Counting and the Downbeat

The first duty of any song leader is to communicate the beat to the congregation. For new song leaders, that means learning to hear the downbeat.

The downbeat is the most important beat in the measure. In every hymn, the downbeat is located right after the bar line, and your hands will go down. If you have trouble hearing the downbeat musically, you can still locate it by the words that come immediately after the bar line.

You might also find it helpful to think of this as the “snap beat”. As each measure starts, try snapping your fingers with the beat. This is something you can do with any musical number. Everything you have ever heard on the radio has a downbeat at the beginning of every measure. To get used to hearing the downbeat, try snapping on the downbeat with your own music.

If you ever have trouble with your hands getting on the wrong beat, come back to the principle in this video. Being able to feel the downbeat is at the heart of song leading.