Beats, Bars & Phrases (how to count music)

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Counting music is one of the most essential elements of being a good DJ. Learning the meaning of beats (counts), bars (measures) and phrases will help create an understanding of the structure of songs. When you start to develop this understanding of music it will help you to 'feel' when you should start (and end) a mix.

Since this is so important, I decided to explain the basics of counting music before i release my mixing tutorials (coming soon).

Most of the music we play has the same time signature (4/4) and this is the only time signature i will explain now. 4/4 means that there are 4 beats in 1 bar.

I made a couple of drum patterns to show you how to recognize the way to count music in different genres. You count the same way (1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4) with all patterns, but in some cases you can just follow the kick drum (dance music) and in other cases you can also use the snare drum to find the 2 and 4 count (most Hip Hop and R&B).

Once you understand how to count beats, you can start to practice counting bars. To make it easier to count both the beats and bars at the same time you can use the simple technique i show in this video. Simply use the first number of the 4 to count the bars: 1-2,3,4 2-2,3,4 3-2,3,4 4-2,3,4. That's 4 bars (16 beats).

Phrases are used to describe different patterns in the structure of the song. Most phrases will be 4 bars or 8 bars and you should just listen to your music and count the bars to see how many bars the music stays the same before you notice a musical change. A lot of dance music has a very similar structure when it comes to the phrases. Once this starts to make sense you will start to create a natural understanding of logical mix moments in a song.

One thing you need to remember: knowing how to count music is essential, but make sure that you know your music!

Enjoy the video and share the knowledge!

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