The Xenrhythm Wikia

Below is a multitude of avaliable counting and time keeping methods for rhythm. Some are well known others are created by those wishing to make methods better suited for irregular or strange rhythms. Feel free to add your own counting methods. 

Standard Numerical Counting[]

By far the most popular counting method used today is the standard numerical counting method. This is the old 1 2 3 4 method your piano teach taught you as a child or teenager. The method is simple and logical and works well for many musicans. The downside is that complex rhythms can become very difficult to keep track of with the standard system but it really depends on preference as some people have no problem with it. 

Basics []

Based on the time signature, the beats are numbered. Top number represents how many counts before it repeats and the bottom represents what value is counted as a full beat.  In 4/4, the beats are counted as 1 2 3 4 and then repeat again because the measure limits us to four quarter notes thus every beat is a quarter note in length.  In 6/8 time, we would count 1 2 3 4 5 6 and repeat because the time signature limits us to six eighth notes a measure thus every beat is an eighth note in length. 

Subdivision []

Subdividing the beats in half can be done be using & or + pronounced as "and" between each beat. For example, a series of eighth notes in 4/4 is counted as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +.  In 6/8 a series of 16th notes is counted as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +.  

Sixteenth notes are divided be inserting an "e" or an "a" between each beat and the + or & sign. A series of 16th notes in 4/4 would be e+a 2e+a 3e+a 4e+a. Further subdivision is merely felt and not counted aloud in this system which could be seen as one of it's flaws.  

Triplets can be counted as 1+a 2+a 3+a 4+a. 

Kite's Extended Subdivision Method[]

Kite Giedraitis has developed an extension of this method using commas, roman numerals, parentheses and brackets. 

Commas indicate beats without notes, For example the clave rhythm |x..x|..x.|..x.|x...| is "1a, &, & 4", with the commas indicating beats 2 and 3. Triplet rhythms are written similarly. For example the African rhythm agbekor |x_x|_xx|_x_|x_x| is written 1a, &a, &4a. 

A rhythm with 6 pulses to the beat is written "1e&dat". One with 5 pulses is written "1e&da". For 3:4 time, the beat numbers only go up to 3, for 6:4 time, the numbers go up to 6, etc.

For rhythms longer than one measure, roman numerals indicate the measure. A 2-measure rhythm with all pulses played is "Ie&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a IIe&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a". Here's an example of a 2-measure dundun rhythm: I, & 3, & II, & 3 a, &

If a skipped beat is also a measure's downbeat, instead of using a comma, the roman numeral is written in parentheses, to avoid long strings of commas in very sparse or very syncopated rhythms: (I) &a, &a, &a4 & (II) &a, &a, & 4

A time signature is needed to make the notation unambiguous. Otherwise the last 2 examples could be misinterpreted as triplet-pulse rhythms. Kite has proposed a 3-number time signature. The 1st number is the number of measures in the rhythm, the 2nd is the number of beats per measure, and the 3rd is the number of pulses per beat. For the clave rhythm, the time signature is 1-4-4, for agbekor 1-4-3, and for the 3rd & 4th examples 2-4-4.

Brackets are used to notate rhythms in which the number of pulses per beat varies. For example If you play triplets over a 4-pulse-to-the-beat rhythm, the time signature becomes 1-4-4[3], with 3 being an alternate pulses-to-the-beat number. Any beat or beats divided into triplets are enclosed in brackets like so: 1&a 2e [3&a] 4. Drag triplets are written so: 1&a 2e [3a, &]. Hextuplets ("speed triplets") are written so: 1-4-4[6] 1&a 2e [3e&dat] 4. Notating a single speed triplet requires bracketing part of a beat: 1-4-4[6] 1&a 2e 3e[dat] 4e[dat]. There can be more than one alternate pulses-per-beat number, indicated by different kinds of brackets: a rhythm using triplets and quintuplets might have a time signature 2-4-4[3]{5}.

Kite's method is great for writing out vocal melodies on paper quickly. First write out the words. Underneath each syllable, on the 2nd line, write out the pitches, as letters C D Eb, or as numbers 1 2 3b. Higher octaves are 1' or 1", lower octaves are underlined or double-underlined. If a syllable has several notes, write several letters or numbers under it. Underneath, on the 3rd line, write out the rhythm as above for each note. To indicate a note's duration, leave a gap between the words and indicate the pulse that the note ends on under the gap, on the 3rd line. Most of the time the words run together, so usually this is only needed for the last word of the line.

Another advantage of Kite's notation is that it can be spoken out loud, great for teaching rhythms in person. The 6-pulse count is "one ee and dee a tee". The roman numerals used for measures are spoken "first", "seck" (short for "second"), "third", etc.

Takadimi []

A method used also commonly and is a bit more intuitive to some than the standard numerical counting is takadimi. It's a syllabic based notation which doesn't use numbers at all. The advantage of this system of standard is that it's easier to feel complex beats when not thinking about numbers for some. 


The actual beats in a time signature are pronounced as "ta" thus 4/4 measure of quarter notes would go ta-ta-ta-ta. Eighth notes in 4/4 would be ta-di-ta-di-ta-di-ta-di and 16th notes are ta-ka-di-mi-ta-ka-di-mi-ta-ka-di-mi-ta-ka-di-mi. Again, like the Standard method, takadimi cannot divide smaller increments than 16th notes. 

Triplets are notated as ta-ki-da and 16th triplets as ta-va-ki-di-da-ma.

Read more about the system:


Kodou meaning "Duration" in Japanese is a rhythmic system invented by William Lynch which denotes a separate syllable for each note length. Unlike traditional methods, Kodou gives no indication of where in a measure or phrase a note or beat sits but rather focuses on the ability to speak and count note lengths aloud.


Kodou features a separate syllable for each note value in the music. Note values are based on the smallest increment commonly used in a piece of music or rhythm and is to be chosen by the performer or teacher. As a general rule, the smallest full syllable is normally 1/4 of the value of the bottom number in a time signature. Thus in 4/4 the shortest full note is usually a 16th note.

The ten Kodou syllables:

こ ko 1  だ da 2  と to 3  し shi 4  ご go 5 ちょう chou 6  じん Jin 7  ねい nei 8 くう kuu 9 じゅう juu 10

Ko corresponds to the smallest division in the rhythm with the exception of fractional divisions (See below). This means that if we use a 16th note as the smallest increment then da corresponds to the length of 2 ko's and to is 3 ko's and so on. The number corresponds to how many of the smallest increment a note is held over.

It's important to note that while Kodou helps you keep track of the rhythm and memorize it's pattern, you should still learn to feel the rhythms independently as well.


This is the most easy way to count polyrhythms and polymeter because you're not counting numbers at all but rather note values themselves. Polyrhythms can be notated in Kodou by finding the Lowest common multiple or LCM of the two monorhythms. Ko then represents a fractional value of 1/X of the rhythm with X being the LCM.

A 3/2 polyrhythm has a LCM of 6 so ko then represents 1/6 of the rhythm. - marks represent how much longer than a Ko to hold a note.

3/2 looks then like: だ-ここだ- or da-koko-da-

4/3 has a LCM of 12 so ko is 1/12 of the polyrhythm.

4/3 then looks like: と--こだ-だ-こと-- or ton--koda-da-koto--

5/4 has a LCM of 20 so ko is 1/20 of the polyrhythm

5/4 looks like: し---こと--だ-と--こし--- or shi---koto--da-to--koshi---