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Lesson 6: Pickup Notes

Practice PatternsLesson 6 Practice Patterns


All of the patterns covered in the Lessons 1 through 5 of The Fundamentals of Rhythm have started on beat one. However, patterns and phrases can also include notes that occur before the first full measure. These notes are called anacrusis or pickup notes. An incomplete measure at the beginning of a piece of music is called a pickup measure.

How to Count Pickup Notes

To properly count the beats of a pickup measure, we count backwards from the end of the measure. For example, if we are in 4/4 and there is a pickup note of one quarter note, we count that note as beat 4, not beat 1.

Example of a one beat pickup note in 4/4 time


When a piece of music has a pickup measure, the last measure will not have the full number of beats. The number of beats in the last measure will be reduced by the number of beats in the pickup measure. In the example below, there is a pickup measure of one beat. Therefore, the last measure of that piece will only have three beats.

How to determine the number of beats in the last measure of a passage with pickup notes



When practicing patterns with pickup measures, count a full measure before the pickup notes begin. The following examples demonstrate how to count at the beginning of patterns with pickup notes. Remember that the “+” sign represents the word “and,” as shown in Lesson 4.

Example of how to count one beat of pickup notes in 3/4 time


Example of how to count one and a half beats of pickup notes in 4/4 time


Practice SuggestionsLesson 6 Practice Suggestions

Practice PatternsLesson 6 Practice Patterns

Pickup note practice patterns

Learn how to play syncopated subdivisions in Lesson 7.

Write your own rhythms and music compositions! Get free blank staff paper at www.music-paper.com.


Get the Book

The Fundamentals of Rhythm, book by Kyle Coughlin

Fundamentals of Rhythm book

If you would like all of this information in book format so that you can put it on your music stand and practice it wherever you go, get The Fundamentals of Rhythm, by Kyle Coughlin. The book includes all of the lesson information and practice exercises found on the website.


Use MetronomeBot for a fun online metronome!

MetronomeBot, the talking online metronome

The online metronome that counts the beat, subdivides, and offers encouraging practice tips.

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