Why do musicians often count to four before starting to play? What’s significant about the number four?


Why do musicians often count to four before starting to play? What’s significant about the number four?

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10 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Typically it’s the drummer and it sets the tempo for the piece. Four is significant because many measures contain some number of beats up to four.

Anonymous 0 Comments

4 beats in a measure for 4/4 time signature (99%of western music is in this time signature)

Anonymous 0 Comments

In simple terms. – A lot of Western music is in 4/4 time signature. The count to 4 is there so everyone knows that when you get back to the ‘1’ is when you all need to start playing.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Your most standard “unit” of time in music is 4 beats per measure. When someone is counting off a song, they’re typically doing it to set the speed of the song so everyone can start at the same time and at the same speed. They use 1-2-3-4 because that’s typically how everyone will be counting the time in their heads as they play.

There are different units of time, though. Depending on the beat of the music, someone could count off in 2, 3, 6, etc.

Anonymous 0 Comments

So that way the rest of the people in the band know when to start playing. Otherwise, it’d be start whenever the first person wants to start and then the others have to jump in then.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Most western music is in 4/4 tempo. This means that while they are playing all the musicians count to 4 over and over again at the same tempo, a 1/4 note at each count. What you hear is them just counting out loud to get everyone started the same. They will then continue the count silently for the rest of the song.

Although it is not very common you might sometimes hear counts of 2/4 or 3/4 as well. Or any other odd exotic tempo the song might be written in.

Anonymous 0 Comments

They won’t always count to four, but what they’re doing is “counting in.” This allows every musician to be in sync when the piece starts as it allows them to mentally recognize where the beat lays, time signature, and how fast to play (tempo). If you listen to a recorded piece in which someone does audibly count in, continue to listen and you’ll hear that count in aligns with the beat. That way, if a piece has multiple instruments and vocalist begin playing/singing right from the get go, they all know where to start (after the count) and how fast to play as well as time signature (if they count up to only 3 or all the way to 7 in some instances.)

It’s similar to a race in which someone says “3, 2, 1, go!” To ensure that no one starts before they’re supposed to.

As for why four is significant, It’s the most common time signature. When counting in, one usually counts in a full measure before the music starts. In 4/4 time, there’s four beats and a quarter note is worth one beat, so the counter is counting the quarter notes that equal a measure at the tempo the piece is to be played. (Listen to a piece of music. Count the beats. If things line up to you counting “1,2,3,4” evenly, It’s in 4/4.) Again, sometimes they only count to three for a 3/4 time signature (3 beats per measure. Quarter not equals one beat. Think circus music or a waltz) or up to 5 for a 5/4 time signature and sometimes 7 for a 7/4 time signature etc. (For weird music) But that’s more uncommon.

Anonymous 0 Comments


Anonymous 0 Comments

When you play Rock, Paper, Scissors, you’ll notice you follow the tempo at which it’s being said that way everybody playing picks their hand at the same time or else it’ll be a mess.

It’s the same thing with music. You count before playing so everyone can be on the same page. Can’t have anyone playing their hand too early or too late.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s a way to synchronize the participants.

We need to all be playing the same piece, but we have to be playing it at the same time. If you get to the solo before I get to the solo, then you might start soloing before I’ve stopped playing to give you the time to solo.

Since you’re not already playing music when you decide to play the first measure of music We need a way to know exactly how fast to play the first four notes. So the person who is keeping the time counts the time. And then we all play the first four notes at the same rate, the person who counted counted out the time.

It prevents awkward, uncoordinated startups of amateur performers.

Especially when switching from like a slow song to a fast song or vice versa.

And sometimes there are complicated time signatures where we’re going to play three notes per measure, and the base of a measure in music is four notes. So someone will count 1. 2. 3. 4. 1. 2. 3.

One of the other nice of these is that the emphasis is always on the one. An easy song to hear this indirectly is short skirt and a long jacket. You can hear how on the first note and every fourth note thereafter they really hit the downbeat with emphasis.

In dancing, it’s one through eight for a standard dance.

And not all people have to count the rhythm, and some things. The rhythm comes from a different source. Such as if the dancers start dancing before the music starts The pitter-patter of feet will set the time signature.

This is also why large ensembles and orchestras have a conductor. The hand with the stick keeps the time and the other hand tells you whether you shouldn’t generally be playing hard or soft, or whether a certain section should be leading by being slightly more emphatic than the other sections.

If you watch the conductors baton, you’ll see that he is making sort of an anchor shape. It’s straight down then a swing to the side. Then I swing back to the other side and then up. That’s four four signature. The Sharp down stroke is the downbeat and is the note in each measure to be emphasized. For three/four time The motion is down, right, and then swoop back up. The down is always sharp with a little bounce at the bottom and then the other motions are smooth and continuous.

Like marching is about stepping on the same foot at the same time. Music is about stepping on the same note at the same time.

And just like if you ever hear a bunch of soldiers marching, there’s usually either Martial music or like avails, start singing a very rhythmic song or a call and response chant.

In music everything is about time.