I am a beginner and I am learning to play the violin. So far, from what I've seen,according to the teaching of Western classical music you count as you play. if it's a 3/4 measure then you count 1,2,3 or 1& 2& 3, 1, 2&, 3, etc. depending on the rhythm and notation. However, I have seen musicians(outside of western classical) who don't necessarily count like that as long as they know the notes they feel the rhythm and play the song WHILE enjoying it. On the other hand, I noticed that if i try to count and play, I really cannot enjoy music, instinctively following the rhythm is more gratifying (someone who started learning with me has already decided to stop counting) not only that, it's easier to pick up the song with just unconsciously following the rhythm and looking at the notes in the score (and not consciously counting their value rather instinctively following them) So, can anyone clarify to me why is it necessary to count?

  • How do you know they don't count? Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 16:53
  • @davidstrachan I know this by working with them. I even formally asked one of them, who learned eastern classical and subcontinental music. Also, before violin, I used to learn guitar and my teacher, though taught me a bit about measures like 4/4, 3/4 he never taught me how to read sheet music (only guitar tab) and performed music through feeling the rhythm. Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


If you are unfamiliar with a piece of music then it is necessary to count it out to understand how the phrasing would be. Once you understand the phrasing then you can perform it without actually counting and enjoy it.

  • I see. could you also tell me whether you count 32nd notes and above consciously? my violin teacher told me that he does not count them (not even 16th note) but rather punches them in the beat. Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 12:02
  • I would say he is feeling it. If you practice with a metronome with 16th and 32nd notes, you will begin to feel the rhythm without actually counting it. Just trust yourself and practice. People who dance can feel the rhythm without counting, it is natural.
    – r lo
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 13:27

When learning a piece it can be useful to count the meter out like you describe, but when people are becoming used to the material, I think most people aren't counting each bar like that. In an orchestra, the conductor is indicating the tempo, when a new measure starts, with a band the drummer is keeping the rhythm.

I don't know which non-western type of music you are referring to, but for almost all music I would say it's important to know where in the form you are at each point in time. When beginning, counting the beats could be a good way to achieve this.

So to wrap this up into some kind of answer, keeping the beat is very important, to always count each beat explicitly is probably rare.

  • I said in my question "outside of western classical" meaning it is not necessarily "non-western". I learned a little bit of guitar from someone who follows modern western music and he also followed the same principal as you, "keeping to the beats" but did not count individual notes. So based on your answer I'm concluding counting each beat separately is not necessarily important, so thanks. And as for "non-western" i guess I also meant "Indian classical music/subcontinental music"- they have their own grammar and all but as far as I know they don't necessarily count each beat. Commented Mar 16, 2014 at 17:52
  • Even within Indian music is there a system of counting beats. See Takadimi: takadimi.net/FAQs.html . While it is quite different (and altogether more elegant) than a traditional western style of counting, in the end they strive for the same goal of being able to interpret, or feel, the rhythm.
    – Gizmo
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 7:14

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.