Possibly one the most important things in drumming is developing the ability to count properly. Counting is an integral part of chart reading. We’ve all been lost in a song at one point or another. Not quite sure where the next fill may fall, or the next break. By counting, one is able to better keep their place in the song. This is especially important during sight-reading. Once lost in a song, it is often difficult to get back to the right place. Counting while playing will also develop a kind of ‘inner clock’ in which your mind will be able to subdivide more accurately. Learning to count well can also help your ability to transcribe music. If you have to learn a large amount of music in a short amount of time, the best thing to do may be to create charts to follow on the gig. This may include macro form, intros and outros, beginnings and endings, as well as kicks, fills, odd phrases and other considerations. By listening to the songs and counting phrase lengths of verses, choruses and bridges, you will be more prepared for cadences.
Practicing counting is easy to do. It can be done in many ways. Count along with songs in your car or videos on TV.
In most popular styles, the down beat, beat 1, is accented. Counted: 1 2 3 4. Listen for the beat that is emphasized. Other styles quite often accent other beats consistently. This is a simplification of accents for the purpose of example. For instance, Mambo or Salsa, usually emphasizes beat 4. Counted: 1 2 3 4. In Jazz the upbeats often are emphasized or down beats are anticipated and beats are often subdivided by 3. Counted: 1 ti ta 2 ti ta 3 ti ta 4 ti TA. Blues Shuffles are also subdivided by three, but the down beats are more heavily accented. Counted: 1 ti ta 2 ti ta 3 ti ta 4 ti ta. In Reggae, the upbeats are also accented. Counted: 1 AND 2 AND 3 AND 4 AND.