In attempt to improve my crappy sense of rhythm, I've been reviewing how to count beats. However, I've been having some trouble, since rhythm divisions don't seem to translate "mathematically" into words.

Take the bar below for example. What is the proper way to count this?

When I try, I get

1 & 2 3 4

but saying 4 at the end instead of & seems misleading, since the last note isn't a full beat. Am I counting this incorrectly? I assume I'm just missing something...

4 Answers 4


In 4/4, if the shortest note is an 8th, your basic counting matrix is:


In this example the notes come on:


An alternative is the Kodály Method where whole beat notes are 'Ta', half beat notes are 'Ti'. (Two beats are Ta-a, 4 beats are Ta-a-a-a etc.) Once you internalise the length that goes with each syllable, linear counting is possible, ignoring the beats. Thus, the example would be 'Ta Ti Ta Ta Ti'.

  • 2
    This is the correct way to count the measure. I'd like to comment that the notation makes the timing hard to read. The usual suggestion not to use single notes from a weak partial beat to a strong partial beat holds. I'd probably write (as I don't have graphics posting stuff working as of yet and using 8 for an eighth note and 4 for a quarter note and an underscore for a tie) 4 8 8_8 8_8 8. I would probably leave the eighth notes unbeamed (or beamed to 4/4 and having the ties show the off-beat connections.
    – ttw
    Oct 23, 2017 at 2:04

Basically you would count it like that:

enter image description here


To add onto what Laurence said, You have to think of the length of the preceding note. Thinking about the concept of when the note actually ends may help.

Your attempt at counting (1 & 2 3 4) tells me you were thinking "Whole note means one, quarter note means and, so 1-And." However, the length of the first note already takes up the 'and' of 1. So the eighth number STARTS on the two. Then the third note (another quarter length) STARTS on the 'and' of 2, because that's as far as the eighth note took us.

So, (in 4/4 timing) a quarter note will take up the WHOLE number. So correct counting, as Laurence already put it, is One-Two-And-And-And.


How the count is constructed: (2 Bar count is 1&2&3&4&1&2&3&4) wher the number represents the downbeat and the "&" represents the upbeat:

Proper count for this example: 1 2& & & Proper count if the bar is repeated: 1 2& & &1 2& & &

VISUAL: enter image description here

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