Counting the beat

Here you'll listen more closely to what happens on each beat.

Learning music theory is all about describing what you hear in words. IAs a result you understand a whole lot better what's going on so that you can use this understanding in your own music. Using words however means that sometimes you have to put names to things, when talking about duration it's important to be able to name the beats as you count them. In the next few pages you'll learn to describe the rhythmic aspects of the audio file here.

On the previous page you counted 1,2,3,4 and learned that the 2nd and 4th beats together are sometimes called the backbeat. We can refer to those beats individually as the 2 and the 4. Just as the 2 and the 4 provide a backbeat and really help the music move forward, the 1 and the 3 are big strong beats that hold everything else together. The 1 particularly is important because it's where you start counting, everything else starts from there so when you're identifying the beat in a piece of music look firstly for the 1. 

Let's analyse the tune in terms of what's going on in each beat.

  • The 1 - The bass hits the 1 real heavy which lets everyone know exactly where the beat is.
  • The backbeat - The handclaps on the 2 and the 4 give it that funky dance groove. 
  • The 2 - The guitar hits the 2 pretty hard throughout, adding to the rhythmic drive of the strong backbeat
  • The 3 - Rather than landing right on the beat the syncopated upbeat before the 3 is a strong one. It's a little harder to hear, more on that later.

In musical notation the 4 beats in the bar look like this:

Listen to any piece of music and make sure that you can find the 1.