How to Count Time
Knowledge of the mathematical lengths of the notes is only useful up to a point.
More important is how to relate these to the onward flow of the music, and this
is done by counting the beats. It is the same as beating time to music that you
hear—you respond to the beats and tap your foot accordingly. But when you become
the player, you have to establish your own beat to set the time.
Here are some examples to put this into practice:
First count these measures evenly as shown, with a slight extra stress on the
first beat of each one.
Now try these measures with varying note lengths. See if you can tap out the
notes while keeping an even count., i.e.:
Here is an example in 3/4 time. Notice the dot after the half note which increases
its time by half again. Thus, it gets three counts instead of two:
Now let’s try this with the guitar, playing the tablature notes instead of just
tapping. Use alternating rest strokes for the melody (counting practice #1):
It is very important to try to count at the same time as you play. It seems a
lot to remember at this stage, but if you try it a few times you will find it becomes
quite natural. This will help tremendously later, when you start reading regular
Now here is an example in 3/4 time (counting practice #2):
Be careful in the second to last measure, where the rhythm is a little different.