Count to Songs
Episode #8 of the course How to play the drums to (almost) every song you’ve ever heard by Dylan DePice
If a song is in four (common time), you know how to play the beat it’s based on. Whether you can do it perfectly yet or not, you’ve already learned the basic beat behind almost every song you’ve ever heard.
How many songs do you hear are actually in four? Well, of the 100 songs currently on the Billboard Hot 100, this is the number of them that are in common time: 100.
Seriously. All 100 of the 100 on the Billboard Hot 100. (That’s 100%.)
It doesn’t mean you can play drums to them yet. But you already know the basic beat. Every one of these songs has that beat or a variation of it. Tomorrow, you’ll learn how to rearrange beats to create variations.
Today, you’ll learn how to use the beat to play along to songs. If you can identify how the musicians who are playing the song count it, you’ll be able to figure out how to play along.
Today’s lesson is the hardest lesson. It’s designed to teach you how to play to music. Even if you don’t leave this lesson at a point where you have the physical ability to play to almost every song you’ve ever heard, you should understand what you have to know in order to get there. With the warning that this lesson may feel dense, let’s chip away.
Your goal is going to be to find 1 in the music you listen to; you’re looking for where a measure starts. Your goal isn’t necessarily to find the first 1 that happens in the song. There are plenty of them in every song. Don’t worry about counting anything other than 1 for now. And remember this: BD on 1.
Here are a few songs from the Billboard Hot 100 and examples of where to find 1:
• Ayo & Teo – “Rolex” (Spotify/YouTube): Listen for the chorus (usually the part of the song that repeats the same words). The refrain in this song is four bars long, and these are the words said on the 1 of each bar: “Rolley,” “Got,” “Ice,” and “Look.”
• Imagine Dragons – “Believer” (Spotify/YouTube): The first note of the song is BD on 1. The first word of the song (“first”) is on 1 as well. The rest (pause) leading into the chorus is on 1. So is “liev” in “be-liev-er.”
• Rag’n’Bone Man – “Human” (Spotify/YouTube): The first note of the song is BD on 1. Listen for the low BD note and the higher-pitched claps (acting as SN) that cut through on 2 and 4 throughout the song.
• Luke Combs – “Hurricane” (Spotify/YouTube): Listen for BD on 1 and 3 throughout the verse and chorus, nod your head along to SN on 2 and 4, and notice “Hurricane” right on 1 with a big crash cymbal.
• Blake Shelton – “Every Time I Hear That Song” (Spotify/YouTube): The first note of the song is BD on 1. The chorus comes in huge with a crash cymbal. Then the words that land on the 1 of each measure are “Every,” “Stand(ing),” “Ooh,” “You,” “Every,” “Like,” “Ooh,” and “You.”
• Thomas Rhett, Maren Morris – “Craving You” (Spotify/YouTube): The first real word of the song is “Every” right on 1. (Just like in “Every Time I Hear That Song,” “Time” is right on 2.)
Here are a few other songs I suggest you try this with:
• Spoon – “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” (Spotify/YouTube)
• White Stripes – “Ball and Biscuit” (Spotify/YouTube)
• AC/DC – “Highway to Hell” (Spotify/YouTube)
• Weezer – “Island in the Sun” (Spotify/YouTube) or “Beverly Hills” (Spotify/YouTube)
• OutKast – “Ms. Jackson” (Spotify/YouTube)
• Al Green – “Let’s Stay Together” (Spotify/YouTube)
• Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Spotify/YouTube)
Your goal is to count along with each of these (and ultimately, any) songs. And once you can count to songs, you can play to them, using everything we’ve learned in the previous lessons!
You may not get this today. That’s okay! As I said, it’s the hardest part. But you’re now equipped with all the tools to get there at your own pace!
As I mentioned earlier, this was the hardest lesson of the course. Whether or not you’re feeling confident right now, remember that tomorrow’s lesson won’t be this intimidating and that even if you don’t have all the skills right now to play almost every song you’ve ever heard, you do have almost all the tools to get there!
Second to last lesson tomorrow…
The Drumset Musician by Rick Mattingly and Rod Morgenstein
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