The Downbeat

What, Where and How Can You Locate the Downbeat and Pulse of a Song.

Published: 25 Apr 2017 Updated: 25 Apr 2017Visits: 28Code: UL301

Topic: Theory Instruments: Ukulele Music ANY Subjects: Rhythm • Strums

The Downbeat

Locating the downbeats, pulse, and especially beat one is really important in music.

Tracking the downbeats on a strumming instrument like ukulele is really important as it relates to the stroke direction and weak and strong part of downbeats and upbeats. These strong and weak parts of the beat need to be reinforced and telegraphed in order for listeners and fellow musicians to play and follow along.

Finding and Reinforcing the Beat and Pulse

First, the Pulse of a song is what we perceive to be the downbeats. The Beat is the actual downbeats. Think of Bluegrass and old time Country music where the rhythm instruments are doing a boom, chick, boom, chick type of strum. This is called cut time, and the pulse is typically felt as two beats per measure. When in fact the downbeats are actually four beats per measure with the pulse being felt as two — your tracking beats one and three.

Here are a few steps and exercises for creating a solid foundation for strumming, finding the beat (the downbeats) and the pulse.

  • Counting evenly 1 and 2 and 3 and 4and⁣ — do this over and over. Clap your hands or tap your foot on the numbers 1 2 3 4.
  • Grab your ukulele and, with your index finger for a bright sound or your thumb for a more mellow sound, strum all the strings or any chord you know on the 1 2 3 4 count.

With any of the above drills or exercises, someone listening should be able to find the downbeats and follow or play along. Even if you're not playing on every beat. The beat — the downbeats are readily identified.

Keeping Your Place in Songs

One hard thing to do when tying to incorporate new chords you've learned along with new strums, etc … — is to not get lost in a song and keeping your place.

Here is a great exercise I do with my students It is to only play the chords on beat one, then only on beat two, then only on beat three and finally only on beat four. This exercise really forces you to learn how to keep your place and actually count where you are. Start with a slow tempo and increase the tempo as you get more proficient.

Variations include play only on two of the four beats. Try using only one of the Level II Modular Phonetic syllables in each measure. ( See this lesson's related lessons below )

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

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