Wilbur's Music Tutorial #3

RHYTHM & TEMPO...How to Count the Beat




Introduction
Rhythm and Tempo are two essential and somewhat difficult subjects. If you've gone through Part #1 and Part #2, you understand basic music terminology, how music is written, AND you should be able to figure out which note on the page equates to what musical "pitch/tone". You should also be able to find the hole on your harmonica that will play that "pitch/tone".

So how come this isn't enough???
Why can't you stop here and go play music????
The answer is RHYTHM and TEMPO. Without rhythm, any song is only collection of musical notes. With the wrong rhythm...or if you confuse rhythm with tempo....your chances of making a song sound good (even if you play the correct notes)is slim. This becomes painfully obvious the first time you try to learn a song from sheet music without having heard the song before. With no prior knowledge of how the song should sound...(ie understandit's rhythm)...learning the song from a piece of paper can be difficult.
Of course the easiest way to identify/learn the rhythm of a new song is to HEAR the song played.   Piano teachers always play a new song once through (at least once) for the student to hear before sending them off to practice it. This requirement that a student "understand/know" the rhythm of a song prior to learning to play it on an instrument, is one of the primary reasons beginning harmonica books always use "old standards" and/or other familiar songs that everyone has heard.
You MUST understand rhythm and how to "count the beat" if you are to progress beyond playing the simplest songs from sheet music.

 


RHYTHM is the relatiop between the notes, the rests, and the basic "beat" of the song. This includes how long you hold a note, how long you rest between notes, and how you count the notes/rests in relationship to the "beat" of the song. Learning to COUNT the notes and rests in relationship to the "beat" of the song is rhythm.

In PART #1 Music Basics...you learned where the TIME SIGNATURE went.

In this example the time signature is 4/4. That means that there are four beats to the measure and the quarter note gets one beat.

NOTE: For consistency and ease of learning, all of the examples on this page are in 4/4 time.

 


COUNTING EXERCISES
Let's start with three simple counting exercises. Each exercise (#1, #2, #3) will play notes with a metronome keeping time in the background. The metronome will play "the beat" and match the time signature. You will hear 4 beats of the metronome at the beginning of each example and then the music will start. Be sure to have your speakers turned up loudly enough to hear the clicks of the metronome.
REMEMBER: Each measure is counted individually and every new measure starts over at "1".

 

Exercise #1: contains three measures with 4 quarter notes in each measure. The Time Signature is 4/4...which means 4 beats to the measure and the quarter note gets one beat.
Each measure is counted as     "1....2....3....4".

Click on the SOUND Icon --> midi to hear Exercise #1.

 

Exercise #2: contains three measures with eighth notes instead of quarter notes. The Time Signature is still 4/4..which means 4 beats to the measure and the quarter note gets one beat. That means that each eighth note gets one half beat.
NOTE: The first eight note gets played right on the beat and the second eight note must be played right after the first. Both notes must be played before the next beat starts.
Each measure is counted with two syllables as
      "1 and....2 and....3 and....4 and".

Click on the SOUND Icon --> midi to hear Exercise #2.

 

Exercise #3: contains two measures with sixteenth notes. The Time Signature is still 4/4..which means 4 beats to the measure and the quarter note gets one beat. That means that each sixteenth note getsone quarter of the beat. As with eighth notes, the first sixteenth note gets played "on the beat" and the remaining 3 sixteenth notes must be played in rapid succession after the first. All four sixteenth notes must be played before the next beat starts.
Each measure is counted in four syllables as
      "1 E and ah....2 E and ah....3 E and ah....4 E and ah".

Click on the SOUND Icon --> midi to hear Exercise #3.

 

Exercise #4: contains a mixture of quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes. The measures are counted as
            "1....2 and....3....4"               "1....2 E and ah....3 and....4"

Click on the SOUND Icon --> midi to hear Exercise #4.

 

Exercise #5: contains Quarter Note and quarter rests. Each measure is counted in four syllables as
            "1....2 and....(rest)....4"            "1 and....2 and....(rest) and....4 and"

Click on the SOUND Icon --> midi to hear Example #5.

 


TEMPO Versus RHYTHM
Rhythm is the relationship of one note to the next and the relationship of all notes to the indicated TIME SIGNATURE or "beat". TEMPO is how fast or slow the underlying beat is counted.

In ALL of the exercises above the tempo did NOT increase from one exercise to the next. The number of notes played per beat increased in Exercise #2 and #3, but the tempo (ie. the number of beats per minute) did not increase.

Exercise #2 played twice as many notes per beat as Exercise #1.
Exercise #3 played twice as many notes per beat as Exercise #2
Exercise #3 played FOUR TIMES more notes per beat than Exercise #1.

However in all exercises the tempo (or beat) stayed exactly the same.
You heard more notes per beat and each note was played faster but this increase in speed was a function of the relationship of one note to the next and to the time signature...NOT an increase in tempo. The TEMPO (how fast each measure was counted) did NOT change from one example to the next.

If you don't understand this concept then go back and listen to all of the exercises again. You should hear the clicking of a metronome in the background counting at EXACTLY the same speed (tempo) on all exercises.

Rhythm versus Tempo is a very important concept. You can speed up or slow down the TEMPO of any song without changing the RHYTHM. New pieces are always practiced at a slower tempo but this does not mean you alter the rhythm. You ALWAYS practice a song at it's proper rhythm...however you will often start with a slow tempo and build to "performance tempo".


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