Counting repeats…?

Counting repeats…?

So I have no trouble with musical counting or rhythm, but what I have trouble with is keeping track of how many times I’ve played things! When playing, I get in this kind of dreamy musical mental flow state and I lose track. For example…
I might skip to part B after playing part A once.
Or I might go back to part A after playing part B once.
Or I might play part B three times without noticing…
( Let’s not even get into the three-part tunes! 🙂

I struggle with this, and it’s one reason why I hesitate to lead. Is there a cure for this? 🙂

Re: Counting repeats…?

You already have the cure for it. You being conscious about this being a problem for you means that you just have to concentrate on fixing it.

Re: Counting repeats…?

If it’s any consolation, I think it’s an area where most of us slip up from time to time – and, on the positive side, it is an indication that you are fully absorbed in the music. Try to get it right, of course, but don’t worry about it to the point where you avoid starting tunes.

I’m not an expert on the workings of the mind (no more than any human being is) but I wonder whether it might help to try visualising a tally of how many times you have played each part (perhaps a hand with fingers held up) and keep an image of it as you play, remembering to update it each time you reach the end of a repeat. It might put you off your stride to start with but, like anything, with practice it becomes an unconscious process. I have not tried actual visualisation myself (perhaps I should…) but when I am playing for ceilidh dancing (where repeats really matter – sometimes, when the dancers fall out of step, the caller will request an extra A or B), I try to keep a conscious mental note of where I am in the tune.

I am familiar with the ‘dreamy mental flow state’ you mention – it is one of the reasons we play this music. When I am playing for a ceilidh, I have to resist surrendering fully to that state and stay more alert overall, which is, in a way, a compromise; but it also allows me to be part of something else, i.e. the interaction and feedback between musicians and dancers. When leading a set of tunes in a session, you might have to make a similar compromise, but the perk is, you are steering a whole sessionful of musicians and they are all giving back to you in the form of playing along to your choice of tunes.

Re: Counting repeats…?

This happens from time to time. It’s fairly common in a session for someone to jump the gun into the next part or play a part one time too many. But as Ketil mentions, being aware of your propensity to do that is the first step.

This happens to me most often when I’m playing fairly slowly, like when I’m slowly playing through a tune I just taught to someone so that they can practice. There are a couple of reasons for this. First is that when I’m playing slowly, there’s a lot of space for me to start thinking about other things, like all the things I want to go back and correct that the person is missing, or a story I want to tell them about the tune, or what I want to play this tune with at tonight’s session… And that distraction (or just about any distraction) can make me forget where I am if I’m not paying attention. The second reason is that we seem to have a little internal clock that tells us when it’s time to move to the next part, but if you’re playing slower than you normally play that tune, the clock often tells you it’s time to move on, because you’ve been playing that part of the tune long enough…

But the good news in that is that when you’re playing regularly in sessions in a range of faster tempos, that little internal clock really helps you out, so that you don’t have to do any conscious counting.

And after you gain a lot of experience playing this music, you can get to a point where your conscious brain can guide things on a much more direct level, while still allowing the creative part of your brain to get into that dreamy flow state.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Yes! It’s a problem.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Good insights from CMO and Reverend.

Early in our careers as session musicians, our brains are busy with other things—getting the notes “right,” getting the pulse right, staying in time with everyone else, recovering from mistakes, monitoring our intonation, etc. etc. As the years go by (assuming you’re woodshedding at home and making improvement), most of those things fade into the background, so it’s easier to just focus on the tune and to enjoy being in flow. In short, the more you play your tunes, the more you’ll just have a sense of when it’s time to move from one part to the next, or, in a set, from one tune to the next. It’s less about consciously tracking each lap; it just feels right. (Though it might help if sessions, like running the mile at a track meet, had someone ring a bell to mark the last lap. 😉 )

Ideally, we learn to play in a state of very relaxed concentration. A bit of a contradiction, yes, but achievable. It is possible—and enjoyable!—to be simultaneously relaxed and focused. That’s flow. A more “dreamy” state may feel good, but if it’s full of glitches, that’s not really flow. Because in flow, when you’re really in the zone, everything clicks, nothing goes wrong. Flow often feels dreamy, when it feels like you’re out-of-body, watching yourself play and it feels effortless. But flow happens *because* we’re so focused on the task at hand (the tune) that the logistics of how to play the tune go on autopilot.

Also, for me, it feels like being in flow isn’t just about me or the tune in the moment. It expands to include the other people I’m making music with. And as much as flow feels like being “in the moment,” it’s also very much about *momentum.* In other words, flow moves forward, to whatever comes next. (Otherwise, instead of “flow,” we’d call it “stuck.”) For tunes, this means that our utterly relaxed focus moves from one part to the next, and from one tune to the next. And we do that together, as a group.

The more years you play this music, the easier it is to let good music happen, instead of trying to *make* it happen. Yes, in the early years, a lot can go wrong (and usually does), including losing track of how many times you’ve played the B part or whether it’s time to segue to the next tune. Pay attention to those hiccups, but don’t beat yourself up over them. Just notice when they happen, think to yourself “I meant to play x,” and move on. Eventually, the hiccups will diminish and you’ll learn to trust that the music will flow if you let it.

Re: Counting repeats…?

“Is there a cure for this?”

We’re all different but I would have thought that, as has been intimated above, the more you play/practise the more you will play the “correct” number of parts. You eventually get a “feel” for what is right and when it’s time to move on.

Normally I have no problem playing parts the expected number of times, even if it’s a performance piece where sometimes a second part gets repeated in full (so you end up playing it four times), or tunes the expected number of times. There’s never any counting involved. Very occasionally though, if I let my mind drift or I’m distracted by something, I might question where I am when my head gets back to the music because the “feel” has been interrupted.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Thanks all! Good things to think about…

Yes, re “flow” it’s like, my ears/muscle memory kind of take over when I play, so the “tracking counting” part of my brain is quiet. Then I snap out of it for a second and I’m like, “wait, did I already play part A twice, or not?” and then I have a second of internal alarm. Humors of Ennystimon (3-part tune I’m learning) is particularly bad for me losing track, especially if I’m playing it alone at home!

Good point about the thinking about other stuff and playing slowly…since I am more in “rapid tune acquistion” state these days, a lot of tunes I play are still newish and I am playing slowly. It is true with tunes I know very well, I can devote more brain to the tracking of repeats.

And good point - I can just not let myself go into the dreamy musical mode if I’m leading. I can try to be very conscious of the repeats, and keep that at the top of my mind!

And I hope to get to your state someday, DonaldK 🙂

Re: Counting repeats…?

Maybe a “cure” boils down to this:

- Lots of time playing the tunes.
- Closely listening and paying careful attention when you’re in learning mode.
- The more you play, the easier it is to play tunes without losing track of where you are. Let your inner clock do its job. Acknowledge your hard won abilities and confidence.
- Then at your session, trust that you can do it and let it happen. Don’t be eager to question what you’re doing. The inner censor is not our friend.

You’ll still go off the rails once in a while—we all do. It’s okay, no one dies, keep a sense of humour and it’s all part of the craic.

Re: Counting repeats…?

“You’ll still go off the rails once in a while—we all do. It’s okay, no one dies, keep a sense of humour and it’s all part of the craic.”

Yep, this.

Re: Counting repeats…?

“…it’s like, my ears/muscle memory kind of take over when I play…”

This is a bit off topic of counting the repeats, but since you’re on the downhill side of learning your first 100 tunes, now might be a good time for you to wrest some of the control back from your muscle memory, too. This is related to what I said before about wanting your conscious brain to be your guide.

Kinesthetic memory (“muscle memory”) is an important factor in learning to play an instrument. And early on, it’s a godsend when you’re trying to learn a tune, learn the style, and learn your instrument all at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, we will always rely on muscle memory for things when we’re playing music, like where to place your fingers for the correct intonation, how to reach a certain interval from the last note, etc. But you’ll run into trouble letting your fingers do the driving. For instance, if a player is relying too much on muscle memory to remember how a tune goes, then it’s likely that the player will get “lost” in the tune if they try and do anything differently like add (or remove) an ornament, or play a simple melodic variation by switching the position of two notes, etc.

I tell my students to think about kinesthetic memory in music the same way we use it in typing. Since most of us use computers, we’ve generally gotten pretty good at typing, and most people can do it without looking at their hands. But you’re relying on your brain to drive what you’re typing, and simply relying on the muscle memory to know how to find and strike the right keys. You want a similar thing with your music playing. You want the tune flowing in your head, with some conscious thought going into how you’re going to express the melody, and then you can just rely on your kinesthetic memory to make those sounds come out of your instrument. But the control of the tune is in your conscious mind.

I was approaching 100 tunes in my repertoire when this was first pointed out to me. It took some time and pain to make the switch (like probably until the point I had 200 tunes in my repertoire). But the only way to do it is to just do it. Start by trying simple variations by adding and removing ornaments that you normally play. If you work on that until you’re able to do that without it impacting the flow of the tune, you’ve made the first step toward guiding your music with your conscious brain. Once your conscious brain is more in control, the easier it is to know how many times you’ve played a part of a tune, and when it’s time to move on!

Then the “dreamy flow state” can still happen, but it happens in your conscious brain and you can use it to help drive your expression of the tune.

Re: Counting repeats…?

That is reassuring. Yes, hopefully nobody will drop their instrument and keel over when I launch into part B at the wrong time! (Although I did get a puzzled look once, and quickly fixed my notes - that’s about as bad as it got! 🙂

I am also considering some odd physical reminder like putting my feet together on first repeat, then shifting them slightly apart on second repeat…so I know where I am…but, in my drifty musical state, may totally forget to move the feet anyway. (I am also the kind of person who misses the exit on the highway because I’m thinking about something else…so I guess this will be my personal challenge with the music!)

Re: Counting repeats…?

And that is really interesting, Reverend. Yes, I think I do rely too much on muscle memory.
For instance, if I play a tune faster than usual, I have trouble dropping the ornaments…my fingers still go to get that full roll in there…I think that’s a sign that my brain went offline.

Re: Counting repeats…?

At some point in your tune-learning journey, it helps to learn variations as you learn a new tune. You can learn a “baseline” setting, but as soon as that’s in place, suss out some variations and loop them in as you repeat the tune. This way, you have a “default” setting, but it’s not the only setting, and your muscle memory won’t lock on just the baseline setting.

Hard to say when to start doing this. Likely, you want to be comfortable with the mechanics of playing your instrument, and you’ll want enough tunes under your belt that you have a grasp of the idioms of this music and how they fit into and shape the tunes. But you don’t need to be a “master musician” before you start learning variations as part of learning new tunes. In fact, doing so is part of the path to mastery.

Which brings us back to keeping track of laps as you play a tune. I know some players who have a habit of sequencing their variations so that they play their baseline setting the first go round, then a specific set of variations the second go round, and another set of variations for the third lap. This way, they know—without really thinking about it—how many times they’ve played the tune.

I prefer to wing it, and I enjoy it when fresh variations pop up on the fly so I’m not just playing premeditated riffs all the time. But I can see the utility of the above tactic.

Re: Counting repeats…?

I certainly struggle with this. One thing I’ve found that helps is to use slightly different ornaments or variations for the first and second time throughm, so you become concious of which you are playing without having to count. In transcribing tunes note by note from CDs I’ve noticed that a number of recording artistes seem to do the same thing and avoid playing a section in the same way twice.

Re: Counting repeats…?

I don’t know how many times I’ve played with people who start tunes and then play
the A part several times but the B part just once / the opposite / skip half-beats - without even knowing that they did something they were not supposed to do.

Variations or not, keeping track of laps work. Even just getting a (better) feel for how long the lap is. Is this a complete unit? Playing the tune in your inner radio helps. Learning entire sets. A set of three two-part tunes (single or double), played the same number of times means that every tune has the same length.

Re: Counting repeats…?

I think a big part of this is partly just accumulating volumes of tunes and of ensemble/session experience. I suspect a lot of players don’t think about this any more than they think about what foot comes next while walking. Also, if you’re aware of the places you could be going, it’s usually pretty obvious when you play the wrong introduction to the next part, and with a little practice it’s easy to get used to hopping onto the “right” part without causing fear and confusion among your fellow players.

One thought: you play the parts of a tune twice, but you only cross the repeat boundary once, so consider making a habit of noticing when you hit that boundary.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Good thoughts, thanks!
I like the idea of using a little variation or ornament to mark the second repeat, that would help…and, not letting myself go off into the musical mist so much (especially if Leading!!) and hopefully that will help. And I hope that over time, I’ll get that internal clock for tunes. 🙂

Re: Counting repeats…?

“you only cross the repeat boundary once” That’s how I approach it. It usually works for the A part but not so well for the B part as the end of that often seems more like the end.

I find hornpipes the hardest. Over half the time someone, maybe me, misses a repeat. If leading I try to remember to count.

Re: Counting repeats…?

If you listen to the others you will hear it when you accidentally go into the A part before you’re done playing both of the B parts or whatever, and then you can quickly catch yourself and fix it.

Re: Counting repeats…?

1) Many people, when they’re practising or playing by themselves deliberately don’t play repeats; we’ve all done it, because we’re eager to get on to the next part. Trouble is, you can get into a habit of doing that, and when you’re playing with others, that habit can get in the way. Discipline yourself to observe all the repeats in a tune even when you’re playing by yourself.
2) Another thing you can do is change the ending, even if it’s just one note. For example if you’re play a tune in G, you could end the first A part on the G, the second A part on a B. It might help you keep track of where you are.
3) Good luck.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Thanks! Yes, I think I’ve “skipped” when playing by myself at home, which certainly doesn’t help!

And yes, probably the thing I am most guilty of, is the “part B once” thing…I think I did it quite loudly and lyrically with Cliffs of Moher once, ugh. Fixed myself after 3 or 4 notes, but felt frustrated with my drifty state…(how do other people keep track so well!)

Small variations in tune (an ornament, or an altered note) may work better for me than counting/tracking in my head, I suspect…will try that out! 🙂

Re: Counting repeats…?

Dacid50: “I find hornpipes the hardest. Over half the time someone, maybe me, misses a repeat. If leading I try to remember to count.”

That’s interesting; I wonder whether it has something to do with their internal repeat structure. Whilst most reels have a structure something like AA‘AA’ BB‘BB’, or perhaps AA‘AA’ BB‘BB", many (although not all) hornpipes are structured more like AA’AA‘ BA’BA’, so when you get to the end of the 2nd part, it is easy to forget what came a few bars before and think you have just played the 1st part. One tune in particular that often trips me up in this way is The Peacock’s Feather .

Re: Counting repeats…?

I have the same issue. Here is what I’m doing to solve it.

My left foot is the A part. I put pressure on the left foot toe area for the first time playing the A part and switch to pressure on the left foot heel for the second time through the A part. Then switch to Right foot toe pressure for the first time through the B part and right foot heel pressure for the second time through. Then back to the left foot toe pressure for a repeat and so on. It helps me to keep track of the place in the tune and helps with knowing where I am in the tune so I end it in the right place - an issue I also have.

Re: Counting repeats…?

The comments here are too small a sample to draw any firm conclusions, but they do suggest a pattern:

Musicians with only a few years experience say they struggle with this phenomenon, and most use some deliberate, mechanical method to keep track of where they are in the tune.

In contrast, musicians with many years experience are less bothered by this phenomenon, and “knowing where you are in a tune” happens naturally, without mechanically counting.

I won’t say it’s a bad idea to count, whether using specific variations or actually counting in your head, or as J Stevens suggests, alternating foot pressure. In the early going of your Irish trad journey, such tactics may indeed help.

But I wonder if relying on such methods could become a crutch that then is hard to do without, impeding your evolution into just keeping track naturally (by Reverend’s mostly subconscious “inner clock,” say).

I’m not one to say because I can’t remember ever using a method for keeping track. I learned to know where I was in the tune by dint of sheer repetition and playing for many hours a day right from the outset. The AABB nature of most tunes wasn’t complex enough to warrant conscious counting.

For me, it’s bliss not having to think about it. A bit like enjoying an oft-repeated walking route, where you don’t need a map or a GPS telling you where to turn, you “just know” where you are at every step along the way.

Just food for thought. Maybe it’s no cause for worry. I’d be curious to hear if there are any players with 20 or more years experience who do use some explicit method for keeping their place in a tune.

Re: Counting repeats…?

I wonder If the problem is less about losing where you are because you can’t keep track and more about simply letting your mind wander as you play. If the latter is the case, no technique, per se, will help. Listen and pay attention!

Re: Counting repeats…?

I don’t really know if it’s about paying attention, Ailin.
I see it more about having an intuitive subconscious understanding of the music so that the part transitions come naturally.
The more experience you have the larger the chunks of music can thought of as a whole. So a beginner might think in phrases or (perish the thought) bars, a more experienced musician might think in parts and an even more experienced musician might think in passes. And, if you’re really familiar with a piece of music (in any genre), you might think of the piece as one whole.

Re: Counting repeats…?

The question, then, is what is the difference between the occasions when you keep track and the occasions when you don’t.

Re: Counting repeats…?

If we knew what that difference was then we wouldn’t lose track.

Stucturally, trad tunes (and even arrangements) are very simple compared to some other styles of music. I only really get caught out when something happens that I’m not expecting, like a tune that normally gets played n times gets played n-1 times.

Re: Counting repeats…?

DonaldK, you wrote precisely what I’ve been thinking all along.

Ailin, your question is for Cancion to answer, since DonaldK, myself, and others rarely if ever experience this problem. And I think he’s already given his answer: it happens when he’s in a “dreamy musical mental flow state.”

If you read the thread, people agree that the flow state is good, a big part of why we play music. And then the feedback splits along the the lines of those who say, “Pay attention” and offer deliberate ways to do that, and those of us who say, as DonaldK gets at above, “Let your subconscious take care of it.” I’m in the latter camp and as far as I can recall, I always have been, even when I was a green newbie musician.

My previous post was to ponder whether this schism is, for many people, perhaps a matter of how long you’ve played this music, how ingrained it is. And wondering if “paying attention” in a deliberate, mechanical way (e.g., using your feet as a counting method) might become a crutch that later gets in the way of the flow state. I hope that’s not the case, but I do occasionally hear session musicians whose transitions between parts of a tune consistently sound stilted, less fluid, as though they’re playing by script rather than from the heart.

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Don’t know why you two are making an argument. I have no issue with your point. I have 40 years of experience. The only time I lose track is when I’m alone and my mind wanders - which I do not equate to “getting lost in the music.” So, if the shoe fits, there you are; if not move on. What I can tell you is, at sessions, when my mates blow a change, they cop to not paying attention. Make of that what you will, but why dispute it as a common, if not likely culprit?

Re: Counting repeats…?

I’m a bit late to the party here but I often forget to play a repeat and/or might even play one part three times. Sometimes, I might play a repeat where it isn’t required or miss it on purpose, of course.
As long as everyone is playing the same thing, the latter is OK too.

Another common “faux pas” for me is mixing up the parts in a four part tune. Maybe playing part 4 instead of part 2 or vice versa! Most of the time, other players don’t actually notice and it often “fits in” anyway. 🙂

As to how and when it happens… It can do so when I’m “dreaming” as others here have stated but also when I’m feeling nervous or “on the spot”.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Because you’re missing the point, Ailin.
Some of us, with many decades of experience with this music, are in agreement that we don’t “pay attention” and rarely if ever blow changes.

I’d go so far as to suggest that if someone is counting the tune and turns, paying that much attention to the A’s and B’s, they don’t yet have a good grasp of this music. As DonaldK says, it isn’t yet part of their intuitive, subconscious understanding. And until a person has that, they’re playing sequences of notes, not music.

Of course, it takes time to ingrain the music. People who’ve played the music for only a few years, and without playing a lot with more experienced musicians, may struggle with this. I wouldn’t fault someone for that. Or for the occasional fumble from a veteran player. But over time, most decent musicians gain fluency with such issues to the point that they become subconscious, intuitive. Not something that one pays active attention to.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Reverend: "Once your conscious brain is more in control, the easier it is to know how many times you’ve played a part of a tune, and when it’s time to move on!

Then the “dreamy flow state” can still happen, but it happens in your conscious brain and you can use it to help drive your expression of the tune."

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Re: Counting repeats…?

AB, research on flow suggests that this state blurs or distorts our sense of time, so I’m not sure that Reverend’s notion of consciously tracking time or repetitions is how it actually works.

My own experience more closely parallels DonaldK’s description—having a deep, intuitive grasp of the music, so knowing where I am in the tune happens in my subconscious. It’s almost never an explicit thought. Whether or not I’m in flow, my conscious mind isn’t tracking parts of the tune, it’s focused instead almost purely on expressing the whole tune and pulse or groove (which is where it sounds like Reverend’s and my experiences *are* similar).

Of course the caveat that applies throughout this thread is this: Do any of us really, accurately know what our brains are doing while we’re careening through a tune? It’s interesting to try to describe it, and to hear other people’s experiences, but it’s all a lot of damp spaghetti thrown at plaster walls. 🙂

Re: Counting repeats…?

“my conscious mind isn’t tracking parts of the tune”
But it could, couldn’t it. Depends on what is meant by terms like tracking or counting.

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Re: Counting repeats…?

Sure, it *can.* And it does when, say, I’m teaching a tune.

But in my normal playing, I’m not at all consciously paying any attention to how many times I’ve played the tune and the turn, A’s and B’s. It’s “the tune,” a single whole thing, as DonaldK describes above.

In the learning curve, most newcomers to the music start by learning short snippets of notes and chunking those together into phrases, and then into halves of a tune. With some experience, most people can learn longer phrases when tackling a new tune. After years of this, many of us can learn whole halves of a tune, or the whole tune itself, all at once. In short, our sense of what a “phrase” is expands to eventually encompass the whole tune. It feels like that’s how I learn tunes on the fly in sessions.

So with experience, Cancion can hope that he’ll go from thinking in terms of the “parts of a tune” to understanding the whole tune as one thing, and he’ll no longer need to count or otherwise track how many times he’s played each part.

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Hmm it has been interesting to hear the veteran players describe their lack of counting/tracking with tunes!
I have been listening to Irish Trad for many years, but seriously trying to play it myself for probably less than a year…so that inner clock / intuitive feeling is definitely not developed yet!

I was thinking about Cliffs of Moher (the last tune where I played part B once) and hmm, its part B actually has two phrases that sound very similar, and it has that very definitive ending… So to play part B twice (the right way), is to play that similar-sounding phrase actually FOUR times. So maybe playing that phrase just twice, plus the definitive ending, was like a trigger to my ear to go back to A…(plus my nature is to be a very “ear” oriented musician and not a “keeping track” musician…so it was an easy pit to fall into.)

The keeping track with the feet is a really interesting idea. I’m not sure I can remember to do that, but it seems like a good and subtle way to keep track! And I do agree that it gets easier the longer you’ve known the tune…then it just feels wrong and off if you “skip”… that’s how I feel with some of the tunes I’ve known the longest (which in my case, would be about a year!)

And gimpy, your last comment kind of blows my mind! Maybe I’ll know how that feels in another few years. 🙂

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Cancion, regarding the Cliffs of Moher, most settings of that tune do a cascading downhill run the last time through the B part (|efe ded|cdc BcB| or something similar), which is different from the “ending” of the first time through the B part. Is that what you mean by the “very definitive ending”? If so, that’s your obvious marker for knowing when to move on to Part A. And if you haven’t played that downhill run yet, then you need to play the B again, with the ending.

All your previous listening will stand you in good stead. But having played for just a year, you have many wonderful epiphanies ahead of you, including hearing the tunes in ever-expanding phrases. Much depends on learning all the common building blocks and melodic patterns that run through this music. The more of them you know, the easier it becomes to hear whole tunes as “familiar.” The easier it is to learn them, to play them fluently, without hiccups.

There are many subtle, unspoken aspects to learning and playing music. As you absorb them (often by osmosis just by playing a lot for years), they become intuitions, sensitivities, like antennae that pick up the smallest vibrations. In the beginning, we all tend to focus on the tangibles—the notes, the downbeats, the physical challenges of playing rolls and triplets, etc.

Those are important, but the music lives and breathes in the subtleties. Be patient (but keep moving forward), keep listening (and notice when you hear something you haven’t heard before but was there all along), and enjoy the winding road!

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Ah yes, you are right about that downhill run (yes that’s how I learned it)! That is the perfect way to remember.

Thanks for the encouragement! I think I’ll need to be purposeful and conscious about tracking for now, but maybe someday I won’t need to (would nice to be free of it!)…

As for the “drifty” state…it’s not like I’m thinking about the grocery list or the weather…it’s just another world I go into when playing music, a peaceful relaxed feeling where there’s no conscious thinking, just listening and fingers moving. Consciously thinking about repeats feels alien - but I think I need to do it for the good of the group 🙂

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We are all newcomers. Conscious awareness is a good thing. Who is missing the point, gimpy?

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Re: Counting repeats…?

Gimpy: “ I’d go so far as to suggest that if someone is counting the tune and turns, paying that much attention to the A’s and B’s, they don’t yet have a good grasp of this music.”

I’m responding because of AB’s post.

With regard to my own post, where I said to pay attention, I wasn’t saying what it appears Gimpy thought I was. What I meant was focus. When you drive home, you don’t count the blocks, but even If you mind what you are doing, you can easily miss your turn if you are driving carefully but not focused on your destination. This is true no matter how long you have been driving. Or playing music.

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Hah, yes beginner’s mind is a healthy way to make music (or do much of anything).

AB, agreed, awareness is good, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, running off the grid, on shadow circuits.

My point is that we can’t be 100% consciously aware of everything we do when we play a tune. Intonation, tone, rhythm, timing, tempo, dynamics, degree of swing, articulations, bellows and bag, embouchure, breathing, bowing, picking, finger pressure (or release), posture, the notes!, phrasing, syncing with your mates, repeating (or not) parts of tunes, repeating (or not) tunes, thinking of the next tune while you’re still playing the old tune, saying “Hup!,” transitioning to the new tune, swallowing the sip of beer you took before someone else launched a set, etc. Some of this has to go on autopilot or we’ll seize up and crash.

In short, becoming a musician who can play with proficiency and fluency has as much to do with assigning tasks to that autopilot as it does with “paying attention.” Tracking how many times you’ve played the parts of a tune is great example of a task that autopilot can take care of, freeing your conscious mind to focus on expression.

Woodshedding at home is a good time to be hyper conscious and aware. It’s also a good time to train your autopilot, to give it tasks and see how well it handles them. I suspect this is a learnable skill as much as anything else is. The more you practice running your autopilot at home, the better it will fly when you let it go at a session.

I’ve said it before: one of the most important things you can learn as a musician is, rather than trying to *make* things happen, to *let* them happen.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Cross-posted with Ailin.

Yep, I think we’re saying the same thing in different ways. Focus is a good word. And your driving analogy is spot on. I’d wager most of us have driven or walked a route we’ve done a million times before without “paying attention” to the lefts and rights and stops (though we do them all correctly) because we’re focused instead on the overall start-to-destination journey. How many blocks did you travel? No clue. But you intuitively knew when to turn and when you’ve arrived at the end.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Gimpy, I don’t disagree with what you have said and I tend to work this way too in a session when the tunes and circumstances are very familiar.
However, it’s not always the case that I know every tune quite as well and it may be a more challenging session whether in terms of standard or just slight deviation in the playing styles or habits of its members. So, then, I’m obviously making more of a conscious effort.

Also, there are times when you can make a mistake or two when you are in the “dreamy mode”. There will always be distractions and things going on, of course, and you can deal with most of these. Some will inevitably be exceptional and others more important to some than others… e.g. call for last orders at the bar 🙂

I don’t think anyone has mentioned so called “senior moments” yet but this is becoming more common for me these days in general life. Less so in music, actually, when I’m actually playing the tunes although I’m more inclined to forget titles etc.

Re: Counting repeats…?

I was thinking of Reverend’s internal clock as measuring musical distance traveled rather than time.

Re: Counting repeats…?

Yes, driving analogy is a good one! After enough time driving a route, you don’t really have to think about it. For a while my “autopilot” would still take me to my daughter’s elementary school if I didn’t think about where I’m going (due to many years of morning dropoff) 🙂. Our brain is capable of “chunking” a lot of routine activities and putting them into the background, freeing up our mind to focus on other things. (There was actually an interesting book about this, a book about Habits, I can’t remember the title)

This morning I practiced (mentally) saying “1” and “2” to mark repeats, and it seems to work as a reminder and placeholder. Even though I’ll sometimes find myself halfway through part B before I remember to set the number, ha. My hope is that I’ll get better at it and repeats will eventually seep into the “autopilot” mode!

Re: Counting repeats…?

David50 wrote: “I was thinking of Reverend’s internal clock as measuring musical distance traveled rather than time.”

Ah, an inner odometer to go with Alan’s driving analogy. 🙂

Re: Counting repeats…?

“I was thinking of Reverend’s internal clock as measuring musical distance traveled rather than time.”

That’s a pretty good analogy! I guess I maybe gave the wrong impression about my conscious brain being in control of the music I am playing. It does not mean that I am consciously counting the number of times I’ve played a part of a tune -- that is still pretty much subconscious, or at least on the edge between conscious and subconscious.

And I like gimpy’s idea of thinking of the tune as a whole, and not as its individual parts. I just play the tune, and don’t make mistakes on how many times I’ve played something except for when there’s extenuating circumstances. There can be a distraction in the room that disrupts my stream of consciousness about the tune. Or sometimes tunes that finish the B part by referring back to the second half of the A part can sometimes trip me up when it comes time to repeat the A part (because I’ve already done the resolve twice… You could say I feel like it’s time for an “oil change” 😉). Or tunes that are crooked in some way (like “Big John’s Hard”, for instance. I actually have to engage my conscious brain to track where I am in that tune… But I’ve only played that tune for a couple of months now, so it, too, will become second nature.)

So David50’s idea of tracking musical distance is a great analogy. I am not sitting there consciously counting how many times I’ve played a part of a tune (in 99% of situations, at least). I had mentioned the internal clock early in this thread, but I agree, it’s more of an internal odometer!

Re: Counting repeats…?

Reverend, everything you just posted I already knew from what you posted earlier. Thanks for adding your current thoughts.

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