Count off

A count off, count in, or lead-in is a verbal,[1] instrumental or visual cue used in musical performances and recordings to ensure a uniform entrance to the performance by the musicians[2] and to establish the piece's initial tempo, time signature and style.[3][4] Although a count off usually lasts just one or two bars,[2] it is able to convey the music's style, tempo, and dynamics from the leader (such as the conductor, bandleader or principal) to the other performers.[3] A count off is generally in the same style of the piece of music—for instance, a joyful swing tune should have an energized count off.[5] A misleading lead-in, one which indicates a different meter than that of the piece, is a false trail.[6][7] Counting off is evident in musical genres other than Western classical and popular music; Ghanaian ethnomusicologist J. H. Kwabena Nketia has observed the benefits of such techniques in West African music.[8]

A silent count off, such as those given by an orchestral conductor using a baton, may be given as a value "in front" (e.g. "eight in front" refers to a count off of eight beats).[9]

In recorded music, the final two beats of the count off (one, two, one—two—threefour) are often silent to avoid spill onto the recording,[2][10] especially if the piece has a pickup. The count off is typically edited out after the recording has finished.[11] There are, however, instances where the count off is deliberately kept on a recording—sometimes even edited onto a recording. In the case of "I Saw Her Standing There" by The Beatles, the count off was edited onto a different take of the song.[12] A recorded count off can be made by musicians through an open microphone or through the studio's talkback system,[13] the latter being done by non-performing personnel such as the producer or engineer. The inclusion of a count off in a studio recording may give the impression of a live performance, as on the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Reprise" (1967).[6]

Pre-count[14] and count-off[15] are functions of digital audio workstations which give an amount of click track—typically two bars[15]—before the recording begins.


See also


  1. Dunscomb, J. Richard; Willie L. Hill (2002). Jazz pedagogy : the jazz educator's handbook and resource guide. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Co. p. 63. ISBN 0-7579-9125-4.
  2. "Count off (Count in)". Sweetwater. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  3. Dunscomb, J. Richard; Willie L. Hill (2002). Jazz pedagogy : the jazz educator's handbook and resource guide. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Co. p. 157. ISBN 0-7579-9125-4.
  4. Vradenburg, written by Wilbur M. Savidge, Randy Lee (2001). Everything about playing blues (1st ed.). Springtown: Praxis. p. 40. ISBN 1-884848-09-5.
  5. Weir, Michele (2005). Jazz singer's handbook : (the artistry and mastery of singing jazz; includes jazz standards recorded by Chet Baker ...). Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Co. p. 76. ISBN 0-7390-3387-5.
  6. Shepherd, John (ed.) (2003). "Lead-in", Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Part 1 Performance and Production, p.610. ISBN 978-0-8264-6322-7.
  7. Van Der Merwe (1989), p.157. Cited in Shepherd (2003).
  8. London, Justin (2004). Hearing in time psychological aspects of musical meter. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-19-803645-0.
  9. Tedesco, Tommy (2008). For Guitar Players Only. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Co. p. 84. ISBN 1-4574-3052-5.
  10. Sharp, J.D. (1992). Home recording techniques : a step-by-step guide to multitracking and mixing. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Co. p. 29. ISBN 0-88284-495-4.
  11. Everett, Walter (2009). The foundations of rock from "Blue suede shoes" to "Suite : Judy blue eyes". Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 353. ISBN 0-19-971870-9.
  12. Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles recording sessions (1st ed.). New York: Harmony Books. p. 9. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
  13. Hurtig, Brent (1988). Multi-Track Recording for Musicians. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Co. p. 90. ISBN 1-4574-2484-3.
  14. Millward, Simon (2007). Fast Guide to Cubase 4. Tonbridge: PC Publishing. p. 47. ISBN 1-906005-00-1.
  15. Barrett, Don (2009). Digital Performer 6 power! : the comprehensive guide (Guide (Instructor's) ed.). Boston, MA: Course Technology Cengage Learning. p. 115. ISBN 1-59863-907-2.
  16. Everett, Walter (2001). The Beatles as musicians the Quarry Men through Rubber soul. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-19-534972-5.
  17. Scott, Richard J. (2003). Chord progressions for songwriters. New York: Writers Club Press. p. 292. ISBN 0-595-26384-4.
  18. Everett, Walter (1999). The Beatles As Musicians:Revolver through the Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-19-988093-X.
  19. Marinucci, Steve. "'The Making of Sgt. Pepper' paved the way for 'Beatles Anthology'". Examiner. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  20. Bardola, Nicola (2010). John Lennon : Wendepunkte (1. Aufl. ed.). Zürich: Römerhof-Verlag. p. 160. ISBN 3-905894-07-6.
  21. Urish, Ben; Bielen, Ken (2007). The words and music of John Lennon (1st publ. ed.). Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Praeger. p. 88. ISBN 0-275-99180-6.
  22. Collar, Matt. "Carly Hennessy—Ultimate High". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  23. Calhoun, Scott (2011). Exploring U2 : is this rock 'n' roll? : essays on the music, work, and influence of U2. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 225. ISBN 0-8108-8157-8.
  24. Díaz, Itxu (2005). Haciendo Amigos. Ediciones DaylNet. p. 84. ISBN 84-611-1498-1.
  25. Kootnikoff, David (2012). Bono : a biography. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood. p. 140. ISBN 0-313-35509-6.
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