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You can write eighth notes in two different ways, shown in Figures 5-8. By itself, one eighth looks like a quarter note with a flag (also called a flag in I (Ojl many elite music circles). When two or even four eighth notes are present, a beam replaces their flags and groups the notes. This beam groups the eighth notes, making it much easier to spot each beat.
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enough. Count: 1 - and 2 - and 3 - and 4 - and
To play the eighth notes like the ones in Figure 5-8, count the beat out loud as “1-and, 2-and, 3-and, 4-and,” and so on. Every time your foot taps down, say a number; when your foot is up, say “and.” If anyone is nearby, change “and” to “grand” so they think you’re counting money. Won’t they feel silly when they ask to borrow some? “Sure,” you say, “you can have an eighth note.”
Sixteenth notes and more
By dividing one beat, or quarter note, into four separate parts, you get a sixteenth note. Two sixteenth notes equal one eighth note, so it takes four sixteenth notes to equal one beat, or quarter note.
Chapter 5: Joining the Rhythm Nation
As with eighth notes, you can write sixteenth notes in two different ways: with flags and beams. One sixteenth note alone gets two flags, while grouped sixteenth notes use two beams. Most often you see four sixteenth notes “beamed” together, because four sixteenth notes equal one beat. And frequently, you see one eighth note beamed to two sixteenth notes, also equaling one beat. Figure 5-9 shows examples of flagged and beamed sixteenth notes plus eighth notes joined to sixteenth notes.
Sixteen going on sixteen.
Count: 1 e and a 2 e and a 3-e and a 4 e and-a
To count sixteenth notes, divide the beat by saying “1-e-and-a, 2-e-and-a,” and so on. You say the numbers on a downward tap; the “and” is on an upward tap, and the “e” and “a” are in between. It’s also fun to count sixteenth notes as “1-banana, 2-banana,” and so on. Try it at the supermarket and listen as the clerks announce over the loudspeaker, “Crazy person in aisle three!”
Sixteenth notes aren’t so difficult to play at a slow ballad tempo, but try pounding out sixteenth notes in a fast song and you sound like Jerry Lee Lewis — and that’s a good thing! (You can read more about Jerry Lee Lewis in Chapter 18.)
1 could divide the beat even more, and some composers do until there’s virtually nothing left of the beat. Figure 5-10 shows that from sixteenth notes you can divide the beat into 32nds, then 64ths, and even 128ths. But really, Professor Over-the-Top, this is getting a bit ridiculous.
1&, 2e & a, oh my gosh you must be jok - ing ! ! ! !
If you happen to encounter very small, very short note lengths, simply slow the tempo way, way down and count out the fraction of the beat in a way that makes sense to you. Then speed the tempo back up and try to play it. Or you can just play a different song without such small note lengths.
Part II: Getting Sound Down on Paper
Triplets toOe chocolate
Most notes divide a beat neatly by some factor of two. But every now and then, you may want to play slightly faster than eighth notes but slightly slower than sixteenth notes. That means playing three notes per beat, aptly called a triplet
The most common triplet pattern is the eighth-note triplet, which looks like three beamed eighth notes. To help you spot these triplets quickly, compos* ers add a little number “3” above the beam. The second most common triplet pattern is the quarter-eighth triplet, which looks like (get this) a quarter note and an eighth note but with a little bracket and a number “3.” Figure 5-11 shows you both types of triplets.
Congratsi You have triplets.
You can hear an example of these triplets on Track 8 before you try to play them yourself from Figure 5-11. To count these triplets, tap your foot and say “tri-pl-et” or (because I like food metaphors) “choc-o-late” for every beat.
Never fear, 1 have no idea how many kilometers are in a mile either. This section involves a different kind of metric system.
Each measure of music receives a specified number of beats. (See “The Beat Goes On” in this chapter for more information on beats.) Composers decide the number of beats per measure early on and convey such information with a time signature, or meter.
The two numbers in the time signature tell you how many beats are in each measure of music. In math, the fraction for a quarter is 1/4. So, 4/4 would mean four quarters. Thus, each measure with a time signature of 4/4 has four quarter note beats. Each measure with a 3/4 meter has three quarter note beats, and so on, as shown in Figure 5-12.
Chapter 5: Joining the Rhythm Nation
Buying time with a quarter.
Please understand that 4/4 meter doesn’t mean that each measure has only four quarter notes. It means each measure has only four beats. These beats might contain half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, whatever the composer wants, but all note lengths must combine to equal no more or less than the specified number of beats per measure.