Basic Rhythms

WHAT IS RHYTHM?

Rhythm is the arrangement and placement of notes in time. In sheet music, this can be seen within divisions called bars. There are, most commonly, four beats per bar, indicated by the time signature. A song’s time signature specifies how many beats there are per bar and thus sets a limit to how many notes, depending on duration, can be placed within the bar. The tempo marker determines the rate or speed at which the rhythm will be played.

NOTE TYPES AT A GLANCE

Whole Note

A Whole Note is worth 4 beats. Start on any beat you like, counting 1 2 3 4 from the moment you begin playing. Once you have played and counted through 4 beats, strike the note again.

A Half Note is worth 2 beats. For the purposes of practice, play the first half note on beat 1 and the second on beat 3, counting 1 2 3 4. Be sure to let the notes ring into the second and fourth beats.

A Quarter Note is worth 1 beat. This is probably the easiest rhythm to master since a note is played every beat. Count through as you’re playing to keep track of where you are in the bar.

An Eighth Note Is worth half a beat. This can be a challenging rhythm because every second note is without a reference point. The aim is to play two notes per beat so that the first note occurs on the beat and the second exactly halfway between the beat. Consecutive eighth notes are often joined together by a horizontal line called a beam.