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viainfested's avatar

Is there an easy way to keep track of how many measures you're playing in music?

Asked by viainfested (435points) August 30th, 2010

I’m in this band right now with a few friends, and I haven’t really experimented with time signatures until this point in time.

So for me it’s pretty difficult to play something in 5/8 for about 12 measures. So on top of counting out the time signature, I’m trying to count out in my head how many times I’m playing, but I always manage to get lost.

Is there an easier way of doing this?
Or perhaps the more I play it, the more comfortable I’ll get?
I just don’t want to continue to keep winging what I play. ha
Just looking to see if anyone has any different method of doing this.

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14 Answers

mandybookworm's avatar

Just repeat the number over and over again in your head as your playing. Also, listen to what everyone else is doing. They can tell you when to stop playing the twelve measures. Does the sound change at all when you stop playing? does another instrument come in?

gasman's avatar

Most music is organized into phrases of 8 or 12 bars, which experienced musicians can “feel” as they transition to the next grouping. If the time signature is weird (like 5/8) or the music itself is non-traditional, then all bets are off & you might have to count (silently in your head) explicitly. ONE-two-three-four-five, TWO-two-three-four-five, THREE-two-three… etc.

Normally you don’t have to count measures while you’re playing, unless it’s just a repeating measure. Play it one measure at a time. The hard part is usually counting during long rests so you know when to come in again.

Seaofclouds's avatar

You could listen to everyone else for those 12 measures to get a good idea of what everyone else is playing. Just sit and listen and count the 12 measures in your head. Then start to think about how your part fits in with their parts.

I always tapped my foot with the beat and that seemed to always help keep me where I needed to be. You can try tapping just for each measure and try to mentally keep track of your taps. The more you play it, the better you will get a feel of what you are playing.

mandybookworm's avatar

DONT TAP YOUR FOOT!!!!!!!!!!! it is a horrible habit to get into!

Seaofclouds's avatar

@mandybookworm What’s wrong with tapping your foot? There are ways to do it so that you aren’t actually tapping.

mandybookworm's avatar

if your in an orchestra it takes away from the performance. People see you tapping.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@mandybookworm There are ways to shift the pressure in your foot without actually moving it. You can also just tense the muscle which would serve the same purpose without actually moving and people wouldn’t see it under your clothing.

mandybookworm's avatar

that is a good idea. As long as your foot doesn’t actually move I would say that is okay.

RomanExpert's avatar

@gasman Right on! Music is feel. Don’t restrict yourself to a mechanical way of thinking, liking counting measures. Think phrasing!

Rarebear's avatar

Playing with people is all about timing and tuning. You can mess up the notes, but if you’re on time and in tune, that will make up for many mistakes.

Until you have memorized the music, you’re going to be stuck with counting.

jazmina88's avatar

@mandybookworm when i was a band director, we actually taught kids to tap to help teach rhythm. i dont think symphony orchestra players tap. you can tap your big toe.

You feel music with your body….i dont see ANYTHING wrong with tapping. close your eyes and get into it and quit looking at their feet. It kinda helps them get ready for marching band.

jazmina88's avatar

There is a difference between band and orchestra…......orchestra goes more on conducting and emotion than steady pulses. less tapping there.

viainfested's avatar

It’s just difficult because for the 12 measures it’s the same notes repeating over and over. half way through i along with the other guitarist stop for two measures, while drum and bass continue playing the same thing, then we come in because of the pattern it’s a massive headache. I guess i’ll just have to practice my butt off. lol

But overall I feel the music when I play, I don’t have a problem playing the time signature, I just always seem to lose track in my head when I’m counting.

gasman's avatar

Listen to what’s going on in the rest of the band. When you get to the place where you rest for 2 bars, try to sense what the music is doing. I assume there’s some kind of melody or at least typical chord progression. You don’t need in-depth knowledge of music theory to just “feel” that you’re at some particular point in the phrasing of the tune.

Of course to develop this sense, you might have to keep explicitly counting every measure for a while until you get a bigger picture musically. Look at the parts of the vocalist or soloist, or some section lead that’s carrying the melody (you didn’t say what kind of music)—or critically listen to the piece while not playing—for clues & cues!

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