3 Great Things About the Eastman Counting System

For Dr. Scott Strovas, finding the right counting system is an essential step in conceptualizing a piece of music. Developing a strong understanding of the rhythm of a measure can lead a musician to be more confident in how he or she performs the composition.

In a recent Music in Minutes lesson Strovas takes us through the Eastman Counting System, where he outlines its effectiveness, focusing on three key areas.

  1. Strovas said the Eastman System allows you to find and articulate the most prominent part of a measure. Focusing on a measure in 4/4 time, Strovas said the Eastman system first allows you to determine where the four beats should be by looking at the groupings (or beams) of the notes. To figure out the beat locations, you simply count the groupings.

  2. The Eastman System gives you an easily understandable means to move from beat to beat by using syllabic sounds, while still maintaining the numbering system. Knowing there are four beats in a measure, if two notes are beamed together (eighth notes), the first note is numbered as the beat and the second note is labeled with a “te” syllable.

    If more than two notes are grouped as a unit, looking at the beams can help determine where to move next. If the last two notes are linked by a double beam, creating 16th notes, the final note receives a “ta” syllable. A “ti” is added if the second note is double beamed with the first note. Thus, a group of four 16th notes equaling one beat is articulated as “one-ti-te-ta.” Strovas said the syllables articulate the rhythm clearly while the numbers maintain the hierarchy of the beat, allowing musicians to better conceptualize how to perform the rhythm.

  3. The Eastman System is also useful in “real-world” settings, enabling better communication between musicians. The syllable structure allows a conductor to communicate within a choral or band setting. If the conductor wants to work with a segment of the ensemble which comes in on a certain beat, it is an easy way for everyone to know the exact group to which he or she is referring. For instance, all musicians who come in on the “te” of 3.

Strovas said there are a number of effective counting systems and many of them have similarities. But for his use, he prefers the Eastman System.

For more music lessons from Dr. Strovas and other members of our School of Music faculty, follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our YouTube channel and watch the Music in Minutes playlist. New Music in Minutes lessons focusing on vocal and choral performance, piano, and worship music are released every two weeks.

Music in Minutes is a product of the Wayland Baptist University School of Music. Wayland is an All-Steinway School and an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music. You can contact the school at 806-291-1076.

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