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Lessons 1 - Timing and Counting

“Playing in the pocket” is a music term.  Its definition?


Playing your notes so that they do not interrupt the flow of the music.


Timing is a guitarist’s worst enemy.  Bass players and Drummers are primarily concerned with playing in time.  Many guitarists pick up the guitar with the dreams of shredding, impressing their friends.  I know this because this was me too!


Guitarists need to learn that playing in the pocket is just as important as it is the rest of the rhythm section.


Before we approach the pocket, we need to learn a little about counting.



                       4 (top) tells you how many ¼ (quarter notes and the lower) fit in a bar.



The most common meter in music is 4/4. It happens so often that the other name for it is common time and the two numbers in the time signature are often replaced by the letter C. In 4/4, the stacked numbers tell you that each measure contains four quarter note beats. So, to count 4/4 meter, each time you tap the beat, you’re tapping the equivalent of one quarter note.


Measure (USA) = Bar (UK)


These are measures:








We are going to learning to count.  The great thing is this does not need any instruments.  You can do it anywhere there is music. 


Before we start the practical side of this week’s lesson, we’re going to go over the guide lines.


  • It must be even.  Start by counting it with the metronome in GSRT.  Make sure the 1,2,3 and 4 are so in-synch with the metronome, that it sounds like one sound.

  • Count out loud.  Use short snappy words with gaps between them.  Tap your foot on the 1,2,3 and 4 beats.

  • For 1/8th note triplets, make sure they are even (like a constant stream of notes).  A mistake that a lot of new counters make is to count triplets like 16th notes but missing out the “e”.  Try that 16th note idea and see what not to sounds like when counting triplets.  If you get stuck, use the splitter control in the metronome to hear what ‘3’ sounds like.

  • When counting with 4/4 pop music, the snare will sound on the 2 and on the 4.










Practical:  Start from quarter notes and go down the list.  When you get to 16th notes, go backwards back up to quarter notes.


  • Make sure you don’t miss out the last “&” (“and”) of each timing subdivision.

  • It’s going to be tricky at first to go between the 1/8th notes and the triplets and the triplets to the 16th notes.  That’s because they have a different feel.  Go check out the timing lessons in GSRT for examples.

  • Get this on automatic pilot before the next lesson – that means count as much as you can!!!


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