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Why do jazz and funk musicians count on 2 and 4 beats on a 4/4 beat?

I've noticed that most musicians of other styles count on 1 and 3 or 1,2,3,4.

Is there any advantage in counting on 2 and 4?

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4 Answers 4

I don't think it's really an advantage, but more of a stylistic choice. It's like a form of syncopation, only instead of emphasising between the beats of the bar, you're emphasising the weak beats(or between the stressed beats) of the bar.

It's a staple technique of certain genres like Ragtime and Ska, but in the case of Jazz, funk and most other genres it's more something that's occasionally used to add interest and contrast to the music.

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It's supposed to mimic the jazz sound of the hi-hat on 2 & 4, and the theory is that learning to play over that kind of counting/tapping is better for your rhythmic awareness and swing feel. It definitely takes more practice. YMMV.

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I don't know how it started, but there are a few subtleties about it. As Alexander Troup said, it's stylistic, and it sets the style for the song.

Beats 2 and 4 are equal in weight. The downbeat is always the strongest beat, followed by the third beat. When you count all four you count "ONE two Three four ONE two Three four" with weak and strong beats. Counting on two and four is like "(rest) two (rest) four / (rest) two (rest) four" with two and four being equal in weight.

Additionally, counting on the strong beats gives a feeling of downward motion like a march. We call these beats "downbeats" and "upbeats" for a reason. For most dances, your foot goes down hard on the downbeat. In a jumping dance, you jump up on the upbeat and land on the downbeat. Counting only on the upbeats emphasizes this feeling of upward motion and leaves out the downward motion. As Shevliaskovic said, it makes the song swing, and I think it's the "lift" and the absence of "thud" that does it.

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up vote 0 down vote accepted

Counting off a tempo to a jazz band is one of the most important things a director needs to do. The whole tone and style of the music is dictated by the way the director kicks off the chart, yet it’s something that easily gets neglected.

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How you snap or clap depends on the style of the groove you’re kicking off. With a swing feeling you should always snap or clap on beats two and four, assuming a 4/4 time.

[..]

via wilktone

So, counting on beats 2 and 4 makes the song swing

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