I have some songs that I have wrongly counted one-two-three-four in my head when I was very young. Because of this, when I hear it today, I often sing one-two-three-four wrongly. I know when the first beat starts, but my ears are trained on the wrong timeshift and I can't un-train myself from that. I really need help because it annoys me as I have perfect pitch and I'm a perfectionist in music so I don't tolerate such mistakes for myself.

Here are some examples:

Listen to this song, but once you get to 1:01 where you can hear "B C# D C# B F# B C# D C# B F#" in a loop, that's where I count the first B as an upbeat of 1/8 instead of having it the first beat.

The bass strikes at every 2nd ♪ like 7♪7♪7♪7♪ (where 7 is a ♪-ish pause) which is why my head thought/thinks it's ♪7♪7♪7♪7 which is wrong. So, basically, I'm time-shifted by one ♪ forward just like in the previous example. Once when I was tired, I was listening to a beta version of the song and heard it right! It sounded to me like a completely new song and it was awesome until I became a bit more woken up from my daydream when everything came back to the incorrect interpretation of my ear, rendering me unable to ever hear the song right again.

Has anyone had this issue? Has anyone solved it? Should I re-write those parts of the songs in MuseScore and make the PC play them while I look at the notes? Should I download the songs and try to sync it with a metronome? Both of these solutions would take a lot of time, though and I don't know would they just make me think even more wrongly. What do you think?

  • Have you tried learning to play the parts in question and counting out loud with the correct meter while you play? Mar 28, 2016 at 20:21
  • Yeah, just after I asked the question, but I still hear it the same.
    – Foxcat385
    Mar 28, 2016 at 23:17
  • I don't think you'll be able to retrain your brain in only three hours. You might have to go through that process every day for weeks or months. Mar 28, 2016 at 23:46
  • In the first one, you will notice that the 4th beat is accented in the drums, especially in the passage you mention starting at 1:01. Try counting one-two-three-FOUR-one-two-three-FOUR and see if that helps.
    – BobRodes
    Mar 29, 2016 at 5:59
  • The Beatles' 'She's a Woman' used to do that to me. Then I realised that the intro is all off beat chords, which initially sound like they're on the beat.
    – Tim
    Mar 29, 2016 at 6:57

4 Answers 4


Oh, yes. First time I heard the finale to Prokofiev's 7th piano sonata, I latched onto the bass accents and thought that it was 2 chords to each beat, with an upbeat to the first bar. So, wrong beats as well as wrong bar-lines.

Hemiola in pieces in triple-time can lead people astray. Sometimes, I think the composer deliberately tried to mislead listeners, as in the minuet of Mozart's string quartet 14 in G, K387. By contrast, I misinterpreted one passage because I thought there was hemiola but there wasn't: Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto's finale's main subject. How come? The string chords in this later statement of the theme.


Essentially the problem you are having is holding the downbeat when there are strong accents in the song which pull your ear into hearing those as downbeats. In the first song the loud drums/cymbals pull your ear to hear that as beat one instead of beat four. In the second song the bass notes have more emphasis than the drums which and pull your ear to hear those as downbeats instead of 8th note offbeats.

So the general issue is to not let your mind trick you into hearing the louder parts and parts with more emphasis as downbeats. You can improve on this by practicing with a metronome but forcing your mind to hear the clicks as different offbeats instead of only hearing it as downbeats.

Here is a video by Benny Greb (an amazing drummer) who explains and demonstrates this concept:

Practice those kinds of exercises and eventually you should have no problem hearing loud or accented parts as offbeats. :)


The only answer to your question is "Well, don't do that any more then!" You've recognised your error, correct it.

But you're hearing a bit of video game music in the wrong time signature. So what? Are you trying to transcribe it? You know how to write it, where the barlines go, now.

Also, remember this is music designed to loop behind a scene in a game. Maybe it's INTENDED to be a bit ambiguous. When the game cuts to the next scene you mustn't feel an unsatisfing jolt in the music - "Hey, you didn't finish that bar!"


A good place to start is listening to the drums because they'll most of time have a repeating indication of a beat. In the first song the bass (of the drums) always hits on 1. In the case of the second song you're right listen thinking the drum hits on the downbeat. If you listen to the second song the guitar may make you think you're in a fast 4/4 tempo but this piece seems to be in cut time (2/2). It is very common, in cut time music of a jazzy style, to place the drum cymbals on the up beats of each beat so you do end up with the snare drum on the beat. The time signature is 2/2 (which you can think of as a really fast 4/4) then, your cymbals are on the and (2 and 4, if you think of it as a fast 4/4) and snare is on 1 and 2 (1 and 3, if you think of it as a fast 4/4) the tick/beat is in the half note, which sounds like a quarter note to you.

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