Why can't I count or stay with the metronome?
24 March 2023
by Barbara Ann Fackler

Unlock the key to rhythm, it's in the meter.

It's very, very common for students to struggle with counting. The subtle differnce between strong and weak beats in music is what defines the different meteres: the two most of common of which are 3/4 and 4/4. The fix is to move away from the harp and to the ears.

For nearly all students the solution is to learn to identify, by hearing, the division of the strong and weak beats. Remember, you need to know what you want to create before you play the first note. Have a SPECIFIC goal in mind, a sound you like, style of music that makes you smile. Listen to that, hear it in your imagination before you start your practice time.

The same is true for rhythm. Learn to hear the difference between a piece in 3/4, like a waltz and a piece in 4/4, like a march. Learn where the strong and weak beats lie in each meter. Listen to a lot of music. Once you can ear the difference and corrently identify a meter by ear, you do a better job of keeping time in your own music.
If you struggle with this, playing music that does not have words associated with it will help you focus on rhythm.

Train your ears and your hands will follow.

Hints for identifing different meters:

4/4 time: Music in 4/4 time has four beats per measure and is counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. Marches are in 4/4 time and all marches accent the strong beats (1 and 2) well enough they are easy to hear.

3/4 time: Music in 3/4 time has three beats per measure and is counted 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, and so on. Waltzes are in 3/4 time and these make it easy to find the strong and weak beats.

MUSIC IN 4/4: Pachelbel Canon, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Fairest Lord Jesus, Sousa Marches, Wedding March by Mendelssohn, Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke.

MUSIC IN 3/4" Amazing Grace, Be Thou My Vision, Carol of the Bells (Ukranian Bell Carol), Children of the Heavenly Father, Blue Danube Waltz (Strauss), Westphalia Waltz.

You can use my set of LITTLE SKETCHES to test yourself. Not every piece in the set is in the same meter. Listen here to the YOUTUBE playlist, then go to the page on our website to check your guesses.