HTB_ART_homepage_HTB1_Feb_2018My new book on music, Hear the Beat, Feel the Music: Count, Clap and Tap Your Way to Remarkable Rhythm, is now available on Amazon. To help launch the book, the kindle is only 99 cents. And if you’d like a free copy of the book (pdf file) — called an Advance Review Copy (ARC) — throw me an email me with “ARC” in the subject line ( This offer is open to anyone and will be available until August 15, 2018.

* Amazon ($10.95)     * Kindle (99 cents)     * Barnes & Noble ($10.95)


Want to enjoy music more?

Then learn to count the underlying beat because counting connects you to the music. Yeah, really.

Got rhythm?[This page is the video playlist for the book, Hear the Beat, Feel the Music – take me to the videos now!]

Counting is a way to connect to music at a deeper, rhythmic level because it identifies the structure of the music. Counting is a way to bring music into your body–so then you won’t have to count!

I know, that sounds like a lot of voodoo-flakey-smoke-and-mirror kind-of-stuff. But it ain’t.

Below are more than 20 short, instructional, YouTube videos on how to connect to music. These videos are a Free Online Music Course on counting, rhythm, musicality and how to hear the beat.

Need more help? These videos are also the official video playlist for my new book, Hear the Beat, Feel the Music: Count, Clap and Tap Your Way to Remarkable Rhythm. Yeah, it’s for sale. But it’s pretty darn cheap ($10.95 print on Amazon).

GET STARTED NOW: There’s no login or email required. Just start watching the videos (most are just music and are five to 10 minutes in length). If you want to jump around the YouTube progress bar to a specific song, then look for the list of songs right above the video and the starting times, song titles and artists will be in red (eg, 2:36 – “Stay” by Rihanna). TOTALLY LAME DISCLAIMER: With faster tempo music, sometimes my finger gets a little off the beat because…well, I guess I have slow-twitch muscles in my finger or something. It might also be because your internet connection is buffering.

QUESTIONS? FRUSTRATED? Post a comment at the bottom of this page. Tell me where you’ve been struggling and I’ll try to help.

NOTE: This webpage is still under construction (as of March 2018), but virtually all of the videos are up.


Chapter 1: Count Music, Hear the Beat

Video 1.1– “Brother Louie” by Stories
Video 1.2 – “Gotta Do Some War Work, Baby” by Cootie Williams
Video 1.3 – Intro to Sets of 8–How to count music
Video 1.4 – “Dark Love” by Robin Rogers
Video 1.5 – Hear Sets of 8–Feel the music

Chapter 2: Practice Counting

Video series 2.1 – Count Music – Sets of 8 (scroll through the series)
Video 2.2 – “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men
Video 2.3 – Count Music–Hand Exercise by Skippy Blair
Video 2.4 – Hear Sets of 8–Easy Versus Hard Music

Chapter 3: Clap

Video 3.1 — Hear the Downbeat and Upbeat in Dance Music
Video 3.2 – Beat Boxing Basics with Dub FX
Video 3.3 – “King of the Road” by Roger Miller
Video 3.4 – Where to Snap Your Fingers in Music
Video 3.5 – Where to Clap in Music
Video 3.6 – Clap to Music–Lindy hop Jam Circle
Video 3.7 – “One Evening” by Feist
Video 3.8 – Harry Connick Jr and Clapping

Chapter 4: Waltz

Video 4.1 – A Medley of Waltz Music
Video 4.2 – Count Waltz Music–Sets of 6

Chapter 5: Tempo

Video 5.1 – How to Calculate Music Tempo
Video 5.2 – “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood
Video 5.3 – “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down

Chapter 6: Phrasing

Video 6.1 – Count Music–32-Beat Major Phrases
Video series 6.2 – Count Music–32-Beat Phrasing (scroll through the series)
Video 6.3 – Count Music–48-Beat Phrasing
Video 6.4 – Count Music–Complicated  Phrasing

Chapter 7: Move to Music

Video 7.1Musicality in West Coast Swing
Video series 7.2 – Hitting the Breaks with a Spontaneous Punch
Video 7.3 – “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

EXPLICIT LYRICS ALERT: I will avoid using music with explicit lyrics. I will post a warning if a song has questionable lyrics. If I miss something, let me know and I’ll fix it. Pronto.

MISSING VIDEO ALERT: Occasionally, YouTube will pull or mute a video because of copyright law. I apologize in advance because it’s going to happen. Please let me know because I’m relying on readers to give me a heads up (
DISCLAIMER: I live in the U.S.A. and, because copyright laws vary from country to country, I’m declaring that the content on this page is for people who live in the U.S.A. No way can I can monitor videos and copyright laws in more than 190 countries. But if a video is blocked in your country, let me know and I’ll find a solution.


The Videos

Chapter 1: Count Music, Hear the Beat

A set of 8 is a rhythmic grouping of eight beats of music. It’s used by dance choreographers and it’s an easy way to count music. It’s also called the “8-count” or the “dancers 8.”

And sets of 8 define the beat of music! So, if you can count the sets of 8, you’ve found the beat. In most music, sets of 8 often repeat throughout a song, kind of the same way that sentences repeat in a piece of writing.

Just one more term for now: a major phrase is a specific number of sets of 8. The most common major phrase is four sets of 8, which is 32 beats of music.


Video 1.1– “Brother Louie” by Stories
Hearing the sets of 8 doesn’t get any easier than the chorus of this song. All the major phrases in this song are structured in four sets of 8 (32 beats). But the chorus, which runs from 0:57 to 1:15, is so darn easy to hear. Listen how, thematically, the first three sets of 8 set something up, which gets resolved in the fourth set of 8. I count the sets of 8 to this song in the first 40 seconds of video 1.5.

Video 1.1 ALTERNATE: YouTube is blocking some versions of “Brother Louie.” If the video above doesn’t work for you, go to a YouTube webpage and plug in this address:

Video 1.2“Gotta Do Some War Work, Baby” by Cootie Williams
Jeez, this song brings back memories. I first heard it years ago and it was a breakthrough for me: it was the first song where I could hear the sets of 8 and the major phrases without counting. In this song, try to get a feel for the structure without counting. Like the Louis theme song above, this song also has 32-beat major phrases structured in four sets of 8. Listen how the first three sets of 8 set something up, which gets resolved in the fourth set of 8 (each major phrase runs about 12 seconds). I count the sets of 8 to this song in video 1.5 starting at the 44 second mark.

Video 1.3 Intro to Sets of 8–How to count music
“Sets of 8” define the beat. Yeah, really. I explain it in this video, including the relationship between a set of 8 and the musician’s four-beat measure.

Video 1.4 “Dark Love” by the Robin Rogers
Jump in and try to count the sets of 8 in this next song. If you have trouble, I count the sets of 8 in video 1.5 starting at the 1:55 mark. This is easy music: tempo is slow, good downbeat and upbeat, clear sets of 8, simple phrasing (four sets of 8, which is a 32-beat major phrase) and a really nice blues song.

BUT, there’s something tricky about the song, which I decided to turn into a teachable moment because I like the song and I already made the next video (video 1.5). At this point, the issue isn’t important but I discuss it at the end of Chapter 4 in the book (Hear the Beat, Feel the Music) under a MUSIC NOTE (spoiler alert: it has to do with time signature).

Video 1.5Hear Sets of 8–Easy Music
I count the sets of 8 for the three songs in videos 1.1, 1.2 and 1.4, above.

  • 0:00 – [“Brother Louie”]
  • 0:44 – “Gotta Do Some War Work, Baby” by Cootie Williams
  • 1:55/3:15 – “Dark Love” by Robin Rogers


Chapter 2: Practice Counting

Video 2.1 series (video 2.1.1 to video 2.1.6) – Want to hear the beat and rhythmically connect to music? Watch this series and learn to count the sets of 8.

Video 2.1.1 – Count Music–Sets of 8

  • 0:00 – “Let Her Go” by Passenger
  • 1:20 – “Spooky” by the Atlanta Rhythm Sectio
  • 2:36/4:34 – “Stay” by Rihanna


Video 2.1.2 – Count Music–Sets of 8

  • 0:00 – “Finally Moving” by Pretty Lights
  • 1:52 – “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic
  • 4:12/7:20 – “Represent” by Orishas


Video 2.1.3 – Count Music–Sets of 8

  • 0:00 – “Back It Up” by Caro Emerald
  • 1:55 – “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood
  • 2:54/5:37 – “Mariposa En Havana” by SiSe


Video 2.1.4 – Count Music–Sets of 8

  • 0:00 – “Layla” by Eric Clapton
  • 1:46 – “Gold (Thomas Jack Radio Edit)” by Gabriel Rios
  • 3:00/4:54 – “Moves Like Jaggar” by Maroon 5


Video 2.1.5 – Count Music–Sets of 8

  • 0:00  – “Hideaway” by Kiesza
  • 2:08 – “Smooth” by Santana (featuring Rob Thomas)
  • 3:47/5:32 – “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain


Video 2.1.6 – Count Music–Sets of 8

  • 0:00 – “Compositor Confundido” by Ibrahim Ferrer
  • 1:51 – “Agua Que Va Caer” by Tromboranga – see ERROR ALERT below
  • 3:19/4:56 – “Mambo De Coco” by Poncho Sanchez

ERROR ALERT: I made a mistake in counting the second song in video 2.1.6, which was pointed out to me by a reader. The second major phrase, which starts at about 2:03, is not four sets of 8 like this: 8888; it’s three sets of 8 plus a set of 4 like this: 8884. This is what you call “irregular phrasing” and I’m going to leave it in as a teaching moment (for Chapter 6, Phrasing). See if you can hear it. If you miss those four extra beats like I did, note that from that point on my finger is still on the beat but it’s “off phrase.” This song (“Agua Que Va Caer”) really belongs in the video series 6.4 below where I get into complicated phrasing. If you want to know how to handle four extra beats as a dancer, scroll down to the PARTNER DANCING ALERT after this video.

PARTNER DANCING ALERT: If a couple were dancing salsa to “Agua Que Va Caer” using all 8-count patterns and they missed the set of 4, they’d end up dancing “off phrase” because they’d be starting their next pattern on a count 5, not a count 1. While they’d still be dancing on the beat, they’d be less connected to the music and would not look as good as a couple who remained “on phrase.” Leaders, if you miss that change in phrasing but your follower catches it, I would expect the look on your follower’s face to change to something, ahem, less joyful. Leaders can get back on phrase by killing four beats with either a rhythm break, a styling move, “playing” or extending a pattern (eg, add a couple of underarm turns).

Video 2.2 – “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men

POP QUIZ: In the chorus of this song, there’s one beat in each set if 8 that gets a strong accent with the word, “hey.” On which count is the accented “hey”? For the answer, I count the sets of 8 to this song in video 6.2.1.

Video 2.3 – Count Music–Hand Exercise by Skippy Blair

I’m happy to have my teacher, dance educator Skippy Blair, demonstrate the best exercise for bringing the sets of 8 into your body. “Chop” (like a karate chop) counts 1 to 4 with one hand; then chop counts 5 to 8 with the other hand. This gets your body moving on each beat. Plus, it helps in timing and coordination because your hand can’t be late. Also, by switching hands between measures on count 5, it gets you to acknowledge the four-beat measures in the music.

Video 2.4 – Hear Sets of 8–Easy Versus Hard Music

This song, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, has sections (major phrases) that are easy to count and sections that are hard to count. The sets of 8 in the first, second and fourth 32-beat major phrases are easy to hear. But note how hard it becomes to count the sets of 8 in the third major phrase (starting at about 44 seconds). In general, there’s easy music and hard music out there. When you’re first training your ear to hear the sets of 8, stick to easy music.


Chapter 3: Clap

Video 3.1  Hear the Downbeat and Upbeat in Dance Music

  • The downbeats are counts 1, 3, 5 and 7.
  • The upbeats are counts 2, 4, 6 and 8.

While it may be cultural conditioning, people in America count on the upbeats (counts 2, 4, 6 and 8).

It’s a funny thing but audiences often clap incorrectly. They sometimes clap on every beat and they sometimes clap on counts 1, 3, 5 and 7. Often an audience is mixed and not everybody is clapping in sync. This is not hard to see on TV or in YouTube videos when the camera shoots the audience during a music performance.

LINGO ALERT: Dancers define downbeat and upbeat differently than musicians. And you’ll hear other terms used to label downbeat and upbeat. It’s confusing. When you hear these words, translate it into what you know.

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 0:35 – “Fields of Gold” by Sting
  • 1:05 – “All I Need” by Air
  • 1:46 – “Slowly” by Mex Sedgley
  • 2:39 – “Family Affair” by Mary J. Blige
  • 3:18 – “Close to You” by Maxi Priest
  • 3:55 – “Cantaloop” by Us3
  • 4:33/5:48 – “Video” by India.Arie

Video 3.2 – Beat Boxing Basics with Dub FX

If you don’t know what beat boxing is, this might be a little weird. It’s the art of producing drum sounds with your voice. So don’t think of this as if the man is singing; think of this as if you were listening to a set of drums. To create a downbeat and an upbeat drum track, listen how he uses the phrase “bouncing CATS” (the “b” in bouncing is the downbeat, the “C” in CATS is the upbeat). The demo of “bouncing CATS” runs for just a few seconds from 0:53 to 1:06.

Video 3.3 – “King of the Road” by Roger Miller

The only thing you really hear in the first 16 beats of this song is snapping on counts 2, 4, 6 and 8. Get a feel for how a simple snap on the upbeat can create rhythm and structure.

Video 3.4 – Where to Snap Your Fingers in Music

  • 0:00 – “King of the Road” by Roger Miller
  • 0:32 – “One Time” by Marion Hill
  • 1:32 – “Tainted Love” by Stella Starlight Trio
  • 2:18 – “Pure Heroine” by Lorde
  • 3:37/4:10 – “The Best is Yet to Come” by Michael Bublé

Video 3.5 – Where to Clap in Music

  • 0:00 – “Little BItty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris
  • 0:58 – “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang
  • 1:50 – “The In Crowd” by Ramsey Lewis
  • 2:38 – “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey
  • 3:48/4:24 – “Jack and Diane” by John Mellancamp

Video 3.6 – Clap to Music–Lindy Hop Jam Circle

This is an example of an audience clapping correctly. It’s a harder song to clap to because the tempo is fast and the upbeat has no emphasis. Try to count the sets of 8 and confirm that they’re clapping on counts 2, 4, 6 and 8.

Video 3.7 – “One Evening” by Feist

This video has a little bit of both snapping (0:01) and clapping (3:27). While the sets of 8 are harder to hear, note how the natural pairing of beats (a downbeat and an upbeat) give you a strong clue to help identify the beat. Your mission is to snap or clap through the entire song and stay on the upbeat, which you can check at the 3:27-minute mark. This is a good practice song because it’s challenging.

Video 3.8 – Harry Connick Jr and Clapping

POP QUIZ: The audience starts clapping, incorrectly, on counts 1, 3, 5 and 7. At some point Harry Connick, Jr., slips in an extra beat of music to shift the clapping to counts 2, 4, 6 and 8. At what point does he do that? Note the time in the progress bar. (The answer is on the last page of the book, Hear the Beat, Feel the Music, which is the end of Chapter 7. Or if you read the YouTube comments you can find the answer.)

Harry Connick Jr. and clapping – NOTE: The “embed” feature for this video player is disabled so clicking on the link will take you to the YouTube page for the video.


Chapter 4: Waltz

Video 4.1 – A Medley of Waltz mMusic

Waltz, which is in the 3/4 time signature, is counted in sets of 6. Waltz has a different feel than music counted in sets of 8, which is the 4/4 time signature. Listen to these cuts and try to get a feel for a waltz. Let your head and shoulders go down slightly on count 1 and count 4, which will help you bring the waltz into your body (let it naturally rise back up on counts 2 and 3, and counts 4 and 5). When dancing a waltz, this is known as the “rise and fall.”

  • 0:00 – “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
  • 0:36 – “Take This Waltz” by Leonard Cohen
  • 1:08 – “Go Now” by The Moody Blues
  • 1:40 – “Piano Man” by Billy Joel
  • 2:29 – “What the World Needs Now” by Dionne Warwick
  • 3:00 – “Tennessee Waltz” by Emmylou Harris
  • 3:32 – “How Can I Be Sure” by The Young Rascals
  • 4:04 – “Mr. Bojangles” by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • 4:36/5:40 – “Army Dreamers” by Kate Bush

Video 4.2 – Count Waltz Music–Sets of 6

  • 0:00 – “Come Away with Me” by Norah Jones
  • 1:15 – “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain
  • 2:30/3:39 – “Three Times A Lady” by the Commodores

Chapter 5: Tempo

Video 5.1 – How to Calculate Music Tempo

COPYRIGHT ALERT: March 19, 2018 – If video 5.1 is blocked in your country (it should work in the USA), scroll below to video 5.1.ALT for the alternate video. The songs “Layla” and “Mountains O’ Things” have strict worldwide copyright so, for now, I just took video 5.1 and cut those songs. Let me know if video 5.1.ALT is still blocked in your country. There was nothing special about “Layla” for teaching tempo, I still demonstrate how to calculate tempo with three songs in the alternate video, video 5.1.ALT.

TEMPO APP UPDATE: May 18, 2018 – The “tap tempo” app I’ve been using on my iPhone, Tap/Tempo, is not being updated. So I’m now using, TapThatTempo.

TEMPO WEBSITE UPDATE: In the book I mention two websites that I use for tapping tempos, and The later,, is dead.

  • 0:00 – How to calculate tempo using a tap tempo website
  • 2:26 – “Layla” Eric Clapton
  • 4:54 – “Layla” Derek and the Dominos
  • 6:40 – How to calculate tempo using Tap Tempo app on iphone
  • 7:58 – “Mountains O’ Things” by Tracy Chapman
  • 8:53 – “My Love Follows You Where You Go” by Alison Krauss & Union Sttion
  • 9:54 – “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira
  • 11:08/12:39 – “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straights 

Video 5.1.ALT – Calculate Tempo (and alternate for video 5.1)

Video 5.2 – “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood

Tempo can be a little tricky to identify when you can hear both “slow sets of 8” and “fast sets of 8.” In “Before He Cheats,” see if  you can count both: the slow 8s are at 74 BPM and the fast 8s are at twice that speed, 148 BPM. Click on this link if want to tap the tempo with your finger. Even the BPM databases on the web can’t agree. See the tempo listed at 74 in this BPM database (it’s second on the list). See the tempo listed at 148 in this BPM database. Which tempo, 74 or 148, is correct?

Video 5.3 – “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down

Sometimes the feel of a song and the tempo are different. This song seems fast but you can see here that the tempo is only 99 BPM. Go back to the tap tempo website from the prior video and try to tap it out.


Chapter 6: Phrasing

NOTE: Phrasing is hard! While sets of 8 are usually easy to identify once you get the hang of it, phrasing is not. Not only can the phrasing of a song be open to interpretation, but also with newer music there are more and more songs with weird or unidentifiable phrasing. I include this chapter because you need to be aware of phrasing, but don’t get hung up on trying to identify the phrasing of a song. Hearing the sets of 8 is the primary skill you need to learn.

You already know some phrasing:

  • A set of 8 (an 8-count) and a set of 6 (waltz) are mini-phrases.
  • There’s simple phrasing where four sets of 8 come together, thematically, to create a 32-beat major phrase (4 x 8 = 32).

But phrasing can get complicated (mixed phrasing and irregular phrasing), which I get into a little in the book and in video 6.3 below.

Video 6.1 – Count Music–32-Beat Major Phrases

  • 0:00 – “Video” by India.Arie
  • 1:42 – “Family Affair” by Mary J. Blige
  • 3:09 – “Game of Love” by Santana and Michelle Branch
  • 4:34/6:39 – “Wade in the Water” by Eva Cassidy

Video series 6.2.1 – Count music–32-Beat Phrasing (scroll through the series)

  • 0:00 – “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men
  • 2:04 – “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges
  • 3:58/6:38 – “Sous Le Soleil” (Cuba Acoustic Mix) by Major Boys (featuring Aurelia)

Video Series 6.2.2

Coming soon!

Video 6.3 – Count Music–48-Beat Phrasing

  • 0:00 – “Love Me Like a Man” by Bonnie Raitt
  • 2:26 – “Walkin’ Again” by Lou Donaldson
  • 3:59/5:17 – “Wipe Out” by Surfaris

Video 6.4 – Count Music–Complicated Phrasing

  • 0:00 – “Otherwise” by Morcheeba
  • 2:47/4:05 – “The Gambler” by Johnny Cash

Chapter 7: Move to Music

Let’s touch on the human biological connection to music. Then we’ll do an exercise to help your musicality.


When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.

Randy Rieland, “Eight New Things We’ve Learned About Music”

Humans have an innate connection to music. The study of biology and music is a field called biomusicology. It has applications in areas from dance to fitness (workout music) to mood enhancement (relaxation, stimulation and inspiration). For some quotations by scientists doing research in biomusicology, click over to my biomusicology (or better living through music) page.


Musicality is much more than just the ability to hear the beat. Here are the best two definitions I’ve found for musicality:

musicality: The ability to hear specific changes in the music that warrant interpretation. The ability to feel mood changes in the music and interpret that change with body movement that accentuates the feeling in the music.

Skippy Blair, Skippy Blair’s Dance Terminology Dictionary, 5th edition

Musicality in dance then might be considered a measure or degree to which a dancer is receptive and creative in his translation or rendering of music through movement.

— Nichelle Suzanne, Musicality In Dance: What Is It? Can It Be Taught?

Video 7.1 – Musicality in West Coast Swing
This video shows great musicality. If you read the YouTube comments, this dance was not choreographed, but I presume both dancers were familiar with the song and they have danced together before.

Video series 7.2.1 – Hitting the Breaks with a Spontaneous Punch

The exercise in this series of videos (videos 7.2.1 to 7.2.4) is to feel a break in the music as it approaches (without counting). Then punch the air on the accented beat, which starts the break, usually a count 1 or a count 5. Match the intensity of your punch to the intensity of the accented beat.


Video series 7.2.2 – Hitting the Breaks with a Spontaneous Punch


Video series 7.2.3 – Hitting the Breaks with a Spontaneous Punch


Video series 7.2.4 – Hitting the Breaks with a Spontaneous Punch

[Hang tight — YouTube blocked this video so I need to find a repacement]

Video 7.3“Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Examples of personal style in dance or, as I like to put it, making a dance your own.


* * * * * *   PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION   * * * * * *

Credit for photo below the header of a drummer: Bill Gracey

Copyright © 2017  James Joseph. All rights reserved.HTB_ART_homepage_HTB1_Feb_2018

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Trinh Vu June 20, 2018 at 11:58 pm

An excellent book. I would recommend this book to any one want to learn music timing in dancing. It is actually help me understand this timing process and give me the confidence to go on. I keep going back to review the book (thanks heap to James for letting me read his book pdf version) and listened to the videos here. These exercise videos specially the one of up / down beats are excellent choices for practising.


James Joseph June 21, 2018 at 9:47 am

Trinh, glad to hear my book has helped and thanks for the comment. Achieving rhythm and musicality is a process, sometimes a long process, so keep working on it. Anytime and anywhere you hear a song, make it challenge: try to count it, try to figure out the bigger structure (phrasing), and try to predict where the music is going. Good luck!


Trinh Vu June 26, 2018 at 8:38 pm

Thanks heap, James.


Hugo Lee February 5, 2018 at 8:24 am

When will your new book be available at Amazon?


James Joseph February 5, 2018 at 8:23 pm

Hugo, the book is in production and it’s just about finished. It should be on Amazon in a few weeks. Thanks for your interest!


Martin Kleiner January 4, 2018 at 11:30 pm

I have a question for you:
I have watched a lot of youtube videos about upbeats and downbeats. Musician’s youtube videos talk about downbeats on the 1,2,3,4 and the upbeats on the “and” between the 1,2,3,4. Dancers talk about downbeats on 1 and 3 and the upbeats on 2 and 4. Check out this lesson from a musician: How do I reconcile this? I know you said that dancers and musicians are different, but an upbeat and a downbeat should sound different. So if they are playing the 1,2,3, and 4 all as downbeats then something isn’t right.

By the way, you have the best site on the web to practice this. The major reason yours is so much better is that you use a visual cue with your finger rather than counting out loud which overwhelms the music.

This is superior for two reasons, one it lets the user focus on the music and not the voice, and secondly, it allows the user to close their eyes while counting the beat. Then the user can open their eyes and see if they are right. Your site is the only one that allows the user to test themselves.


James Joseph January 5, 2018 at 4:46 pm

Martin, thanks for the compliment on my website. And thanks for the tip on closing your eyes to test yourself. Actually, in my new book (Hear the Beat, Feel the Music), I tell readers to close their eyes for the snapping and clapping videos to test themselves (videos 3.4 and 3.5 above), but it’s a good technique for all the videos where my finger does the counting.

I don’t fully understand your question on the downbeat/upbeat. I’ll give you a couple of things to think about, and then you’re welcome to rephrase your question. And I have a question for you: are you a dancer or a musician? If, for example, you’re just a dancer, why do you need to understand what musician’s do?

I watched the video you posted but I don’t understand what you’re trying to reconcile. Musicians and dancers just do it differently. If you were both a musician and a dancer, I’d say learn both systems and then use the appropriate one for the situation. If you have a dance teacher who is also a musician and calls the &-count the upbeat, once you figure that out, no problem, just convert it into what you know. (BTW, the &-count for a musician comes after the beat – 1&; the &-count for dancers comes before the beat – &1. Again, the systems are just different.)

You say, “an upbeat and a downbeat should sound different.” When you say, “sound different” do you mean the audible tone? Upbeats and downbeats often sound different but not always. But, more important, the downbeat and upbeat are not defined by their sound, they’re defined by their location. For dancers, downbeats are counts 1, 3, 5, and 7, regardless of what they sound like. Upbeats are counts 2, 4, 6 and 8.

I hope I don’t get the wrath of musicians for this, but I don’t like calling the &-count the upbeat because the &-count is not a beat of music (in either music or dance), it’s a point between 2 beats of music. It’s confusing to call it a beat.

Note that musicians have another definition for downbeat/upbeat. From the Wikipedia entry on “beat (music)”: “The downbeat is the first beat of the bar, i.e. number 1. The upbeat is the last beat in the previous bar which immediately precedes, and hence anticipates, the downbeat.”

If there’s a musician out there who can explain why there are two definitions for downbeat/upbeat, I’d like to know because it’s confusing. If a musician makes a quick reference to the upbeat in a conversation, how do you know which one they’re talking about?


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