Essential Secrets 83: Keep the Count
Keep the Count
Creating a New Type of Success
One of the best pieces of advice for musicians is to count all the time while playing. Keeping the count allows you to improve your sightreading, be a better ensemble player, and know where you are in the music at all times.
When you sightread, you must count as if your life depends on it. You can never stop the count while reading unfamiliar music. If you get tired of counting, you should just count with even more concentration. Subdivide your count to match the fastest notes on the page. If there are eighth notes in your music, then count eighth notes—including in the bars that have only larger note values. If you see sixteenth notes, then subdivide your count into sixteenths.
The counting process needs to be worked on at every practice session and can actually redefine what it means to practice a sequence successfully. For instance, most bassists feel they are successful when they play all of the correct pitches even if they accidentally stretched time a bit to get to those pitches.
However, you will view success differently if your focus is rhythm and time. Keeping all the rhythms intact—even at the expense of missing a couple of notes—will be seen as more successful than getting pitches while missing rhythms.
After all, this is what absolutely must occur during a performance. If you miss a specific note during a concert, the rest of the musicians don’t slow down so you can go back and correct that pitch. The music moves forward—with or without you. So, it’s important to make accurate rhythms your measure of success.
Counting is a survival skill for performing. It assures you that you’ll never get lost and helps you execute your bass parts accurately. Make a concentrated effort today to keep the count for just a few bars. Tomorrow, do a little more. As you get used to keeping track of the count, you’ll eventually do it automatically.
Books by David Motto:
THE TEN MINUTE
FOR ELECTRIC BASS
COMPLETE 3-VOL. SET