Teach Yourself Music Theory – 9.) Counting Rhythms in Simple Meter

You might have heard musicians joke about counting, one way or another. Saying that they only know how to count up to 4, or that counting is their life as they wait several measures before hitting a single note.

That brings us to today’s topic about music theory. While it is great that we can read a score and identify rhythms – how do we know what they sound like?

Let’s start off by looking at a piece of music in common time. The meter type is simple quadruple, so we know that beats are grouped into four within each measure.

First, establish a tempo (speed) for your basic pulse/beat. Your beat will match that of the quarter-notes; just as a rule of thumb. Now, count the quarter-notes in a repeating “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1…” pattern as shown below.

Great! Now let’s try eighth-notes at the same tempo. Remember that eighth-notes are shorter in value and are in-between the quarter-notes. Count these at “1, and, 2, and, 3, and, 4, and, 1…” just like the example below.

Sixteenth-notes are even shorter and will be counted as “1, ee, and, ah, 2, ee, and, ah, 3, ee, and, ah, 4, ee, and, ah, 1…” just like the example below, too.

Now, what about notes longer than a quarter note? Essentially, you will hold the count of the longer note and omit saying the beats that occur during it. For example, a measure of two half-notes would count “1… 3…” while omitting counts on 2 and 4 because the notes are held over those beats.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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