Counting Bars in charts help ?

michaelg

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When playing music ,I've got to the stage where i can instinctively feel 4 or 8 bars at a time.

At the moment I'm learning to read charts and when presented with a new piece of music i find it difficult to keep counting bars in sections when just playing time, i keep losing where i am.

Would love to hear of anything you've found useful in learning to internalize/know which bar your on.
Cheers
 

Hop

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Are the charts you're reading formal drum charts or are they basic charts of the music/chord changes/form?
 

michaelg

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Formal drum charts,,

I've only recently started on learning to read them so maybe i just need more practice and to give it more time,
Its certainly a completely different experience than reading pages of drum notation from exercise books and very different from just playing tunes from memory.
 

Hop

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I'll do detailed transcriptions of drum parts to help learn songs (let's me accurately "loop" passages/parts/sections and control tempos to gain experience).
I do find that that trying to read some of my own transcriptions (or transcriptions from a book) can be difficult when playing along at tempo, so I may make a supplemental simplified chart that list gross measures to basically identify song forms. Sometimes I identify some sort of "cue" to help me keep on track because my mind can wander when counting measures (and I don't want to go off the rails).



EDIT: I got the idea from a site that drummer Brad Frank had up for a while... the links don't seem to be working for me anymore so I can't point you there. I'll post a jpeg of what a simplified chart can look like and I also have a more extensive .docx file (WORD) if you think it might be of use.

Brad-Frank-Drum-Shorthand3-1024x392.jpg

EDIT Part 2: I'll attach another jpeg with more examples of essentially the same chart style as above.

robert-bradley-cheat-sheet1-790x1024.jpg
 

multijd

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Look at each measure on the page as it goes by, even the repeat bars. If there is a block number of repeats, count each bar, 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4 etc. Until you know the chart there is no other way. That is what sight reading is. Eventually when you think you know it well enough, put the chart away. You may make one or two mistakes, but you will know exactly what you arent 100% solid on. You probably wont make the mistake twice.

One other thought. The instinct of feeling four and eight bar phrases is invaluable not only for those phrase lenghths but when you feel something outside of four, eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty four, thirty-two you will feel it immediately. Five or six bar phrases will feel odd at first but after awhile you will recognize their irregularity. You can expand this to ten bar phrases or even sections that are even but are divided odd.
 

blueshadow

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Do you read books? Reason I ask if I have the same problem when reading a book or a chart in that I lose my place, slight attention deficit I guess. I don't really know the answer except practice slow and build up to tempo. Hoping some others have some good ideas, I should get some charts to practice to, that is if I could find the time to do so.
 

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michaelg said:
When playing music ,I've got to the stage where i can instinctively feel 4 or 8 bars at a time.

At the moment I'm learning to read charts and when presented with a new piece of music i find it difficult to keep counting bars in sections when just playing time, i keep losing where i am.

Would love to hear of anything you've found useful in learning to internalize/know which bar your on.
Cheers
I think this is a common thing... it is for me anyway...

Often times a section of just time demands a lot less attention to the page - compared to sections where you're actively reading a bunch of notes. As a result, it's easier to lose focus.

As reading drummers, we have to split our focus a lot, so shifting focus to other things during these sections is fine, welcome and necessary. But, like you're finding, you have to be careful not to be so lax as to lose your place.

Also - oftentimes "just time" sections can be very repetitive looking bars of just slashes, or repeat symbols... making hard to "see" or hold onto the phrases (4 bars, 8 bars). Again IMO a common problem. So much so, when possible, I'll do some pencil marks notating say the 4th bar of the phrase, or the 8th - and also will put in "double bars" if they aren't there. Anything to help me "see" the chart in bigger phrase - without getting lost in an ocean of repetitive visual elements.

Beyond that - you just need to do it... a lot.

But great question - what you are bumping up against is definitely a "thing". And has to constantly dealt with. At least of me.

hope that helps,

david
 

RIDDIM

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I feel better now having read Dave's post. it's nice to know that many of us wrestle with this.

There was an interview with Steve Gadd, I think maybe in Downbeat in the early 80's, wherein the interviewer mentioned his renowned skill at sight reading; Steve responded that he tried to start and finish the chart the same time everyone else did.

That stuck with me. How would he do that, I wondered. Not.

About a year I did a series of gigs with Fred Moyer, a great pianist who specializes in Oscar Peterson arrangements. He tours the US and elsewhere using local rhythm sections. Fred had some pretty nuanced charts and while I did my homework, at the rehearsal felt my reading wasn't as sharp as Fred's or the bassist's. I have ears, but what saved my bacon was thinking back to that interview - and counting every bar, all the time. Lo, we started and ended together and I made all the hits. Fred was happy and the checks came through.

Counting is good; the gig you save may be your own.
 

bernard

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dcrigger said:
When playing music ,I've got to the stage where i can instinctively feel 4 or 8 bars at a time.

At the moment I'm learning to read charts and when presented with a new piece of music i find it difficult to keep counting bars in sections when just playing time, i keep losing where i am.

Would love to hear of anything you've found useful in learning to internalize/know which bar your on.
Cheers
I think this is a common thing... it is for me anyway...

Often times a section of just time demands a lot less attention to the page - compared to sections where you're actively reading a bunch of notes. As a result, it's easier to lose focus.

As reading drummers, we have to split our focus a lot, so shifting focus to other things during these sections is fine, welcome and necessary. But, like you're finding, you have to be careful not to be so lax as to lose your place.

Also - oftentimes "just time" sections can be very repetitive looking bars of just slashes, or repeat symbols... making hard to "see" or hold onto the phrases (4 bars, 8 bars). Again IMO a common problem. So much so, when possible, I'll do some pencil marks notating say the 4th bar of the phrase, or the 8th - and also will put in "double bars" if they aren't there. Anything to help me "see" the chart in bigger phrase - without getting lost in an ocean of repetitive visual elements.

Beyond that - you just need to do it... a lot.

But great question - what you are bumping up against is definitely a "thing". And has to constantly dealt with. At least of me.

hope that helps,

david
Michael, As you have gotten to the point where you feel the periods (8, 12 or 16 are common reference points in most popular music) you are off to a god start. You'd probably also notice that most (good) drum music is written in a way that honors these periods, i.e. you'll find that the show 4 or 8 bars per line, and if the tune for some reason (melodic, tension/release), skips or throws in an extra bar, this should be reflected in the chart. This makes it much easier to read charts, as you can keep track of lines instead of individual bars.
If the chart is _not_ written in this way (sloppy transcription), I'm with David and use a pencil to clearly mark the form of the tune. This is really good advice and will help you a lot in the long run.
 

blueshadow

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A funny story of counting measures: When I was in high school band I often would get the auxiliary parts in stage band. This meant counting lots of measures. One piece I remember I had about 30 measures to count before a gong hit. We had a really nice Paiste gong if I had to guess I'd say a 30". Anyway in rehearsal one day I was counting up to my big part and was at about the 29th measure when the director cut off the band because of someone missing their part or something. I thought to myself "Hell NO!" finished counting my last measure and laid into the gong! The director was not amused :)
 

BennyK

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You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it can be disorienting . I try to keep performance and reading separate until they aren't . This doesn't always happen, but its helpful to recognize the different symbols when scanning a chart .

Counting is essential to me sometimes just to get things lined up and situate on " the same page " as the other guys .

If I'm the only one who's reading, best to leave it alone and do as the Romans do .
 

gwbasley

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I find it much easier to keep my place when the chord changes are noted above the bar. Following a repetitive 8, 12, or 16 bar cycle where you can use your ears as well as your eyes, is far easier than counting bars. If they are not shown, pencil them in.

Also, many pieces have bar counts and rehearsal letters...use them the same way.
 

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blueshadow said:
A funny story of counting measures: When I was in high school band I often would get the auxiliary parts in stage band. This meant counting lots of measures. One piece I remember I had about 30 measures to count before a gong hit. We had a really nice Paiste gong if I had to guess I'd say a 30". Anyway in rehearsal one day I was counting up to my big part and was at about the 29th measure when the director cut off the band because of someone missing their part or something. I thought to myself "Hell NO!" finished counting my last measure and laid into the gong! The director was not amused :)
...My Man :)
 

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I too have used the "1234, 2234, 3234, 4234" count and that works great. I've found that (just like you) I can can feel when those 4 measures end and the new set/bar begins, and I don't need to count each measure. I count bars now. I'll count "1" and then feel the four measures, count "2" and so on. Just thinking in a bigger picture or phrase.

It came in handy on a tune that I'm playing where there is a repetitive tom pattern that follows the guitar. It's something weird like 19 total measures and then back in on the 20th. Much easier to not have to count each measure.
 

michaelg

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Love this forum , thanks guys, good to hear I'm not the only one who struggles with this stuff.
 

michaelg

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So I've been working on my counting on and off since i originally posted this and i have definitely improved a good bit but perhaps not as much as i'd like.

I've noticed that counting becomes very difficult for me if the drumming pattern becomes more syncopated and complex,, more so if its a live gig and the adrenaline is going. Its like i need to learn to use a new fifth limb (my voice) when drumming,

Would Gary Chesters book "the new breed " help with this ?
Also Tommy Igoes "groove essentials" is really good but i find myself cheating and playing simpler patterns when counting and playing along to the CD.
 

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I liken it to reading. Rather than reading each letter, we read words. Most will progress to reading entire sentences at once. Rather than reading or counting individual beats, read a single measure. Then, read a four-bar phrase. Then, try reading entire 8-bar phrases at once. Try see see the forest rather than individual branches or trees.
 


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