Beats, Bars & Phrases (how to count music) – Mix Tutorial

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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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552 thoughts on “Beats, Bars & Phrases (how to count music) – Mix Tutorial

  1. I hope this will be interesting for you. I’ve seen your video beets, bars and phrases how to count music.And after that I would recommend for every dancer to study your video about timing and phrasing very carefully. I would recommend it as a must if you want to be a good dancer. I am an experienced ballroom dancer,in U.K.  very very fussy about dancing to the timing ,You mentioned in your video, to pick up the music in the middle of the record playing to listen to the phrasing. The  most people pick up the phrasing and not the timing and carry-on following the phrasing. Barry

  2. Yo man, I appreciated this video a lot. I’m a new singer trying to learn about counting, and even this video helped me. Please keep sharing your knowledge. Also, it has been my experience when looking up info on music that the diversity in the people making to tutorials hasn’t been the best, so to see a man of color taking part in sharing this knowledge is awesome. Thank you.

  3. You are my favorite Dj
    Can you talk about the Mashine how you connected how you play the music from CDJ in mashine
    Please
    I wach a lot of machines but not one show explicit
    Thanks

  4. Wow man! you’re a genius… I got the real idea of beats and measures and even phrases…
    you are kind of a great teacher for anyone who is interested in DJ and has the negative attitude in playing, to arise their abilities!
    Sir, I respect such personalities like you!

  5. Thank you so much!!! Especially the explanations on the basic structures and phase changes in most music, really helps understand what is happening.

  6. Thanks for the help bro, you’ve helped my kids take their first steps toward mixing (if they stick with it, kids eh). Perfect clear for them, explained much better than I could (I’m no DJ.)

  7. I just started learning drums last week and wanted to Thank You very much for this incredibly basic and beautifully done tutorial, I wrote everything down and will learn beats, bars, and phrase terminology. Thank you again!!

  8. I took an after school class playing trumpet in grade 5/6 and never realized that there were phrase changes around every 8th bar. Idk why but this video kinda changed music for me in a good way. You can listen closer to the changes because you can more or less know when something is gonna happen. Thanks man ??

  9. Squirrerel Squirrerel

    - Edit Reply

    Thank you for this! This was the first video I found to break this down into easy to understand language. I really appreciate it.

  10. So well explained. I just discovered your youtube channel, I am not a beginner anymore, but I wish I have discovered your tutorials before 😛 haha I would have saved some time tho

  11. el clasico genial

    - Edit Reply

    Hello Mr. DJ TLM hope you feel good I really admire you and I have a question am trying to do the dj stuff it is my first time am a beginner I don’t have a mac all I have is a pc. window 7 – i5 intel but I don’t know if it is 4 or 8- gb ram it has 1- tb one day I was on the street and I saw in a restaurant a dj stereo but I can see the they have the same type of pc. that I have so do you think that I may have any type of inconvenience with my pc. if I use it with my dj controller that I have my controller is the Pioneer ddj – sr2 from serato and the dj controller that I saw on the restaurant is a lot bigger than my please give me your advice because I really need it and I don’t know what to do thank you I will appreciate it hope to hear from you soon dj tlm

  12. perfectly logical once again, and probably the only person in the world who managed not to say once ‘you feel it’ while explaining any of this and kept it scientifical lol

  13. Of all the dj giving lesson on YouTube , I would say yours are the most helpful and clear ! Thank you so much ! Keep doing what you’re passionate about ! God bless you

  14. Excellent! You’ve helped me an entire world! Now I understand the music for dancing, even when I’ve danced for 7 years now. You’ re great.

  15. extremely helpful. i was trying to count metal songs the other day and its tough to figure out if its the snare or kick keeping the time.

  16. OMG its DJing not writing music. Fuck, these so called djs now a days are fucking simple. Back in the day when we were real djs. Get the 1200 ,s amp speakers vynil. Bpm out the records and go. This is like a fucking LSAT TEST get over it smh

  17. OMG its DJing not writing music. Fuck, these so called djs now a days are fucking simple. Back in the day when we were real djs. Get the 1200 ,s amp speakers vynil. Bpm out the records and go. This is like a fucking LSAT TEST get over it smh

  18. Hey PLEASE ANSWER, some hip hop music has the clap on 3rd beat, but as u said we count it outta habit on 2 and 4, mistaking its tempo. Is there an official thing or it’s just up to artist how they wanna count it (either count clap on 3rd or on 2&4) ?!

  19. Loretta Cheeks, Ph.D.

    - Edit Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful lesson. I teach youth to code using music composition as the mechanism. Blessings and peace.

  20. Damn bro. I love your ability to be able to break down something complex into simple terms so anyone can grasp the concept. Incredible teaching.

  21. great content learnt alot….great stuff bro iv made music before but never underatood structure lol I mostlt to hiphop and by watching this i understood alot. Thanks
    so im a hit that subscribe button to learn abit more. ?

  22. What if you have difficulty keeping the bar/beat count straight in your head? I’ve been taking lessons for the last several weeks, but this is the one concept I struggle with the most.

  23. frankietron lopez

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    I never knew how to count bars, or anything about phrases, time signatures, I just always kept my MPC on time signature of 4/4 cuz it sounded right.. I’m glad I saw your video! It always seemed so intimidating but you made it very clear

  24. I’m not a DJ, but I am a dancer looking for videos on how to count music for my students. I must say, this video is very straight on and easy to understand. I appreciate the fact that you explain in words as well as playing the audio. And…I’ve never commented on any videos before. This is great. Thanks so much.

  25. Dude, thank you very much for posting! Super helpful. Question, I’ve noticed that when composing a melody which will repeat all throughout the verses, each new bar will begin with a number note so a certain note does not repeat twice. Could you please clarify this for me?

  26. Hi i just started learning music proction ans started using fl studio for it. Can u plz help he how can i make music by being sync with the beats

  27. Thank alooootz DJ-TLM….4 helping me understand how to apply da formula in Bar&Beatz technique….HOPE I COULD COUNT ON U 4 ANOTHER CLASS ABOUT ANOTHER BARS

  28. Bro I’m a Pro who teaches Classes of Graphic Design, and Def U ARE a true Master Teaching …You always were on point plus I felt Like in an Academy … Great Tutorial

  29. It’s called “4 ON THE FLOOR”. One is not able to teach the 8/16/32/64/128 mixing sequence. Learning the songs pattern of intro, chorus and breaks etc. Props DJ for sharing your passion. ♥ djDD Pz Out

  30. I am confused. I think you said a beat is note so every nite is a beat. Then yiu said in dance music there is a kick drum on every beat, which means the kuck drum hits at every note. But i dont hear that. The kick seems to hit every few beats. Please unconfuse me. I want to understand so i can get what you mean.

  31. I’m not into hip hop or dance music at all, but you video did a great job of helping me understand basic drum beats that will help me with my rock music. Awesome explanations. Thank you.

  32. Thanks man! This was simple to understand the way you explained it. Good Job! I’ve been playing guitar by ear for years, but no real understanding of basic theory of music. That was a big help.

  33. when I count beats I make reference to the time where I want to break, blend or start mixing…. I use a NumMark fusion 111 Cdj Decks

  34. When styles like black metal get played on drums with blast beats,double kicks and poly rhythms come into play the music becomes what you count. The drums become a feel through technique. Most people on earth have heard ” music” during their life therefore a lot of natural training has been acquired already. But thankyou kind Sir,its always good to bust back to the basics. Great vid !

  35. When styles like black metal get played on drums with blast beats,double kicks and poly rhythms come into play the music becomes what you count. The drums become a feel through technique. Most people on earth have heard ” music” during their life therefore a lot of natural training has been acquired already. But thankyou kind Sir,its always good to bust back to the basics. Great vid !

  36. Outstanding video, it helped me a lot. You explained it very well. Some people know their stuff but can’t teach, you did your thing bro. Thanks.

  37. 11/4/2018

    You say that counting beats is one of the most important things to learn. So, what is the most important thing to learn in music?

  38. Hey Brother , Thank You for Your Help and Explaining the Understanding of Counting Music. I Am a Self Taught Musician Inspired By the Passion I Have for That ” Feeling “. And First Heard About Counting Music 2 Year’s Ago and It Did Not Make Any Sense. Now That It Does , New Knowledge Becomes Easier to Understand and Just Wanted to Let You Know that I Learned to Create the Music I Now Make Posted In My Channel by Watching Video’s Like Yours and Just Wanted to Say THANK YOU !!!! When No One Would Help Me , People Like You We’re Always Out There Helping Me Along this Path and Never Knew It. I Am So Thankful and Again ,, Thank You Brother !!

  39. appreciate the upload man definitely some good food for thought and helps me re-familiarize myself with terminology. much love

  40. appreciate the upload man definitely some good food for thought and helps me re-familiarize myself with terminology. much love

  41. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been playing the drums by ear and really just jamming to rock music but I just started to LISTEN to the music and the more I listened the more confused I got and lost my timing. I never understood where 1 came in and where it always was in a song. I saw a video by Bernard Purdy and he said you always have to know where 1 is. Whaaaat??? I never knew that. Now thanks to you and this video I now know where 1 always is and I understand bars and phrases! My drumming has gotten so much better and I can adlib better because now I know how to count! Thanks again for teaching a rock drummer to count by listening to dance and hip hop music!

  42. I am so NON musically inclined. Yet, your vid was the only of several u saw, which got thru to me. Great job in explaining! Gracias amigo!

  43. Χρήστος Κίτσιος

    - Edit Reply

    Thank you for the video, very helpful. So if for example I got a track playing and I want to mix in a second track with an intro phrase of 8 bars. I’m supposed to start playing my second track 8 bars before the phrase of my first track ends to correctly mix in phrases. The question is how do I know when the phrase of my first track is 8 bars before it’s end? Do I just have to know all the tracks that well so I can tell how long their phrases are or is there any helpful tips for that?

  44. NiiA Beauty & Wellness The Hub

    - Edit Reply

    seriously checked out many other dj start out videos. this one is the best. thanks for explaining it so well.

  45. Sorry, didn’t think this was that good of a video. You’re clearly not an expert on this material. Understanding a time signature is basic and the what you cover this isn’t very clear or accurate. I like you personality and I wish you well.

  46. Thanks man, great work, everybody should get lessons by this, the way of making someone who has no idea, to understand how to count and practice, you are a fantastic teacher, some others should learn of this video, which is the right way to teach people, especially the ones that know nothing and they would love to learn how to mix.

  47. In dance class a younger girl said she didn’t know how to count music. I shared your video with her, You did keep it simple and very informative. Thanks.

  48. what number of the beat are the kicks and 808s place drums on midi for trap genre? i would do anything to get that answer god bless

  49. what number of the beat are the kicks and 808s place drums on midi for trap genre? i would do anything to get that answer god bless

  50. what number of the beat are the kicks and 808s place drums on midi for trap genre? i would do anything to get that answer god bless

  51. gold lesson ! i’m a guitar player and this was so helpful ! thanks bro.why when you were counting the bars the 2 one you said 2 ,2, 3 .4,? that one screwed me up

  52. gold lesson ! i’m a guitar player and this was so helpful ! thanks bro.why when you were counting the bars the 2 one you said 2 ,2, 3 .4,? that one screwed me up

  53. This video is awesome! I’m not into DJing at all but I’m trying to become better at hip hop dancing and came across this video while searching for how to get better at counting music. This is great. I would love it if you made a follow up video to this with various examples of hip hop songs, from simple to complex/rich, and telling us what the count is.

  54. synchronicity676

    - Edit Reply

    Can’t believe how well u explained that! I actually understood more in this vid than anywer about bars beats n learnt ab new thing phrase..??

  55. synchronicity676

    - Edit Reply

    Can’t believe how well u explained that! I actually understood more in this vid than anywer about bars beats n learnt ab new thing phrase..🙏🎵

  56. Dude I just watched idk how many tutorial videos and they all SAY you need to know how to count music, but NONE of them explained it as easily and as well as you just did. THANK YOU! It finally all makes sense now its like a light just went off in my head!

  57. there is no better and clearer simple way to put it than you have done! thanks big bro. u a star want you to be my personal mentor…

  58. Thanks.! I hope by me sharing this is going to help someone that has potential with apparently defensive or an inability to accept constructive criticism ❤️❤️❤️

  59. Excellent lesson, help me understand more about my music when I teach Fitness class, thank you for sharing. From Toronto.

  60. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of experience. I am still getting my rig and vinyl collection set up so definitely trying to learn as much of the basics as I can before I have what I need to start playing around with it. Thanks man!

    Edit: I like your teaching style in particular. Thanks again!

  61. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of experience. I am still getting my rig and vinyl collection set up so definitely trying to learn as much of the basics as I can before I have what I need to start playing around with it. Thanks man!

    Edit: I like your teaching style in particular. Thanks again!

  62. Hey! How did I get here? I have zero interest in DJ-ing; I was looking for phrasing guidelines for a composition, happened upon you and listened. Though most DJs have a good sense of rhythm, few I’ve seen have had or have taken the opportunity to learn any formal rhythm theory. Bravo to you for trying to help with that bit of professional development. Well done.

  63. Dj Aloha IG djAloha

    - Edit Reply

    A good lesson for learning about music and djing. Years ago I learned this at DJ class in Hollywood. Your awesome for sharing here on youtube.

  64. So, if counting beats is one of the most essential things i need to learn, what is the most essential thing i need to learn?

  65. When reading sheet music, do bars really make a difference if you’re only playing one instrument? Does it matter? Just learning! Thanks!!

  66. Really useful, thank for the clear explanations and comparing dance against hop hop & r’n’B. So good! One of the challenging things I find with Hip Hip however is when the lyrics come in straight
    away, but I guess that’s why looping is useful (sometimes)

  67. Hi..
    Soooo Cool, just the thing I was looking for, really great tutorial.
    Love your channel, What is the keypad board you are using in they video ?
    Thanks for your stuff, very helpful for a new comer,

  68. Thank you so much for that easy counting method! I DJ and recently started collaborating with live musicians and this accounting method will help me take the monotony out of playing a controller like an instrument so thank you very much!

  69. Hey man im new to using maschine and im new to producing, i love boom bap hip hop and i wanted to ask a few questions about some things on maschine if anybody can asnswer them i would really appreciate it, thanks

  70. E.W. Underground Hiphop

    - Edit Reply

    Did a verse for a younger dude and he was telling me to hit the up beat and not the down beat and even though i wrecked it like always, i realized i have been rapping for 3 years and I dont know anything about music at all. so thanks for the first lesson lol.

  71. Finaly, sombody explanes things in music that everybody can runderstand. Gud job man, and lets hear some more. Gud luck, later.

  72. You’re my very favorite of all the different DJing “how-to channels.” I couldn’t figure out where you were from and was surprised that you’re Dutch! I thought you were a Cuban guy living in Miami! Either way, you’re a great teacher.

  73. Right at the beginning of learning how to mix and been toggling back and forth between YouTube How To’s and, like others have said, yours is the clearest darn explanation of counting beats and basic musical structure out there. Good work.

  74. i imagine a bunch of old white people watchin this thinkin they’re real cool. lmao… very wholesome & easy to follow vid man, i love this.

  75. Must have watched about 4 videos before I came across yours, with people explaining beats, bars and phrases. You explained it better than all of them combined. Seriously, you nailed this explanation. Thank you.

  76. You know what has a really tough intro for counting? Single Ladies! I mean, I get the beat but the drums in that song make it tricky to keep up with the downbeat from the intro. Turns out, the downbeat is on the 3, not the 1. (I think??) 😀

  77. I just wanted to thank you much for making this video on how to better understand beats bars and phases I really appreciate it alot .I’m so very bad at it but you made it very easy for me to understand it especially the 32 count
    Thank you much❤.

  78. Thanks for such a great video… I’ve just bought my pioneer dj controller,ive been struggling a bit on mixing. I play mainly reggae /dancehall/Jamaican music… Its a bit harder because theres not a beat everytime,but I’m getting there, any chance you could do a video with reggae music.. Thanks bro, respect from London

  79. Bro! I’m reading the comments below and everybody went around the world till the came across your perfect tutorial! I’m happy to say yours is the first I tried on this topic! 😂😂😂 so glad I have a good sense of what vids to click on and which to pass up! Just got a push 2 and learning the step sequencer THIS JUST HELPED ME A GREAT DEAL thank you bro 🙏🏾 You’ve got a subscriber for life!

  80. thanks ! all you have to do is multiply the bars by 4 and it tells you the amount of bars! I’m trying to make music and this was helpful!

  81. So if you have 2 different beats with the snare drum on 2 and 4 and your mixing into your next track. Do you stop track 1 on 1 start the next track on 1 OR stop track 1 on 2 or 4 and start the next track on 2 or 4?

  82. As a drummer who wants to learn how to DJ and starting with this video, my confidence is boosted, lol. Let’s see if it continues as we progress…

  83. Man, I’m just here to learn the basics so I can start charting custom songs in rhythm games like Spin Rhythm and Stepmania….

    Thanks for the guide. Made learning this nice and easy for someone that failed to learn the recorder in 4th grade.

  84. I have always followed music simply by feel (if you know what I’m saying), you just cleared up the technical and the theory that I have never quite understood. Great video!!!!

  85. Donald Buckingham

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    Thank you sir. During this trying time i am now doing what i love to give hope to the people. I’m preparing a live-stream of a set a this was a major issue for me and has given me better insight. I have had the gift of music in my head all of my life but never really encouraged myself to utilize my talents until now. lol did I mention I’ve been actively DJing a week lol look to see some updated info from you soon.

  86. What beat sounds like? The beat I only know is snare cause its understandable that its a beat ,I’m a 13 year old that wanna learn hiphop hard as hell so I can compete in the game

  87. What beat sounds like? The beat I only know is snare cause its understandable that its a beat ,I’m a 13 year old that wanna learn hiphop hard as hell so I can compete in the game

  88. This is the best video I have found so far, but for some reason I just cant find the beats when Im listening to my music

  89. Thanks for going over how to listen to a 4/4 beat, and hearing the “snares” and other signals on the 2 and 4 beat. Also for reviewing the common “phrase” structure of many songs. It will be more fun now to listen to music and listen for those beats and phrases. I’m just starting out learning classical music but any new angle on listening and keeping count helps. Also now I’m going to look for the bar/phrases structures in classical.

  90. I’m glad I took percussion through middle school and high school. It really helped me picking up mixing earlier. Never underestimate the power of band class.

  91. Thank you so much. I’ve been trying to learn the banjo and litterally have been so lost in the online videos because they’ve been talking about beats etc without any explanation and just trying to keep up and figuring out when I need to switch it around without understanding how to count was almost making me throw in the towel. The suggestion for counting it in place of the one is a life saver.

  92. Abraham Delatorre

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    After failing to find a certain rare EBM tracks beat signature I’ve watched most videos on teaching counting beats left me learning little until, your video showed me the basics right away and clearly explaining only what I needed to look for. People looking to start on Music Production should defiantly watch this. Subbing and looking forward to watching more of your videos. Thank you.

  93. Bars and measures technically aren’t the same but for the sake of this video, teaching how to count, it was an excellent explanation for beginners

  94. ♡ Winterbird ♡

    - Edit Reply

    Thank you so much for this because my university are so lazy with explaining things in their self written self regulated materials and this literally saved me

  95. Excellent tutorial brother. I am a lyricist that is beginning to build and work on a DAW to make my songs this helped me understand beats/measures straight away!!!

  96. Hi. Thanks so much for this. I am learning jazz guitar and singing in Italy and though I started life in New York which bewilders my teacher who says I am more Italian than New Yorkese when it comes to my beat, he is so right. Phrasing and chords are easyish for me as well as following someone else’s more established beat but counting in is bewildering fly hard. This was great but I need another ten of these! Thanks a lot!!!!

  97. Here’s my Rap Fame: Hey! You gotta download this app Rap Fame https://share.rapfame.app/ErgfNpSGDbb real quick. There’s some really cool stuff on here. My profile is @donnybravo

    Thanks for making this video. I love Making rhymes but I’ve never known much about keeping with a beat. A few days ago, I got the Rap Fame app and started trying to rhyme to a beat. Maybe after watching your video, I’ll get better at spitting to a beat.

  98. Metronome will do the counting for you on most program.. sucks .. and takes all the fun out …. I’m old skool two turntable and a Mix… How beats are really made.

  99. Broo🙏
    You were a genius when this video came out. Now you’re a life savior, and this vid will help many more generations. Keep up good work Sir!! Thank you

  100. Is it to late to say thanks for a great, easy to follow but super helpful video? Pandemic has all types of hobbies being practiced and you just answered my biggest and most challenging issue. I understand what counting beats was, but I couldn’t find the basic answer to the question “what should I be listening for the bass, kick, snare and how do I know how many beats are in a bar”. Thanks sir.

  101. That was a fantastic video! I’m a retired DJ and often times I help new DJ’s get started. Whenever I start with someone, I always start with this. Before you put your hands on a controller or open DJ software (it’s irrelevant) you gotta know this. Most people don’t realize they already know this subconsciously and practice it when they”re dancing singing. Once. you understand it it will open up an entire new world of music for you. You will go to a club or concert and appreciate what the artists are doing on an entire new level. Bravo for this simple tutorial!

  102. Great video–I see a lot of young people interested in music production, but don’t yet have any music background, and this should help them a lot!

  103. I have over 21 million views of my videos, why? because like this guy, content is pure direct simple said to be understood. I do what I do, Plumbing, and share it because I want to share, mostly the reason I do well, is I understand what the questions are, will be, and do not leave an assumed thing out. I say this guy understands both music and others questions on music.
    Thanks Bro..

  104. Extremely helpful.. thank you so much!! Legit never heard the beat when I listen to music, only the words and melody.

  105. Paulo Robles Fernandez

    - Edit Reply

    Big check bro…also my brother tell me just to count beat until i reach 8 bars before the end of the music

  106. thank you DJ TLM for explaining things I was a bit embarassed (honestly) to ask my other DJ friends…you break it all down super clearly and at a pace/method I can absorb. You’re the man!! 💫😎

  107. Great vedio..I was stucked counting bars while counting beats tigether..but this vedio helped to do that …1234, 2234, 3234…

  108. Hey thanks for a very good and simple explanation of counting beats, bars and phrases.
    It helps me a lot thanks 🙂

  109. Do I only count the drums as beat? How about if there’s a piano, or guitar or other instruments? I lose the drum beats. I’m sorry I’m dumb and not musically inclined

  110. Was working on a video edit for a client and he was using the terms bars and beats rather than the timestamps to place some effects, I was completely clueless on how to count that but just the 5 minutes of this video made me learn that 🙂
    Thank you!

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