How to Count Beats in a Song

Hear the beat, feel the music–and enjoy music more

If you want to learn how to hear the beat and enjoy music more, learn to count the underlying beat. That’s because counting connects you to the music. Yeah, really.

Got rhythm?

Counting connects you to music at a deeper, more rhythmic level because it identifies the structure of the music. Counting is a way to bring music into your body. And when you can do that, then you won’t have to count!

I know, this 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 and develop your sense of rhythm. 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  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.

* Amazon ($11.95)     * Kindle ($4.99)

GET STARTED NOW: There’s no login or email required. Just start watching the videos below (most are just music and are five to 10 minutes in length). 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 give you a hand.


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. I’m relying on readers to please let me know ( so I can try to find a solution
DISCLAIMER: The content on this page is for people who live in the U.S.A. Copyright laws vary from country to country. There is no way I can monitor all these videos and the 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, try this web 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 (3:15 minutes)
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 – “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 (4:34 minutes)

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

Video 2.1.2 – Count Music–Sets of 8 (7:20 minutes)

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

Video 2.1.3 – Count Music–Sets of 8 (5:37 minutes)

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

Video 2.1.4 – Count Music–Sets of 8 (4:54 minutes)

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

Video 2.1.5 – Count Music–Sets of 8 (5:32 minutes)

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

Video 2.1.6 – Count Music–Sets of 8 (4:56 minutes)

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

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 more, see 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 (“Compositor Confundido”) 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.

ANOTHER ERROR ALERT: A reader brought up a question about the tempo of the first song, “Mambo De Coco,” which you can read about (and my response) in the comments on this webpage. In the video, my finger is counting the “fast sets of 8,” but the reader is wondering if the correct tempo is the “slow sets of 8,” which would be one half the tempo I’m counting. I don’t know the correct tempo–I can’t find the sheet music with a tempo marking so I can’t confirm it–but I invite readers to make a comment if they know the correct tempo and why. See video 5.2 on this webpage for more about fast sets of 8 and slow sets of 8.

PARTNER DANCING ALERT: If a couple were dancing salsa to “Compositor Confundido” 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 (5:48 minutes)

  • 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 – “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 (4:10 minutes)

  • 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 – “The Best is Yet to Come” by Michael Bublé

Video 3.5 – Where to Clap in Music (4:24 minutes)

  • 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 – “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 Music (5:40 minutes)

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 – “Army Dreamers” by Kate Bush

Video 4.2 – Count Waltz Music–Sets of 6 (3:39 minutes)

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

Chapter 5: Tempo

Video 5.1 – How to Calculate Music Tempo (12:39 minutes)

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.

TAP TEMPO” UPDATE (APP): 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.

“TAP TEMPO” UPDATE (WEBSITE): In the book I mention two websites that I use for tapping tempos, and The later,, is now dead. But here’s another tap tempo website: music4dance Note that some people count measures per minute (MPM) and this page offers that option, but stick to counting BPM (beats per minute). BTW, this site is a huge database of partner dancing music that’s worth checking out.

  • 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 – “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 (6:39 minutes)

  • 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 – “Wade in the Water” by Eva Cassidy

Video series 6.2.1 – Count music–32-Beat Phrasing (6:38 minutes)

  • 0:00 – “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men
  • 2:04 – “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges
  • 3:58 – “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 (5:17 minutes)

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

Video 6.4 – Count Music–Complicated Phrasing (4:05 minutes)

  • 0:00 – “Otherwise” by Morcheeba
  • 2:47 – “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.


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

Copyright © 2021-2023  James Joseph. All rights reserved.

29 Replies to “How to Count Beats in a Song”

  1. I can’t get over this! Thank you so much! You have opened my ears as well. This has been a revelation to me. Just took up dancing – didn’t realise anything about this beat business. Music Neanderthal but smart enough to know something wasn’t right at times. Also mightn’t know exactly when to start moving and couldn’t put my finger on the reason why. I want to improve my ear for beginners waltz, foxtrot and quickstep. I bought your book but have to wait on delivery – wasn’t in stock!! Dying for it to arrive. I just love your timing videos. I’m really getting it. Trying to cancel out listening to the words and trying to focus on hearing the beat. Well done! Great job!

    1. Bernie, you’re welcome, and thanks for the kudos. I know how you feel—it was a revelation to me as well when I learned the 8-count and how to hear the beat. Dance classes teach dance, they do not teach music. So you have to learn it on your own.

      That’s correct, you don’t want to get distracted by the lyrics. That said, sometimes the lyrics can give you clues, eg, sometimes the lyrics are aligned with the 8-count. But you mostly want to listen to the rhythm section—the percussion instruments, like drums, keyboard and strings. Note that some instruments, like guitar and piano, can play both melody and rhythm, so it can be tricky.

      Let me know if you have questions. In case you haven’t seen it, I have a playlist of free youtube instructional videos on music at

      Sorry about the book being out of stock. I believe Amazon is jerking me around, although it might be the printer. I’m working on a remedy.

      1. Thank you! Still in awe of all of this! I will let you know when the book arrives. Am going to pass your website on to some like minded friends. I will check out your videos. Thank you. Keep up the good work

          1. Thought you might be interested in knowing – amazon refunded me for your book as it was out of stock and they couldn’t supply it

  2. bpm counter. is quite useful for musicians, for dancers, or whoever wants to know the BPM of a song, a sample, or a backing track.
    This BPM Calculator is quite useful for musicians, for dancers, or whoever wants to know the BPM of a song, a sample, or a backing track. This tap BPM tool allows you to calculate the tempo of any song by tapping to the beat. For instance, if you want to know the BPM of a sample or a song, you just have to tap along with the beat.

    1. Shivdhan, yes, the book would be very good for hip hop dancers. The book is aimed at popular, mainstream, Western music, which is mostly in the 4/4 time signature (so the music is structured in 8-counts). Hip hop music falls into that category. The last chapter, Chapter 7, “Move to Music,” discusses improvisation in dance, which will help you in your freestyle. Let me know if you have any questions.

  3. Feeling the music is one of the only ways to know if you like what you’re hearing. If you don’t enjoy what you’re hearing, and you find the beat annoying, then it’s not a good song for you.

  4. I’m pretty sure that “before he cheats” is a 74. After watching numerous videos I’ve learned that the snare drum usually beats on 2 & 4, which it does in that video. My gues is that the piano is playing 1/8 notes which gives the feeling of a faster tempo but it’s still a 4/4 time. But that’s just an opinion of a noob.

    1. Aaron, yes, 74 BPM is correct. And what you refer to as the snare drum hitting on counts 2 and 4 is what I refer to in the book on page 68 (chapter 5) as a “boom TICK” over two beats, the “TICK” being the higher pitch of the snare drum on counts 2, 4, 6 and 8. In general, the natural pairing of beats (boom TICK), when it’s audible in the music, is easy to hear so it’s a great clue to help you identify the beat.

          1. I looked at lyrics in that music sheet and listened to youtube video to see what beats I associate to lyrics in both counting methods. “Right now” looks to be on beats 2 and 3 in that music sheet . In fast counting “Right now” would be on beats 2 and 3 and in slow counting would be on “and 2”.

            1. Catalin, I see your logic but I don’t read sheet music, nor do I know enough about music theory and musical arrangements, so it’s hard for me to comment. You may be correct and I’m open to that possibility, but I still lean towards the slower tempo for these reasons:

              1) The Upbeat (Counts 2, 4, 6 and 8). At the slow tempo, there is an emphasis on the upbeat. This is what a rock musician calls the “backbeat” (emphasis on counts 2 and 4). At a personal and practical level, when I clap to this song, it feels better (more in the groove) to clap to the slow tempo on the upbeat (noting, of course, that clapping on the upbeat is the correct way to clap). Clapping on the upbeat at the fast tempo feels frenetic to me. If I were to dance to this song, I would dance to the slow tempo. So, for my purposes as a dancer and casual listener, I would interpret the song using the slow tempo.

              2) Different Arrangements. In general, the same song can have different arrangements, which can account for different performances of the same song sounding somewhat different (this is true to the extent that occasionally the same song can even be performed in 2 different time signatures). The performance we’re talking about is the official music video for Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” I think—someone please correct me if I’m wrong—we would have to see the sheet music for that performance and/or talk to the band leader to get a definitive answer.

              3) It’s a Difficult Song for Identifying Tempo. There is, no doubt, ambiguity to the tempo of this song, which is why I chose it. I use it to illustrate that it’s sometimes a challenge to identify the tempo. To add to the uncertainty, I searched for more sheet music of “Before He Cheats” and I found 4 that had “tempo markings” on them. A tempo marking is when there is a notation of a musical note (a quarter note), an equal sign (“=”), then a number, which is the BPM. A tempo marking tells you, definitively, what the tempo is for that arrangement. This is what I found:

              74 BPM
              72 BPM
              96 BPM
              160 BPM

              Also of note, the Wiki entry for “Before He Cheats” states: “It has a moderate tempo in cut time with a ‘shuffle beat.’”

              I probably haven’t settled anything, but I hope this helps.

  5. I took up dance skating and had the toughest time because I just couldn’t stay in time. Then I found this site which opened my eyes and more importantly, my ears. This along with one other resource made it so I can actually count better than some of the coaches and my partners. Of course, actually moving to the music is a whole other issue but at least I can usually tell where the one is now.

    My biggest issue still remains with Latin music which I can’t seem to keep up with.

    Video 2.1.6 still seems incorrect to me. Mambo De Coco is the first piece played in the video and “aqua”is the last. Is it just me or does the cowbell in Mambo De Coco hit at roughly half the tempo? If I count using the cowbell I always arrive at the one the same as you but I’m at exactly half the tempo.

    1. Aaron, glad to hear you found my site helpful. I’m not surprised you can count music better than some coaches because I don’t believe people have been trained in counting, so I can see how a methodical approach would give you an edge. May I ask: what was the “other resource” you mentioned that helped?

      As far as keeping up with Latin music, I agree, it’s tough (note that even I made a mistake in counting video 2.1.6, which I disclosed on this page to use as a teaching moment). All I can say is that the more you listen to music and practice counting, the better you’ll get.

      As far as your issue with video 2.1.6, I wouldn’t doubt that I made another mistake but I’m confused with your problem. First, “Mambo De Coco” is the third song, not the first; and “Agua” is the second song, not the last. Second, I don’t really hear the cowbell (but I’m not exactly sure which song you’re talking about, the first or the third). Third, I don’t understand your statement, “I always arrive at the one the same as you but I’m at exactly half the tempo,” because you seem to be saying that you both hear every count 1 and you’re not hearing every count 1 (“half the tempo” — are you hearing only half the count 1s?). If you can clarify the issue I’ll respond.

      1. Hi James. It’s great to be able to talk to you. Thanks again for your site. I just bought your book for Kindle on Amazon.

        Just to clarify. Video 2.1.6 has the songs listed out of order. The first song played in that video is Mambo de Coco by Pancho Sanchez. The second song is Compositor Confudido. That’s the song that has a change of phrase. The clave starts in a 2-3 pattern then you can hear the change. Where you have to skip 4 beats to keep the clave at 2-3 (which ends on beat 8). The last song is Aqua de va caer.

        My confusion is really on the first song, Mambo de Coco. I’ve been listening to the song on my own quite a bit. There is a distinct cow bell played like a drum (may have the instrument wrong). It hits on every beat it seems like to me but that would have it at half the bpm you have. I’m going to keep listening to it. Latin music I have challenges with and it’s so rich with so many overlapping instruments and rhythms.

        1. Aaron, you’re right, I got the order of the songs wrong in the music credit at the end of the video. I just corrected the order here in the webpage copy, so it should now show the correct order (1.”Mambo De Coco” 2.”Compositor Confundido” 3.”Agua Que Va Caer”). Many thanks! (ERROR ALERT for readers: the music credit at the end of the video remains incorrect, at least for now.)

          As far as the cowbell in the first song, “Mambo De Coco,” I believe I do understand your question. Yes, that cowbell is hitting on what I’m counting out with my finger in the video as counts 1, 3, and 7. So that would be half the tempo of what my finger is counting. You may be correct (again!) and you’ve raised a good question: what’s the correct tempo?

          I’ll use this as a teaching moment. In the book (Hear the Beat, Feel the Music) on pages 66 and 67 (Chapter 5 – Tempo), I talk about “slow sets of 8” and “fast sets of 8.” Sometimes in a song you can hear both a slow underlying pulse (slow sets of 8) and a fast underlying pulse (fast sets of 8) together in the same song. The slow pulse will be one half the tempo of the fast pulse. In the book I talk about a few things to try to help figure out the correct tempo, but sometimes you just won’t know. I think the most definitive way to know is to look at the sheet music and hope there’s a tempo marking at the top. I couldn’t find the sheet music for this song. So, for now, I’ll leave the tempo of this song, “Mambo De Coco,” as an open question and invite others to comment if they think they know the correct tempo and why.

          It’s worth noting that BPM databases will occasionally list the wrong tempo for a song because beat detection software can also have a problem when a song has both slow sets of 8 and fast sets of 8. I discuss this with video 5.2, “Before He Cheats,” on this webpage and on page 68 of the book. I could figure out “Before He Cheats” because I could hear a “boom TICK” (over two beats). I don’t recall the situation when I was putting the video together for “Mambo De Coco,” but I suspect I might have gotten the song off of a salsa dancing playlist, and salsa dancers would dance this song to the fast sets of 8 (the tempo I”m counting with my finger in the video). But I’m not a salsa dancer so I stand ready to be corrected again.

          For all you readers who are struggling to learn this stuff, please note that I still struggle with some songs. There will always be hard music that will stump you and me, and uptempo Latin music (like salsa) is hard because of the fast tempo and all the percussion. Beginners should work with easy music to build your accuracy and confidence.

          1. Thanks, James. Even when you may be incorrect you still have me thinking and learning (and above all practicing). I can’t tell you how many times I listened to the songs on your videos! Your site is a major service!

            You want an odd one? Try Dave Bruebeck’s “Take Five.”

            1. Aaron, thanks for the kind words, glad to hear my stuff is working for you. When I was training myself back in the 1990s, I also became obsessed with listening and counting music. Fortunately, listening to music is fun and the results–becoming more rhythmic, improving your musicality and increasing your enjoyment when listening to music–are amazing.

              I mention Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” in the book on page 56 in chapter 4. I don’t like to get into music theory because it’s complicated and unnecessary if your goal is just to hear the beat, but I mention “Take Five” in a short discussion of time signatures because it’s in the 5/4 time signature–an unusual time signature for a song that was a top hit (in 1961) and is still popular today. Try to count the five-beat measures in the song.

  6. 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.

    1. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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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