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#2073032 - 04/28/13 06:54 PM Sometimes I find it easier not to count
Ojustaboo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 155
Loc: Deleted
I'm probably doing something hugely wrong (for a change) but sometimes I find that simply knowing how a piece should sound, playing it is far easier without counting.

Take the following, Joy to the World from Alfreds Level 1 book (I'm further ahead than this with Alfreds course, but it shows my point well)

When I started playing it, I initially started counting

So that we have

C (1 and 2 and)
B (3 and 4)
A (and)
G (1 and 2 and 3 and)
F (4 and)
E (1 and 2 and)
D (3 and 4 and)
C (1 and 2 and 3 and)

When I first played it, I had a metronome on, played fairly slow and was hitting the notes in the right places but knowing how the tune should sound, it simply didn't sound anything like it, there was no feel at all to the rhythm of it.

But knowing how it should sound, I can play the tune and automatically do the counting (in other words, I'm subconsciously counting without actually doing any real time counting) and it sounds great (to me).

I've noticed on a few other scores a similar thing, it's fine when I'm learning the basics of the notes at 1/2 mph and trying to work out how complicated bits are played, but I don't get to hear how the tune really should sound while doing so, I'm not really getting the feel/rhythm until I play it faster and all of a sudden it clicks as to how the piece should sound and then I find myself not counting any more.

Just like if someone sings out loud "Joy to the world" they will sing "Joy" longer than "to", and sing "the" much shorter" etc, they sing it using the correct counting but they aren't counting "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and" in their heads as they do so.

I also often cant play it at around the normal singing speed and possibly count fast enough, if I do, I am counting "1 and 2 and 3 and 4" so fast that it ends up more confusing than simply just playing it.

I'm sort of reaching a point where I automatically know how long a particular note should be played for when following the score without actually doing counting (either out loud or in my head)

Obviously counting helps with the initial learning but I wondered if this is a bad habit I'm getting into or quite normal?

Many thanks


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#2073073 - 04/28/13 08:00 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
Whizbang Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 1158
I only tend to count in confusing sections, but note that ragtime rhythms are generally quite regular.
amateur ragtime pianist

#2073086 - 04/28/13 08:17 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
Mark... Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4430
Loc: Jersey Shore
When you are not counting, you are internalizing the rhythm. I do it all the time, but it does lead to timing errors as the pieces get more difficult. It is my main problem. I constantly have to fight the urge not to count. Do yourself a big favor, count everything till you have it down 100%...it will save you lots of pain later on...

#2073132 - 04/28/13 09:06 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1460
Loc: Australia
It would be much easier to count it as :

1-2 3-4 and | 1-2-3 4 | 1-2 3-4 | 1-2-3

#2073134 - 04/28/13 09:10 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
Andy Platt Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2485
Loc: Virginia, USA
One thing about this tune, is that it really is mis-written in 4/4 time. It should be in cut time. Then the rhythm becomes easier to naturally feel (and the way you'll play it will be more natural.) In other words, think of each measure/bar as having two beats, not four.

But yes, if you can feel the rhythm internally, it's much easier than counting!
  • Debussy - Le Petit Nègre, L. 114
  • Haydn - Sonata in Gm, Hob. XVI/44

Kawai K3

#2073255 - 04/29/13 03:04 AM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Andy Platt]
Charles Cohen Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 2247
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada

But knowing how it should sound, I can play the tune and automatically do the counting (in other words, I'm subconsciously counting without actually doing any real time counting) and it sounds great (to me).

This is common sense.

You "count" the sections that you _don't_ know how they should sound!

You also count the sections that you _think_ you know how they should sound, and your teacher says:

. . . "Your rhythm is off in bar 15."

. Charles
. Charles
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / ZXA1 speaker

#2073277 - 04/29/13 04:33 AM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
Mickb Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/01/13
Posts: 14

I'm not sure what level you are at but I posted a thread a couple of weeks back that sounds like it started where you are currently. i.e. you are playing pieces at a level where they are either really simple or a simple hearing of the melody will be enough to have you play it decently.

Through laziness if nothing else, I think I didn't bother with the counting, as hey!, I can make it sound perfect without counting so why bother?

I was like this, but then when I progressed on to pieces of greater difficulty that I had not heard before or was not familiar with, all of a sudden I was regretting not developing a skill for counting, as it is much harder to add it in later I think. Also, I found that everything (my timing, co-ordination etc) fell to pieces when I tried to add counting in, making stuff sound even worse than the notes I am cutting to early or prolonging too long.

Maybe this is just me, but I think counting is a skill that's worth developing and its easier to learn now before you progress to pieces of greater difficulty. I know I wish I had.


#2073306 - 04/29/13 06:28 AM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
raikkU Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/20/13
Posts: 73
What is the desired tempo for counting practice?

When learning a piece, should I just arbitrarily pick a slow pace and then proceed to count and play hands separated first? Right now for me things get complicated when I count while playing HT, no matter how slow. It just requires a crazy amount of coordination.

I assume the purpose of counting is to help me get a hang of the rhythm. Does counting at slow speed help me play faster in the proper rhythm without counting?

yamaha p-35. a piano neophyte since 04/13. my piano links

#2073503 - 04/29/13 02:16 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
Ojustaboo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 155
Loc: Deleted
Many thanks all. Seems I'm doing it right then (for a change)

But I am taking to heart the warning MickB gives and I will try to make sure I try to count as much as possible while learning a piece.

I am a bit more advanced than Alfreds book one in some aspects (can sight read most pieces fine if not first time, after 5 mins of trying from the point of view of reading the notes and hitting the right notes on the keyboard, rarely having to look at the keyboard while I do so) I am still working through it as I'm very rough in other areas (when to play quiet, loud, pedalling etc)

And I know that when I move onto more advanced stuff, I will suddenly find it not so easy after all, so I'm starting back at the beginning and taking it slowly.

#2073586 - 04/29/13 03:40 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
JohnSprung Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 2443
Loc: Reseda, California
I never count. I have a computer that can count, and it's much better at it than I'll ever be. So, I let it do the counting.

I use the free MuseScore notation program. It has a playback function that reproduces what's written with microsecond accuracy. And that reveals the fundamental flaw of counting: The notation system is really quite crude and approximate where timing is concerned. Playing exactly as written gets you in the ballpark, but it sounds kinda dead and mechanical. Because it is.
-- J.S.

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body.
Then I realized who was telling me this.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

#2073609 - 04/29/13 04:06 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: Ojustaboo]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012

Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1275
Loc: Portland, OR
Music played my computer-generated MIDI files or low-end music software sounds dead because it doesn't factor in the differing weights that each beat gets, depending on time signature (e,g, 4/4 vs cut time) and the shifts in rhythmic emphasis caused my syncopation. (Note that I'm not even beginning to address the expressive qualities of rubato...)

There can be a similar problem when one is first learning to count while playing (at least there was for me). It simply doesn't sound like music when you're counting a flat, dead-even

In the simplest case, to make it sound like music, the first beat gets more emphasis than any of the others, and the third more than 2 or 4. But then there's effects that one creates by playing with this, like emphasizing the backbeat (2 & 4) in rock & roll, or emphasizing off-beats in syncopation.

For those first starting out, this wikipedia article may help.

When you're counting and all is going well, you're generally grooving on the hills and valleys of musical pulse, and feeling how it supports the movement of the melody (& harmony too).

Edited by tangleweeds (04/29/13 04:07 PM)
Edit Reason: incoherence
Please step aside. You're standing in your own way.

intermittent piano blog

#2073741 - 04/29/13 07:29 PM Re: Sometimes I find it easier not to count [Re: tangleweeds]
Ojustaboo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 155
Loc: Deleted
Thanks for the wiki link.

Not looking forward to ever having to get my head around counting 24/16 as in the uplink example in that link smile


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