Music Fundamentals- Rhythm #2
Time for rhythm volume 2. Last week we covered the most basic of basics. Today we’ll take that discussion further and try to complete the fundamentals of written music rhythm.
To start, let’s give some more values to notes with their equivalent rests:
Two eighth notes make a quarter note. Maybe you’ve noticed a pattern by now: the fraction of the note continues to double as the note values get smaller (whole note—->half note—->quarter note—->eighth note—->?). And, you can probably guess which note comes next.
Yes you guessed it- this is a 16th note. Two sixteenth notes equal and four sixteenth notes equal a quarter note. Ok, one more and we can rest a bit (no pun intended).
Thirty Second Notes
Of course- this is a 32nd note. The pattern continues to go on, though I’ve never seen anything written past 128th notes, but I’m sure something exists out there with 256th notes, maybe something modern and electronic (In your DAW you can certainly create these divisions)? Also, as the value of the notes increases, the little swooshes (flags) on the stem of the note increase. For example, the 32nd note has 3 flags where a 64th note would have 4, and so on and so forth. As you see above, the rests work in the same fashion, with the flag(s) on the left.
One thing to be wary of when using eight notes and notes of lesser value is something called “beaming”- don’t dwell on this too much, as you progress in music, beaming becomes more obvious. A discussion about beaming can get very technical, involving copyist rules and such (which modern notation programs like Sibelius and Finale do automatically), but I’ll just focus on some basic ones:
1. In a duple (multiple of 2) time signature, don’t beam more than 4 notes to each other. This is because, with eighth notes, you always want an invisible line running through beat three (in other words, you never want to beam through beat 3) and with 16th notes and above it becomes a readability issue
2. Usually (except in specialized scores) you never beam across the barline
3. Usually (except in specialized scores) you never beam through rests
Let’s look at an example:
[INSERT AUDIO EXAMPLE OF THE ABOVE]
At first glance this may seem a bit difficult, but once we break it down measure by measure, it should become clearer.
First, you may be wondering what the “C” is at the beginning of the example. The C stands for “common time”, which is an alternative way of writing a 4/4 time signature. They mean exactly the same thing, and are used interchangeably.
Second, note the numbers, letters and symbols under the notes. This is the standardized way to count rhythm. Eighth notes are counted “one and”, while sixteenth notes are counted “one e and a”. Note in measure three the combination of both.
Now, lets parse this measure by measure.
Measure 1- four eighth notes beamed together to comprise beats one and two
a sixteenth note rest followed by three beamed sixteenth notes to make beat three
a simple quarter note on beat four to close out the measure
Measure 2- a quarter note for beat one
two beamed eighth notes for beat two
four beamed sixteenth notes for beat 3
a quarter note for close out beat 4
Measure 3, a bit trickier- One eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes all beamed together to make beat one
The same rhythm to create beat two
Two beamed eighth notes for beat three
One quarter note to close out the measure
Measure 4- Four beamed eighth notes to make beats one and tw
One half note to close out the measure with beats three and four
So, if you look at rhythm in this way, it becomes, simply, a way to mathematically divide stretches of time. Yet, it’s with this system all modern western music and commercial music is written out, so it’s surely worth knowing.
Solidify your knowledge with the attached worksheet- get your rhythm on.
Rhythm is a difficult thing to wholly express as written notation. There is so much about rhythm as developed by humans which is more visceral than mathematical. At the dawn of music, our ancestors were banging on cave stalagmites and stalactites with bones. Surely, there was no set curriculum for how to properly notate a stalagmite rhythm. Post-classical western composers have spent much time trying to reconnect musically with the human, and have written some truly beautiful things, but how can it be truly human if it lacks the visceral? Well, when Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” ballet debuted in Paris in 1913, it was his use of rhythm and dissonance that sparked a riot in the theater- how’s that for human nature?