Teach Yourself Music Theory – 10.) Counting Rhythms in Compound Meter

Continuing from last week where we talked about counting rhythms in simple meter, let’s talk about what to do in compound meter.

As always, establish the tempo of your basic pulse/beat. This will match to be the dotted quarter-note value of the compound metered measures.

Using a compound quadruple meter type, let’s count the basic pulses. Similar to the simple meter exercise, the dotted quarter-note beats will also be counted in a repeating “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1…” like the example below.

Remember how in compound meters, the beats themselves can easily be divided into threes. So, we will count these eighth-note divisions as “1, trip-, let, 2, trip-, let, 3, trip-, let, 4, trip-, let, 1…” like the example below.

Now how about sixteenth-notes? Those will be counted like “1, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 2, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 3, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 4, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 1…” like the example below.

Once again, similar to what was discussed when talking about simple meters, any note value longer than the basic dotted quarter-note pulse will hold the count and omit the counts that occur during it.

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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.