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One n' two n' three n' i can't count while playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Sausainis, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. Well, after super puper awesome topic title, here are details. I would love to hear talkbass thoughts:
    I am self tought bassist, playing 4th year, mostly rock/metal/melodic music.

    By saying "self tought" i mean i've had 2 lessons with teacher, and due to my financial inability to pay for them, i stoped. Saw pretty much all there is tutorial videos, read some books(And still doing it). Obviously did excersizes, however, not constantly.

    Judging myself - i suck, however, musicians with whom i play don't critisize me too much(my drummer got 15+ years experience). And when i play with them, or mp3s, or guitarpro i can keep my pace, know where 1 is and so on. However, when alone - sincopations kill my timing instantly; i cannot count and play simultaniously. Same goes for any rhyhm that is not 8ths, 4ths, halfs of fulls...In band setting i count only when there are sincopations, accents, and listen to other band members so my nongroovyness is hidden, but i want to fix this issue.

    Due to amount of different information on the web, i dont know where to start and what steps to do after that. So what would you suggest TB? playing songs, etiudes, scales+metronome, sacrifising choco muffins to the devil?

    Thanks in advance :)
  2. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Sacrificing choco muffins to the devil is definitely a good start.

    From there, it's all about the metronome. You don't necessarily have to start with scales. What's important is to start with something that's easy for you. Since you're trying to get good at counting while you play, start with counting while you play something easy so that you're not trying to concentrate too hard on more than one thing at a time. Once you get comfortable counting to easy bass parts or scales, start making the parts gradually more difficult and you will slowly be able to count along with more difficult times and syncopations.

    Another thing you can do is to listen to recordings of songs with tricky time signatures or syncopations that you know really well and count out loud as you listen to them. It's this sort of ear training that will enable you to feel the time so that you don't need to count it out.

    Nobody is born able to count along to tricky syncopations. It just takes time. Be patient and dilligent and you'll get it.
  3. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I do the same thing. I've played snare drum for a long time, so counting rhythms was my best friend for a long time. But when I try counting for a measure or two and then jump in on the bass, I completely wreck. Bass is a lot more complicated than hitting a drum I guess. Makes me wonder how people can sing while doing it.
  4. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    In order to play syncopation you have to listen to music that has it.
    The more styles and genres of music you listen to the more you will learn to feel rather than count. Once you can feel the beat the task of learning to count it will reinforce what you feel and more so reinforce what you feel when you hear new music. Counting beats in music in aspects is impossible, you cannot say the word fast enough. So some will lose time or the count because they trip up in trying to recite the timing rather than playing it.

    The idea is you feel what is right, you develop an inner sense of where you are and more importantly what you should be playing.

    Think on this if I say to you play a Tango beat.....do you actually know what a Tango beat is? Or if I asked you to play a Rhumba would you be able to play it?
    You need to actually have experience of such rhythms before you van understand them and you need to understand them before you can count them. The same applies with time signatures, you need practical experience of them before you should try and count them.

    Think on this if you were the greatest artist ever, but had never ever heard of an Elephant let alone seen an Elephant, then how could you ever come close to drawing one?
    In this we have a parallel, because I am no artist but I could draw an Elephant, and people would see it as an Elephant because I would be able to represent the features that define it as an Elephant....but it would certainly be a bad drawing.....But better than the artist who has no idea what to draw.
    Music can be the same playing a beat and counting are one thing, playing the notes is another, there is a wide margin in definition as to whether a player is playing the wrong notes over the correct rhythm or the correct notes over the wrong rhythm.......it's subjective, but it's a start.

    The counting of rhythm becomes a sub-conscious act so as to free the brain up to the act of playing, the more it is used and with different rhythms, the more the act of playing sound less like going through the motions and more like playing.

    You like Rock music, so try this, listen to the track 'Money' by Pink Floyd. When you get the rhythm the notes fall under your fingers.
    It's one of those songs that will fox a new player because they cannot feel the rhythm, and as such get lost and because they get lost the notes don't flow etc etc.
    But the song is just 7/4, that is quarter notes grouped in to seven, which is seven counts in each bar. If you are used to playing music in straight fours this will fox you because it feels a beat to short in every other bar, which it is.
    It feels a bar of 4 followed by a bar of 3, by a bar of 4 followed by a bar of 3 etc. This feel continues till the solo sections when it does indeed become straight fours...then back to 7/4.
    But how do you count this?
    The correct way is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7/1-2-3-4-5-6-7/1-2-3-4-5-6-7/ etc
    But 1-2-3-4-1-2-3/1-2-3-4-1-2-3/1-2-3-4-1-2-3/ etc is not wrong.
    Neither is 1-2-3-1-2-3-4/1-2-3-1-2-3-4/1-2-3-1-2-3-4 etc a wrong way to count it. They all add up to seven so will feel like seven.

    It makes no difference which one you use, eventually you stop counting and relate to the music, the rif itself will keep you in time once learned.
    And so it is with other forms of music and songs, you relate the feel to the time signature once you have experience of what to expect. Again listen to various forms of music, learn the feel so you have a bench mark to relate a count to.
  5. I can't count while I play, sure. But, I never really do (unless I do it subconsciously). I find my playing is much better, along with better and smoother technique, when I'm not crowding my brain with a bunch of numbers. It's all on instinct, and feel.
  6. skychief


    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay
    Work with a metronome. tap yer foot, get the "body clock" working. Start with the stupid/easy stuff. Walk before you run.

    I had the worst time with the timing/synchopations when I started learning bass.

    Took me nearly six years before I could do Brubeck's TAKE 5 (5/4 time).

    Best of luck....
  7. JMac- Wiskerface Designs

    JMac- Wiskerface Designs Terror headcase dude

    Jul 8, 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    I was taught to count time when I was a kid (9 or 10 years old), by a middle school band director that's teaching methods were aligned with the bedside manner of R. Lee Ermy playing the drill instructor in "Full Metal Jacket". He taught Us first begining to play with a metronome while tapping Your foot to the count of said time signature while counting it off in Your head, which as a beginer is very damned complicated to do while trying to concentrate on playing any instrument (trumpet for Me at that time). The Guy would actually stop the band mid song and scream in Your face, if You fell out of time (LOL). As much as I hated the Guy's guts when I was a kid, I now would probably thank Him for drilling that method into My head at an early age. Heck, I still catch Myself tapping My foot when I play and that was almost 26 years ago.
    With all that being said...
    Lessons, given by a good instructor is a invaluable resource when learning any instrument.

    I would think that, If was gonna recomend a sound/sane method to learn good timing on Your own. It would be to invest in a "Trainer" with a built in metronome. To begin with It will probably feel a bit awkward to play with, but eventualy it will all fall into place. It will take some time and a lot of practice, but You will start to internalize and it will become something that You do naturally "feel".
    There are a lot of different makes and models of trainer variations that You can buy that will offer exactly what You would need within a reasonable budget.

    I know its not much, but I hope that helps some.... Good luck!
  8. Sloop John D

    Sloop John D

    Jun 29, 2012
    I second playing with a metronome and tapping your foot. It helped me immensely with keeping time.
  9. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    I have found practice makes perfect.

    I couldn't count to save my life at the start. I found practising to a decent drum loop for the time signature at various tempos with transitions makes a huge difference

    4/4 time, start at 80 - 90 bpm. Play along to a metronome/track, count along without playing to this pattern (what I started with):
    1 - 2 - 3 - 4 , 2 - 2 - 3 - 4 , 3 - 2 - 3 - 4 , 4 - 2 - 3 - 4 and loop.

    Now play and count. Even if you can only play one note per quarter and only count on 1... do it. Try it aloud if you aren't getting it. If that's not helping just try counting without playing some more. Get straight quarter notes in 4 / 4 down. Be patient and play exactly on the count... this can be easier at moderate tempos (40 bpm is hard, 110 is easy for 1/4's).
    Try different tempos, then 1/8ths, 1/8th triplets, 16ths etc, as well as the more common time signatures like 3/4, 6/4, 7/8, and others.

    After that syncopation can be put on the table for practice.
    You'll have the tools to play in time with confidence and the knowledge of where you are in a measure... something I'm battling with myself. Precision and consistency at speed with good feel takes a mountain of practice.:bassist:

    You can do this, and It won't take forever. Unless you want to play polyrhythms and high speed you can figure this out with a little practice, but keep it often for best results. Consistency counts:cool:. I've started using rhythm as a warmup practice. It allows the hands to start slow, and gets you counting calmly and evenly.

    Remember, 90% an OK line in good time with good feel beats an off time great line with perfect feel. Respect the groove.
  10. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Learning to read and write rhythm using standard notation will absolutely fix this.

    I believe that losing the count on unusual rhythms comes from not really knowing & hearing what subdivisions you are playing. reading and writing it out forces you to think explicitly and exactly where the notes fall in relation to the beats, and importantly how far form the next beat the plucked note is. When you count 16ths as "1-e-&-a-" You have to be able to hear the difference between an isolated note falling on the "-&" vs the "-a" in order to notate/read it correctly. My personal experience has been that studying rhythmic notation has dramatically increased my rhythmic awareness and accuracy in this regard.

    Anthony Wellington has a good exercise for testing your awareness of the subdivisions.

    A bonus to focusing only on rhythm is that you can grab any notation anywhere and practice tapping it out -no bass needed.
  11. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    I find drums harder... you have to allow for the different time it takes to reach each piece of the kit, vs. the near identical time to pluck each string.... plus the two feet & hands thing.... that takes a lot of practice to do well.

    Singing and playing an instrument, according to a thread on this forum, is all about knowing the material backwards... and being able to autopilot at times. I can't so I wouldn't know. http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f22/singing-playing-bass-882908/ is one of them, there are others.
    Neat trick if you can pull it off!
  12. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    It just so happens I'm learning to read sheet ATM. Hal Leonard method books by the very good Ed Friedland. Very recommended!
  13. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    My usual workout includes a drum track or clic track. Timing is essential for a bassist.

    Have noted that the 'better' drummers workout the same way, with click tracs, and, by observation, that different instruments, including vocalists rush or drag at times, particularly noticeable when a clic track is present.

    Seems like I have more trouble remembering/counting where we are in the AABA roadmap, which verse ending to play, etc.
  14. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always overcompensating Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    Chyeah...go watch some Thomas Lang or Virgil Donati or Mike Mangini vids and then tell me playing Enter Sandman on bass is harder than playing drums.
  15. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    I can't count either, and yet I play and create music with a lot of alternative time signatures. It's all a matter of feeling, not counting.
  16. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    I find counting is initially a way to develop consistency... But no doubt perfect timing can be achieved without counting along. Initially I needed to count to keep 1/8ths solid at different tempos. then 1/16ths... now I only need to count when I am doing transitions... like 1/16ths to 1/8th trips and back & forth .... but feel comes in once the groove takes hold.

    Then we get into counting bars. while you can use other instruments as ques, usually knowing when the 4th / 8th etc. bar ends is pretty crucial. I can do a 12 bar blues or a fairly familiar piece without counting bars.... but as long as you keep it tight, and concentrate on the drumming it seems to sound much much better IMO, and allows consistency that can drive a piece. Especially with syncopation, which is an area I've yet to nail to my satisfaction.

    Hit the shed and fire up the metronome!:bassist:
  17. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    I'd imagine that's very true. Timing is critical. When note choice is dealt with, when plucking strength & technique are decided... the time a note is started, and when it ends are huge parts of the groove. Legato vs. Staccato is only the extremes...

    There are a lot of things I don't know, and am very eager to change that w.r.t. groove. When I finish the Friedland Hal leonard method books, I have the Bass Grooves book by Ed to work through, and the 'Bass bible' which has samples of a wide range of styles. Learning bass is proving to be worth the effort:bassist:
  18. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    Yup, playing some Dream theatre or Tool songs on drums is kinda like learning a Wooten piece on Bass. Hard unless you are very very good.

    I have only played drums very casually, just trying to get a basic rock 4/4 going with some success. It's not hard to play badly, but like anything.... virtuoso level is insanely hard, because those that reach it are utterly committed.
    If I had to pick one instrument I'd never have to learn it'd be bagpipes for the sound, and sax for the time needed. I've heard sax takes near full time hours to play even OK.:bag:
  19. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I had a hard time at first but with hard work it seems very natural.

    Then take something you know or very very easy and read the rythm again that 80 bpm with your foot tapping. then say the name of the note in the rythm ( always your metronome on and your foot tapping ). Then play it.

    the simple methode turned a guy that had a hard time reading elaborate rythm to someone with a very solid time and now reading complexe rythm is a breeze.
  20. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    The legwork has to be done. There are better ways of learning, and important topics to be aware of, but as long as a player has a good idea of weaknesses... they'll likely figure it out eventually if they care enough. Modern recording conveniences make dishonesty inexcusable. Knowing why you suck is key to improvement.

    Starting slow, and developing consistency are crucial. The theory lets me internalize what I learn through repetition - which means my thoughts and hands are on fairly even footing. It'd be a shame to have 'clever hands' but not know why!

    The elaborate stuff can wait for me. I'll be happy leaving poly rhythms for a year or two just yet. Syncopation is much more important so I'll be dealing with that fairly shortly.:bassist:

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