It can be very important to count out loud when practicing, especially when you are just beginning to learn an instrument. This is easy to say for pianists, drummers, guitarists, cellists, harpists etc. of course, but not so easy, i.e. impossible, for those playing woodwind or brass instruments! It isn't even that easy for violin/viola players! A possible solution to this is to record yourself counting out loud and play this back while playing the section that is giving you trouble. There are also metronomes on the market that will count for you, which saves you recording yourself counting at different speeds, or using the same recording sped up or slowed down with you sounding like and extra in the Chipmunks, or Darth Vader!
Counting out loud is even useful for more advanced musicians. If there is a particular section with which you are having difficulty with the timing, counting out loud can help there as well. In fact, I have resorted to this many times, especially when accompanying instrumentalists playing complex 20th Century pieces such as the Lutoslawski Dance Preludes for Clarinet which are often listed by the ABRSM for Clarinet exams for Grade 5 and above. It wasn't until I actually started accompanying these myself that I realised the challenge my piano teacher had faced when accompanying me during my later Clarinet exams!
Counting out loud is also important, even when using a metronome. It helps establish the tempo in your own mind quickly and allows you to turn the metronome off sooner. Remember, a metronome is used for establishing and checking the tempo, not to keep the tempo for you. It is your responsibility to keep the tempo and counting out loud helps you do this.
Next time you have a problem with the timing of a section, try playing through slowly and counting out loud once you have established where the beats are in the bar and marked them on the music. You will be surprised at how much easier it is to establish the timing of the section when you count out loud!
If you are finding it difficult to count while practising, ask a parent or friend to help you by counting while you play. This allows your brain to focus on what you are playing, rather than counting. Once you are able to play the section in time with your practice partner try counting along with them while you play. Over time you will find it much easier to count out loud, even in pieces you are struggling with.
Frustrated with your practice? Read Practice Makes Perfect and hack the 10,000 hour rule. Cut your practice time by up to 25%! Make faster progress, learn pieces and scales faster, memorize more easily, and much more. "If you play an instrument you need this book!"
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