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IAN STEPHENSON on Rhythm: Lesson #1


LESSON POINTS:
note values and symbols
Crotchet, minim and semibreve rhythms
[quarter  half      whole           ]
The timing of notes is AT LEAST as important as the pitching of notes - play the right note at the wrong time will sound worse than the wrong note at the right time. You will have already played a number of rhythms, but in order to improve your timing skills we must go back to basics, and analyse how a pattern is built up.

To begin with we will restrict the discusion to simple 4/4 time. A bar of 4/4 consists of four beats, counted 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1,2... with the emphasis on the 1. A bar line is drawn between each bar to indicate where bars begin. The top 4 represents the number of bets in the bar, and the bottom number represents how long these notes are. Both of these can (and do) change, but most popular music is in 4/4 time.

A note of four beat duration is called a "semibreve", or (in American terminology) a "whole note". This is the largest note that will fit in a 4.4 bar. Such a note is written as "O". Sometimes the letter "w" will be used above tab to represent a Whole note.

Semibreve       Whole Note      w       O
So lets try playing some of those.
 
|4/4-O--------------|-O--------------|-O--------------|-O---------------||
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   ||

[The double bar line at the end means the end of a section.]
Whole notes get a bit dull after a while. We build up more interesting patterns by dividing notes into two, to we can replace a semibreve, by two "minims", or |"half notes".
                                         |
                                         |
Minim           Half Note       h       O|

      |       |        |       |        |       |        |       |
      |       |        |       |        |       |        |       |
|4/4-O|------O|-----|-O|------O|-----|-O|------O|-----|-O|------O|------||
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   ||

Minims are still a little too repetetive, but things get more interesting when we break these in half to get "crotchets", or "quarter notes".
                                         |
                                         |
Crotchet        Quarter Note    q       @|
If we break up all the minims we now get a note on every beat:
      |   |   |   |    |   |   |   |    |   |   |   |    |   |   |   |
      |   |   |   |    |   |   |   |    |   |   |   |    |   |   |   |
|4/4-@|--@|--@|--@|-|-@|--@|--@|--@|-|-@|--@|--@|--@|-|-@|--@|--@|--@|--||
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   ||
The first beat of each bar should be emphasised, as should the third (to a lesser degree).

Now we can mix things up a little, because we don't need to break up EVERY minim - we can leave some whole.

      |   |   |        |   |   |        |   |   |        |   |   | 
      |   |   |        |   |   |        |   |   |        |   |   | 
|4/4-@|--@|--O|-----|-@|--@|--O|-----|-@|--@|--O|-----|-@|--@|--O|------||
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   ||

or:
      |       |   |    |       |   |    |       |   |    |       |   |
      |       |   |    |       |   |    |       |   |    |       |   |
|4/4-O|------@|--@|-|-O|------@|--@|-|-O|------@|--@|-|-O|------@|--@|--||
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   ||
And of course we don't have to play the same in every bar:
      |   |   |        |       |   |    |   |   |   |   
      |   |   |        |       |   |    |   |   |   | 
|4/4-@|--@|--O|-----|-O|------@|--@|-|-@|--@|--@|--@|-|-O--------------||
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  ||

or

      |       |        |   |   |        |   |   |   |    |       |   
      |       |        |   |   |        |   |   |   |    |       |    
|----O|------O|-----|-@|--@|--O|-----|-@|--@|--@|--@|-|-O|------O|------|
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   |


      |   |   |   |    |       |   |    |   |   |    
      |   |   |   |    |       |   |    |   |   |  
|----@|--@|--@|--@|-|-O|------@|--@|-|-@|--@|--O|-----|-O---------------|
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   |


      |       |   |    |       |   |    |   |   |   |    |       |   |
      |       |   |    |       |   |    |   |   |   |    |       |   |
|----O|------@|--@|-|-O|------@|--@|-|-@|--@|--@|--@|-|-O|------@|--@|--|
|    1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4  | 1   2   3   4   |

etc...
We can further break crotchets down into quavers, and semiquavers. The symbols for these are:
                                         |\
                                         | 
Quaver          Eighth Note     e       @|

                                         |\
                                         |\
Semiquaver      Sixteenth Note  s       @|
In fact these can be broken down even further (into demi-semiquavers, and hemi-demi-semiquavers) by adding extra tails, but these are rarely used. We'll consider quavers and semiquavers more fully in the next lesson.
---------------------------------------------------------------
British / American Equivalents of Note Values
---------------------------------------------------------------
Name            American Name   letter  symbol  Value 
----            -------------   ------  ------  -----
Semibreve       Whole Note      w       O       4 beats

                                         |
                                         |
Minim           Half Note       h       O|      2 beats

                                         |
                                         |
Crotchet        Quarter Note    q       @|      1 beat 

                                         |\
                                         | 
Quaver          Eighth Note     e       @|      1/2 beat

                                         |\
                                         |\
Semiquaver      Sixteenth Note  s       @|      1/4 beat

End of Lesson #1. [Ian Stephenson on Rhythm: Lesson#2] [BassWork Index]