tenet (ten' it), noun: a principle, doctrine, or belief held as truth

Welcome to my blog! Here I will share some of my thoughts on horn playing and teaching, which I think about a lot, and maybe some other things, too. Since my job (which thankfully, allows me to do a lot of playing and teaching) keeps me very busy, as does my wonderful family, I may not write frequently. My goal will be quality, not quantity!

Please share your comments.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On Counting Rests

        I recently played Così fan tutte with the Asheville Lyric Opera.  I plan to post more on this later, particularly No. 25: "Per pieta", which has some hair-raising horn parts.  But for now, this is just a quick post inspired by all the counting of rests the opera involved.
        First, an important point for any ensemble playing...

It's YOUR job to count the rests.

        Or, put another way...

It's your JOB to count the rests.

        Now, a tip, and hopefully a discussion starter.  Some people seem to be able to keep track of long stretches of rests in their heads without trouble, but I'm not one of them.  I use my fingers.  I use a particular method; I don't think it's terribly original, but I'll share it here to see what others think.
        I count to 10 on one hand, starting like this:

My thumb goes out last for 5, then I start with the thumb for 6, putting my pinky out last for 10:

        Then I start again with the pointer for 11, etc.  So, all I have to remember is if I'm in the 10's, 20's, etc.  (The longest stretch in Così was 69 bars!)
        I do this discreetly, in my lap where the audience won't notice.  And sometimes I'm not even sticking my fingers out as in the pictures above, but rather I'm just pressing one finger at a time into my thigh or my horn to keep track of the count.
        One last point related to this topic: If you know the score really well, you don't even have to count every rest.
        I would like to know what methods you use to count rests.  Please describe them in the comments section!


  1. In Die Zauberflöte, where I had a stretch of 465 rests (first clarinet part), I wrote in the first bassoon's part when he needs to wake me up. He was playing practically the whole time, so that worked pretty well. Otherwise I use the method you described above.

  2. Your system is great, but an improvement I use is that 1-9 are counted on my left hand (index finger is 1, thumb is 5, and then start adding fingers for 7-9) and 10 becomes the index finger on my right hand. Then when I reach 20, I add a sencond finger on my right hand and so on. When I reach 50 - thumb, I raise the other fingers and 60 becomes thumb plus index. Using this system you can count to 100, a number rarely exceeded in Horn literature. This use of fingers for counter comes from a childrens method of mathematics that is much more complex that the simple counting here.

  3. I use a similar (but different) 1-hand system:
    1-thumb up
    2-add index up
    3-add middle up
    4-add ring up
    5-add pinky up (so all 5 fingers are up)
    6-thumb (only) down (leaving other 4 still up)
    7-index down
    8-middle down
    9-ring down
    10-pinky down (all 5 fingers down)
    The tens digit I just track mentally.

  4. Here's a comic that deals with counting rests!