This is something that bothers me for too long, not that I practiced it, much but every time I try to practice it seems like climbing a mountain.

How do you identify the note duration of a note that you hear on a piece of music (whole/half/quarter/eight... e.t.c). I try to count the music but I always get lost, if it's something easy and straight forward, of course I can find out what's being played, but if it's something fast or contains triplets and dotted notes I get lost.

Are there any tips to make the processes easier?


3 Answers 3


I found that the best thing to do for me was to "memorize" certain rhythmic patterns. From a young age, we used Kodaly rhythmic solfege, so the simpler rhythms were very natural for me.

It makes sense to start with combinations of quarters and quarter rests. Then move to combinations of quarters with eighths, etc.


One thing that has helped me in the past is doing “conductor” style counting with my hand. That’s probably nowhere near an official term haha.

Anyway, it’s a good VISUAL representation of the beats I think.

So for example you start with you hand out in the air and on beat one you move your hand down.

Beat two is across your chest, beat three is to the opposite side of beat two, then beat four is up. Then you start over. That’s really hard to explain through text but hopefully that makes sense.

There are different hand patterns to count different time signatures too. Like 3/4 is down, across, up I believe?

Anyway, I always felt like actually SEEING the beats helped a great deal with figuring out note lengths. And you have the ability to really slow it down too since you’re the one controlling it.

Also, if it was a more complicated rhythm, I always made my movements more “robotic” and returned to a center position after each beat to count the 8th notes in between the down beats.


You could try this rhythm training app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.civogames.rythmmaster it's quite similar to a lot of what I had to do in music school. Otherwise, there's progressive rhythm reading methods. I'm sure practicing reading rhythms will help with identifying them.

  • Thanks for your answer, I'll check the app (I already have something similar and it doesn't go to as advanced stuff as I need). As for reading rhythms, I did that for 8 years+ been to classical music school. Read from simple to really complex stuff. I also read and played Dream Theater and other progressive bands songs. That's not hard to me. Hearing and identifying is hard because (I think) I have poor musical memory.
    – Not Amused
    Nov 13, 2014 at 19:36
  • Hmm...that's interesting. What kind of stuff are you trying to transcribe or figure out?
    – item5
    Nov 13, 2014 at 22:35
  • youtu.be/g68hQ4zJ3t0 is a good example. It's mostly about writing things that play in my head, not transcribing a specific song. I can get the notes down but not the rhythm. (or this, much more weird youtu.be/NmfzWpp0hMc)
    – Not Amused
    Nov 14, 2014 at 0:33

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