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The Secret to Counting In Your Band

The Secret to Counting In Your BandSinging lead vocals is like being a conductor; the more you learn and practice, the more confident you’ll be. – says Kris Adams

Singers are sometimes accused of floating too much and not “locking in” with the band or the groove.

Being able to count off a tune at the right tempo is very important for the song – and keeps you, as the lead singer “in the driver’s seat”.

How to Achieve Rhythmic Accuracy

If your tempo is too fast, then it won’t settle in and it might be hard to sing the words.

If it’s too slow, then the song could suffer and die on the stage. Also, it is important to be steady when counting off the tune, so that the band knows the real tempo that the singer wants.

When everyone is on the same page and feels the same beat and tempo, then it really grooves.

Here are my top 3 tips for getting this right….

1. Before you count off the tune, sing the melody to yourself (or better yet, sing it in your head). Here’s an example:

2. Find the pulse or the beat while your singing it. Feel it in your whole body.

3. Count if off – at least one bar of beats – to the band. Reflect the feel of it in your count off.

It’s important to practice this so that you feel comfortable and confident in doing it. And, again, when you count off, it needs to be steady.

Practicing for Your Counting-In Performance


Practicing with a metronome can help you to make tempo instinctive

Practicing with a metronome is a good idea so that you aren’t rushing the tempo or, on the other hand, slowing down the tempo while you are counting.

Of course, tempos may vary slightly from day to day, depending on how you are feeling at that particular moment.

For example, if you’re excited, you might count off faster or if you’re tired, you might count off the tune more slowly.

So, it’s a good idea to find the right tempo using the metronome and make a note as to what that is.

Some singers/musicians consult the metronome before they count off. This is definitely a good idea when recording a song in the studio but for live performance is not very practical.

Counting Complexities

I remember one time when I was a young singer and I counted off a song that had a slow moving melody on the verse but that was more active on the bridge.

I counted off the band thinking of the slow moving verse but when we got the more active bridge it was too fast!

So, it is also a good idea to think of the fastest part of the song so that you have the right tempo for the whole piece.

Bass player

Drummers and bass players play a large role in rhythm and tempo

With practice you’ll feel confident in counting off a tempo in any situation.

Practice with a metronome and also, with a supportive musician(s). Talk to drummers and bass players about specifics of various grooves and rhythmic feels.

This will also help you understand the roles that each instrument has in a band. Singing lead vocals is like being a conductor; the more you learn and practice, the more confident you’ll be in leading a band.

Kris Adams Headshot

Kris Adams is a professor at Berklee College of Music where she teaches jazz/pop music theory, voice and ensembles. She is also a busy clinician, and has given clinics and workshops throughout New England, in LA and recently in Brazil and Italy. Kris also balances her teaching with a performing career and has released two CDs on her own label and has just released her third disc titled “Longing.” In June of 2011, Gerard & Sarzin published her book, Sing Your Way Through Theory (Hal Leonard).