© 2019 Diana Miller

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How to Read Music: Part II

Last time, we talked all about how to read pitch: how high or low a note is. This included how to read pitches on the staff using the first 7 letters of the alphabet. For more practice on that, feel free to head over to https://www.musictheory.net/exercises/note .

We can determine a note's pitch based on its position on the staff. But how do we know how long to hold out a note? The answer lies in rhythm.

When creating rhythm, we will take our music notes and make small changes to help us determine how long we will hold them out. As you can see above, different variations will become different note values. In many cases, we add a stem to the note. The stem does not control or change the pitch of the note. Only the note head determines that.

Before we dive into it, here is a review from last time of some words and music terminology you're going to see:

Double Bar Line : It means the song is over.

Bar line: Line that separates beats of music in order to read them more clearly.

Measure: The unit that contains a small grouping of beats. Beats are usually grouped in units of 2, 3, and 4 most commonly.

If you look at the example below, you will see the beats are divided by the bar line into groups of 4. This would be a 4/4 time signature, though it isn't marked in the examples.

The Quarter Note and Quarter Rest

A quarter note has a duration of sound that lasts one beat. A quarter rest has a duration of silence that lasts one beat.

You can substitute the "ta" for 1, 2, 3, 4, and the 'R' stands for "rest". Click on the video below to practice along.

Click the video to check how you did.

Click on the video below to hear how this exercise would sound.

For more practice counting eighth notes and quarter notes/rests, click the video below!

It's important to note that when we are counting half notes, we only clap once and then hold out the note for the full duration of both beats. Also notice that the half rest (looks like a top hat!) receives two beats of rest. So, two half rests next to each other would equal four total beats of rest.

Click the video below to practice more half notes and half rests. Notice that the last two lines will use quarter notes, quarter rests, and eighth notes as well! Also notice that instead of ta and ti-ti, in the video I switched to using counts in order to count our eighth notes. Instead of "ti-ti" we use "1 and".

There are a few more different rhythms, but I will only touch on them briefly and I won't include a listening example. Here are some rhythms that have longer and shorter durations than the ones I already showed you.

That was a lot of information! Hopefully this gives you a good beginning foundation for rhythm. Remember, rhythm only refers to the duration of the note, and not the actual pitch (highness or lowness). To review pitch, visit here.

Next time, we're going to starting combining our knowledge of pitch and rhythm to really dig into reading the language of music.