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Basic Rhythm

Hello, and welcome! Congratulations on your graduation from the introduction lesson. I told you you could make it. Even though it was a bit boring. I know, I know, but we need to get those things straight, especially if you're new to the web and computing.

This lesson will teach you basic rhythm skills. You see, music, whether it be rock, classical, pop or even rap is based in the premise of rhythm. How else do you think those big guys in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra keep together? It's rhythm. Rhythm is extremely important in music. The difference between music and noise is that music is organized and noise is just random. This is one reason why music is always said to be mathematical.

Music, is always separated into little sections called measures. Look at the following picture of several measures.

You see how it is separated into four even sections? These are called measures. Within each of these sections are supposed to be notes, telling the musician what notes to play (in terms of intonation), how long to play them and when to play them. Within each of these measures are consistent number of beats. That is, each measure has the same number of beats. However, different pieces of music may be different number of beats. Sometimes, the same piece of music may be separated into two different parts with each measure getting different number of beats.

How then does a musician know the number of beats in a measure? Well, one way is to count the number of beats in a measure. But this may be a tedious thing for a musician to do each and every time they need to read music. That's why nearly all sheets of music have a time signature.

What is a time signature you ask? Well, it is a little space on the left side of the music where, on each line two numbers are written. Here are some examples of common time signatures.

Now, you're probably wondering what the two numbers mean, right? Sure you are. Well, the number on top tells the musician how many beats there are in the measure, and the number on the bottom tells the musician which length note or rest gets the beat. This may be a little confusing for you right now, but bear with me, okay?

Okay, in order to read the time signature, we'll need to learn about notes. We won't learn about the details of the intonation of notes, but more of the length of each. Some notes are long, others are very short. In order for the musician to know how long to play a note, he or she must be shown on the music sheet. Right now, you'll only need to learn four basic note lengths. The whole note. The half note. The quarter note and the eighth note. Here is how they look.

They look pretty, don't they? In a 4/4 time signature, the whole note gets four beats, or takes up a whole measure. You see how it works? The 4/4 time signature tells the musician that there is four beats in a measure. The half note gets two beats. So how many half notes are there in a measure? Right! There are two half notes in a measure. The quarter note gets one beat. Thus, there are four quarter notes in a measure with a 4/4 time signature. Similarily an eighth note gets half a beat and there are eight eighth notes in a measure. So:

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It is noteworthy to remember that the above is only correct in terms of length. Two quarter notes will sound different than a half note because there will be a slight release in between the quarter notes. Can you tell me how many eighth notes there are in a half note? The correct answer is: 4.

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