Greg's Music Theory Page
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The following material is simply some helpful rhythm tips.
To learn about rhythm in more detail, I recommend that one
learn how to read music.
4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 7/8, these are just a few examples of time
signatures. The top note refers to the number of beats per
measure, while the bottom number refers to which note is given
the beat. (The 4 on the bottom, means quarter note gets the
beat, while 8 means the eighth note gets the beat) We will
concentrate on the top number. Check out my band's website,
online at www.collaborationelement.com
(Gratuitous plug), to hear examples of music played
in different time signatures.
Why Time Signatures?
4/4, or "common time", has 4 beats per measure. Why not count
a song, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12,........."
with no repeats? Better yet, why count the beats of a song
at all? The answer is because of accents.
Accents will open up the doors of understanding concerning
rhythm. Each time signature, has a certain location where
primary and secondary accents fall. In all time signatures,
the heaviest accent falls on 1. Therefore, it is helpful when
counting the rhythm of a song in 4/4 as "1, 2, 3, 4,
"(I will illustrate primary accents in bold.) So, in
4/4, the primary accent falls every 4 beats, while in 3/4
this accent falls every 3 beats and so on. You will notice
that chords generally change around this accent. Count a song
out for yourself and see if this isn't true.
There is also a secondary accent. This accent is not as heavy
as the primary accent. It usually falls in the middle of the
count. In 4/4, the 3rd beat is the secondary accent. (I will
illustrate secondary accents in italics). Counting
in 4/4, we have; 1, 2, 3, 4. In 3/4, the secondary
accent falls on the 3 as well. In 6/8 the secondary accent
falls on the 4.
Subdividing is simply counting more than once per beat. This
is very helpful when a song has a slow tempo in order to prevent
the tendency to rush. Instead of counting a slow song in 4/4
as, "1, 2, 3, 4", we may place 2 counts per beat, counting
as, "1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &". We could also subdivide further, saying
4 counts per beat as, "1 e & a, 2 e & a, 3 e & a, 4 e & a".
You could say anything you want between the beats, but this
is the most common way people count out loud.
Think of leads in terms of rhythm
The final rhythm tip that I have is for a lead player to
think of his/her leads in terms of rhythm as well as scales.
Many times when planning out a lead in advance, I will decide
that I want a fast blaze of notes to fly by, but I can't decide
on the specific notes. The first thing that I will do is to
count out in my head how many notes I want to play per beat.
If 3 notes per beat, then I'm playing triplets, if 4, sixteenths,
8, 32nd's, etc. I will then, by using the time signature,
determine how many beats I will be playing this fast lead
over by counting out the beats, and/or number of measures.
I will then multiply the number of notes per beat, by the
number of beats that the lick is to be played over in order
to determine how many notes I will be playing. From here,
I will chart out the starting note, ending note, and possibly
even certain specific notes in between. After this, I can
merely "fill in the blanks" kind of like "connecting the dots".
If you are thinking of leads in terms of rhythm, you will
also be better at practicing them. (Practice with a metronome
is advised). You can practice 16th note scales with a metronome,
and by properly placing the accents, you will develop a "tighter"