Greg's Music Theory Page


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RHYTHM TIPS

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.

Time Signatures

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

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" rhythm.