Counting and Timing


For this lesson in our How To Guitar series, we are going to be learning counting and timing.  Counting and timing is essential in order to play with other people and could possibly be most important guitar lesson besides learning how to tune the guitar!

Join a Band!

In order to play the guitar properly, you must learn how to count and how to play in time. Playing in time is required in order to play along with a drummer, bassist and other members of a band whether it is a rock band, folk band, blues band, school orchestra, or any other group of musicians. Try to imagine how The Beatles would have sounded if George Harrison didn’t play in time. Now learn how to play in time. USE A METRONOME.

Time Signatures

Most modern music is in 4/4 time. We will be studying 4/4 time in depth in this course so it is mandatory that you become familiar with this time signature. Some other time signatures that are used in contemporary music include 3/4 time (mainly ballads) and 12/8 time (mainly blues shuffles). Odd time signatures like 7/8 time may be used in more advanced styles such as jazz. For now, I only want you to concern yourself with 4/4 time. Once you get a good grasp of 4/4 time and able to fret and pluck the guitar fluidly based on the warmup exercises and example songs, you will be well on your way to becoming a proficient guitarist and can explore more complicated timings.

How to Count in 4/4 Time

In 4/4 time, a whole note gets all 4 beats, a half note gets 2 beats, a quarter note gets 1 beat and 2 eighth notes make one beat. To count 4/4 time, start by counting 1-2-3-4 over and over again. 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 etc. for the entire song. We will be getting to the intricacies of timing soon. The following is an example to demonstrate the most common note durations utilizing an E power chord which will let you play some basic rhythms on your guitar.

guitar timing exercise

How To Count Beats

A bar is counted like this: 1-2-3-4 (each number is a beat.)
Whole notes are counted like this: Note-2-3-4-. Each whole note receives 4 beats
Half notes are counted like this: Note-2-Note-4-. Each whole note receives 2 beats
Quarter notes are counted like this: Note-note-note-note-. Each quarter notes receives 1 beat.
Eighth notes are counted like this: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. Each eighth note receives a half of a beat.
Sixteenth notes are counted like this: 1-e-&-a-2-e-&-a-3-e-&-a-4-e-&-a-. Each sixteenth note receives a quarter of a beat. In order to count it, you think of the sounds e-and-a which will keep you in time and is associated with the timing of a sixteenth note.

Note Durations

Here is another example of the same way to count note durations:
counting and timing

More about 8th notes and 16th notes

The notes in the previous example were tied together at the top because there were more than one note of the same duration in a row. If you come along an eighth note or sixteenth note by itself, the eighth note is represented with a little line at the top differently than a quarter note. The sixteenth has two lines. They will look like these:
8th and 6th notes examples

Musical Rests

A rest is counted similar to a note except that no note is actually played. This bit of musical silence is notated as follows:
musical rests

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