Playing The First Bar

I remember watching Dave Weckl’s video, Back To Basics (or was it The Next Step?) and he talked about counting in a song: he suggested singing the song in your head to get the tempo, and then play a bar or two by clicking your sticks or whatever. I’m badly paraphrasing here, but this always stuck with me, and is in fact a great way to start a song, though it takes a bit of practice to learn to do it quickly.┬áThis is an important skill, so let’s explore it a little further… My approach to this concept could be stated as: “play the first bar without using your kit.” In this context, the first bar is something you’ve added, a moment or two to get locked in to the correct tempo, so you’re already feeling and playing the right tempo before the sticks touch the kit. To do this, you first need to HEAR the correct tempo, then FEEL it. It’s pretty simple but both steps are crucial. Let’s tackle hearing the correct tempo first. There are some different ways to approach this: 1.) Using a metronome Pretty obvious, right? Really a great way to eliminate the guesswork. Make a “crib sheet” with tempo markings for the songs in your set. At the beginning of each number, listen to a bar or two of time, and you’re off! The tricky part is making this process happen quickly: it takes a second to read the notes, set the metronome, listen, and count in the band. Apps like Metronome by Frozen Ape allow you to make auto-advance setlists, so you...