English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I looked up Webster, Oxford and some other sources and fund nothing for the meaning of "count off" in the followig sentence.

Each track on the CDs that accompanies the book is presented with an intro, count off, occasional instructions and piano part. The track is immediately followed by a version without count offs, instructions, or piano.

share|improve this question
What kind of CD is this? I'd guess they mean something like "one two three four [music starts]". If it's piano accompaniment for beginning violin lessons, I'd be pretty confident that that's what is meant. If it's a CD on how to build houses, probably not. – Peter Shor Dec 8 '12 at 15:29
A CD containing MP3 files of some piano lessons. – Manoochehr Dec 8 '12 at 15:33
Why don't you post this as an answer Peter? – Manoochehr Dec 8 '12 at 15:52
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Before starting a piece of music, musicians often start by counting so they can set the rhythm. This can take various forms, but "one two three four" is quite common. This is what is meant here by "count off." Here you can see that musicians actually do use this phrase.

share|improve this answer
Here is a youtube clip where you can hear The Beatles start I Saw Her Standing There with a count off. – Cameron Dec 8 '12 at 16:26
Absolutely. Looking at Google Books entries for "a count off" it's clearly very much musician's terminology (they often hyphenate it). A useful definition there says A count-off is a verbal instruction which enables musicians to know when to commence playing. The cadence of the count-off is used to... Which makes it somewhat different to the more "standard" count-down, which has no significant component of cadence/rhythm. – FumbleFingers Dec 8 '12 at 18:27

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.