Basic Music Theory: How to Read, Write, and Understand Written Music

(Barré) #1

14: Down With the Count

Can You Count to 4?

Now that you know the note lengths and time signatures, we can move on
to the counting system.
The counting system is very helpful, especially for difficult rhythms.
Every time I have a student count a difficult passage out loud, it becomes
much easier. When you count, do it rhythmically, and tap your foot with
a steady beat at the same time.
The rhythms we’ll be using at first won’t be tough, so you can get a good
idea of how the system works. Gradually I’ll introduce more and more
difficult rhythms on which to practice this counting system.
The good news is that you only have to know how to count to 4, the
length of a measure of 4/4 time. And because we don’t really need a
specific pitch for this exercise, we’ll use the one-line rhythm clef for the

Tap Your Foot

It’s one thing that both beginning musicians and masters have in
common. It’s what keeps your rhythms the right length, and it keeps you
synchronized with others you may be playing with. It’s the foot tap.
Over the last few days I watched Eric Clapton, then B.B. King, then
Wynton Marsalis, then Leo Kottke, then Metallica, and all of them,
almost the entire time they played, were tapping their feet. And if they
didn’t tap their foot (which was seldom), their bodies moved in some
other way to keep time steady.
If you’re in a large group in which 20 or more people tapping their feet
sounds like a marching army, tap your toe inside your shoe, or tap your
heel softly instead. If you’re playing solo guitar, maybe a blues tune, you
can stomp your foot on beats 2 and 4 to add a little percussion to your
song. Either way, if you tap your foot your performance will be better for
If you’re not used to tapping, it’ll take a little concentration and a little
coordination but keep with it even if it’s difficult at first. Soon you’ll be
tapping your foot without thinking about it.
Free download pdf