Many of my students will tell you that I sound like a broken record when emphasizing the importance of counting OUT LOUD! Indeed I do repeat myself often because, most often, the student refuses to count out loud. My response to them is simple, "you start counting, I'll stop telling you to count." This is usually met with the student telling me that "I am my head..." In which, my reply is "counting in your head doesn't count."

The best analogy I ever heard describing a good reason to count while learning music comes in the form of sweet childhood memories.....TRAINING WHEELS! Think of counting as the training wheels on a bike. When learning to ride a bike, one uses the benefit of training wheels to help make sure that they won't fall while gathering/practicing the proper skills of balance, hand/eye coordination, and (most importantly) the CONFIDENCE needed to ride the bike without training wheels. Once the necessary skills, techniques, and overall understanding of riding a bike are learned, the training wheels can come off. In much the same way, learning music requires a system that helps connect the necessary skills of visually seeing notes on a page, processing them mentally, physically executed the music on the instrument, and hearing the results. This is a lot of stuff to coordinate in the very exacting time frame of music. After all, the note needs to played at a precise moment in order to be correct and this can cause a lot of pressure on the student. The simplest, most effective way to unite all these ingredients is to break up the time/tempo into counts that can be assigned the specific note or technical skill needed to produce the desired music. By counting out loud, the student is making a vocal connection to the visual and physical aspects of the music, and therefore is training the muscle memory to recognize the patterns and notes on the page. Over time this skill eventually becomes something that is practiced enough to be "felt" and counting becomes much like the training won't be as needed. As the cliche goes: it will be “like riding a bike.”

When we write our names down on paper, we don't stop and slowly think about each specific letter we need to write in order to jot down the name. That is because we are trained and have written our names thousands, if not a million times. We just write it without much thought because our minds and muscle memory is on auto pilot. Remember this Bobby A-ism: "what the mind/body knows, it enables us to show, by the process of a natural flow." But don't forget, before you could write your name, you first had to learn your alphabet. First through the famous "alphabet song" and next by learning the correct pronunciation and sound of each letter. Both processes utilized the voicing OUT LOUD of the skill being learned.

Thus is the same with counting out loud when learning musical patterns, grooves, rhythms, and songs.