1. Advent to Rhythm and Meter1.1 Introduction

The duration of notes and also silence—that is, how long a musical sound or stop is held—is an important part of performing, composing, and experiencing music. Plenty of of the chapters in this publication are pertained to primarily through matters that pitch: scales, intervals, and chords. However without a firm knowledge of exactly how these elements interact in time, they lose much of your meaning. Consider the following instance in which the keep in mind durations the a famous melody have actually been altered. Check out if you deserve to identify the melody in its changed form.

You are watching: What kind of rhythmic notes are these

(Don’t worry if you space not yet familiar with musical notation! If you’ve never seen written music, shot closing her eyes together you hear to the audio recording. Then open up your eyes and try listening again. Many listeners uncover it easy sufficient to follow follow me visually v the score. Scan the music indigenous left come right, moving from symbol to symbol as you hear each successive note in the recording.)


Chances are, the melody appeared unfamiliar. Also though the pitches room the same and appear in the same order, the melody is essentially unrecognizable. The following instance restores the notes to their original durations:


As you can see (and hear), the note durations and the manner in which lock are organized make a big difference!

We usage the native rhythm and also meter to define how music unfolds in time. In this thing we will cover a number of rudimentary object pertaining come rhythm and also meter, beginning with the concept of the beat, and progressing with discussions that tempo, note values, and also rests. We will conclude by spring at number of more complex ways that notating rhythm.

Note: several of the examples in this chapter include alternating audio recordings through click tracks included to clear up the beat. These have actually been skipping here, however like every one of the instances in this and also the remaining chapters, they are obtainable in the online version of the book.

1.2 The beat

Central come both rhythm and meter is a musical characteristic described as the beat. A periodic—that is, on regular basis occurring—pulse that underlies a item of music, the win is something we have actually all skilled while listening. Virtually all west music has actually an basic pulse the this sort.

Listen to the following instance while tapping together with your foot. Listen for a beat that is continual throughout the excerpt. (Again, even if you room unfamiliar with every one of the notation symbols, you should discover it easy sufficient to follow along visually with the score.)

instance 1–3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Piano Sonata No. 13 in Bb significant (K.333), III. Allegretto grazioso, mm. 1–16.


b. With click track:

If you to be unable to recognize a steady pulse when listening come this example, shot listening come it again. Being acquainted with a piece of music helps a an excellent deal in assessing it, particularly with regards to rhythm and also meter. Girlfriend may uncover that also with just two listenings, you will certainly be quite familiar with this excerpt. If you room still having difficulty, shot listening to the second audio clip which add to a click track highlighting the beat.

As you became conscious of the steady beat in the example above, chances are friend noticed numerous things. Because that one, details beats seem more powerful than others. In this case, the beats alternative between solid beats and also weak beats. Because that another, the really music just rarely just adheres to the beat. Over there are many different keep in mind durations in this excerpt—some are equal come the beat while rather are much shorter or longer. These observations type the basis for distinguishing in between rhythm and also meter, despite it is vital to store in mind the both the these ideas are closely interrelated.

Note: You might have discovered that together you to be tapping follow me to the instance above, you discovered that there were several various pulses happening in ~ once. No to worry! as we will discuss in a moment, meter consists of a hierarchical collection of pulses. In other words, if girlfriend heard a pulse that was rather quick, it’s likely that you were tuned into a division of the beat rather of the beat itself. Typically speaking, the to win of a item of music occurs at a moderate pace: not too fast, not too slow.

1.3 Rhythm and also meter

When us talk about meter, we refer to exactly how the simple beats room grouped. In example 1–3, we saw and also heard just how every various other beat to be emphasized: strong-weak-strong-weak-strong, etc. We refer to this form of win grouping together a duple meter since the beats space grouped in twos: one strong and one weak. The following instance shows the solid and weak to win in the an initial four actions of the same excerpt. Together above, a click track has actually been included in the second audio recording. The higher pitched click synchronizes with the solid beats if the reduced pitched click coincides with the weak beats.

example 1–4. Analysis of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Piano Sonata No. 13 in Bb major (K.333), II. Andante cantabile, mm. 1–4.


b. With click track:

As you have the right to see in the notation, the strong-weak teams are separated through vertical lines. Each team is referred to as a measure (or bar) and also the upright lines as measure lines (or bar lines). The word measure is abbreviated “m.” and measures is abbreviation “mm.”

Listening come a various piece the music, we may uncover that every third beat is emphasized: strong-weak-weak-strong-weak-weak, etc. This form of to win grouping would certainly be described as a triple meter. The following excerpt is in a triple meter. If you hear to the audio clip through the click track in instance 1–5, friend will an alert that the clicks correspond v the strong-weak-weak-strong-weak-weak to win pattern: high-low-low-high-low-low.


b. V click track:

Note: go you notification that this excerpt go not start on a strong beat? Instead, it starts with a partial measure referred to as an anacrusis. This ide is discover in higher depth in thing 3. The is worth pointing out now, however, that these partial measures showing up at the start of a item of music are not counting in the measure up numbering. Hence, the excerpt above shows mm. 1–16 and also not 1–17.

Compare examples 1–4 and 1–5. Deserve to you hear the difference in meter? instance 1–4 has the win in teams of 2 while example 1–5 has actually the to win in teams of three. Quadruple meters—those that organize the beats into teams of four—are additionally quite common. In fact, in west music quadruple meter is the most common means of organizing the beat. The first beat that each group is generally the strongest. The 3rd is additionally strong, yet not rather as strong as the first. To win two and also four are fairly weak. The following example clarifies:

Because it sorts the to win into teams of 4 with every various other beat being fairly strong, quadruple meter can easily be mistaken for duple meter. Hearing the difference between the two, in other words, deserve to be challenging. (In some cases, the distinction is one of personal opinion based upon how the listener experiences a specific piece that music.)

Being able to hear and distinguish in between these three common meter types—duple, triple, and also quadruple—is necessary to your understanding of how music functions in time. Thing 3 and also Chapter 4 talk about meter in greater depth.

Note: besides duple, triple, and quadruple meters, you will periodically come throughout other, more facility meters. With these meters, you may find the beats organized into teams of five, seven, or more pulses per measure. In this book, however, us will emphasis on just the most common meters: those that group beats into sets that two, three, or four.

Rhythm, ~ above the other hand, refers to the range of note and rest durations that show up in the context of the meter. Notes have the right to last for any kind of length of time: a note have the right to last for whole beat or also multiple beats. Notes can be shorter than a beat as well. Many of the note in the excerpts above, because that example, don’t last an entire beat. The remainder of this chapter will certainly be devoted to rhythmic durations and how come notate them.

1.4 Note and also rest durations

The rhythm the a piece of music specifies exactly how long each note or pause between notes should last. This is no to be confused with tempo, which describes the rate of the basic beat. Rhythm generally occurs in the paper definition of a details meter and also either conforms come or works versus the basic pulse that the meter.

In written music, we usage a variety of different icons to represent miscellaneous note durations:

As your names imply, the durations of every one of these note values space proportional come one another. The adhering to chart shows these relationships an ext clearly:

As you can see, one totality note big as long as two fifty percent notes, one fifty percent note big as long as 2 quarter notes, eight sixteenth notes last as long as 2 quarter notes, and also so on. Listen to the following instance to hear the relationship in between quarter notes and half notes. For every half note, us hear 2 evenly-spaced 4 minutes 1 notes:

Each fifty percent note in instance 1–9 lasts precisely twice as long as each quarter note.

Notice that the icons for 4 minutes 1 notes and also eighth note are rather similar—the only difference being the enhancement of the flag attached come the stem of the eighth note. 16 notes have two flags. Shorter durations deserve to be composed by adding an ext flags come the stem: each extr flag divides the previous duration in half. (A thirty-second note, therefore, will have actually three flags, and so on.)

Note: keep in mind durations much longer than a whole note are possible as well. Double whole notes (written as a totality note through two vertical lines on either side: ||o||) last as long as two whole notes, however are not typically used. Us will discuss other means of lengthening a note’s term momentarily.

Notes v flags (eighth notes, 16 notes, etc.) room sometimes associated by beams. This is done because that a variety of reasons—one of which, as debated in chapter 3 and also Chapter 4, is to clarify the meter of a given piece. The following instance shows just how a group of flagged notes is identical to the same number of beamed notes:

As instance 1–10 demonstrates, separate notes through flags room heard and also performed the exact same as if they were beamed together. Note that various durations have the right to be beamed with each other as well, as in the 3rd line of example 1–10.

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activity 1-1

Familiarity with the simple relationships in between different keep in mind values will be immensely beneficial in your study of music. Price the adhering to questions pertaining come the accompanying rhythms.


How many quarter notes would be indistinguishable to the duration of each measure up of the complying with rhythm?

Refer come the graph of rhythmic worths shown over in instance 1–8. How numerous quarter notes would certainly it take it to attain the exact same sum?