Basics of Rhythm and Notation

We can divide time into equal units of time, divided by beats.

We can describe durations of notess consisting of a certain number of beats (see "Durations" below).

We can also stress some beats more than other beats. The pattern created by differently stressed beats is called the meter.

Duple meter is the pattern of two beats: a strong beat followed by a weak beat.

Triple meter is the pattern of three beats: a strong beat followed by two weak beats.

Many larger meters are created by combining these simple meters. The length of the meter is the measure. The measure is equal to a number of beats corresponding to the meter.

Subdivision of beats/ equivalent beats

notes # of beats name rests
8 beats (double)
4 beats whole
2 beats half
1 beat quarter
1/2 beats eighth
1/4 beats sixteenth
1/8 beats thirty-second
1/16 beats sixty-fourth

So, one whole note lasts as long as 2 half-notes, or 4 quarter notes.

Parts of a note
Some notes are made up of "heads, stems, and flags."

* the stem of a note is either on the left pointing down, or on the right pointing up.
* If a flag is present, it is on the right side of the stem.

Sometimes multiple notes with flags follow each other, and a beam is used instead of flags.

Sometimes beats are further subdivided. You can take a beat (or group of beats) and create equal subdivisions of them.

As an example:

here a triplet of half-notes has been created. the triplet takes the same number of beats as two half-notes.

here the quintuplet of eighth notes is equal to a half-beat, the same as two eighth notes.

When a dot is placed after a note or root, it adds half of the duration of that note or rest (or even another dot).

Metronome indications
When a composer wishes to suggest an appropriate tempo for a piece, they can make it with a metronome indication stating how many beats per minute it should be performed at.

says that there should be 69 beats per minute. you can set a metronome to the appropriate beat.

Ranges of tempos are given names that coul dbe used instead of an exact tempo. Common names include

name		BPM	meaning
----		---	-------
Largo		40-60	Slow
Larghet		60-66
Adagio		66-76
Andante		76-108
Moderato	108-120	Moderately
Allegro     	120-168	fast
Presto		168-200 Very fast
Prestissimo	200-208	(still faster) 

Next lesson is on Modes and Progressions revisited.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart

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Last updated February 6, 2003
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