhythmic language of Indian classical music. You can vocalise this with accents corresponding to written notes etc and then practise playing the line. Using the konokol syllables almost gives each 16th in the beat its own identity, which I certainly find useful when the page has a bit too much ink on it for comfort....

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14 hours ago, Westenra said:

I didn't expect so many replies in what I thought was a quiet corner of BC!

I should've mentioned in my OP that I've been playing on and off for 10 years but only recently (as in this past summer) I've wanted to expand my basic knowledge and learn theory, improve my muting technique and be able to sight read (guess ear training should be in there too!)

Up till now I've just used tabs constantly and Guitar Pro which helps with rhythm. But I've come to the realisation this is a crutch that I want to do without and learning how to sight read is the way forward.

its just very tiring at times when it feels like you've taken a massive step backwards and having to learn how to count, read and play when I was doing all of this previously (and with much greater accuracy and speed) with the aid of tabs. But I am making progress and it feels rewarding, it's just this particular area of doing all things at once that feels like challenge I can't wrap my brain around, even when I set the metronome to 60bpm. I find it much easier to parrot!

16th note rests to me currently feel like an impossible task!

3

 

As another person who grew up on TAB and didn't learn to read until 10 years into playing, I definitely know how frustrating the 'back to square one' feeling of learning to read is; the only consolation is that if you stick at it then your musical abilities will begin to advance way beyond the level that they were when you were reliant on TAB. Improved fretboard knowledge, sense of time, articulation, dynamics and the ability to access music written for any instrument are just some of the areas that reading opens up.

As far as 16ths and associated rests go, I found it helpful to isolate all the different possible 'fragments' of 8ths,16ths and associated rests that can occupy 1 beat and then learn them individually as you would do with new words.

This may sound like a rather OCD way of looking at things, but much of sight reading is pattern recognition and you need to develop the ability to 'pre-hear' a rhythm before you play it - rhythm reading books like Louis Bellson's 'Modern Reading in 4/4 Time' are great for getting this stuff together (if a little dull!).

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I've spent a lot of time playing in rock bands over the years where driving 8ths are often what's needed from the bass. As such I hadn't put too much time in over the years working on counting, but that is something that I have been working on the past few years. A great, simple to understand book and CD set that has really helped me to get to grips with counting over the years is Bass Grooves by Ed Friedland. The book explains the theory and the CD contains some examples so you can listen and play along to really understand what's going on. It has certainly been a massive help to me so might be worth a look, perhaps? 

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On 14/11/2017 at 12:57, The Jaywalker said:

Ah! Ok,  I'm not trying to cause offence, perhaps my meaning could have been clearer...

Yeah, you have to be careful! We've got famous rock and pop stars on here and everything!
Well OK, moderately famous. Within their niche genres. Let's say with a Wikipedia entry, then... :D

...Definitely not just bloody Martin Smith from Croydon!*

*Apologies if anyone on the forum is just bloody Martin Smith from Croydon.

 

Edited by discreet

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16 hours ago, The Jaywalker said:

Yeah, that's totally natural frustration - "I can play this...why the jeez cant I read and count it..?!?"

16th rests can be dealt with by counting and feeling the pulse as 16ths. Don't use 1-e-an-a as a lot of textbooks will suggest. The syllables are too long. Ta-ka-di-me is much more rhythmic and percussive, being derived from Konokol, the rhythmic language of Indian classical music. You can vocalise this with accents corresponding to written notes etc and then practise playing the line. Using the konokol syllables almost gives each 16th in the beat its own identity, which I certainly find useful when the page has a bit too much ink on it for comfort....

I've seen quite a few people go against the grain of what books say and say 16ths as simply syllables and when I get to that stage I'm going to try using "ta-ka-di-me" as I have previously used "1-e-and-a-2" but that becomes a mouthful at high tempos.

7 hours ago, TKenrick said:

 

As another person who grew up on TAB and didn't learn to read until 10 years into playing, I definitely know how frustrating the 'back to square one' feeling of learning to read is; the only consolation is that if you stick at it then your musical abilities will begin to advance way beyond the level that they were when you were reliant on TAB. Improved fretboard knowledge, sense of time, articulation, dynamics and the ability to access music written for any instrument are just some of the areas that reading opens up.

As far as 16ths and associated rests go, I found it helpful to isolate all the different possible 'fragments' of 8ths,16ths and associated rests that can occupy 1 beat and then learn them individually as you would do with new words.

This may sound like a rather OCD way of looking at things, but much of sight reading is pattern recognition and you need to develop the ability to 'pre-hear' a rhythm before you play it - rhythm reading books like Louis Bellson's 'Modern Reading in 4/4 Time' are great for getting this stuff together (if a little dull!).

I'm already picking up on pattern recognition, will be interesting when I get to different key signatures to say the least.

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5 hours ago, Osiris said:

I've spent a lot of time playing in rock bands over the years where driving 8ths are often what's needed from the bass. As such I hadn't put too much time in over the years working on counting, but that is something that I have been working on the past few years. A great, simple to understand book and CD set that has really helped me to get to grips with counting over the years is Bass Grooves by Ed Friedland. The book explains the theory and the CD contains some examples so you can listen and play along to really understand what's going on. It has certainly been a massive help to me so might be worth a look, perhaps? 

I haven't got that specific book but I've got the complete Bass methods by him and that's how I've started learning to read! It's a well thought out book and would be interested in more by him, I enjoy his YouTube videos too.

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50 minutes ago, Westenra said:

I haven't got that specific book but I've got the complete Bass methods by him and that's how I've started learning to read! It's a well thought out book and would be interested in more by him, I enjoy his YouTube videos too.

Likewise, Bass Grooves is also well thought and easy to understand. If I remember correctly I got my copy new for around £5 or so from either Ebay or Amazon marketplace and it's possibly the best bass related purchase pound for pound I've ever made. 

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