Conductors Hate Him! This Method of Counting Will Revolutionize the Way You Count Rests

Let me start with a scenario: You’re at a rehearsal where the group is reading through a new piece. You just finished a complicated technical passage, and now you’re faced with 28 bars of rest. Using your free hand, you count to 5 over and over until you get to 28…or is it 23? Inconspicuously, you use your peripheral vision to see if the other players in your section are getting ready to play or not. Before you know it, you’ve blown your next entrance and the conductor stops and chucks a honeydew melon in your general direction.

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

We’ve all been there. And once you get to know a piece through score study and multiple rehearsals, you probably won’t need to count (my preferred method). But, until then, what in the name of Hildegard von Bingen do you do?

Fear not, I’m here today to introduce you to a method of counting to 31 on one hand using binary! Reference this site if you’d like to understand how counting in binary works, but I’m not going to cover it in this post. Now, grab a marker and prepare to learn to count in binary by following along with this video:

For the text explanation, here’s the deal:

  • Open your right palm facing you

  • Starting with your thumb, label your fingers 1, 2, 4, 8, 16

  • From there, you just need to learn the pattern. Focus on your thumb, which alternates between up and down for each number

How is this going to change the way you count?

Once you understand the pattern, it becomes as mindless of an activity as counting to five on your hand. 
A few benefits to counting this way:

  1. It allows you to daydream, look back down at your fingers, and recognize what number you’re on. My favorite number is 4!

  2. It allows other people in your section who may have drifted off to see what bar of rest your section is in based on your hands.

  3. It’s complicated enough that it may force you to write in cues instead. 😊

Good luck and happy counting!