Studio 237 School of Music

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You Can Pretty Much Count on It

By Lisa Cyr

Music is like a recipe. It contains measurements that, when followed, produce a delicious meal. If any of those mathematical measurements are incorrect, then the food will not taste the same. A musical composition is comprised of a multitude of math. When you gaze deeply into a piece of music, you will discover a matrix of numbers, patterns, structure, and sequences. Learning to play the song becomes a quest to unlock the beauty of the piece as the composer intended. Follow the recipe, and you receive the benefits of a satisfying song.

A song is divided up into measurements of time and grouped into the same amount every so many beats. Those groupings give the song a feeling of movement, as for instance, the “Waltz” is in 3’s, country and rock music is often in 2’s or 4’s, and jazz can be more complicated such as in 5’s, 7’s, 9’s or mixed. No matter the groupings, time doesn’t go away, it’s here to stay. When the timing is wrong then mistakes happen, the song sounds off, the momentum is lost. Counting out loud (hopefully to a metronome) will cure most mistakes. Review your song and write in your beats. Oftentimes, I will ask the student to “double time it” which is two metronome ticks for a single beat. It is the proverbial “one and two and” etc.…  Also, prior to playing a song, tapping out the beats with your hands, as you count out loud, tends to work out even the most intimidating beat combinations.

On piano, finger numbers play an important role to create the correct sound, feeling, tempo, and ability to memorize patterns.  All five digits (fingers) work together to create music. Each finger is assigned a number beginning with the thumb equaling the number one, all the way to the pinky as number 5. A beginners’ greatest struggle is to connect their mind’s desire to the proper finger number.  Saying finger numbers out loud while playing will establish a strong hand to mind connection. When all the fingers work together, they begin to fly over the keys as if texting or typing. Use the same exact finger number system every time, and you will memorize an entire song.

When we try to recall a phone number, we might physically review the motion on a phone pad. If we simply try to recall one number at a time, it become a slow arduous process.  On a musical instrument, we physically group the finger or note number sequences together and soon notes become as easy to play as dialing a phone number.

Counting is an important daily life process. From waking up in the morning until going to bed at night, our brains are constantly counting. The quicker we count, the quicker we respond to life’s daily needs.  The study of music helps the brain develop mathematically quicker which always improves a person’s academic/work skills and responses to real life situations. You can pretty much “count on it”.

Studio 237 Music School, located in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, teaches private music lessons to students of all ages (5 and up) on a variety of instruments including guitar, voice, violin, piano, drums, ukulele, clarinet, and more.  At studio 237, our staff of teachers are ready to help you discover, develop, and demonstrate music.  For more information contact Ray or Lisa Cyr at 850-231-3199, email:, and visit their website at