How are musical beats counted?



In English, it is common to count beats of music using numbers for the beats and certain filler syllables for further subdivisions. What is the most common way to count beats in Japanese?

Adding some clarification from my comment below: For example, the bottom staff in this image shows sixteenth notes with the words "1 e & ah", and English speakers would chant "one e and ah, two e and ah..." along with the beat of the music. Is there a comparable set of syllables Japanese speakers say when counting, like "一 e and ah, 二 e and ah..."?

Counting for quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes in English

(Image from


Posted 2017-11-29T08:05:13.690

Reputation: 143

1Probably it depends. But one example goes "1234, 2234, 3234, 4234"(いちにっさんしっ、にぃにっさんしっ、さんにぃさんしっ、よんにぃさんしっ). – user4092 – 2017-11-29T15:35:37.223

@user4092 Thanks, that makes sense. In your hiragana example, is there a reason why しっ is used for "4" at the end of each beat, but よん is used at the beginning of beat 4? – kevinhilt – 2017-11-29T16:42:20.487

1I think ター、ター、ター、ター for quarter notes. タン、タン 2 times for eighth notes. タカタカ 4 times for 16th notes. I think user4092’s counting beats are close to you. Mine might work for mechanical fingering exercise with metronome. – None – 2017-11-30T00:27:08.353

1@kevinhilt You pronounce 4 as し when count is ascending probably because it's easier to utter, otherwise よん probably because it's easier to recognize. – user4092 – 2017-11-30T00:33:09.403



  • ターアー()・タン(♩)・タ(♪)・タカ(♫) is arguably the most widely-used system for describing rhythms, and this particularly goes well with percussion instruments. I think this is basically a simplified version of "takatiki" in the article you linked.
  • Japanese is mora-based, and some teachers take advantage of the fact.
  • いち・に・さん・し is very common for ラジオ体操 and such where you don't have to express anything complicated. Video.
  • ワン・ツー・スリー・フォー is equally common when practicing modern dance.
  • If I understand correctly, アン・ドゥ・トロワ is used by ballerinas, チン・トン・シャン by shamisen players, and ドン・ドコ by taiko players.


Posted 2017-11-29T08:05:13.690

Reputation: 199 900

Great. Thanks for explaining multiple systems. – kevinhilt – 2017-11-30T08:19:08.783