Have you ever felt that despite all your guitar practice there is still a little something missing?
As you may be aware Selina and I offer weekend guitar courses for those who wish to advance their enjoyment of the guitar and their appreciation of the music. In fact we have just returned from our April course at Wedgwood which is probably why this topic is fresh in my mind.
During a year we meet many guitarists of all standards and are quite often amazed at the high level of playing reached yet without a clear understanding of counting.
Yes I did mean to write counting as opposed to rhythm.
For me rhythm is something I feel and counting is the mathematical joining together of notes that enables me to do this.
Players generally fall into the following categories.
Ability to feel the rhythm yet cannot count.
Ability to count yet cannot feel the rhythm.
Ability to feel the rhythm and count.
Unable to count or feel the rhythm.
Now if we take the average student who starts from a position of, “unable to count or feel the rhythm” which path do you think they should take to further their abilities.
A) Learn to play and hope everything comes with time.
B) Learn to count as part of their daily practice.
If we take path ‘A’ one may progress quickly into playing a variety of pieces however at some point in the future problems WILL start to arise.
Path ‘B’ may be the slower path in the early days however once learnt future progression will push forward unhindered.
The question is, after having read the above do I have your full attention? or are you falling asleep with boredom?
And there lies the problem.
One either enjoys counting or cannot see why one should spend all that time not playing the guitar.
For those who are falling asleep with boredom what do I have to do to gain your interest?
I could tell you that learning to count properly only takes a few weeks.
I could tell you that learning to count helps you to hear the music.
I could tell you that learning to count helps you to physically play the music, even the technically difficult parts.
or I could tell you that I know many students who after 10, 15, 20 years of playing the guitar still struggle to make their playing musical and feel that the fault lies with mother nature who has decided that they as a person are not musical or that if they could just move their fingers as fast as that chap playing in the last concert them attended, everything would be fine.
I suppose the big problem is that counting is not Sexy.
“Hey guys I’ve just learnt to play Rodrigo’s guitar concerto!!!!!”
“Hey guys I’ve just learnt to count triplets!!!!!”
Which of the above statements would have your friends at the local guitar club salivating?
A Blog is not the place to teach you how to count, that may come later under the Help section of our web site, if enough people are interested?
However I will leave you with this little task, should you decide to accept the challenge.
1. Start tapping you foot at around the speed of a ticking clock, for those brought up in the digital age that’s 60 beats per minute.
2. Your hands are going to clap every time you call out a number.
3. Counting must be aloud, do not cheat and count inside your head.
Now do the following-
Every time your foot hits the floor you count one and clap once.
When comfortable doing this you then progress to —
Every time you foot hits the floor you count evenly ONE — TWO and you hands clap in time to the count.
Carry on with the above exercises until you can achieve 6 counts per beat.
Once you have achieved these dizzy heights try mixing up the exercises and ensure one flows seamlessly into another.
For example count 4 then 2 then 5 then 6 etc. Try varying the speed.
Most of all have fun and you will quickly develop the dexterity which will enable you to understand and then perform a variety of rhythms.