Counting Ands

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.


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 “+”.

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.

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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.


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@dantejms @jjw @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?)


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?

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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:

For many, many years, I’ve been calling the “ands” the “upbeats” , but am now wondering if this is correct. I have the - perhaps mistaken - idea that symphony orchestra conductors move their batons up on the upbeat.

Deliberately not googling this until I hear from you folks, as I generally find the advice here is way better than the inter webs :slight_smile:

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The biggest mistake guitar player make is they thing in terms of guitar and not all musical instruments. The and on a guitar would be on the upstroke or up strum. Seeing that pianos, wind instruments and even other stringed instruments don’t have a down or upstroke/up strum this is where the confusion set in. This is also why beginner guitar player think tab are upside down and the thickest string is number 1.
In music the “and” is the off beat or the beat between the 1/4 note. In 8th notes the strumming could be all downs or down up. In 16th note the “and” is usually on the down strum.

The upbeat is typically the last beat of a bar.

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I was going to take issue with this, but then noticed you clarify later on. It’s true for what I call 1/4 note alternating strumming, but not true for 1/8 note all down strumming (as you say later in the paragraph).

IME, the confusion with Tabs is often because people quite commonly draw downstrums as arrows pointing “down” towards the bottom of the page, when in actuality, the pick is travelling “up” towards the top of the page (from the thickest string to the thinnest on the Tab sheet…even though it is really moving down towards the floor in real space) Super confusing to a beginner.

Thanks…I’ve been using it wrong all this time…oops! Going forward, will use “offbeat” instead.

So for 4/4, the upbeat is on 4, and for 3/4 the upbeat is on 3? Or is it on the “and of 4” (or 3)?

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The downbeat is the very first beat in a bar. The upbeat is the very last beat in a bar. In 4/4 it’s on beat 4, in 3/4 it’s on beat 3.


@TRoland1911 Actually Jozsef is completely Correct. The term Upbeat in music literally means “The last beat of a bar.”
This short video will help you understand what the terms Downbeat and Upbeat mean.


Interesting video. He does mention around the 5:00 mark that many people use “up beat” instead of “off beat”, although it’s not strictly formally correct.

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What he should have said is “guitar players use upbeat” :sweat_smile: Like I mentioned earlier guitar players relate everything to their guitars and don’t realize these terms apply to music in general not just guitar.

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