Should you be counting while playing a song?

Do you try to count while playing a song, whether you’re playing along to a record or playing with your band? Then do you get panicked and frustrated when you realize you’ve miscounted and you don’t remember how much longer to play a particular pattern or when that fill coming up starts?

Then everything just becomes chaos and anxiety because you realized you’ve failed at counting yet again. How will you ever REALLY learn the song where you know when everything is coming?

I’VE BEEN THERE. Time and time again. I’ve also spent time in the classical percussion world where you have to count every bar because you’re reading sheet music, and that's scary sometimes.

But do we really need to be counting bars while playing music on the drums? Here’s my short answer:


Let’s unpack this a little, because I really want to help you learn songs well and play them the right way - yet not have to freak out about counting. YOU CAN DO THIS....

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The Very Avoidable Mistake I Made at a Recent Rehearsal

Time to get real with you guys. The last several emails I’ve sent out have been about dealing with failure - overcoming it and using it to learn. The truth that I’ve tried to reiterate is that you’re never going to avoid failure, no matter how good you are at something. However, you can use the failure to learn and to overcome.

I failed at being a good drummer the other day at a rehearsal, and I’d like to share this story with you since I think it might help you out.

Speaking of avoiding mistakes, check out this video while you're here about the "5 toxic drummer habits you MUST avoid at all cost."

Ok on with today's story!

We were rehearsing this moderate-tempo, four-on-the-floor song that was very long and repetitive. The tune also didn’t have a lot of dynamic contrast throughout…It built up after a minute or so then stayed up the rest of the song. I launched into the first chorus, enjoying the rock ’n roll, driving feel. When the second...

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That Time I Played a Gig But Didn’t Know ANY of the Songs

A few years ago I played a gig that reminded me of the importance of listening.

This scenario really solidified for me the fact that you CAN survive a night of songs you’ve never heard…as long as you use your ears. Even if you haven’t had the chance to practice, rehearse, or even meet the guys you’re playing with, you CAN hang in there and nail the songs when you focus all your attention on listening.

I’d had this gig on my calendar for a month or so, and I knew ahead of time I was subbing for a drummer in a local blues band. The band leader attempted to schedule several rehearsals leading up to the gig, but nothing ever worked out with everyone’s schedule. I knew we’d be playing for 4 hours late Friday night, so there’d have to be at least 50 songs on the setlist. Most of them would probably be pretty typical 12-bar blues, but who knew if there might be breaks or key spots in the songs I’d have no idea...

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