In a conversation with Terry the other day, regarding St James Infirmary, upbeats and downbeats came up.
How would you define upbeat/downbeat?
Here’s a downbeat that starts on beat three. It has two complete counts before it, so it starts on a downbeat.
To divide a quarter note into downbeats and upbeats, we can use eighth notes.
The first eighth note is a downbeat, the second is an upbeat. The third is a down beat, the fourth is an upbeat, etc.
After the first two eighth notes which are a downbeat and then an upbeat, we reach another downbeat.
After a single eighth note, which is a downbeat, comes an upbeat. It could be another eighth note or another note, like a quarter note in this next example.
The final eighth note before the end of a measure if it is directly before the end of the measure will be an upbeat. So we can also count backwards from the end of the measure to figure out what part of the beat a note will land on.
If there were an eighth note before the last eighth note, it would be on a downbeat. But a quarter note is the value of two eighth notes, so it is two eighth notes before an upbeat.
You can count backwards. Up, Down, Up and you get to Up.
Four beats would have
downbeat | upbeat | downbeat | upbeat |downbeat | upbeat |downbeat | upbeat
Go to this page and listen/try the examples.