4.3 Timing

Andy | August 26, 2015 | 16 Comments

At this stage, and in preparation to work with other musicians and backing tracks, you will also need to know about “count-ins” and time signatures i.e. how many beats to the bar your will be playing, as they are intrinsically linked. As we are at the beginner stage, let’s look at the basics.

The best way to understand it would be to use your hand and hit your leg at a steady pulse (any speed is fine). As you’re hitting your leg, start counting each hit: one, two, three, four. Once you get to four, go back to one and keep repeating. Each time you hit your leg four times, you’ve just completed a bar. This time signature is referred to as 4/4. It’s four beats in a bar, each one of those beats is a quarter note. Four quarters make up a whole bar.

To help your strumming put emphasis on the first hit of each bar. Do this by hitting your leg a bit harder so the sound is more pronounced. This is a good way of signifying a new bar has started and will help when determining if a beat is in a different time signature when you’re listening to a piece of music. If you’re comfortable with that, now put emphasis on the third hit as well so that every second beat you have emphasised your hit: ONE, two, THREE, four, etc.

The next time signature you should learn is 3/4. There are only three beats to a bar in this time signature. Now use the same leg tapping principle as with 4/4, but instead of counting to four, count to three: one, two, three. When you get to three, start back at one. Again, try putting emphasis on the first count of each bar. It will probably feel abnormal and a bit difficult to get your head around at first, but it shouldn’t take long to learn.

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Comments (16)

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  1. Arnold Hokanson says:

    I have just signed up this course. I have been messing with the guitar or six months. I get over whelm with all the information and lessons for guitar that is online. I have slight problem working with metronome. When I practice I get lost hearing them clicks.I try muting clicks then I lose my place on fret board seeing if I am staying time. I have only been working with metronome for even shorter time then guitar. If I just stick with it will get to point where the clicks are like second nature and, I will they are there but, I can ignore them.

  2. Larry Doran says:

    I’d rather eat worms than jam with someone who cannot keep time!

    Please let the beginners know how critical it is to keep time, and to understand the timing for chord changes.

    And keep reminding them that it’s CRITICAL to use a metronome. It’s easy to ruin a great song by speeding up when playing a song that rocks out, or slowing down when playing a song with great feeling and emotion, especially if you’re playing for dances!

    Practicing with a metronome is the surest way I know to develop smooth, consistent timing.

  3. Yves Jalbert says:

    Thank You Andy…and keep the good work….Regards.

  4. Yves Jalbert says:

    I want to download a metronome for my PC and one for my I phone also plus I want to by a portable metronome any suggestion Please ? Thanks in advance.

    • Andy says:

      Hi Yves, everyone’s probably got their personal favourites. As I use both iPad and iPhone, my favourite is Guitar Toolkit from Agile Partners

  5. Ronnie Holderfield says:

    I think that a metronome is the best way to timing.

  6. JL Brunet says:

    I have a very hard time strunning reggae off-beat. Maybe that off-beat is something you could explain in this timing section. I’m pretty sure that people who master off-beat do master timing.

    • Andy says:

      Yes an interesting addition – maybe we could demonstrate this and say we’ll get into it in more detail in the next Volume, as it will be a challenge for real beginners 🙂

  7. Gary Stout says:

    4.3 Timing: “….how many beats to the bar your will be playing….” should be “to the bar you will be”. A video showing examples of 4/4 and 3/4 would be appropriate.

  8. Anthony Mucci says:

    3/4 also called ‘Waltz’ time: 1 2 3, 1 2 3

  9. Brian Armstrong says:

    I would recommend a metronome which is more efficient and free on apps.

  10. Richard McKay says:

    Here’s the best place to talk about practicing with a metronome and why rhythm is so very important. Using the “and’ to divide beats.

    Most of my students pick up on this right away but some have very poor rhythm skill so I work on this a lot. They hate it at first.

    Sidebars for rhythm exercises would be good.

  11. Colin Rothery says:

    You can also use a Metronome to practice your timing to different tempos.

  12. Anthony Gable says:

    Ok Andy so when I do the 3/4 count do I slow it down to the same length of time as the 4/4?

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