Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

  1. #1
    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Perth, Western Aus
    Posts
    19
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    The directors of our little club got married last weekend, which meant a lot of drunk dancers in the same place. The discussion turned to counting systems at one point, and that led to a rather spirited discussion about what was 'the best' way, and why.

    The contenders were:
    Hyperbeat Count - One measure = one count.
    Half Count - the 'old school' modern jive count we use in classes, where we count numbers on odd beats in the measure, and '&' on the even beats.
    Paired Count - the same as above, except for pedantic and technical quibbling about the difference between counting half the beats vs counting beat-pairs as metric compound units.
    Single Count - One count = one beat, covering a minor phrase (i.e. up to 8). Sometimes bafflingly called "choreography count".
    Straight Count - Simple duple rhythm count. Evenly subdividing the beats in two (1&2&3&4 etc.)
    Rolling Count - Counting in triple rhythms, even if they aren't in the music. (1&a2&a3&a4&a etc.)

    Keep in mind that this included both counts for teaching, and for the counts people used in their heads while dancing.

    Personally, I think the advantages of the paired/half count outweigh the drawbacks for teaching (and yes, I was the pedantic quibbler!), but I rarely count while actually dancing. As for rolling count, I think its fine for swing and shuffle rhythms, but a bit silly for most of music we dance to. This view did not make me popular with my GSTDA-trained friends.

    So, what do you use (if any), and why? Oh, and Merry Christmas.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  2. #2
    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Perth, Western Aus
    Posts
    19
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    BTW: a couple of people PM'd me a little while back. Sorry I didn't reply, but I lurk far more than I post and still don't have sufficient privilages to reply. I wasn't ignoring you, I swear!

  3. #3
    Registered User NZ Monkey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Auckland, NZ
    Posts
    1,109
    Thanks
    191
    Thanked 209 Times in 129 Posts

    Rep Power
    7

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    The directors of our little club got married last weekend, which meant a lot of drunk dancers in the same place. The discussion turned to counting systems at one point, and that led to a rather spirited discussion about what was 'the best' way, and why.

    The contenders were:
    Hyperbeat Count - One measure = one count.
    Half Count - the 'old school' modern jive count we use in classes, where we count numbers on odd beats in the measure, and '&' on the even beats.
    Paired Count - the same as above, except for pedantic and technical quibbling about the difference between counting half the beats vs counting beat-pairs as metric compound units.
    Single Count - One count = one beat, covering a minor phrase (i.e. up to 8). Sometimes bafflingly called "choreography count".
    Straight Count - Simple duple rhythm count. Evenly subdividing the beats in two (1&2&3&4 etc.)
    Rolling Count - Counting in triple rhythms, even if they aren't in the music. (1&a2&a3&a4&a etc.)

    Keep in mind that this included both counts for teaching, and for the counts people used in their heads while dancing.

    Personally, I think the advantages of the paired/half count outweigh the drawbacks for teaching (and yes, I was the pedantic quibbler!), but I rarely count while actually dancing. As for rolling count, I think its fine for swing and shuffle rhythms, but a bit silly for most of music we dance to. This view did not make me popular with my GSTDA-trained friends.

    So, what do you use (if any), and why? Oh, and Merry Christmas.

    Cheers,
    Dave
    I should probably start by saying that I don't teach MJ myself. These are just my thoughts on counting.

    The purposes of counting are:
    • Teaching how to identify the beat.
    • Getting the dancers started at the same time in class.
    • Getting them moving on the beat (i.e. in time to the music.).


    In MJ we generally both step and lead on every beat, and so whatever method we use to count needs to mark every beat. That leaves the following:

    Single Count - Ticks all of the above boxes.
    Half Count - Also ticks all of the boxes, with the added bonus of confusing everyone with experience in other dance styles. Also great for stimulating discussions between drunk dance geeks at weddings.
    Paired Count - Not sure exactly what you mean here. Is every beat marked somehow?
    Straight Count - Ticks all the boxes with the added complication of also marking half beats..... which you don't use in MJ. Also makes the count very busy which can drown out the music in class.
    Rolling Count - I consider this overkill in even in WCS. MJ doesn't require splitting the beats at all, so why split it three or four ways? Has all the disadvantages of straight count in spades, and comes with a lot of baggage as well.

    I've met a few superb GSTDA-trained teachers, but I've also met some who leave me with the impression that they went to a course and came back having found religion. In my experience those that make a big deal out of details like rolling count in classes tend to be the ones who are more interested in showing off how much they know than in how effectively they're teaching. I know I'm being unfair to a lot of teachers out there, but that's usually how I've seen it play out.

    Personally the only advantage I can see of using a half count over a single count is that you don't need to fight several decades of historical intertia or retrain your existing teachers.

  4. Thanks:

    Dave Ellis (28th-December-2011)

  5. #4
    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Perth, Western Aus
    Posts
    19
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by NZ Monkey View Post
    Paired Count - Not sure exactly what you mean here. Is every beat marked somehow?
    It's identical to half count, just conceptualised differently. It sounds and functions the same way, but makes a little more sense when you explain it to people who've danced other styles.
    It's the difference between saying you're "counting half the beats" and "counting units made up of paired beats". I'm just fussy that way.

    Quote Originally Posted by NZ Monkey View Post
    I've met a few superb GSTDA-trained teachers, but I've also met some who leave me with the impression that they went to a course and came back having found religion.
    I only wish I had the funds to be attend their Church a couple of times.

    Quote Originally Posted by NZ Monkey View Post
    Personally the only advantage I can see of using a half count over a single count is that you don't need to fight several decades of historical intertia or retrain your existing teachers.
    I can see one other potential advantage, and that's that a half count emphasises body movement over footwork. One of the most common issues I see with our beginners is that they tend to rush their movement, then stop and wait for a beat, instead of using the whole 2-beat unit.

    I'm actually toying with the idea of dropping counting almost entirely at the start. Just get them to feel the beat, give them '&1', and let them learn the rest by feel. On the advice of some of my muso friends, I've experimented with a couple of classes by having them conduct the music rather than counting it. So far, it seems to be quite effective.

    -Dave

  6. #5
    Omnipresent Administrator Franck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Glasgow
    Posts
    3,044
    Thanks
    65
    Thanked 244 Times in 104 Posts

    Blog Entries
    2
    Rep Power
    10

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    I am a big fan of multiple counting systems for achieving musicality. I wouldn't go the the extremes you list above, that's just too many ways of re-inventing the same wheel, but the general principle, that the more you subdivide a beat, the more likely you are to 'do something' for each counted sub-division (with your feet, with your body, with your hands, with your lead / follow, etc.).
    Either you will become more expressive with the dance vocabulary you have (i.e. footwork, body isolation, styling) or you will realise you need to learn new stuff to be able to fill the blanks.

    In the few workshops I have taught on that subject, I recommend counting the musical beats first (twice the number of beats teachers typically count to start the dance), then adding and in between beats, when comfortable with the first option.
    So you would go from 5, 6, 7, 8 (as counted by the teacher to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... and then to and 1, and 2, and 3, and 4, and 5, and 6, etc... I have found a big difference in dancers when they become aware of all the extra time they have between dance counts.
    Franck.

    There's an A.P.P. for that!

  7. 2 'Thanks':

    Dave Ellis (28th-December-2011), NZ Monkey (24th-December-2011)

  8. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Sri Lanka
    Posts
    770
    Thanks
    136
    Thanked 163 Times in 93 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Single Count -
    Half Count -
    Paired Count -
    Straight Count -
    Rolling Count -

    As a matter of interest, are these technical terms, Ceroc specific terms, or general MJ. We were taught simply to count in your head, though that means having to concentrate and you end up looking very serious, using your teeth which can be annoying or counting by moving your feet, which in turn makes it look like your feet are dancing.

  9. Thanks:

    Dave Ellis (28th-December-2011)

  10. #7
    Commercial Operator
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Sussex by the Sea
    Posts
    9,276
    Thanks
    641
    Thanked 376 Times in 284 Posts

    Rep Power
    13

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    As the moves in MJ have no set number of beats it doesn't particularly matter if you start people at the beginning of a minor phrase. MJ requires no knowledge of bar structure to get the basics. All you need to hear are the "down" beats, the odd numbered beats and the "up" beats, the even numbered beats - this is because you only have two feet and they alternate, one step on each beat in basic MJ. However, once you've got past the basics it's very handy to know where the minor phrase starts, how to identify the other patterns like 32 beat, 8 bar phrasing in pop music and even 12 bar blues.

    Having said it doesn't particularly matter for the basics. It does matter as you advance in MJ. This means you DO need to count people in to the start of a bar or minor phrase.

    I'm fairly undecided/flexible about counting. I've very decided against any system that incorrectly numbers the beats, i.e. saying "5" on beat 1. I think you need to mark every beat when counting, especially when counting people in during lessons. But I don't think there's any need to actually count at all, so long as you make a noise on each beat - any noise has got to be better than incorrect numbering.

  11. Thanks:

    Dave Ellis (28th-December-2011)

  12. #8
    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Perth, Western Aus
    Posts
    19
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Prian View Post
    As a matter of interest, are these technical terms, Ceroc specific terms, or general MJ.
    None of the above. If there are formal, universal names for counting systems, I haven't found them. All of these have multiple different labels, so I'm just using the labels that seem the simplest to me. 'Rolling count' and 'straight count' seem to be common usage in WCS.

    Quote Originally Posted by Prian View Post
    We were taught simply to count in your head, though that means having to concentrate and you end up looking very serious, using your teeth which can be annoying or counting by moving your feet, which in turn makes it look like your feet are dancing.
    Yep, I see a lot of that too. One of the dancers I've been working with silently mouths each number while he counts. It makes for some amusing action photos.

  13. #9
    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Perth, Western Aus
    Posts
    19
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy McGregor View Post
    I'm fairly undecided/flexible about counting. I've very decided against any system that incorrectly numbers the beats, i.e. saying "5" on beat 1. I think you need to mark every beat when counting, especially when counting people in during lessons. But I don't think there's any need to actually count at all, so long as you make a noise on each beat - any noise has got to be better than incorrect numbering.
    One of our dancers is a music teacher, and fumes at us whenever we count in sets of 8. "It's 4/4. There is no such thing as 5 in this song!" I don't mind what system individual teachers use, but I hate it when they count in at one tempo, and then change it as soon as they start moving. Seriously, what's the point of counting "5,6,7,8" if you're immediately going to change pace dramatically on 1? </complain>

    Since there's not much dancing going on here at the moment, I'm using the time off to learn more about music cognition. The more I read, the more I'm starting to think that it's counterproductive to concentrate on metrical phrasing. We always teach it in workshops, but I'm not convinced that it helps significantly in anticipating the breaks.

  14. Thanks:

    Andy McGregor (31st-December-2011)

  15. #10
    Commercial Operator
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Sussex by the Sea
    Posts
    9,276
    Thanks
    641
    Thanked 376 Times in 284 Posts

    Rep Power
    13

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    One of our dancers is a music teacher, and fumes at us whenever we count in sets of 8. "It's 4/4. There is no such thing as 5 in this song!" I don't mind what system individual teachers use, but I hate it when they count in at one tempo, and then change it as soon as they start moving. Seriously, what's the point of counting "5,6,7,8" if you're immediately going to change pace dramatically on 1? </complain>

    Since there's not much dancing going on here at the moment, I'm using the time off to learn more about music cognition. The more I read, the more I'm starting to think that it's counterproductive to concentrate on metrical phrasing. We always teach it in workshops, but I'm not convinced that it helps significantly in anticipating the breaks.
    Your music teacher isn't being entirely honest with you. In 4/4 count music an 8 count is a mini phrase in the music - it is completely correct for a dance teacher to number these beats from 1 to 8 - although he's right that it's 4 beats to the bar, a mini phrase is often two bars played together as if they were one bar. The start of the mini phrase is there for all to hear, even the untrained musical ear. Here is something I found on the internet which sums it up for dancers
    Quote Originally Posted by Raper's Dance Dictionary
    A phrase is a musical sentence. Phrasing is the punctuation of a musical structure. The melodic structure of a composition is made up of phrases that balance one another. That is, the notes or sounds of a phrase sound like they belong together.

    To see the importance of phrasing, consider the analogy of reading a poem. Without proper phrasing in its presentation, the poem would become just a series of words with no spark and very little feeling. Phrasing and Accent bring life to poetry, music and dance.

    Mini Phrase
    4/4 Time = 8 beats of music
    3/4 Time = 6 beats of music
    Minor Phrase
    4/4 Time = 16 or 24 beats of music.
    Major Phrase
    A Major Phrase is a series of Mini Phrases. The number of Mini Phrases will be that which will express a complete musical thought such as in a Chorus, Bridge, Verse, etc. In 4/4 Time the number of beats per Major Phrase would be completely dependent on the music and could be 32,40,48 or more beats of music (increasing in Mini Phrase increments).
    Most pop music that's used in MJ has 32 beat or 8 bar Major Phrases. If you listen to a classic song like King of the Road there is a break near the start - count 32 beats and you will count in to the next break. A lot of pop songs have this phrasing, even if they don't have breaks.

    Having said that you could count down to a break once you've heard the first one, but who wants to do that? One thing is to know the song and that is a great way to dance more musically. Also, musicians and composers help us by building the tension in the music as you get nearer the break - and then "PHEW" the break relieves the tension.

  16. #11
    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Perth, Western Aus
    Posts
    19
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy McGregor View Post
    Your music teacher isn't being entirely honest with you. In 4/4 count music an 8 count is a mini phrase in the music - it is completely correct for a dance teacher to number these beats from 1 to 8
    I think the point she was trying to make is that the way dancers approach music doesn't always match what musos do. For her, there are two measures with four beats each, and musical phrasing isn't necessarily tied to that metrical structure. So while the grouping of measures into minor and major phrases is how we teach musicality in dance workshops, that doesn't necessarily square with normal musical terminology.

    In fact, the term 'phrase' appears to mean something different when used in music theory. It's a musical sentence, that has no pre-determined length, can begin on any beat in the measure, and ends with a cadence. In well-written music, listeners instinctively anticipate the close of a musical phrase based on a number of clues, with metrical position being just one of them.

    As far as I can tell, this means that a dancer's approach to phrasing (like in Raper's dictionary) is probably oversimplified. Counting the metrical structures might help anticipate breaks, but wouldn't necessarily guarantee it. The musical structures themselves would not necessarily fit neatly into blocks of 8, 16, 32 beats etc. and, certainly in a lot of current pop music, dancing to the melodic phrasing would require movement well before the 1.

    I'm not about to throw out the concept of 32 beat phrases, but I'm starting to think that there's a lot more to play with here, and MJ might be better equipped for it than other styles. I'm still investigating this though.

    -Dave

  17. Thanks:

    NZ Monkey (31st-December-2011)

  18. #12
    Commercial Operator
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Sussex by the Sea
    Posts
    9,276
    Thanks
    641
    Thanked 376 Times in 284 Posts

    Rep Power
    13

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    I'm not about to throw out the concept of 32 beat phrases, but I'm starting to think that there's a lot more to play with here, and MJ might be better equipped for it than other styles. I'm still investigating this though.

    -Dave
    I think you are right that there's even more going on in some popular music. What you need to do is find a especially good musician who can explain it to a non-musician in a way that's useful to dancers. In my experience this is a rare breed and most musicians seem to want to create an air of mystery - they mystify instead of clarify!

  19. #13
    Commercial Operator
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Northeastern Parts
    Posts
    5,221
    Thanks
    267
    Thanked 644 Times in 356 Posts

    Rep Power
    12

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Lindy teachers generally use single count. A few reasons for this that come to mind:

    • It's simple
    • It does go with the structure of the types of music used, and Lindy is heavily tied in with the musical phrasing and structure.
    • We constantly need to refer to what happens on particular beats as part of the teaching. For example - the whole "Letting go on 5" debate.

    When in doubt, go for simplicity and consistency, IMHO.

  20. #14
    Commercial Operator
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Sussex by the Sea
    Posts
    9,276
    Thanks
    641
    Thanked 376 Times in 284 Posts

    Rep Power
    13

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by straycat View Post
    For example - the whole "Letting go on 5" debate.
    Although that would be count 7 according to the teachers who count 5&6&7&8& - confuses the hell out of me. But I like it straightforward and simple.

  21. #15
    Commercial Operator
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Northeastern Parts
    Posts
    5,221
    Thanks
    267
    Thanked 644 Times in 356 Posts

    Rep Power
    12

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy McGregor View Post
    Although that would be count 7 according to the teachers who count 5&6&7&8& - confuses the hell out of me. But I like it straightforward and simple.
    Yeah - I don't get that one at all. Mind you - I can't recall if I've ever come across it in the wild - maybe it would make more sense to me in context. But I doubt it.

    An interesting one is that according to the wonderful Dawn Hampton the Lindy old-timers like Frankie never worked with counts at all 'back in the day' - they just felt the music and danced to it. Frankie learned to work with counts when he began teaching again, and he found that the modern dancers learned moves according to a count. Dawn proudly told us how, when a choregrapher asked her, on the set of Malcolm X, to demonstrate an 8-count, she replied: "The only Count I know is Basie." Which seems to be a catch-phrase of hers.

  22. #16
    Commercial Operator
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Northeastern Parts
    Posts
    5,221
    Thanks
    267
    Thanked 644 Times in 356 Posts

    Rep Power
    12

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    This is worth a read - I came across it looking for references for my last post - an article on musicality / music as relates to the old timers, which I think has some bearing on this discussion.

  23. 2 'Thanks':

    Dave Ellis (12th-January-2012), firefly (6th-January-2012)

  24. #17
    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Perth, Western Aus
    Posts
    19
    Thanks
    5
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Rep Power
    6

    Re: Counting Systems - Pros and Cons

    Thanks straycat, that was interesting! Enough material to keep me occupied for a while. I think this requires some experimentation. To the Dance Lab!!

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Jailbreaking an iPhone. Pros and cons?
    By Beowulf in forum Geeks' Corner
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 26th-June-2009, 11:44 AM
  2. Competing...Why? Where? Pros and Cons
    By Terpsichorea in forum Let's talk about dance
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 16th-July-2007, 11:28 PM
  3. Counting
    By mooncalf in forum Fun and Games
    Replies: 70
    Last Post: 26th-November-2005, 10:52 AM

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •