Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Math Rocks: Count To Four? You're Hired!

There's an old musician's joke: "Can you count to four? You're hired!" The manager is usually the only person in the band that can count to ten. And that's where the trouble starts.

But the truth is, all musicians are mathematical geniuses. Music is a mathematical system. For those of you who shudder at the memory of long division, let alone calculus and the seeming miles of blackboards and teachers with chalk all over their posteriors, relax.

Music is math in the body. We're going to count on our fingers and hands. On our lips and hips. On our heels and toes.

In fact, we don't even need all of the fingers on one hand to get all of the numbers we need in music.

We only need 3 fingers to do a LOT of math.

However, it certainly is convenient to have all five fingers, and I must admit I'm particularly fond of the thumb and my pinky is the only one that's good for picking my n... oops, nevermind. Mom says it's not polite to talk about that with people you don't know.

Where was I?


It's a magic number.

Choose 3 distinct musical gestures.
Let's name three strumming gestures:

1: Rest stroke on a single bass string.
2: Down Strum.
3: Up Strum.

How many songs or riffs can you make from those three musical gestures? How many different ways can you alternate or combine those gestures?

1, 1 (Two rest strokes)
1, 2 (Rest stroke, down strum.)
1, 3 (Rest stroke, up strum.)

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2

Don't count it. Do it.

Try some different combinations, some different body rock with those gestures.

How about these other gestures?

1: Down Strum
2: Up Strum
3: DON'T STRUM (Miss the strings, but keep the strum going!)

What kinds of funky combinations can you come up with there?

Third time's the charm, right. Hold a chord. Any chord. Or just listen to the open strings.

And try these three fingerstyle gestures:

1: Thumb pluck bass note.
2: Index finger pluck middle note.
3: Middle finger pluck hi note.

Music can sometimes certainly be as easy as 1, 2, 3.

And when you get to four? You're hired! Ask me about the 'bass lesson teacher' joke sometime. Hilarious.

Extra Credit:

With any of the above sets of gestures, can you keep a two beat going at the same time? By nodding your head? Tapping your toe? It's like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at first. But if you try it, very slowly, 3x, you'll get the hang of it.


Advancing Guitar Lessons: Washington, D.C.
Professional Musical Fun for Beginners and Beyond


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