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To help you understand beats and how they’re measured, look at a clock or your watch and tap your foot once every second. Hear that? You’re tapping beats — one beat per second. Of course, not all beats last one second. Look at the clock again and tap your foot two times for every second.
How fast or how slow you tap these beats is called tempo For example, when you tap one beat for every second, the tempo is 60 beats per minute, because there are 60 seconds in one minute. Tap two beats per second and the tempo becomes twice as fast, or 120 beats per minute.
Okay, that’s enough math, but this example can help you to understand the relationship of music and rhythm to time. Think of a music staff as a time line. (Chapter 4 tells you all about the music staff.) In the same way that the face of a clock can be dived into minutes and seconds, the music staff can also be divided into smaller units of time. These smaller units of time help you count the beat and know where you are in the song at all times.
Breaking things up u/ith Uerticat tines
A short three-minute song can have 200 separate beats or more. To keep from getting lost in this myriad of beats, it helps to count the beats as you play. But rather than ask you to count up into three-digit numbers, the composer groups the beats into nice small batches called measures (or bars).
Each measure has a specific number of beats. Most commonly, a measure has four beats. This smaller grouping of four beats is much easier to count: Just think “1, 2, 3, 4” and then begin again with “1” in each subsequent measure.
The composer decides how many beats to put in each measure and then marks each measure (or bar) with a vertical line called a barline, as shown in Figure 5-1.
Why does it matter how many beats are in each measure? If the composer wants every fifth beat emphasized, a measure with four beats helps you keep track of which beats to emphasize.
Figure 5-2 shows a staff with several measures of beats. The slash marks represent each beat. Clap these beats as you count out loud. The first time you try it, don't emphasize any of the beats. The next time, emphasize the first beat of each measure a little more than the other three by clapping louder. Notice how this emphasis adds a little pulse to the overall rhythm.
Chapter 5: Joining the Rhythm Nation
Barlines help group the beats.
Stressing the right beats.
/ / / s- / / / / s / / / /
Clap: 1, 2, 3, 4 1, 2, 3, 4 1, 2, 3, 4 1, 2, 3, 4
Shopping for barlines
Like jeans, barlines are available in various styles. In piano music, the different styles of barlines give you directions on how to play the music.
The four main styles of barlines tell you to do the following things:
J' Single (one thin barline): Go on to the next measure.
Double (two thin barlines): Go on to the next section of the song, which will have a change of some kind, whether it’s a new tempo, new grouping of beats per measure, or just a new set of lyrics.
J’ Repeat (one thin and one thick barline, plus two dots): Repeat the music from the beginning of the song or from the beginning of the section.
End (one thin and one thick barline): You’ve reached the end of the
song, so stop playing. Of course, you can keep humming if you like — no one’s stopping you.
Figure 5-3 shows you the four styles of barlines.
Part II: Getting Sound Down on Paper_____________________
Note Lengths: Serving Some Musical Pie
Piano music uses lots of different symbols and characters. Perhaps the most important symbols to know are those that tell you the length of each note.
Each note you play lasts for a certain number of beats, or a fraction of a beat. Don’t worry — math doesn’t exactly thrill me either. So, I’m pleased to tell you that the fractions you use in music are no more complex than the fractions you use when you carve up a fresh pie.
Picture yourself at the ultimate dessert table, staring at hundreds of freshly-baked, meringue-topped pies. I’ll take the coconut cream one, thank you. Now, pretend that each pie represents one measure of music.
Your master chef (the composer) tells you at the beginning of the dessert (music) how many equal pieces to cut each pie (measure) into. Each resulting piece of pie represents one beat. You can eat the whole piece of pie, or just a part of it, depending on how hungry you are (how the music should sound). At this point, I recommend taking a few antacid tablets before continuing with your musical dessert.
One piece at a time
Most pieces of music have four beats per measure. In essence, your master chef asks you to cut each pie into four equal pieces. When you divide something into four, you get quarters. When you divide a measure into four parts, you also get quarters — quarter notes.
A quarter note is represented by a black rounded notehead with one long stem. For some unknown preferential reason, the quarter note has become the most popular — and, hence, most recognizable — note of all musicdom. Look at the notes in Figure 5-4. Recognize them? I told you so.