I'm trying to arrange a song, but I'm running into trouble with figuring out the rhythm. I can tap out the rhythm perfectly fine but when I try tapping out the rhythm I can't count steady. I'm basicaly counting the numbers to the rhythm.

For example if I am listening to a rhythm, quarter-half-quarter, I would count it like "one, ttwwoo, three."

EDIT: This isn't a possible duplicate of this. I am not asking if musicians always count, I am asking how musicians count.

  • 2
    Clap the rhythm with your hands while you tap a steady beat with your foot. Tapping your foot to a rhythm is a much more instinctive thing than counting beats in your head. Repeat until you can do it fluently. Then pay attention to which claps are on the foot taps, or right in-between two foot taps, or just before or after a tap. That should let you figure out what the rhythm is. Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 5:35
  • Practice, practice, practice. Seriously. But, yeah, use the sound-patterns suggested in the answers. Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 13:18
  • Possible duplicate of Do musicians count the meter all the time? Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 13:20
  • @CarlWitthoft I've explained why this isn't a duplicate
    – Nicholas
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 19:29

3 Answers 3


Use a metronome. It will count the beats or sub-beats for you.

Or, do as a lot of us do, count (in 4/4) !e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a. That splits the bar into 16, usually enough.

Or, just count to 16 if it's slow enough to manage. Trouble with that is the long words don't have enough time, often.

Or, tap your foot,(maybe two feet alternating), nod your head, shrug your shoulders while singing/playing.

Or, get someone else to help with counting the beats.


I cannot use metronomes easily, and find a simple drum beat more helpful. You can get a free online drum machine here at the Hydrogen project on Sourceforge If tapping your foot does not come naturally (when combined with playing something else), try nodding.


Do you really need to count numbers consciously?

Usually, I find that it's enough to 'feel' or 'imagine' the basic pulse (at the same intervals at which you would count) as the 'background' task in my mind, while focusing on a tricky rhythm and how it relates to that basic pulse. Usually that's all the figuring out I need to do to notate (or recall) the rhythm.

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