School of Drums
Back to the Tempo Dispatch Archives
ISSUE #18___\__\__\__\__\__________/__/__/__/__/ JUNE 5, 1998
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is in this issue?
1. Feature Article:
THE 'UNIVERSAL' SONG COUNT
2. JOKE OF THE MONTH: 'Dangerous Dog'
SPECIAL NOTE TO BEGINNING STUDENTS:
This months feature is for the more advanced students.
It won't hurt you to study it though you may not be ready to use
this material for awhile. (It is a little bit confusing.)
SO FIRST, HERE IS SOMETHING SPECIAL
FOR BEGINNERS THIS MONTH
So that you beginners won't feel neglected, please
visit the following special URL. It is loaded with articles that
are written with ALL students in mind. Just
read and study the feature articles.
Back to the Tempo Dispatch Archives
Hang in there! I promise that next months lesson will get
back to basics.
NOW . . . on with this months feature article.
THE 'UNIVERSAL' SONG COUNT
For you to fully appreciate this lesson I need
to make you understand the importance of using the
UNIVERSAL SONG COUNT system before I explain how it works.
It isn't JUST a song counting system . . . it can be a lifesaver
in an otherwise terror stricken moment.
When we play professionally, it often occurs that
many times we may snag a gig with a top flight band on
the fly. They need a drummer NOW and we just happen to
be standing there, broke and hungry. Maybe we are getting
to try out for the job based on reputation, the recommendation
of a friend or we just happened to be standing in the right
place at the right time. The point is, it happens this way
all the time in the music business.
All of a sudden, there we are on stage with a
bunch of total strangers we just met backstage. There
was no time to rehearse and not even a chance to scan
a song list! We have no idea what songs they may play
or how ANY of their arrangements may be structured.
Really! This is a nightmare that occurs all
the time. It's a true taste of 'winging it' carried to
the most horrific extreme.
IMAGINE THE FOLLOWING SCENARIO . . .
The lights dim, (drum roll please) and from the far
corner of the stage we hear the bass player screaming at the
top of his lungs, "8th 4/4 . . . (He takes a short breath,
then screams in-tempo) 2, 3, 4, 1". Then, on
the second occurrence of '2' the music comes on like gang
This is a good band and these guys are accustomed to
working with a drummer who knows his stuff! They were quietly
praying that you would have knowledge of this UNIVERSAL SONG
COUNT method that was just tossed at you without warning. If
you caught it, the job may be yours for keeps.
Thank God for that extra little bit of help from
the Bass player! He is a God-send and he has just come
through like a true friend indeed. That is, if you were
aware of the importance of that 'Universal Song Count'.
His, "8th 4/4" told you what beat to play and that first '2'
in the count told you the intro type and WHEN to come in
This method of 'counting-off' songs contains the most
information in the fewest amount of words. No rehearsal
necessary! We know from the 'odd sounding' count, just exactly
what kind of intro to expect and we are able to come in playing
with the rest of the band at the end of that count though we may
have no idea what song we are actually playing.
The count began on '2'. This tells us wordlessly that
we will begin playing on the next '2' and the song intro will
contain a '3' count lead in. That is precisely the info needed
to have the entire band come in on-time playing together, even if
they have never heard the song in their life!
This is the absolute BEST counting method I have ever
encountered. I didn't invent it. I don't know who did, but I
would like to thank a guitar player by the name of Neil Flange
for showing it to me. It is unquestionably the BEST way to get
a band playing 'tight' immediately, without rehearsals. If you
and your band know the counting system, you know the most
important part of most songs without rehearsing, the 'intro'.
Everyone has heard the old saying . . .
"Get the intros and endings correct and most people
will never notice all the screw-ups in the middle".
It is true! And the UNIVERSAL SONG COUNT is the
surest way to get all those intros correct with the least
amount of words and effort.
Everyone in the band must understand it though.
That's the hard part!
HERE IS HOW THE UNIVERSAL SONG COUNT WORKS:
Almost all songs can be deduced to a 4 count,
(everything but Waltzes, in 3/4 time.)
Remember 12/8 can be thought of as triplet
4/4 and Cut-Time 2/4 may be 'counted' in fours too.
Only a few of those 4 count songs will begin
on 'ONE' of the first measure. Those are the only songs
that will be counted with a simple 1,2,3,4 count. They
are the easy songs. You hear 'ONE' as the first number
in the count and come in playing on the next occurrence
NOTE: The second occurrence isn't spoken, it is the
first note of the song.
If the song can be deduced to being a 4 count
song then there are only three other possible counting
procedures besides 1,2,3,4.
Those three remaining possible counts are:
The thing to remember is that you will come in
playing on the second occurrence of the first number in the
count. THINK ABOUT THAT! If you hear '3' as the first number,
you know to begin playing at the instant you would say '3'
again. Immediately, you will realize that this particular
song will have a two count 'lead in' (on the second occurrences
of 3 and 4.) This brings you to the beginning of the first
actual measure and the count of 1.
Still, other songs requiring a count of 4,1,2,3 will
indicate that we hit ONE 'lead in' note as we say 4 the
second time. This gets us to the beginning of the first
Of course the example I used in my little story
above began on the count of 2. We say 2,3,4,1 . . . then
play three lead in counts on the unspoken numbers of
2,3,4 . . . bringing us into count 1 of the first full
measure of the song.
This sounds more confusing than it is! It is
really easy once you use it a few times. Like I said
earlier . . . it can save a mouth-full of words at times
when the pressures of the business will not allow ANY time
for discussion. That is the VALUE of this method over all
Take it for what it is worth . . . It may come in
real handy someday when you least expect it.
As a final note I should mention that a 'count'
might consist of one 4th note, two 8th notes, four 16ths
or whatever. But you knew that already, didn't you.
KEEP THINKING! IT WILL BE WORTH IT!
*** JOKE: DANGEROUS DOG ***
Upon entering the little country store, the stranger
noticed a sign saying DANGER! BEWARE OF DOG! posted on
the glass door. Inside he noticed a harmless old hound
dog asleep on the floor beside the cash register.
He asked the store manager, "Is THAT the dog folks
are supposed to beware of?"
"Yep, that's him," he replied.
The stranger couldn't help but be amused. "That
certainly doesn't look like a dangerous dog to me. Why in
the world would you post that sign?"
"Because", the owner replied, "before I posted that
sign, people kept tripping over him."
This joke was lifted from:
'The Family Humor Archive'
It was accompanied by the following note . . .
Emailed from another humor list (The Funny-Bone)
To SUBSCRIBE send a message to email@example.com
with the following in the *body*
Your drumming questions are always welcome at