Testify!

I admit it… I love being right 😉

Back before Blues Guitar Unleashed was a thing, I taught private lessons exclusively – usually around 60 of them, sometimes as many as 70 or 75.

Every day, my student would come in to the shop that I used to teach at, and my room was the last one down the hall. So I’d come out to the waiting area, and tell them to go down to that room, take their guitar out and play whatever it was they were supposed to play for this lesson.

It was only 12 feet down the hall, and while they did that I’d make myself a cup of tea (I used to drink a lot of green tea) in the waiting room. It would usually take 3 minutes for the water to heat, so that was perfect.

Inevitably, I’d start to hear what I can only assume was supposed to be the song or lesson for this week… and 9 times out of 10 it would be a mess.

So I’d take my tea, go back to the room, sit down, and say, “OK, play that again, but count it out loud so I know where you think you are…”

And, what do you know, every time that happened, they all of a sudden would play it correctly?

Of course, that was no mystery to me, but it always shocked my students… and I have continued to preach my counting gospel to any and all who will hear it.

I preach it on the Blues Guitar Unleashed Forum, and I preach it in my courses, but still, there are those who don’t want to believe it.

But, they come around, and that’s really what I want to share with you today…

You see, there’s a great thread on the Forum where some folks have shared how counting has changed things for them, like Dr. Ron saying:

“Counting, Counting, Counting…No substitute. If I really want to know a song, counting is all that works, especially if I am planning on playing it in a group. Griff drilled “counting out loud” into my head years ago. Best musical advice I ever got.”

And MarkDyson said,

“It’s certainly a practice thing. I personally start by counting to something new, not even trying to play it; just going over it and bobbing my head or something while counting aloud until I’m comfortable I know what beats are hit by each of the notes in the section I’m studying (I tend to take it in small chunks). Then I might tap my fingers while counting, on the beats I’d be hitting notes. And so on. It’s certainly an acquired taste and sometimes Griff gets pushback from students, but he asserts it’s time well spent and I’ve come to agree with him.”

Or you could learn the hard way like TerryH,

“I admit I’m the worst of students because initially it takes longer to learn the licks if I have to count them out and I’m impatient, so sometimes I don’t bother. But I always pay for it later and end up having to go back to counting to get the timing over the backing track right.”

FrankL minced no words at all about how it affected his playing:

“I resisted this advice for quite some time because it was really, REALLY slow. And too difficult from my initial perspective so I practiced avoidance behavior. Then along came Sunshine Of Your Love and I watched the solo video, over and over, where the solo was counted out loud for every beat and was played at the same time. So when I wanted to learn the solo I counted it out loud and I started painfully slow. BUT the “switch flipped” and now to learn anything new I count it out loud. “COUNTING FIXES EVERYTHING, every time.”
Since November because of counting, I’ve learned 5 new pieces. I’m a convert and advocate. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks.

THANK YOU, Griff!!!
Your insistence and persistence in counting and actually leading the horse to water, so to speak, worked miracles for me!”

So if you won’t listen to me tell you to count… listen to them!

16 Comments

  • Michael Chappell

    Reply Reply December 31, 2018

    Hey Griff & All BGUers: Happy New Year 2019.

    I simply love this Topic over and over..Counting..every time I do a BGU course or an email lesson from Griff I count in most cases Griff counts and then it is simply a Pass On addiction.

    During the 60’s I was a semi-pro Drummer in 3 bands playing 7 nights per week so I know about Rhythm..and having to learn all the songs each band played or was learning. Even as a drummer, I had to count and check the timing with a Metronome to make sure that the Middle 16 bars of the Guitar solo did not require a Tempo change.

    Here is something to watch out for: Guitarists always seem to tap their Left Foot when they are playing but Drummers always Tap their Right Foot when they are playing Guitar. If you are Right Handed the Right foot is the Bass Drum..
    Every time I now watch Bands play I see the guitarists always Tapping their Left Foot…So my next question would be How Many Drummers out there are now learning Guitar like me and especially Blues Guitar..

    Always a great refresher

    Michael – Sydney-Australia – New Years day 1st Jan 2019

  • Jeff

    Reply Reply December 29, 2018

    When I was in public school back in the 60’s and early 70’s we had music as part of the curriculum. And as early as 4th grade they taught us how to count. Not so much as to break down 16th notes, but certainly how to count 4/4 and 3/4 time and triplets and the basics.

    Ever since then it is hard for me NOT to count when I listen to music. I don’t count through the whole song, but at seemingly random times throughout a song I’ll start to count spontaneously.

    And when I’m learning a new solo from Griff’s material, especially, I need to count to learn it. Once I learn it then I can play by “feel” e.g., tapping a foot, bobbing the head, whatever. But when I first sit down to learn something new and more than just quarter notes or eight notes in a strait 4/4 feel, I count.

    NOT counting (when learning something new) is a WASTE of time.

  • Mike

    Reply Reply December 29, 2018

    Hi, I’ve bought the Blues Guitar courses from Griff and watch his friendly BLOG videos every time but I’ve never got past the first lessons because I have absolutely no sense of rhythm or timing. I can’t even tap my foot in time at a concert, though I enjoy them thoroughly, with everyone around me clapping and tapping and me just enjoying the music. After 50 years of trying I can barely play a single piece all the way through, though I can play certain sections perfectly. Nevertheless I still pick up my ancient J45 every day hoping that eventually something will click! I have huge admiration for all you thousands who can count or even tap your feet at the same time as playing. Happy New Year, Mike

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply December 29, 2018

      If you can say, “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4” you can count. And if you want to get more advanced all you have to do is say, “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.” And a little more advanced (but not much) if you want to swing all you have to say is “1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a.”

      Just practice counting like that as you LISTEN to music. And if you want to try it while your are playing guitar just count “1, 2, 3, 4” and strum DOWN on each count. You are now counting while you play. That’s where you start.

  • Alexander

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    Great advice Griff, I always count out loud when studying your courses and I even go as far as writing the count above the notes. It takes me a little bit of time but when I start counting out loud and playing it, its a lot easier to do.
    Thanks again Griff!

  • Terry

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    There’s No doubt that it would help. I’ve try for the past 3 years with no inprovement with counting. Yet my teacher is not of the mind set that I have too. I’ve made great gains and improvement. So different strokes i guess.

  • jerry searcy

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    Amen to that Ron!!! In my case counting is like patting one’s head while rubbing the stomach…it’s either-or. I so wish Griff would provide a lesson or two on this subject and thanks for bringing it up.

  • Ron Pogatchnik

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    Which lesson or lessins give counting instructions?

  • Don Myers

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    Which video gives instruction on time counting applications.

    Don

  • Ron Underwood

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    My teacher here says the same thing over and over I am now learning still got the blues by Gary Moore and I am just been counting it over and over and over again 12345145 have to do that in order to get the timing right this song is a little advanced for me I am a 77-year-old Player of the last seven or eight years I waited till I got mature to start but I have a Advaced So much mostly because of being able to count out loud

  • Philip

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    I am a drummer, but I still have to count for my guitar practice!

  • pete

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    I often sing and play a the same time, not just strumming but using fills and responses which makes counting impossible. You can’t count out loud and sing at the same time, any more than you can play a sax and count out loud. So what I do if I am sitting down is tap my left foot on beats one and three and my right foot on beats two and four. This helps me to know exactly where I am in the bar when I am singing as well. It even helps if I can see my left foot. It can only be on 1 or 3 and it’s always obvious which one. Counting out loud will also detract from your improvisational creativity because the same part of the brain is being used for the two roles. Counting in your head does not have such a detrimental effect. The one thing I have to agree on is the absolute importance of some sort of counting and the need to know where you are in the bar at all times, but the insistence on ONE method is counter productive for some students.

    • Bill Thomas

      Reply Reply December 28, 2018

      Hey, Pete. He’s talking about PRACTICE while LEARNING, not performing. Of course you can’t count out loud on stage.

      • pete

        Reply Reply December 28, 2018

        I’ve been playing for many decades, including on stage professionally at one point, although I’m certainly not qualified to teach as Griff is, and he is a fantastic teacher. Actually if counting out loud is your thing you can indeed count out loud on stage without moving your lips, like a ventriloquist. Nobody is going to hear you! You can’t do it while singing as well, wherever you are. What I’m saying is tapping your feet to alternate beats is a great way to keep time because it’s like walking steadily. You don’t speed up and slow down when you’re walking. And if you designate one of your feet to beats one and three it makes it easier to learn a song and know which beat you’re on, especially if having to sing as well. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

  • Moke

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    Griff,
    I bought a couple of your courses and I’m up to minor blues on unleashed. One of the main reasons I purchased them from you is your emphasis on time.
    My guitar teacher was a “metronome nazi” I jokingly called him. It was and still is tough sometimes but time is everything.

    I look forward to delving into more of the course. Keep up the good work.

    Moke

  • Bob

    Reply Reply December 28, 2018

    Not having had a lot of formal musical training I was having trouble because I didn’t understand time signatures. I did as little research on my own and things are coming along better now.

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