**Developing a good sense of time, and learning the vocabulary needed to talk about rhythm** with other musicians, are great skills for someone who wants to be able to play music well, and essential skills for someone who wants to be able to play music well WITH OTHER musicians.

More than knowing scales, or being able to play fast, or being able to play overblows, **having a killer sense of time will make your playing impactful to the listener.** A couple of the most important elements to master in this regard are:

***Learning how to play â€śin the pocketâ€ť** (which mostly means not rushing, but instead playing in very relaxed way or â€śhanging back on the beatâ€ť.)

***Learning to feel 4-bar and 8-bar phrases.**

** Another CRUCIAL issue to get clear on and be able to feel is SWUNG TIME versus STRAIGHT TIME.**

Tthe most common feel, especially in blues, is the **SWUNG 8TH** note feel, so that is what weâ€™re gonna focus on in this post. (Note: a swung 16th note feel is common in Funk and Fusion genres.)

The most common time signature in music is 4/4, which simply means 4 beats per bar. So a 4 bar phrase is counted counted like this:

1,2,3,4

1,2,3,4

1,2,3,4

1,2,3,4

Each of those numbers that weâ€™re counting are called QUARTER NOTES. In our common time signature, there are 4 QUARTER NOTES in a bar. Makes sense, right?

**8TH NOTES are simply twice as fast as quarter notes**, there are 8 in each bar, and so a GREAT way to count them is like this:

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

We say the numbers at exactly the same speed that we did when we were counting quarter notes, and now we simply insert the word â€śandâ€ť **EXACTLY HALF WAY** in between each one of those numbers.

**â€śDOWNBEATSâ€ť are the beats where we say a number**

â€śUPBEATSâ€ť, or specifically **UPBEAT 8TH NOTES, are the beats where we are saying the word â€śand.â€ť**

By the way - each upbeat has a name.

The one that comes after beat 1 is called: **the â€śandâ€ť of 1**

The one that comes after beat 2 is called: **the â€śandâ€ť of 2**

The one that comes after beat 3 is called: **the â€śandâ€ť of 3**

The one that comes after beat 4 is called: **the â€śandâ€ť of 4**

What Iâ€™ve described so far, with the **upbeats being EXACTLY HALF WAY between each downbeat**, is called STRAIGHT TIME.

By contrast, when we play **SWUNG TIME**, or a **SWUNG 8TH feel**, or a **SHUFFLE feel**, we **delay those upbeats** past the half-way mark between the downbeats. So the â€śandâ€ť of 1 is closer to beat 2 than it is to beat 1.

While there can be some variation in how far that distance is, the best place to start is moving from Â˝ way in between, to 2/3rds of the way toward the new down beat. In order to do that, letâ€™s first learn how to count 8TH NOTE TRIPLETS:

Whereas with 8th notes we dived each of our 4 quarter notes into 2 parts (ending up with 8 notes per bar) with **8TH NOTE TRIPLETS we will divide each of our 4 quarter notes into 3 parts** (ending up with 12 notes per bar) and so a GREAT way to count these is:

1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let

1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let

1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let

1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let

If youâ€™re alone, and youâ€™re reading this, and you REALLY want to understand this and get it right, and if you have a metronome, put it on 50 Beats Per Minute. Count once per click, â€ś**1,2,3,4.**â€ť Then, making sure your still saying the numbers at the same time as the click, count eighth notes, â€ś**1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.**â€ť A now for the tricky part! Keeping the numbers with the click count â€ś**1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let.**â€ť Itâ€™s surprisingly difficult to switch back and forth between 8th notes and 8th note triplets. Theyâ€™re like two disparate universes!

Now, **counting those 8th note tripletâ€™s CLAP on all of them** (a total of twelve per bar:)

1-trip-let 2-trip-let 3-trip-let 4-trip-let

Now **DONâ€™T CLAP when you are saying â€śTRIPâ€ť**

ONLY CLAP when you are saying a NUMBER and when you are saying â€śLET.â€ť Like this:

**1**-trip-**let** **2**-trip-**let 3**-trip-**let 4**-trip-**let**

**1**-trip-**let** **2**-trip-**let 3**-trip-**let 4**-trip-**let**

**1**-trip-**let** **2**-trip-**let 3**-trip-**let 4**-trip-**let**

**1**-trip-**let** **2**-trip-**let 3**-trip-**let 4**-trip-**let**

YOU ARE NOW CLAPPING SWUNG 8THS!

That is the shuffle feel that is at the heart of much of jazz and blues repertoire. It has a feel similar to the lope of a horse. It makes you wanna bob your head. It feels good!

When Iâ€™m counting SWUNG 8THS, I like to like to replace the word â€śandâ€ť with the word â€śahâ€ť (Iâ€™m pronouncing it â€śuh.â€ť) The reason I do this is the word â€śandâ€ť ends with 2 consonants and therefore is too difficult to say so close to the next downbeat. So I like to count:

1 ah 2 ah 3 ah 4 ah

In my Beginner to Boss course and in my free Harmonica Blues for Beginners lessons I teach a simple rhythm to play chords behind a singer or soloist, called â€śThe Charlestonâ€ť, in which you play the chord on BEAT 1 and on the AND OF 1.

**1** 2 **AND** 3 4

**1** 2 **AND** 3 4

**1** 2 **AND** 3 4

**1** 2 **AND** 3 4

If you wanted to play this rhythm with a swung feel, as I do in the video right here you might find it easier to count â€ś1, 2, AH 3, 4.â€ť

I am saying â€śandâ€ť in this video because I didnâ€™t want viewers to become confused, but you can hear how it sounds a bit awkward, and would feel better if I were saying â€śah.â€ť As I mentioned, in my Beginner to Boss course, when Iâ€™m counting swung 8ths, I say â€śahâ€ť on the upbeats.

And I think thatâ€™s a great introduction to the subject of STRAIGHT versus SWUNG 8THS. Please leave me your questions and comments. And as youâ€™re listening to music, consider quizzing yourself, â€śis this straight or swung?â€ť Try counting along and seeing if you can figure it out!

Rock on harmonica fam!

Aloha,

Luke