Are You Rhythmically Challenged? Then Learn to Count the 8 Count in Music

The 8 count, also known as a “set of 8,” is the most common structure in music. For the non-musician, it’s the secret to understanding music.

set of 8 aka 8-count or dancers-8
The secret to hearing the beat of music

An 8 count is a rhythmic grouping of 8 beats. Most of the music you hear every day — popular, mainstream, Western music — is structured in sets of 8 beats (waltz, an exception, is in sets of 6). The 8 count defines the beat because, when you’re able to count it, you have confirmation that you’ve found the beat. But don’t worry, you won’t have to count forever. Once you train your ear, you’ll feel the pulsing of the underlying beat and the 8 counts will begin to have integrity and feel like a “sentence” of music.

If the 8-count is so important, why don’t musicians use it?

True, musicians don’t use it — but professional dance choreographers do! This 5-minute video looks at the relationship between an 8 count and the musician’s 4-beat measure (part of music theory):

Want to look confident and be cool on the dance floor?

Then learn to count the 8 count. Once you know the 8-count, then you can find count 1. Count 1 is important because it’s the natural place to start a dance (when to start a dance is a big problem for beginners).

If you’re club dancing or freestyle dancing, start a new move on count 1, then start the next move on the next count 1 (or count 5). If you’re partner dancing, a follower expects you to start on a count 1 — start anywhere else and you’ll surprise them. Count 1 (and count 5) are also the natural place to start a new step pattern, which will add to your musicality. From my book, Hear the Beat, Feel the Music: Count, Clap and Tap Your Way to Remarkable Rhythm (

“Start new moves on count 1 or count 5; then start the next new move on the next count 1. It’ll improve your connection to the music and make you a better dancer.”


Copyright © 2019-2023  James Joseph. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.