To play music rhythm in time it was always something difficult to me, with a metronome also. Basically I can not count time. On the other hand I have some intuition to compose simple music, and when I do it I don`t care for time and just concentrate myself in "how it sounds", if it sounds good, like I want, I memorize, and I am not thinking if it is a "triplet" or not. Notation is artificial. I would like to understand both systems, but it seems just to function my natural way. What should I do?

  1. Abandon Music;
  2. Forget notation and play by ear (develop ear skills);
  3. Compose and improvise and forget interpretation of the others work.
  • 4
    If you can't count time, it will be more difficult for you to be able to play in a band with other musicians. If all you want to do is play music by yourself, this is not as much of a problem.
    – user1044
    Jan 10, 2013 at 18:23

4 Answers 4


Music notation is more or less a unified way to describe and record music so that it can be repeated by other musicians. More broadly theory is just a way to understand why music "works". It's a set of "rules" that explain why one thing sounds good and another doesn't.

You don't need to know any of that to write or perform music, so certainly don't let it limit you creatively. But on the other hand music theory in particular can be be a very helpful tool in composition.

If an important part of your goal is documenting your music, then yes, you probably want to put some time into learning notation and theory. But don't stress about it for now.

All things can come in time with patients and practice.


Do whatever you want!

I know a man who, when handed a guitar, will perform Rod Stewart's I Don't Wanna Talk About It. He sings beautifully. He gets a nice tone out of his guitar. His bars last as long as he pleases - 4 beats, 5 beats, 7 beats, 6 beats.

Now, I find it quite uncomfortable to listen to - I want to sing along, quietly - but he comes in a beat early, or a beat late, every time. But it doesn't bother everyone, and many people very much enjoy his performances.

Play what you think sounds good. That might be enough for you. Other people may or may not like it; you need to decide whether you care what they think.

However, as Wheat says in his comment, keeping to a rhythm is almost essential when playing in a group with other musicians. If you played piano and I played bass, and I wasn't able to predict when your next note would come, or when you would change chord, we wouldn't manage to make any music worth hearing.

Music that deviates from a strict time signature is challenging for band musicians - for example I sometimes play with a set up beginner-intermediate guitarists, and certain Crowded House songs slip a 3/4 bar into a 4/4 song - it takes a few practice runs to get it right.


You don't need to count to play in rhythm. You just need to "feel" the rhythm. Counting can distract you. You should know that your mind always counts when you listen to music. This is why 4/4 is nice and 7/8 can sound a little weird. Try tapping your foot when playing instead of counting. Also give rhythm the priority over technique and hitting the right notes. That's how I play, I never loose the beat, even if I had to skip a note, or hit a bad note.

As a beginner, I always tried to play all the notes without missing or skipping any. So I played with bad rhythm because I thought I would focus on it after I had memorized the notes better. I think this is a common attitude among all beginners and you should avoid it. If you can't play or improvise at a given tempo, slow down, but keep the temo steady.

Short Answer

  • You don't have to count or read music. You'll probably focus on it later as you improve.

  • Counting is distracting, instead of counting tap your foot.

  • Sacrifice some notes if you risk loosing the rhythm.

  • Practice at a comfortable tempo.


Counting becomes almost automatic with practice. I count music all the time. It's necessary for any complex dancing or for playing most "classical" (or "art") music. After some time counting along with the playing, it's almost subconscious.

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