Lesson 1: Counting Beats & Bars

Before you begin finger drumming, it is good to learn a small amount of music theory. Don’t worry, there’s not too much to cover before we get started on the pads. To start, we will learn an easy technique for counting beats and bars.

4/4 Time Signature

Most modern music is written within a 4/4 time signature. This means there are 4 beats in each bar. In 4/4 time signature music, each beat could also be called a ‘1/4 note’ as it makes up 1/4 of a bar.

What are beats, bars, and metronome?

Beats – Beats occur at the rate at which you would typically tap your foot, nod your head or click your finger to a piece of music. Each tap, nod or click is equal to one beat.

Bars – Modern music typically has certain elements which repeat every bar. There are 4 beats in 1 bar.

Metronome – A tool used by musicians to help keep their timing steady. If set to a 4/4 time signature, the metronome will play a click or beep every beat, with a different sounding click or beep on the first beat of every bar.

Here is an example of a metronome:

Counting Beats and Bars

The easiest way to count both beats and bars at the same time is like this:

“(1), 2, 3, 4, (2), 2, 3, 4, (3), 2, 3, 4, (4), 2, 3, 4…” etc.

The number in brackets is the number of the current bar, and the rest are the numbers of the current beat.

Practice counting beats and bars aloud with the tutorial video below. After a few goes it becomes easy to count these in your head. Eventually, this will become instinctive and you won’t need to keep count.

Typical Drum Beats

Generally, drum patterns have a kick drum on beat 1 and snare drum on beat 2 and beat 4. Other drum hits are placed around these core elements.

Counting beats and bars: Kick drum on beat 1, snare drums on beats 2 and 4.

Aside from within a few musical genres, such as house and techno, kicks and snares are not usually played at the same time. There are some more exceptions to these rules which we will cover later.

Music Tempo

BPM – The tempo/speed of music is measured in Beats Per Minute (or BPM). The higher the BPM, the faster the music. Different genres of music are typically played at different speeds. For example, hip-hop tracks are typically between 85 and 105BPM, whereas house music is usually within the 120-132BPM range.

Counting beats and bars: Changing BPM in Maschine.

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