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What is music rhythm?
The music rhythm is the beat. It is the most important element in music. It drives the music forward. It is the gasoline of music. Rhythms can be simple or complicated.
These notes are whole notes. Each note is four beats long.
Here are half notes. Did you see the stems? These notes are twice as fast as
whole notes. These note are two beats long.
These notes are black. They are quarter notes. Each quarter note gets one beat.
How many beats are in each measure? If you guessed four, you'd be right!
These are eighth notes. Notice how the stems are connected by a beam.
These notes move twice as fast as quarter notes. Two note are played for each beat
In 4/4 time, different note values can be combined in each measure as long as they equal four beats. Click the examples to hear the rhythm patterns:
Tempo means speed. Musicians use Italian terms for different tempos. Here is a melody fragment. Click the image to hear the tune:
Click the words below to hear this tune played at different tempos.
Slow Medium Fast
Meter is how we hear the groupings of beats in music. Music will be in an even meter (groupings of 2's or 4's) or an odd meter (groupings of 3's).
Can you hear meter in music? Click the examples below to identify whether you hear the music moving in groups of two's or three's.
The time signature helps us group the notes so we don't get lost. It's the way we organize beats in music. It's like grouping eggs by the dozen or days by the week. The top number tells us how many beats we can have in one measure. In 4/4 time we have four beats in each measure. What was the time signature in all of all the examples above?
Remember this: A beat is not the same thing as a note. Notes can have more or less than one beat. A whole note in 4/4 time has four beats. A half note in 4/4 time has two beats. An eighth note in 4/4 time has just 1/2 beat. It takes two eighth notes to make one beat in 4/4 time.
Time signatures and meter: The time signature will tell you the music's meter. If you can divide the top number by two, the music is in an even meter. If you can divide the top number by three, the music is in an odd meter.
Let's look at some popular time signatures and see if we can add up the beats in each measure.
4/4 Time (Common Time)
Listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. It's in 4/4 time. Each measure equals four beats. It is in an even meter.
Listen to America played in 3/4 time. 3/4 is also called waltz time. Did you notice the dots after some of the notes. Dotes make the notes longer. This song is in an odd meter because there are three beats per measure.
Do you recognize the song Follow the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard of Oz? It's in 6/8 time. This song goes fast, making it sound like 2/4 rather than 6/8 time. This time signature can sound like an even or odd meter because you can divide 6 by 2 or 3.
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