I have a problem with counting. I can count well when there is something without the need of stopping like:

1 e and a / 2 e and a ...

(I hit the note every word I say)

but when there is something like :

1 e and a / 2 pause and a /

then I mess up. Is something bad with me or do you have something to practice this ?

  • 4
    Are you actually saying “e” with your mouth when the music is supposed to pause in the second example? The idea behind counting is that your mouth keeps saying all the counts regardless of what your hands are playing. Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 18:13
  • 2
    Keep strumming with the same rhythm. For the second example, just "miss" the strings by an inch during the pause. Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 19:25

3 Answers 3


In the early stages it's sometimes difficult to count, especially rests and longer notes. Something needs to be there at the point where you don't actually play a note - either because the last note lasts longer, or there's a rest.

Various things can help, whether it's a nod of the head, shrug of the shoulders, tap of the foot, or even a sniff. In other words something that you do to fill the gap where there's no note to play.

Another way, which worked for me, was to count either as you try - 1e&a2e&a, or use numbers 1-16. Count out loud, and use single syllables - 'sen' for seven, 'fif' for fifteen, etc., and shout out the 'unused' ones, signifying the lack of note being played. As usual, slow it all down initially.

If you are reading music, and playing scales, an interesting thing to do is write out some bars using the dots, in different rhythms, and play your scales in the timing you've written. It may help, for example, with a two octave pentatonic scale, to have 21 playable note places, but of differing lengths (not all of them, obviously!).


Nothing is bad with you. Just don't think too much.

  1. Let your right hand go up and down and up and down, (it's a natural movement of shaking). 1+2+3+4+
  2. Then let the fingers touch the strings only when going down and skip the strings when coming up again. 1-2-3-4-
  3. Skip the strings when you play down and play when coming up. (Don't fix your mind on counting, just let it flow.) (1)+(2)+(3)+(4)+
  4. Mix the two ways of playing and invent your own rhythms.

  5. When you feel free and easy start with counting (exercices 1-4)

  6. Try now to notate your own inventions and rhythmical pattern improvisations.
  7. When you are able to notate what you play you will be able to read what is written and you will be able to play what you read.

(if you don't know yet to write quarters and eighths just sign the downs and ups by an arrow down resp. an arrow up. and the muted strikes you write in ( ) brackets. Just invent your own signs for music writing)

Yes, as Tim says, tap your feet and shake your head and swing your body.


Try playing 1 e & a, 2 e & a while only counting 1 & 2 &. This will get you used to playing and counting different things. Once that is done try playing the other rhythm while counting 1 & 2 &.

Work up to the point you can play either rhythm while just counting 1 2 3 4.

As with anything that you are having trouble with slow it down. Way down. And use a metronome. You can have the metronome just on the beats, playing eighths (1&2&) or 16ths(1e&a).

  • And use a metronome with a 1st beat 'ping', if possible. Which could be set to ping on 1 and 3.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 14:28

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