Rhythm in Music

A short music lesson by JellSoL

You may wish to follow this video transcript:

Let’s start with the main reason why every singer, choir member, and/or musician must know note values.  As emphasized in The Guardian in an article written by Marcus du Sautoy in 2011, he said “Certainly the grammar of music – rhythm and pitch – has mathematical foundations.”  This video focuses on rhythm.  Musicians and singers cannot say that they are following the exact rhythm if they cannot determine correct note values or they do not even bother taking a look at the metronome markings.

So what elements in a musical score refer to rhythm?  We have time signatures that dictate note values and metronome markings.

Let’s review the types of notes first.  Appearing as a note head, we have the whole note or semibreve.  This is followed by the half note or the minim where you see a note head and a stem.  Third is the quarter note or the crotchet that has a closed, colored, or shaded note head, and a stem.  Fourth is the eighth note or the quaver where you find a shaded note head, a stem, and one flag.  Fifth in this presentation is the sixteenth note or the semiquaver where you see a shaded note head, a stem, and two flags.

Now, let’s talk about time signatures.  In this video, we will focus on three common time signatures: 2/2 or cut time, 4/4, and 6/8.  What do these numbers mean?  As defined in most music references, time signatures are generally expressed as fractions.  The numerators, the numbers on top (2, 4, and 6), refer to the total number of beats per measure – that is from one bar to the next.  The denominators or the numbers below (2, 4, and 8), refer to the type of note that receives one beat.

2/2 or cut time means that there are two beats in a measure and a half note or a minim receives one beat.  4/4 means that there are four beats in a measure and a quarter note or a crotchet receives one beat.  Please be aware of broken measures.  A broken measure has an incomplete number of beats.  The first one gets combined with the very last one.  Notice how the quarter note or crotchet in the first measure (which is equal to one beat) completes the dotted half or minim of the last one (which is equal to three beats).  Please be reminded that a dot after a note means adding half of the value of the note or rest before it.  6/8 means that there are six beats in a measure and an eighth note or a quaver receives one beat.

The last section of this video is a quick overview of metronome markings.  The literal metronome is a device or a phone application that musicians use to mark time at a selected rate by giving a regular ticking sound.  A metronome marking which usually appears on the upper left corner of the first grand staff of a musical score, defines the overall tempo or dictates the pace by which a piece of music should be performed.  This is measured by the number of beats per minute.  A metronome mark of a quarter note to 120 means that there should be 120 quarter notes or crotchets or combinations of notes that take the same value sung or played within 60 seconds.  To put these metronome markings into categories and understand tempo better, take a look at these popular pacing.  Next time you see a metronome marking on a musical score that shows a quarter note or a crotchet to 76, you are to sing or play it slow, literally at ease, even if you are in a hurry to get it done.

So as we learn more about music, we will soon realize that rhythm, indeed, is its grammar.

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Thank you, PurplePlanetMusic, for Sweet Success, the background in this video.





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