Counting Ands

When should you strum up on the guitar? The answer is here!

View the full lesson at Counting Ands | JustinGuitar

I’ve seen many definitions of backbeats:

Taking from the definitions of up-strums, is it safe to assume backbeats beats that occur between regular beats?

Here’s how I understand (and use) the terms:

Backbeat refers to beats 2 and 4 (for music in 4:4 time). In some sense, they come between the “regular beats”, if by “regular beats” you means beats 1 and 3. Strong accents on the backbeat (often snare drum hits) is a common ingredient in rock music.

I call “offbeat” the “ands” between the beats, which is where up-strums occur. I also refer to that as “off the beat”. So up-strums occur off the beat, down-strums on the beat.

The wikipedia article you cited agrees with me on backbeats, but says they occur on the “off” beats, which is not how I would say it.

I think in general different people use the terms differently, so you need to be careful when interpreting what you read/hear.

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Thanks for the answer.

When I say “regular beats” I was referring to beats 1, 2, 3, 4. My understanding was that backbeat was another semi-beat that occurs after each of these “regular beats”. In justin’s diagram he represents them as “+” signs and we count them as “ands”.

so here

there are four regular beats represented as “1,2,3,4” and four backbeats represented as “+”.

Here Justin’s says “backbeats - which we call ‘ands’…'”

But in your answer you said “Backbeat refers to beats 2 and 4” and that it is actually the offbeat where we play the “up-strums”, so I’m a bit confused by the different answers between Justin’s content and what I’m seeing elsewhere.

That’s interesting. For me “backbeat” refers to beats 2 and 4 in the bar. But Justin is clearly using it differently here.

I wonder if the more experienced folks on the forum have a take on this?

@Richard_close2u Could you please provide your input on this? Thanks!

Dante @dantejms
I am in grade 1 and generally in some of the songs justin sugests emphasing beat 2 and 4 although this is not for early stage beginners, see extract from tabs on Dance the night away and the lesson at about 9.56 Super Easy Guitar Lesson - Dance The Night Away by The Mavericks - YouTube

The > symbol is empathising the strum on beats 2 and 4.
I think this is generally regarded as empathising the back beat.
Does that help.


@dantejms @jjw1 @MAT1953

Here is the text in the lesson as I look at it initially:

In my view, this is an accidental mistype.

In early Grade 1 strumming ‘on the beat’ is strumming on the counts of 1, 2, 3, 4.

Justin often refers to the backbeat as being the 2 and the 4. He has lessons on the backbeat.

The in-between the beat parts of rhythm are the opposite of on-the-beat. They are off-the-beat.
Playing any sort of 'and; is playing the off-beat.
Paradoxically, when people say it out loud they may say what sounds like a contradictory statement:

‘Play on the off-beat.’

Which means strike the guitar strings when the off-beat, the and, the in-between the beat happens.

I am going to go in and correct the text on the lesson page.

Ta-dah …


Thanks for the updating the materials. Your explanation cleared my doubts, “off-beat” is what I was looking for. When I get to backbeats I’ll get to those materials then.

Note that some of the material still mentions “backbeats’”.

(Isn’t off-beat the “ands”?)

(Note sure if this is also a typo. Doesn’t the hand naturally move up on every off-beat?)

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Sorted, thanks @dantejms


@Richard_close2u What is this counting system called? Is it 1 E & A (source)?
Does Justin’s Music Theory course cover different counting systems?

Hi Dante

Repeat that pattern, substititing 2, 3 and 4 as you move along to get

1 E & A 2 E & A 3 E & A 4 E & A

That makes a total of 16 parts.
The entire span from 1 to the first A is a quarter subdivided into four equal parts.
Ditto for the span from 2 to the 2nd A, from 3 to the 3rd A and from 4 to the 4th A

Boxing them off looks like this:


I have changed capital letters to lower case.

Sixteen counts means you are looking at 16th note patterns.

I hope that helps.
Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator

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Hi @Richard_close2u , thanks for explaining the 16th note pattern in detail. Is 1 E & A only used to refer to 16th note pattern?

What is the counting system for the below called (8th note pattern?), which is what Justin discusses in the video.

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
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Yes. :+1: