In this free lesson on rhythm notation you will learn to recognize all the various note values and their corresponding rests.
With this knowledge you will be well on your way to your goal of reading music at the piano or electronic keyboard.
A note from your Personal Piano Professor Rhythm is natural!
Rhythm happens all around us! It is part of life. We walk in rhythm without even thinking about it. Our hearts beat in steady rhythm without even a thought while we sleep or while awake.
Ever notice the windshield wipers on a rainy day? On a grander scale how about the steady rising and setting of the sun?, or the march of time in seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months and years?
From the beginning man has used rhythm as a means of communication and there seems to be something quite natural about it.
Notice young children moving to the beat of a popular song. They feel the rhythm naturally.
No lessons on half notes , quarter rests or rhythm notation needed!
Become aware of the rhythms around you.
Next time you are walking count your steps in groups of 4. Now you are "walkin' in rhythm"!
Notice the wipers on the next rainy day and count along with the steady click clack sound they make.
Begin to notice the rhythms of life as they happen around you and you will do much to develop you natural sense of rhythm.
So let's talk about rhythm notation.
Where a note rests on a musical staff will determine its pitch.
What a note looks like as it sits on the staff determines its duration or how long it is held. Remember that when we talk about rhythm we are talking about time.
The chart below shows the most common note values and their corresponding rests that you will encounter while learning to play.
The 4/4 time signature.
The 4/4 time signature is by far the most common one you will encounter while learning music. In fact it is sometimes called "common time". We will use this most common time signature as we learn basic rhythmic notation.
The 4/4 time signature tells us that there will be 4 counts or beats in each measure and that the quarter note will receive one count or beat.
The whole note
The whole note is the longest note value and will receive 4 counts as pictured below.
The whole note would be played on beat one and sustained all the way through the end of beat 4 in this measure.
The half note.
The half note will receive 2 counts as pictured below. This means that the note would be played on beat one and held until played again on beat 3.
The quarter note
The quarter note pictured below will receive one count and will be played on each beat of the measure.
The eighth note.
As we sub divide our measure in 4/4 time we will count eight notes by saying one and two and three and four and....etc
The sixteenth note.
The sixteenth note divides our measure into sixteen parts. They are the quickest notes you will regularly find in music. They are counted one-e-and-ah, two-e-and-ah, three-e-and-ah, four-e-and-ah...etc
A dot placed after a note in rhythm notation makes that note hold longer than normal.
To be exact it adds half the note value again to the note.
In the example below we see a whole note which by itself normally receives 4 beats or counts with a dot after it.
The dots adds half the rhythmic value to the note.
Half of 4 is 2 so the dotted whole note receives a total of 6 counts (4 + 2).
In effect it adds the value of a half note to the whole note.
The same holes true for the dotted half note and quarter note seen below.
A tie is a curved line that rhythmically connects two notes of the same pitch. It is another way of extending the length that we hold a particular note. It can be used within a measure and is most common when a note needs to be held into the next measure as seen below.
The example below is a passage of music which demonstrates the tied notes and how they are counted.
More on the treble clef
To serve beginners and those who want to work as non classical working musicians I want to focus a bit more on reading the treble clef. The next lesson on the treble clef will introduce you to learning to play "speed music", or "fake book" music. Clink the link below to begin this important lesson.