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Lesson 14: Time signatures and counting

Please purchase the course before starting the lesson.

Understanding time signatures and how to count is foundational to learning about rhythm and strumming. In this lesson, we cover counting in 4/4, 6/8, and 3/4 time signatures.

4/4 time signature

In 4/4 time, there are 4 quarter notes in a measure. Simply, to count 4/4 time, you just count to four. This is probably the most common time signature in modern rock/pop music (which is the style of music in most contemporary worship services).

To illustrate counting in 4/4, I like to use the example of tapping your foot. Just tap along to a song in 4/4 time, and every time your foot goes down, that’s a quarter note. Eighth notes are the next subdivision, and there are 8 of them in a measure. So, each time your foot goes down and up is an eighth note. I count those as 1 – and – 2 – and – 3 – and – 4 – and – …. Sixteenth notes are the next subdivision, and I count those as 1 – e – and – a – 2 – e – and – a – 3 – e – and – a – 4 – e – and – a…

Here is how the counting would work:

Quarter notes:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – …

8th Notes:

1 – and – 2 – and – 3 – and – 4 – and

16th notes:

1 – e – and – a – 2 – e – and – a – 3 – e – and – a – 4 – e – and – a –

It’s important to note that in these examples, the measure is the same length of time, you just count faster as you divide into 8th and 16th notes.

6/8 Time

In 6/8 time you simply count to 6 rather than 4. I like to use the foot tapping example again for this one. Instead of just tapping Down-Up-Down-Up, etc, for 6/8 time you would tap like this:

Down-Press-Up – Down-Press-Up

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6…

3/4 Time

3/4 time works the same way as 4-4 time, but you just count to three rather than four. Many hymns and traditional Christmas songs are in 3/4 time. It can have a similar feel as 6/8 time.

Practice

To practice counting and strumming, work on doing one down strum per quarter note for 4/4 and 3/4 time, and one down strum per beat in 6/8 time. You can also begin to work on changing chords – try changing chords after each measure.

Back to: Learn How To Play Guitar – Beginner Course > Rhythm and Strumming
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