As someone who was taught to count compound meter like this:

4 groups of 3 eighth notes in 12/8 time, labelled '1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a'

How would this system count the following patterns whilst still keeping the beat on the dotted quarter note?

4 groups consisting of a dotted eighth note, sixteenth note, and eighth note in 12/8 time, labelled '1 question mark question mark 2 question mark question mark 3 question mark question mark 4 question mark question mark'

2 Answers 2


I learned the same way of counting, and I've found two solutions that work well for me:

  1. Count each eighth note as a beat. Thus a regular 6/8 measure would be 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 6, and a measure with the dotted rhythms illustrated in the question would be 1 (and 2) and 3 4 (and 5) and 6.

  2. The Rhythm Book, by Richard Hoffman, uses a system in which triplets (and thus compound meter) are Ta - Ki - Da, and sextuplets are Ta - Va - Ki - Di - Da - Ma. It took a while to get used to his mnemonics, but now I prefer them a great deal. So, the dotted rhythm would be Ta - Di - Da.

Here's a scored illustration of both approaches:

Scored examples of two counting methods


In my experience, counting is primarily supposed to represent the meter, not the rhythm. So the best thing to do would be to count straight eighth notes while playing the sixteenth notes halfway between "and" and "a."

Beginners may have trouble with this, though, and the best solution will depend on the tempo and the individual. For slow practice, at least, you can introduce another syllable, perhaps "one and-y-a, two and-y-a," etc., or you could count it in twelve: one two-and-three, four five-and-six," etc.

For faster practice, you can try using three syllables per beat in the dotted rhythm, but that tends to lead to the sixteenth note getting accented, which is generally to be avoided.

  • 1
    This pattern is sometimes called 'Siciliana' (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siciliana). In French, we use 'Si-Ci-Lienne' as the three syllables you mention, I guess one could use 'Si-Ci-Lia' in English.
    – vc 74
    Feb 20 at 12:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.