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Counting rests



 
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ayryq
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 5:16 am    Post subject: Counting rests Reply with quote

I was playing an orchestra gig last night—a series of string concerti—and my mind was wandering during one of those interminable series of multirests.

I always count rests on my fingers. If it's more than about 20, I use both hands: 10s on my left hand, 1s on my right (both using the American Sign Language method of thumb-touches-forefinger for six, etc.). I so far haven't needed to add a 100s place—I generally can remember if I've been counting for more than 100 bars, and I can't think of a time when I've exceeded 200.

Before I played much in orchestra, I used one hand, but I quickly learned that it's easy to forget if you were at "49" or "59" and then to be off by 10.

The nice thing about this method is that it is possible to let one's mind wander, just so the fingers keep doing their job. And so I was wondering, as my fingers kept count, "how do pros do this? Do great players in major symphonies count on their fingers? Or do they just know every piece they play so well that counting is unnecessary? Surely not, the repertoire is too varied and comes too quickly. "

I suspect this is mainly a brass problem (and perhaps not so much for French Horns, who seem to play more often), and maybe I had best watch tubists in symphonies to see what they do. Obviously notating cues as much as possible is helpful, but I still like to confirm with my own count.

So what do you do? Are there people whose mental engine is up for the subroutine of counting rests, without external tracking? Do you sit next to the french horns and just follow along in their music? Wait for the player next to you to raise his horn and breathe, only to be faked out when he was just emptying his spit?

Tonight is a brass band concert, so I won't have time to think about any replies, but I promise I'll ponder them during tomorrow morning's in-church performance of Saint-Saëns Symphony no. 3.

Eric
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Brad361
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don’t play much legit (orchestral) these days, but when I did I just counted the rests, nothing external, no real methods other than 1 2 3 4, 2 2 3 4, etc.

Brad
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Richard III
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Count the first time then look for a cue from other instruments close to your entrance. Mark that in the music and enjoy the rest period.

That being said, doing it by the fingers can help others. I frequently use the fingers and display them so that others can refer. Heck, I even do that as well as conduct as the conductor is doing to reinforce the beats. I've had players in adjacent sections say that really helps them. Anything to keep the old mind focused on what's going on.
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jscahoy
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm no pro, but I sometimes sub in a community orchestra, and my first rule is "don't assume the regulars are counting."
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ayryq
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard III wrote:

That being said, doing it by the fingers can help others. I frequently use the fingers and display them so that others can refer.


I'm not sure my neighbors can decipher my counting, plus I try to keep it subtle as often the brass are on risers. Often my neighbors will have rests starting at different times anyway, especially in orchestra. However, the small gesture at rehearsal markings, done simultaneously as the person next to you, I find enormously comforting. "Yes, we're together, everything's OK."

Richard III wrote:

Heck, I even do that as well as conduct as the conductor is doing to reinforce the beats. I've had players in adjacent sections say that really helps them.


I find this habit a little irritating; not so much as audible cues such as foot-tapping though. Surely one conductor is enough! Although I may do it subtly (for my own benefit) in a particularly perplexing complex meter.
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ayryq
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jscahoy wrote:
I'm no pro, but I sometimes sub in a community orchestra, and my first rule is "don't assume the regulars are counting."


I play often with college kids, and the rule is "don't assume anyone is counting." Borne out by the number of wind players checking their phones during rests.
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Seymor B Fudd
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard III wrote:
Count the first time then look for a cue from other instruments close to your entrance. Mark that in the music and enjoy the rest period.

That being said, doing it by the fingers can help others. I frequently use the fingers and display them so that others can refer. Heck, I even do that as well as conduct as the conductor is doing to reinforce the beats. I've had players in adjacent sections say that really helps them. Anything to keep the old mind focused on what's going on.


Whatever helps one keeping up. I sometimes find it difficult to count say if the section next to you (in the brassband the sax horn section) plays something that is heavily syncopated and I am about to "come in" on a beat - or there is a pronounced succession of triplets in the band. In the big bands it´s often much easier, you can hear the "periods", like 16 bars. Often we help each other by pointing out this - has heightened the awareness of periods.
Anyhow I count, in my head, 1 234 2234 3234. But sometimes you suddenly encounter a 3/8! A pro taught me the trick to count 1 2 3 4 - oh what an X - 2 2 3 4 - inventing a sentence/phrase that reproduces the rhythm (not seldom quite risqué..absolutely not be said out loud).
Most of the time I try to (in the brassband) to watch and internalize the body language of the conductor. Funny that is by the way - our old conductor displayed such a vivid body language that we somehow learned, over the years, to syncronize us, not really by looking at him , but by sort of feeling him!
Thinking of this my experience is that conductors do differ in their "radiation" - the art of tranferring their perception of the music to the band. Some seem to have a built in charisma! Helps a lot if such a guy is setting the pace - the way of producing the music, in a musical way.
And thinking of that - what definitely helps me count is when I´ve learned the music more or less by heart, the fingering goes by itself, I can recognize when the others sections step in etc. Learning/focussing on the conductor´s body language is extremely important. Often overlooked.
But again, counting 100 bars before hitting that high C - terrible! I´ve been dreaming of an app that would make it possible to follow the score by some arrow moving bar after bar....
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Last edited by Seymor B Fudd on Sun Nov 10, 2019 6:47 am; edited 1 time in total
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Richard III
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have one conductor who's hands drop behind his stand and no one can see them. So acting as a second conductor is handy for the folks in the back row.
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kehaulani
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tell the guy sitting next to you to kick you when it's time . . . and sit back and have a Courvoisier.

Seriously though, the above answer the question.

Regarding cell phone use, that's the conductor's job. He shouldn't tolerate it.
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cheiden
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm pretty fastidious about counting and do use both hands to try and not get lost. Additionally, I'm a big fan of noting in the music any easily detectable entrances by other players. If the music is written so that the multi-measure rests don't align with the easily heard musical divisions I try to make marks to clarify.

If I have a mission-critical entrance and I can't reliably decode the rests, and I can't rely on the conductor for the cue, I'll get the score and enter my part in Finale and add one or more staves for the most detectable melody or theme.
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Brad361
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kehaulani wrote:
Tell the guy sitting next to you to kick you when it's time . . . and sit back and have a Courvoisier.

Seriously though, the above answer the question.

Regarding cell phone use, that's the conductor's job. He shouldn't tolerate it.


Or do this:

https://s.mltshp.com/r/IHWN

Supposedly this was how guys in the band would wake up Bix Biederbecke for his solos.

Brad
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oxleyk
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always count by touching my thumb to my finger tips and joints. I can count up to 16 on one hand this way.
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kehaulani
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brad361 wrote:
Or do this:https://s.mltshp.com/r/IHWN



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Andy Del
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It’s rather easy to cope with rests, as there are only a few fundamental things to keep in mind.

1. Count. Every beat, of every bar. If you are performing (or practising to perform) then you must do this.
2. Know your music. As in KNOW the piece, know what goes on, who is playing as you come in, what is going on as you play and what is happening when you stop.
3. Mark up your part. A simple division of a long rest so you know a particular instrument comes on at point X in the rest is rather helpfu as it can reassure you and assists in knowing you are in the work.
4. Communication. Look at the player next to you. A trumpet section can make eye contact and just mouth the number so we all know where we are.

And you never need to get lost. I hear works I know very very well, I appear to be asleep and then just pick up the horn one my eyes, play, and go back to sleep... (actually, I maintain I am concentrating, but then again...)

Bottom line, if one is too uppity Orr bored to count, then they should try something else, like walking the dog, or howling at the moon...

Cheers

Andy
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cgaiii
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2019 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brad361 wrote:


Or do this:

https://s.mltshp.com/r/IHWN

Supposedly this was how guys in the band would wake up Bix Biederbecke for his solos.

Brad

We are all not so lucky as to have others looking out for us that well! LOL
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Irving
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Counting is useful, but it is easy to get lost. Also, when concentrating on counting, you tend to stop listening to the music. I try and think of the music as being a road map. I try to post the landmarks in the part. At letter A, the clarinets come in. I also will note what notes they come in on, and maybe the rhythm. At letter B, the trombones enter. Or at least they are supposed to. This method gives me better results than just counting bars, since I end up learning how the music goes, which is a sure bet, while counting is hit or miss.

You can always hope for a cue from the conductor, but good luck .
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ayryq
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I definitely do most of the things listed above:

marking cues: Great when it works, problematic if there isn't a convenient spot (previous passage is a fugue in the strings), or if the bassoons miss the entrance I was depending on. I love/hate it when music has written cues prior to my entrance, because if they're too long I can't look ahead to my part but have to (especially on first reading) follow the cue part intently, sometimes even with my finger.

(aside: I played the Bach-Stokowski Toccata and Fugue last week and there are literally two full pages of just cues. My actual notes could have been printed on a notecard! Of course, the meter changed so often that multirests were not possible.)


watching the conductor: My current conductor is very reliable but I've had conductors where every beat looks like a downbeat, where creative expression overrides clear patterns, or where a missed bassoon entrance will distract from the intended trumpet cue.

trying to know the music: Great if there's time. This one is on me; everything an orchestra plays is likely on YouTube. Rehearsal time alone is not enough generally.

I'm sure I will always count rests, if only as a backup if all else fails.

...but back to my original question:
Has anyone ever observed Phil Smith or Bud Herseth counting on his fingers like my 5-year-old doing math homework? (Like I do ) Or do high-level performers (a) know everything so well that counting is superfluous, or (b) count internally?
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Andy Del
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ayryq wrote:

trying to know the music: Great if there's time. This one is on me; everything an orchestra plays is likely on YouTube. Rehearsal time alone is not enough generally.

I'm sure I will always count rests, if only as a backup if all else fails.

...but back to my original question:
Has anyone ever observed Phil Smith or Bud Herseth counting on his fingers like my 5-year-old doing math homework? (Like I do ) Or do high-level performers (a) know everything so well that counting is superfluous, or (b) count internally?


Apart from your original question not being actually asked, if players feel there isn’t time to learn their music, then they have a problem much bigger than counting! I see it all the time and find it a little hard to fathom. How can you NOT learn your music? Do it on your daily commute, at home while cooking, etc. and it does get easier.

When I see players who have not learnt their parts after, say, 7 weeks of rehearsals, I start to wonder at their understanding of commitment. It just leads to panic in performance, which in turn leads to errors and generally stuffing the ensemble up. This too I see all often in community, school and amateur circles.

This is why we don’t see professionals counting on their fingers too often. They KNOW their music. They also don’t just count bars, but phrases, know entries of other instruments, where modulations and other musical features create a sign post to follow, and so on.

For example... Trumpet players get lost all the time in the final chorus of the messiah. But do they actually KNOW the piece? Do They know that there are 5 bar phrases at the start, and they 6 of these phrases to count? (I tinnier, from memory, but my part is marked up) Can we not all count to 6? Do they know know the altos start a very clear phrase which is the rehearsal mark before they start to play near the end? Etc.

There is more to counting rests than counting...

Cheers

Andy
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