Not sure if I am the only one, (maybe reminiscences of dyslexia?), but when I have to play repeated series of notes like in 'Schradiek, school of violin technics' I tend to under or overcount the group of notes. Let's say you have to play something like c,d,c,d,c,d,c,d,c,d. Sometimes I play 4 times the c,d, sometimes 6, sometimes 5... Am I the only one with this problem? If not, what's your trick?

  • 1
    Divide and conquer, it's really the only way. It's towards a different outcome, but you might find this guide to odd key signatures handy (It's all about counting to an unusual number in a musical context) youtube.com/watch?v=JQk-1IXRfew
    – AJFaraday
    Dec 14, 2020 at 11:30
  • It happens to me too. I'm not sure it helps for violin, so I'll just write a comment and not an answer. On guitar, if I have to play a chord n times, I like to play an alternating bass, so that I only have to count to n/2. Dec 15, 2020 at 22:05
  • also look up for ta-te counting in this SE or this video: youtube.com/… Dec 16, 2020 at 10:03

9 Answers 9


Something I have noticed as I have improved from complete beginner is the ability to "group" more notes at a time. As a complete beginner it was a struggle to play one note correctly at a time. As I improved I found I could group 2 or even 3 notes at a time. Now at my best I am up to a bar or sometimes even two depending on the phrasing.

That is the way to approach this problem. Rather than group the above example as (c,d)x5 try (c,d,c,d)x2 + (c,d). Counting up to 2 is much easier than counting up to 5.


I doubt it’s a “trick”, but I count out loud either the beats and measures and read along or if it gets really repetitive I count the number of repetitions out loud with my mouth.

I’ve been working on a Ligeti piece on piano and near the end the same figure is repeated ten times and so I just count to ten and then move on.

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    As a bass player I'd say this is really important, you always need to know where you are at any moment, and the best way is to count. Put it together with Brian Towers's and Laurence Payne's answers, if those are groups of quick notes, practise them as a group, slowly. If you have dyslexia problems you can write the number of repetitions on your partition to help you.
    – Kaddath
    Dec 14, 2020 at 11:31
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    I may also write the number of repeats onto the sheet music, as a reminder.
    – Simon B
    Dec 14, 2020 at 19:14
  • And if "c,d,c,d,c,d,c,d,c,d." is a mix of eighth and sixteenth notes, I might count "one-e-and-a-two-and-three-and-four-and" Dec 15, 2020 at 5:06
  • But what if it's "too fast to count"? e.g. at 384bpm (seems to be my limit at vocalizing!), "C C C C C C C C C C C D" Dec 15, 2020 at 8:37
  • @MateenUlhaq I’ve never developed any tricks for 384 BPM because I’ve never worked on a piece that is anywhere near that fast. Dec 15, 2020 at 14:46

Slow practice. Be in control of what you play. If you fumble something slowly, you're sure to fumble it fast!

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    "If you can play it slow, you can play it fast"?
    – Clockwork
    Dec 14, 2020 at 16:37
  • 4
    @Clockwork More like if you can't play it slow then you'll never be able to play it fast.
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 14, 2020 at 22:11
  • 1
    This is good advice, but on the other hand my old band director would have us attempt hard passages at double time, after which playing it at the proper tempo felt much more achievable
    – BThompson
    Dec 14, 2020 at 22:20
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    Well yes... As long as you COULD play it that way. There's no point in playing it WRONG at double speed (or any speed).
    – Laurence
    Dec 15, 2020 at 1:32
  • @Clockwork But wouldn't that be a bit... y'know, sacrilegious, no?
    – Divide1918
    Dec 16, 2020 at 13:58

There's no real "trick" to it, you just count. If it's a single note or chord, just counting "1-2-3.." out loud and then eventually in your head. If it's a pattern of notes (thinking of the ending Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat Major) you identify the start of a pattern and then do the exact same thing.

Starting off slow is always a great decision too :)

EDIT: I will also add this as a side note since you are a violinist, but if you are playing piano or any other instrument where you can have your hands playing independent parts, if one hand has such a structure that the other hand (that is playing the repeated notes) can follow, you can just memorize which note you end with your non-repeating note hand without too much hassle


If you're playing in a group, it can also help to know the other players' parts. Like "I repeat this passage until the cello reaches this note" or something to that effect. It may not help for practicing your part solo, but it can be a good technique with an ensemble, provided you can identify a good cue from some other instrument. This skill is essential for playing a jazz ensemble, where improvisation might mean that your part isn't always the same every time. (Drum solo went a little long this time, but if you're just waiting for the right cue, you know when it's time to react.) If you have a conductor, this might also help, as they might provide a visual cue when moving to a new section which you can keep an eye out for.


I'm not really sure how that happened. If you've been through or are going through classical training with a mentor I'd think you would have this covered. There is no "trick" there is never a trick. The repeated notes need to be understood in the context of a time signature and rhythm, tempo, etc. If the group is within one beat then play it slowly with a metronome until you can hear it correctly. Then speed up gradually until you've hit the mark. This should put you in a good spot to have the phrase, along with its juxtaposition against the tempo, in your muscle memory.

I would say that my above comment reveals some issues that can arise when learning. Sometimes players become concerned with getting fingering patterns in the muscle memory but the exact same pattern can give you problems if it appears in a syncopated manner, or as part of a phase in a time with a phrasing you are not familiar with.

I often see the following problem in guitarists playing faster than their skill level or development allows: they play 16th note as triplets and don't realize it. If you are playing up a scale for example in 16th notes in 4/4 you should hear 4 clicks within a beat, which means that if you stop after a quad you should hear 5 clicks (4 that you played followed by the metronome click on the next beat.) Playing too fast causes people to become lax and let the 4th note of the quad land on the next down beat. It can be hard to get players to hear this in their own playing. You might be experiencing something like this.

If the issue is one of getting lost because the phrase is repetitive and boring then you need to focus your attention more and really commit it to memory. I've been in this position many times. If the part you're playing belongs in a larger score perhaps playing it with a recording will help since you have aural markers (cues) that you can default to. If this is an exercise (which it seems to be based on your question) then the purpose is to get you prepared to repeat a phrase w/o getting lost. In this regard I can only say try to separate the finger movement (which may be easy) from the attack (which is where I get lost). Make it a percussion exercise at first and if you are supposed to execute 6 attacks per beat or measure then turn on a metronome and tap it out with your finger, or just move the bow against the muted string slowly at first then speeding up. Once you are confident that you are always executing the correct number of attacks put in the fingering. This approach helps me on guitar.

  • Maybe 'trick' is not the right word... You can replace 'trick' with 'method' if you prefer. My old teacher, 25 years ago, would have just told me that I had to 'memorize' the pattern; no counting. I never succeeded. Recently I have resumed my career and I see that I am encoutering the same problem. I just thought that it would be nice if we could share our 'methods' to help with this.
    – daniel sp
    Dec 16, 2020 at 9:13

I think it depends on whether you are counting at the beat subdivision level or beat/longer than beat level.

At the subdivsion level, ex.

enter image description here

...you should just count "1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4" while your hands execute the sixteenth-note , quarter-note, and whole-note rhythms. In other words you aren't counting "1 2 3 4" of C D repeated "1" quarter note of "C" then "1 2" repeats of C D then "1 2 3 4" beats of "c".

You could count like "1 e & a 2 e & a..." to orally count the sixteenth-notes, but it might slow down your playing. It's probably better to just count out loud the beats and then with your instruments treat each beat figure as a single "chunked" unit. You can call this figure a "shake". So, you have 2 beats of shake, 1 beat, 1 beat of shake crossing the bar to a whole note.

I'm not a violinist, but it occurred to me that you could use bowing to help with the counting. Each of those repeated sixteenth note shake figures could take a change of bow direction. That would articulate the beats and support the count too. Obviously this would depend on whether bowing was already indicated. But I would expect bowing to coincide in some supportive way with the counting.

At the beat or higher level...

enter image description here

...you could try counting like this...

1 2 3 4
2 2 3 4
3 2 3 4
4 2 3 4

...where the first beat counts up the number of time the bar is being repeated. Normally the first beat of the bar is "1" but here the first beat becomes a sort of counter for the bar repeats.

This doesn't seem like a line you would find in real music, but it illustrates the point for counting. I use this counting for other situations like counting a 4 chord progression that repeats a lot, as in a rock song. The idea should still apply to other cases of counting repeats of multiple bars of music.



in this group I count only the one of the two notes (usually the first), in triplets of course the first, if there more I count groups of 4 notes or 3 notes (this is the meaning of beaming.

There is a trick to underline rhythmical motifs with lyrics (we have a rhythm language for little children for each rhythm motif in our dialect language in our Canton Bern) but you can use any word like country names or city names, vegetables, animal names the fit with the rhythm of a group of notes when you are stumbling.

Also the jazz rhythmic speaking could be helpful:

  • Quarter notes: Da,Da,Da,Da
  • quavers: daba,daba,daba,daba
  • 16th notes: dabaraba,dabaraba,dabaraba,dabaraba
  • Grüezi aus Aargau. Yes, my 'trick' is also to count the 1st note of the groups. I was wondering if there was a better way because even though I get lost sometimes at the end of the repetitions.
    – daniel sp
    Dec 16, 2020 at 9:04
  • how about Dabadaba-Dabadaba-Dabadaba-Dabadaba? You won't struggle in the end as you'll "speak" daba and mind the finger that plays the last note. quarters:Da,da,da,da-Da,da,da,da quavers: Daba-Daba-Daba-Daba- Ja, de chönnte mir eigetlich bärndütsch mitenand schnure ;) Schritt Schritt Loufe loufe umerenne umerenne etc. Dec 16, 2020 at 9:43

Thanks to all. No 'tricks' worked here. As soon as I had to play the part with repetitions for my teacher I miscounted notes. He told me I should have practised with the metronome, as he had suggested. He had told me to use it, but not why should I do so. With the metronome on, either you play the right amount of notes or you are out of rhythm. Shame on me for neglecting his comments.

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