How to count and play notes at the same time?

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DevonBadger
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How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by DevonBadger » Tue Dec 11, 2018 6:50 am

I find playing the correct rhythm is the biggest challenge and the aspect I struggle with the most. I'm following my teacher's advice to start counting "1 and 2 and 3 and..." before I start to play, to try and get the rhythm locked into my head. I'm also counting out loud, and going really slow... and if I lose the rhythm I go even slower.

But, as soon as I have to think about which notes to play the counting goes straight out of my head. I'm pretty much ok on the simplest of pieces where the notes are always on the beat, but as soon as off beats, rests etc come into the equation I lose the count.

It's as if my mind can focus on the counting or the notes but not the two at the same time. My teacher says not to be too hard on myself and that I am improving - sometimes it's like watching paint dry, it is happening but you can't always see it. He also says mastering rhythm is one of the hardest skills and that most people struggle to begin with, but if you stick at it, it will eventually become second nature and move to the back of the brain to allow the front to focus on performance etc.

I hope he's right. It just seems to be sooooo difficult and be taking me a long time. If anyone has any tips for how they keep the rhythm I'd be very grateful to hear them.

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George Crocket
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by George Crocket » Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:48 am

I am sure your teacher is correct. Keep on with it and eventually it will become another part of your routine. But there are a few other things to try.

With difficult rhythms I pencil in the count on the score to help.

Going slowly at first is also a good tactic.

If there are small sections with a different rhythm, then isolating those few bars for intensive practice is useful.

Another tried and tested technique is to write out only the rhythm, and clap it out. Then you have only the rhythm to focus on.
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Christopher Langley
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by Christopher Langley » Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:49 am

Sorry for trying to contribute.

Best of luck.

Chris
Last edited by Christopher Langley on Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
Studying Jazz and Blues now.. So it goes friends. I might make a return to Classical at some point.

DevonBadger
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by DevonBadger » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:43 am

George Crocket wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:48 am
I am sure your teacher is correct. Keep on with it and eventually it will become another part of your routine. But there are a few other things to try.

With difficult rhythms I pencil in the count on the score to help.

Going slowly at first is also a good tactic.

If there are small sections with a different rhythm, then isolating those few bars for intensive practice is useful.

Another tried and tested technique is to write out only the rhythm, and clap it out. Then you have only the rhythm to focus on.
Many thanks George.

I like the idea of clapping, and marking the count on the score, so will give those a go.

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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by DevonBadger » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:52 am

Christopher Langley wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:49 am
I don't count or sight read or think of notes while I play. I'm too focused on sounding nice and making sure my left hand lands right where it should and stays on track.

You might find you play better without trying to count. Try nodding or toe tapping, I personally find this much more useful. Don't be afraid to use a metronome either. Those can be very useful for learning to keep a pulse.

I would say the majority of musicians are simply "feeling" the time while playing and not actually counting it out.

Counting just never worked for me.. Guitar is hard enough without making it harder.

I think keeping time is something that is best done without much thinking, actually.. As soon as you think about keeping time, you will fail to do so.

If someone is struggling to play a rhythm I tap it onto them or clap it out loud. Isolate the rhythm.

Asking someone to count whilst playing feels like a recipe for disaster to me. Like asking someone to pat their belly while rubbing their head. I really can't imagine counting while playing, let alone asking this level of multi tasking of a beginner, it's hard enough. Although this counting seems to be very commonly practiced in the CG world.

Sorry if I repeated myself and if I didn't explain well, it's getting late and I really can't be bothered to try and do any more editing at the moment.

Best of luck.

Chris

P.S. I'm a year 1 student. Not a teacher or expert on anything.
Thanks for taking the time to reply Chris.

I do both nod my head and tap my foot but I still lose the rhythm when it's anything other than very simple.

I'm no expert either but I suspect musicians who are able to feel the time are able to do so because they've done the hard yards and become so comfortable with counting that it's become almost unconscious.

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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by RobMacKillop » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:16 am

Count, count, count. Then count again. There is no short cut. Eventually for most music you can play by feel, but you have to go through the counting stage. We are not talking about groove music here, where you have to switch off your brain and let your body go. Try playing in an ensemble without counting - you won't be asked back. And lots of contemporary music stills requires me to count very carefully, and even sometimes put in pencil marks for beats - and most people would call me a good sight reader. Counting is an essential skill, which all orchestral players get drilled into them from an early age. Guitarists generally don't, and it shows.

And don't pay much attention to guys who have only been playing a year, and like to talk a lot. They are a danger to other beginners.

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mike.janel
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by mike.janel » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:54 am

There are many good lessons on YT.
For example
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Christopher Langley
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by Christopher Langley » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:43 am

RobMacKillop wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:16 am
And don't pay much attention to guys who have only been playing a year, and like to talk a lot. They are a danger to other beginners.
:desole:

I never meant anyone any harm.

My eagerness to participate in this forum will not be a problem anymore.
Studying Jazz and Blues now.. So it goes friends. I might make a return to Classical at some point.

Don W
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by Don W » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:24 pm

Devon, You sound just like me!!! I'm at the same place with difficulty reading and counting at the same time. My instructor says "you are in very good company"...he also tells me many times what great brain exercise this is!!! I remember when I was learning various picking patterns on my steel string...thought I would never get it...now its second nature. I have started penciling everything out first and going really slow (which is hard to do sometimes). Sometimes I count out loud, sometimes I tap a foot or nod my head...whatever works. I am working through the Noad book and find it challenging but rewarding. I need to remember that it takes time. Every time I get stuck I think "I'm never going to get this"...but every time I do get it. Motivation to improve, confidence in my ability to learn new things and not biting off more than I can chew are what works for me right now. It can be frustrating for sure, I know, but I'm hanging in and I know I will get there. Good luck.

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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by lagartija » Tue Dec 11, 2018 1:55 pm

Devon, it is difficult for many people to count and play in beginning. I remember that stage very well...I thought it would be impossible. But as has been suggested, I wrote the count under the notes, like lyrics to the song . Without the guitar in my hands, I clapped the rhythm.
Two more things that lead to my success at this task:
1)count out loud as I sang the pitches; counting in my head did not do it in the beginning.
2) counting while playing for just a small section of the music...maybe just one measure at a time until it was comfortable, before going onto the next measure. Trying to count through the entire piece as you play might be a bit too much in the beginning, so take it in smaller bites.
Soon, the count will run through your head as you audiate the music and you will be in complete control of time.

Rob is right, that you can’t play in ensemble if you don’t count. I tried playing duets with someone who did not count and found it to be a very frustrating experience.
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johnd
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by johnd » Tue Dec 11, 2018 2:42 pm

Sing the count. Works for me.

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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by joachim33 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 3:35 pm

I belong to the "use the metronome" party. It helps me enormously with the counting and prevents you from counting faster and slower in different parts of the piece. The ones that mark out the 1, e.g. electronic or mechanical with a bell allow you to check that you didn't skip a beat in a phrase. It doesn't replace the counting, to e.g. do the subdivisions. Playing with a metronome is a skill that needs training as does the counting.

My tutor also belongs to the "use the metronome" party, so do other high profile musicians. It seems not so many participants in this discussion below to this party, since they are not mentioning the metronome.

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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by Jack Douglas » Tue Dec 11, 2018 3:36 pm

Several years ago I played in a guitar orchestra and without counting I was lost. I was so tempted to try to play by feel but the pieces were complicated and when I lost count during the performance I sat pretending to play until I managed to get back on count. It was a good lesson for me and every time I have trouble with a piece I get a guitar friend to count very slowly the rhythm with me to sort out the issue. Always works.
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by celestemcc » Tue Dec 11, 2018 4:02 pm

I really can't imagine counting while playing, let alone asking this level of multi tasking of a beginner, it's hard enough.
Christopher: don't stop participating. But the thing is, the advice everyone's giving is correct: counting is necessary. The people who's rhythm is so innate they don't have to count are rare; and then they grow up in cultures where the music has extremely complex rhythms to begin with. Look at how many people might go to a jazz or blues concert, and always clap or tap on the downbeats, instead of 2 and 4. They haven't got the "feel" yet.

It's important to feel the beat, but counting gets you there.

And yes: it IS like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time, for lots of people! But that's what practice is for. We're trying to coordinate a lot of very complex actions, and what can be most frustrating is that (for example) you can play the rhythm with chords to a song you like, but find it hard to count written notation. Yep, that's part of it too. In fact, if you do strum rhythms to songs you like, try counting a beat to that, I bet it will come quickly! Toe tapping is, by the way, counting, and sometimes you still have to count.

Point is, for the OP: all the advice given, plus Practice, Practice, Practice. Like anything, it comes in time. You too.
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Christopher Langley
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Re: How to count and play notes at the same time?

Post by Christopher Langley » Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:51 pm

Really interesting thread to me. I apologize in advance for the long and rambling reply.. It's just the way I think, so.. skip it if you don't like it. 8)

The more I think about it, I think I do count. I just don't use numbers..

I keep a "beat" going in my head.. or actually it feels like the beat is taking place in my right hand lately, especially during rests.. I keep the beat going with my fingers, but don't play the strings. Kind of how you keep strumming even when not playing to keep time when playing rhythm guitar.

I don't full on move the fingers, just very very small like micro movements keeping time when I'm not playing, if that makes sense at all.

I've always kept time while listening to music.. so I do think I've had a lot of practice feeling the beat and that's probably why my methods are working for me.

To me rhythms go like Da de de de, Da de de de or Da de de, Da de de. For 1234 or 123. I always keep this beat going, and always track the emphasized first beat through rests and everything.. I do think my timing is pretty good using this method.. whether or not it would stand up in an orchestra or ensemble is obviously in question. I have no idea! But, it works for me right now and allows me to play!

I might try this counting stuff since people seem to really seriously advise it.. I just figured most people could feel the beat.. but, the more I think about it.. I do see people struggling to keep time, so I guess it's not a natural thing! My dad actually struggles with this.. Too bad he's too stubborn to teach anything to most of the time, because he would probably benefit from this counting.

Haha. I don't know anything, I'm a beginner! Just trying to help! To those who need to count, don't be discouraged and listen to those who know what they are talking about, I'm not one of them. You will get it with time!

I definitely can and do keep time, without counting though.. and that's all I was trying to let the OP know. It is quite possible to feel a beat internally instead of counting while playing.. Whether or not it's proper.. Well, apparently not.. but, it works for me for now.

Once again, I am left feeling like I might be walking completely down the wrong path with CG. Oh well, so it goes for the self-taught.. I probably wouldn't get on with a teacher, anyways. :lol:

:merci: :desole: :twisted: 8) :lol:
Studying Jazz and Blues now.. So it goes friends. I might make a return to Classical at some point.

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