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Introduction

Do you struggle with finding the pulse of a favorite song, trying to figure out a
drumbeat for your mix, or notating a complex rhythm?

Whether you enjoy playing by ear, mixing down beats, or songwriting, learning how
to develop your rhythmic skills will help you reach the next level of musicianship.

Rhythmic training will help you:

 Find the steady beat in a song


 Practice keeping a beat with rhythm exercises
 Understand basic music theory for rhythm
 Recognize common rhythms in rock, jazz, Latin music, and more
 Learn how to count complex meters and rhythms
 Practice rhythms in a fun way

After reading and practising with this module you will have the groundwork to
develop your rhythmic music skills, easy exercises that you can practice on your own
or with a friend, and an understanding of rhythm, pulse, and meter.

So what is rhythm?

Rhythm is one of the core components of every piece of music, along with melody
and harmony. It’s what gives music its energy and maintains the driving momentum
that keeps you listening.

Rhythm ear training can let you improve your sense of the “groove” of music: the use
of notes’ timing to keep the music moving. Whether it’s to make the music sound
funky, rock-steady, or jazzy, it all comes down to creating a solid groove. And you
can’t hope to create that groove on your instrument until you can hear what makes it
tick.

Rhythm is so fundamental to music that if you haven’t spent time on rhythm ear
training before, it has the potential to dramatically advance your musicianship.

Dispelling a Myth: “Natural Rhythm” can be learned!

Although people often assume having good rhythm is an inherent trait and talk about
“natural rhythm”, in fact rhythm skills are learnable. However bad you might feel
your sense of rhythm is, there is rhythm ear training that can help you improve.
Why Study Rhythm Training?
Rhythm is often a neglected area of musicianship. Once a musician has a decent sense
of rhythm they tend not to push beyond that. But there are several good reasons to pay
careful attention to developing your sense of rhythm…

It’s fundamental

Many music theory books will talk about music as having three key elements:
Melody, Harmony and Rhythm. Each of these can be varied independently of the
other two, and each has their own impact on the musical whole.

The first two depend on your relative pitch listening skills, but the third depends on a
different set of listening skills: your sense of rhythm.

Express yourself in a new way

You may be used to thinking about improvisation or composing in terms of pitch:


which notes to choose.

Rhythm can provide you with a completely different dimension to express yourself
in. You could take the same tune and the same backing chords, but still create a
hundred different musical interpretations, just by varying the rhythm! It’s a big part of
what creates a musical style such as rock, reggae or a classical waltz.

Increase your “rhythm vocabulary” and improve your rhythm listening skills and
you’ll have more creative freedom in all your music-making.

For example, listen to how Ella Fitzgerald can create a compelling song – with just
one note!

Sound like an expert

Rhythm is essential if you want your music to sound professional.

Weak rhythmic precision is a definite hallmark of amateur playing. On the other hand,
keeping your timing tight while playing complex, varying rhythms has a big impact
on the listener and makes you sound like a pro.

Next time you listen to a professional or amateur musician play live or watch a
performance on YouTube, pay close attention to the rhythm. You’ll almost certainly
find that the professional has reliably precise timing in the rhythms they play, while
the amateur’s timing is loose or inconsistent.

Sound like a natural

You can learn natural rhythm. People associate having a good sense of rhythm with
“natural musicianship”. It often goes along with whether you can dance well!
In fact, rhythm skills are learnable just like any other aspect of music. Even if you’re a
bad dancer or feel like you have poor rhythm now, spend a bit of time on your
musical skills and you’ll quickly find that you’ve “got rhythm” too.

Keep in sync

Rhythm is vital for playing well with other musicians.

In fact, it’s even more important than pitch: When playing in a group, even if you play
the wrong notes, you can still stay in sync with the other musicians and get through
the piece if you play with the correct rhythm. But if you play the right notes with the
wrong timing… things will quickly come unstuck!

It’s particularly disconcerting for listeners when the musicians in a band aren’t
precisely in time with one another. So make sure you and your fellow musicians pay
careful attention to closely maintaining a shared rhythm.

The How
Rhythm Notations

There are two main styles of notation used for rhythm. Depending on your musical
background you’ve probably encountered one of them or both already.

They are both quite straight-forward to understand, but the important thing is to
connect them with the rhythmic sounds they represent. The aim is to be able to look at
the notation and hear the corresponding rhythm in your head.

Traditional Notation

In traditional music notation, different styles of note imply different durations, and
so a sequence of notes with various durations creates the rhythm.

When you’ve learned an instrument using traditional notation this becomes second
nature, and you can look at the notes and hear the corresponding rhythm in your head.
But it takes some practice!

If you’re using traditional notation, take some time to explore beyond the familiar.
Find some sheet music you haven’t played before which looks like it has a
complicated rhythm, and see if you can work out how the rhythm should sound. It
might be wise to choose a piece you can find a recording for, so you can check if you
got it right!
Piano Roll Notation

Many musicians find piano roll notation far easier to connect with rhythmic
audiation (i.e. hearing the corresponding rhythm in your head). The visual image of
notes on the roll seem to connect well with their mental model of how the timing of
the notes sounds.

Spend some time playing around with a music sequencer and you’ll quickly develop a
sense of how the rhythmic patterns in your mind’s ear correspond to the visual
patterns on the grid.

Counting

You should understand the theory of how music is divided into bars, those bars into a
certain number of beats, and those beats subdivided into shorter notes. Once you
understand how rhythm is represented in music, you should feel comfortable with the
idea of “counting” the beats of a bar.

In most modern music, this is “4/4 time” so you count four beats in every bar:

1-2-3-4

For developing rhythm listening skills, practising this kind of counting is a good
fundamental exercise:

 Can you count along?


 Can you reliably hear the first beat of each bar? (hint: it’s normally where the chord
changes)
 Can you tell when music is in a time signature other than 4/4? (e.g. 3/4, like a waltz)

Clapping Rhythms

Clapping improves your sense of rhythm. Clapping is a good way to practice your
rhythm skills without getting distracted by the pitch of notes. Practice clapping along
with the melody of a song you know well or one you’re learning to play. This helps
you isolate the rhythm from the rest of the music and hone your ability to recognise
and reproduce different rhythms.

Next time you’re at a concert and the crowd starts clapping along, can you work out
which beats they’re clapping on? You’ll normally find it’s 2 and 4, but it could be 1
and 3, or all four beats.
Beat Basics
The Beat

To understand rhythm, you first have to understand the beat. The beat is the glue that
holds the orchestra together during a symphony, gives a heartfelt pulse to the the hip
hop artist’s rap, and keeps the marching band in perfect unison with a pulsing right-
left-right-left.

Hold your hand to your chest and feel the steady rhythm of your heart beat. The
constant pulse gives life-giving oxygen to your body in the same way that the beat
keeps the music exciting and alive.

Tempo

Count how many times your heart beats per minute. The number of times your heart
beats each minute is called the tempo. Tempo refers to the overall speed of music. For
example, if your heart beats seventy times per minute, then the tempo of your heart
has a relatively slow musical tempo of seventy bpm (beats per minute). During a
workout, your heart may beat 140 times per minute, a very quick tempo.

In sheet music, songwriters and composers use terms like moderato and allegro to
describe moderate and fast tempos, respectively. If you are reading music for the first
time, you may encounter other terms like adagio or vivace.

Practice Finding the Beat


Practice

You can practice picking out the beat and tempo by listening to your favorite tunes on
your iPod or internet radio station. For example, Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring
On It) has a moderate tempo while Bing Crosby’s White Christmas has a slower
tempo. For a quicker pulse, you can listen to Irish reels from Riverdance or even
something like the main title from The Simpsons.

As you listen to the music, close your eyes and allow your foot to naturally tap out the
beat the same way that you tapped out your own heartbeat. Once you have mastered
foot tapping, you can easily add dance moves or hand clapping to the music.

If you are learning a new instrument, you can buy a metronome to help you keep a
steady beat. A metronome is a device which keeps a constant click to help a musician
keep in rhythm. There are a variety of virtual metronomes available on the internet,
like the free Metronome Online.

In Real Life

Now that you understand what beat, rhythm, and tempo mean, you can experience the
beat in your everyday life. Enjoy the brisk, quick tempo of a John Philip Sousa march
at the next Fourth of July picnic, clap in time to your favorite tune, dance away at the
next party, or enjoy playing new music on your guitar. Let the pulse guide you!

Notation Basics
Learning how to write down music in traditional notation can seem difficult, often
requiring a few years of good practice. But it needn’t be so hard! Read on to learn
some of the basics of rhythm and notation, find great musician resources, and test
your rhythm skills.

Basic Rhythm Theory

Take a moment and feel your pulse – or watch the secondhand of a watch. If your
heartbeat is steady and slow it is probably around 60-70 BPM (or beats per minute),
or one beat every time a second ticks away on your clock.

If that steady pulse represented single beats in a 4/4 measure, it would look like this:
Basic music notation relies on subdivisions and symbols to represent notes on
paper. While it may seem complicated to understand, if you can add 2+2, then you
can notate music!

Mathematical Breakdown

Watch these two short informative videos to learn more about music theory
subdivisions then continue reading for more helpful musical resources. In these two
videos you will find out more about how rhythm works, how to notate rhythm, and
how to count each beat in a measure. These are useful tools when trying to understand
the basics of rhythmic notation.

Find more helpful music theory videos at Dave Conservatoire.

Useful Tools for Music Notation

Whether you are old-school and normally like to write music with pencil, paper, and a
piano or you opt for more recent music notation software programs, you can use many
useful notation programs to help you write sheet music. The biggest benefit to music
notation software is the ability to playback the music that you write. While it is not
advisable to only write using a computer, if you are just learning about music theory
and music notation, using a software program can help you figure out the rhythms that
you need for your next song, or even help you create a great beat.

Finale Notepad
Download a free version of Finale Notepad, a simple and easy-to-use notation
program that will help you learn the basics of music notation. Write simple sheet
music, scores, and playback what you write. Finale PrintMusic and the full version of
Finale are excellent software program for the music professional.

Sibelius

Sibelius and Finale lovers have had a historic debate as heated as Mac vs. PC - but it
really is a matter of preference!

Noteflight

Another easy-to-use music notation software program, Noteflight is not as intuitive as


Finale Notepad, but does have the benefit of being available online and encouraging a
sharing community of musicians.

Musescore

Musescore is free music notation


software that can be downloaded to
your computer quickly. While not as
advanced as its big brothers Sibelius
and Finale, freeware programs like
Musescore can help you learn the basics
of notation without spending a lot of
mCount Out Loud
Listen

Listen to your heartbeat again. As each beat passes, practice saying “1-2-3-4”, with
each number falling on each heartbeat. These would be quarter notes. It takes four
quarter notes for each beat in a 4/4 measure.

Listen to this example of 8th notes, or two notes per beat:

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8th Note Example

As you listen, the 8th note (drum part) plays two notes per second. The notation for a
measure of 8th notes looks like this:

Listen to the 8th note example again. The piano continues to tap out the basic quarter
note rhythm “1-2-3-4”. The drum beats out the 8th notes. You would count the 8th
note rhythm by saying "“1&2&3&4&”.

1. On the first listen, tap out the quarter note rhythm played by the piano
2. Second, tap out the 8th note rhythm played by the drum
3. Count “1&2&3&4&” with the drum part. This is how you count 8th notes when
listening to music.

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8th Note Example

Rest Easy

Along with each beat and subdivision of the beat having its own individual symbol,
silence also has a symbol! These are called “rests”.

A quarter rest is worth one beat:


An 8th rest is worth half of a beat:

In the drumbeat example below you will hear quarter notes and eighth notes. Listen to
the rhythm. Try to tap it from memory with your fingers or drumsticks. Look at the
notation example while the rhythm plays and use your musical skills to hear where the
rhythm stops and starts.

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Drum Example

oney.
Time Signatures
The final essential topic to cover when it comes to rhythm is: time signatures.

You may have noticed that you can easily count “1-2-3-4” to most music on the radio.
This is because the time signature is 4/4, or four quarter notes for every measure.

In a time signature, the top number tells you how many beats per measure while the
bottom number tells you which note gets the beat.

If a 4 is on the bottom, like in 4/4 time, the quarter note gets the beat.

If an 8 is on the bottom, like in 6/8 time, the 8th note gets the beat.

There are many other notes that can get the primary beat, but in most popular music
you will find that either the quarter note or the 8th note receives the beat.

Common Time Signatures

Here are a few other examples of common time signatures:

2/4

Two quarter notes per measure. Many marches are in 2/4 time. You would count "1-
2" for this time signature.
3/4

Three quarter notes per measure. These songs usually have a waltz feel to them. You
can practice counting "1-2-3" as you listen to the waltz below.

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"Pleasant Morning" in 3/4 Time (from Popular Progressions Module)

6/8

Six 8th notes per measure. In 6/8, you often count this as two groups of three “1-2-3,
4-5-6” and conduct it in two. Every genre from rock to classical has some songs in 6/8
time.

Goo Goo Dolls "Iris" in 6/8 Time

Practice with a Friend

Continue practicing rhythm with your friends. Find a friend who can read music. One
person plays a rhythm and the other notates it. Start with simple rhythms then work up
to more complex rhythms. Your friend can work on ear training skills and you can
hone your music notation skills.

Practice with a Notation Program

You can practice these rhythms alone by using programs like Garageband, ProTools,
or Noteflight Premium. Each of these software programs have a way to record and
notate MIDI information from a performance. You will need to be familiar with these
notation programs to complete this exercise.

1. Open your program


2. Set the metronome in the program
3. Without looking at the screen, record yourself tapping out a rhythm
4. Notate the rhythm without looking at the result
5. Check your work against the software program

If the results in the software look a little strange, try to quantize the notes within the
program. For example, some programs have difficulty with tuplet rhythms or complex
syncopation. A quick quantize will help.

Upload your recording and results to Musical U and have the community help you
with your notation!
Get Rhythm

This roadmap will help you "get rhythm", meaning both that you'll understand rhythm
and improve your own sense of rhythm. Good rhythm is often associated with
drummers and bassists but having strong rhythm skills is in fact important for every
musician.

By the end of this roadmap you will have a solid sense of the pulse of music: an
"inner metronome". You will be able to read and write rhythm notation for the kinds
of pattern you hear and play in real music. You will also get familiar with the lively
art of syncopation which can bring vitality and expressive power to your playing.

This roadmap can be followed in parallel with developing your pitch skills, but it is
normally better to focus on one of these areas at a time and have a separate training
plan for each.

Remember that Roadmaps are only a guide, not a plan to be followed step-by-
step. This Roadmap should be used as inspiration for one or more personal
training plans to help you reach your goals.

Outline

1. Phase 1: Learn Rhythm Basics


2. Phase 2: Develop Your Sense of Rhythm
3. Phase 3: Master Rhythm Notation
4. Phase 4: Bring Your Skills to the World

Requirements

To use this roadmap effectively you should complete the following modules before
you start:

 Planning For Success


 Ear Training Essentials
Phase 1: Learn Rhythm Basics

Phase Accomplishments

 Understand the fundamental concepts of rhythm.


 Start to develop an instinct for following the beat.

Before starting to develop your sense of rhythm it's important to understand the
fundamental concepts involved. We all have a natural instinct for rhythm to some
extent, but that doesn't mean you should expect it all to come naturally.

Get off to a strong start in rhythm by giving yourself a solid foundation in rhythm
fundamentals. In this module you'll learn what musicians mean by "rhythm", "tempo"
and "the pulse", as well as the benefits of rhythm training. You'll also learn the basics
of counting time, which is what all other rhythm skills build on top of.

Module
What is Rhythm

Exercise
Clapping and Counting

As you begin training your sense of rhythm there is no better exercise than clapping
along with the pulse of music. In the "What is Rhythm" module you will have learned
about the pulse and how to find it.

Start by using the simple example tracks provided in that module, and try to clap the
beat as you listen. First try using the tracks in the "Beat Basics" lesson and then move
on to the instrument and pop tracks in the other lessons of the module. Clapping is a
good test for your ears (are you hearing where the pulse is accurately?) and it also
starts to build your ability to express your sense of rhythm physically, which then
carries across to your instrument playing.

When you can clap confidently, try counting quarter notes: "1, 2, 3, 4". And then 8th
notes: "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and".

Once you're feeling confident, try this with the music you normally listen to. Choose
something with a strong drum beat, and listen closely for the drum. Begin by
clapping, since that way you won't need to be sure where each bar begins. Then when
you feel you can hear the strong first beat of each bar, try counting along out loud.
Continue learning about the fundamental beat of music with the "Tempo and the
Beat" module. You'll learn what musicians mean by "on the beat", "off the beat" and
"backbeat", and the difference between "straight" and "syncopated" rhythms.

Module

Tempo and the Beat

Exercise
Practice the Beat

Use the four exercises in the "Practice the Beat" lesson of "Tempo and the Beat" to
build on your clapping and counting skills.

Apply the advice on "Everyday Practice" in two ways:

1. Every time you listen to music, see how quickly you can tune your ear in to the beat
so that you can tap or clap along. Ask yourself if it's a regular or backbeat feel and
whether the rhythms are straight or syncopated.
2. For each piece you practice on your instrument, practice tapping your foot with the
beat or counting it in your head as you play. This is an excellent way to cultivate your
"inner metronome" and get a rock-solid musical pulse inside you.

If you have difficulty

As always, if you have specific questions about something in a module, you can ask
in the end-of-module Discussion.

If you're not sure if you're getting it right with the clapping and counting exercises,
the best thing to do is record yourself and then listen back. You will probably find you
can hear whether your clapping or counting aligns with the music. If not, feel free to
share your recording in a new discussion in the community or in your Progress
Journal and ask for feedback.

Ready to Start?
→ Create a Training Plan for Phase 1

Phase 2: Hone Your Sense of Rhythm

Phase Accomplishments

 Continue practicing with the beat (pulse) of music.


 Refine your rhythmic accuracy through regular practice.

With the fundamentals clear, it's time to start really honing your instinct for musical
timing. Your main focus in this phase will be the exercises from the "Rhythm
Practice" module:

Module
Rhythm Practice

Begin by working your way through each lesson of the module in order. But don't
leave it there! Identify the areas which need work. Is it identifying the downbeat?
Maintaining a steady tempo when the music stops? Understanding how straight and
swung beats are different and moving from one to the other?

Find your areas for improvement and then make the practice exercises a regular part
of your music practice. Because rhythm is so fundamental to music you should be
able to easily integrate this kind of practice with the pieces you are playing and
listening to. Make yourself intensely conscious of the rhythms you hear and play, and
challenge yourself to mimic and then adapt them.

If you have difficulty

The "Rhythm Practice" module provides quite a broad range of rhythm exercises and
you may find some areas quite challenging. If you find yourself getting stuck on a
certain exercise and you're unsure if you are correct (or you're sure that you're not!)
don't be afraid to ask in the Rhythm discussion boards.

Ready to Start?
→ Create a Training Plan for Phase 2

Phase 3: Master Rhythm Notation

Phase Accomplishments

 Learn to read rhythms from score notation.


 Learn to write down rhythms you hear.

In the first two phases of this Roadmap you were focused on understanding rhythm
concepts and honing your in-built sense of rhythm. Now it's time to tackle one of the
common problem spots among musicians: connecting the sound with the score.

Rhythm notation can be confusing. It's easy enough to get familiar with the symbols
for different note durations, but once you start looking at a whole sequence of notes
and rests things quickly become more challenging!
Begin with the "Speak Rhythms" module which will introduce you to two methods
for speaking rhythmic patterns out loud from the notation. These can be used both to
tell you how a written rhythm should sound, and to let you write down the rhythms
you hear. The two methods ("count chant" and "Kodály") can be used individually or
together.

Module

Speak Rhythms

Keep in mind that the examples at the end of this module are quite sophisticated. You
may want to work through the rest of this phase before tackling these, or take a look
and then come back when your notation skills are more advanced to really dissect
how they work.

Learning the different note duration symbols is quick, but truly internalising them
takes practice. The material in this module is the same: the speaking methods will be
quick to learn - but take practice to really sink in. Use the exercise below for this. It's
simple but effective.

Exercise

Daily
Rhythm Speaking

The two methods for speaking rhythms are interesting, but they only become useful
once you can use them in your musical life.

After working through the "Speak Rhythms" module for the first time, take the
opportunity to go back and practice some more with the examples. Make sure that you
really understand why each rhythm pattern is spoken the way it is. You can also
download the audio clips, put them on shuffle, and test yourself - can you speak out
the rhythm you just heard?

Once you can reliably speak each example from the module, take these skills to other
music. If you play from traditional notation on your instrument, try speaking the
rhythms on your sheet music. Start with pieces where you already know how the
rhythm should sound and then challenge yourself with pieces you've never played
before.
As you practice in this way you are integrating the speaking methods into your
internal understanding of rhythm, so that in future you will have an immediate
instinctive feeling for how the rhythms you hear relate to notes on the page.

In parallel with this exercise you can also start using the "Read Rhythms" module to
practice connecting the sound with the score. This module provides a large number of
examples, ranging from slow, short and simple quarter-note patterns, to longer, faster
patterns using 16th notes.

Module

Read Rhythms

Exercise
Daily
Rhythm Notation Practice

Remember that every piece of sheet music is an opportunity to practice your rhythm:

 If you have physical sheet music, see if you can find a corresponding recording to
compare it with.
 If you are using notation software such as Sibelius or Noteflight, use the built-in
playback feature to play the notated rhythm for you.

Use the score and audio together to test your ability to read rhythms.

You can also use software to check your ability to write down rhythms you hear:
recreate the heard rhythm in notation using the software and then see if the automatic
playback matches the rhythm you heard.

Tip: This exercise with notation software also gives you great opportunities to learn
by correcting your own mistakes and to experiment with how changing the notation
changes the sound and vice-versa.

By the time you have passed all the quizzes for the two modules in this phase and
spent some time speaking out rhythms in your daily musical life, you should be
starting to feel very confident and comfortable with rhythm notation.
If you have difficulty

The most common mistake in this phase is trying to run before you can walk.

You may be used to playing music with quite complex rhythm notation - but that
doesn't mean you should expect yourself to easily "sight read" rhythms like that. Use
the modules recommended above to gradually and systematically build up your ability
to tackle new rhythm patterns. Eventually you will be able to confidently sight-read
rhythms just as complex as the ones you may already be playing, but don't try to rush
ahead to this directly.

If you have any questions or need help, just ask in the end-of-module Discussion or in
your Progress Journal.

Ready to Start?
→ Create a Training Plan for Phase 3

Phase 4: Bring Your Skills to the World

Phase Accomplishments

 Integrate rhythm development with your regular music practice.


 Apply your new skills to World music.

At this stage you should be very comfortable with rhythm concepts and have a strong
inner metronome. You have learned to connect the sound of rhythmic patterns with
the corresponding score notation. And you have been applying these skills in your
daily music-making.

Now it's time to have some fun!

Bring all the rhythm skills you've been learning to the "Universal Rhythms" module.
This module begins with classic straight rock beats, then recaps swung beats and
introduces you to a variety of rhythm styles from around the world including Latin
and African rhythms.

Module

Universal Rhythms
Learning about these different approaches to rhythm will expand your own rhythm
vocabulary and give you plenty of opportunity to put the skills learned earlier in this
Roadmap to good use!

Exercise

Rhythm Translation

One of the most powerful aspects of rhythm is its ability to convey a certain style of
music. Explore this phenomenon by challenging yourself to "translate" the music you
play from one genre to another, simply by changing the rhythm.

Can you add a bit of swing to a straight rock track? Would you be able to simplify and
"straighten out" a syncopated jazz solo? Can you take a simple piece you play on your
instrument and make it sound exotic just by altering its rhythmic foundation?

Try different exercises like these with a variety of music, and put your skills to the
test in two ways:

1. Think about the sound, and focus on your performance skills


2. Think about the notation, and whether you can write down the changes you're
making.
By incorporating exercises like these into your regular music practice you will
become a highly versatile performer, able to play and improvise in a range of
rhythmic styles. Have fun with it!

Ready to Start?
→ Create a Training Plan for Phase 4
Introduction
Along with melody and harmony, rhythm is part of the core foundation of all music.
Whatever the genre, era, instrument, player or context of music - it's the rhythm that
provides the driving force to keep our ears tuned in and satisfy our deep instinctive
appreciation of music more than anything else.

Rhythm is Fundamental

Because rhythm is such a fundamental aspect of music, training your ears for rhythm
is relevant and can be hugely beneficial to musicians and music fans from all corners
of the musical universe. From the bass player providing that funky bassline in a band
and the drummer keeping a rock-steady beat, to the composer looking for a catchy riff
to perk up a section of his score, or the passionate dancer who wants their
performance to be so tightly attuned to the backing music the audience can't help but
sit up and take notice, rhythm is key. Rhythm is one of the most powerful aspects of
all music.

What You Will Learn

In this module you will learn about:

 The Pulse (a.k.a. "The Beat")


 Downbeat vs. Upbeat
 Tempo
 Syncopation
 Valuable Tips for Learning Tempo

Having a good ear for rhythm is absolutely essential to be able to play with good
rhythm, and that rhythmic accuracy and sensitivity is often what makes a truly
amazing performance. Practicing your musical skills lets you hone your natural sense
of rhythm to be more sophisticated, reliable, and accurate.

Use the listening examples and information in this module to learn the power of the
pulse, how to tell the difference between the downbeat and the upbeat, all about
tempo, and how to syncopate rhythms.

The Pulse
What is Pulse?

If you ever listen to a catchy dance beat, salsa, or rock with steady bass drum
jamming away, you have probably found yourself tapping your toe or nodding your
head in rhythm. Maybe you have clapped along with your favorite band in concert or
shaken your body to a jazzy swing beat. That constant periodic beat is the pulse of the
song.

Listen to this drumbeat. Can you tap the pulse?

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Example

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Example (with Pulse Played)

Once you master this you should be able to start hearing the pulse behind real
drumbeats in music.

How to Hear the Pulse

When you listen to a popular song, you can often find the pulse in the lower
instruments of the song. For example, the drummer might be hitting the bass drum on
all four beats, the pianist could be comping chords in 4/4 time, or there could be a
steady walking bass line that helps you easily identify the beat.

Gangnam Style by PSY

In this popular tune with the snazzy dance moves it’s easy to hear the synthesized
pulse on beats 1-2-3-4.

Walking Bass Line from Autumn Leaves: Steady Pulse in 4/4 Time

Listen to this example. It is easy to find the pulse because the rhythm of the walking
bass line falls on each beat in 4/4 time. You can count this out loud as 1-2-3-4. Listen
to the example once, watch the rhythmic notation, and then try tapping out the beat. If
you play an instrument, try to play along.
Do you have a hard time connecting with the pulse? Try our Connect with the Beat
module for extra exercises on this important skill.

Don’t Rush

Keeping a steady pulse is extremely important if you are the drummer, pianist,
guitarist or bass player and relied upon to keep a steady rhythm. But that doesn’t
mean that vocalists and other instrumentalists are off the hook. Each musical role has
it's own weird rhythmic quirks:

 Vocalists slow down because they are trying to sing the many lyrics in a small space
of time.
 Drummers are notorious for rushing, not surprising given the rush of adrenaline a
drummer feels while playing.
 An accompanist is the most seasoned instrumentalist when it comes to keeping a
steady beat because they balance the pulse with the ensemble’s changes in tempo.
 Conductors win the prize for “Pulse-Keeper MVP” because their job depends on the
ability to keep a steady pulse.

Listen for your rhythmic role at the next jam session.

Downbeat vs. Upbeat


The Downbeat

It’s important to be able to hear which beats of the bar are emphasised, as this is a big
part of what defines the rhythm. Normally the first beat of each bar is the strongest
(“1, 2, 3, 4″) and we call that the “down beat”. Often the 3rd beat is stronger than 2 or
4, so that the pattern is “1, 2, 3, 4″.

The Back Beat

In some styles, such as reggae, it’s the other way round: the emphasis is on beats 2
and 4: “1, 2, 3, 4”. This is called the “back beat”. One way to understand this is to
think about tapping your foot along slowly with the music: you normally naturally tap
down on 1 and 3, so if the band is playing heavy on beats 2 and 4, those are the beats
where your foot is back in the raised position.
On the Beat vs. Off the Beat

If notes mostly fall on these 4 main beats we say they are “on the beat”. If they fall in
between those beats, or are played just a bit earlier than the beat would suggest, we
call that “off beat”. Playing off beat is part of the characteristic sound of jazz, where
the rhythms tend to be more free and varied than in, say, rock music.

More Practice

One you can reliably count on the beat (“1, 2, 3, 4″) you can start practicing clapping
on each off beat or counting off the beat too:

“1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and“


This kind of exercise builds up your sense of what’s possible rhythmically in relation
to that steady beat. With a little practice you'll be able to identify these rhythmic
elements easily when you are listening to your favorite band or jamming on your
instrument.

Tempo
What is Tempo?

The Tempo of a piece of music determines the speed at which it is played, and is
measured in beats per minute (BPM). The 'beat' is determined by the time signature of
the piece, so 100 BPM in 4/4 equates to 100 quarter notes in one minute.

Developing a solid appreciation of tempo is essential for the performing musician -


after all we can't always rely on a conductor or a metronome to keep us on track!

Tempo markings in music can do more than tell the performer the rate at which to
play. The Italian words used in classical scores prior to the invention of the
metronome such as "Allegro" not only indicate the speed at which the piece should be
played but also provide a clue to the musical feel the composer intended.

Click Track

Having a reliable shared beat is so important that bands often use “click tracks” in the
studio or on stage. A click track is just a simple automatic ticking sound that keeps
100% solid tempo and so helps the musicians to do the same. It’s a handy crutch, but
tempo ear training can free you from this dependence on click tracks and give you
more freedom to play around with the tempo for musical effect.

BPM = Beats Per Minute

60 BPM means 60 beats in each minute, or 1 beat per second. 120 BPM would be
twice as fast: 120 beats in each minute or 2 per second.

In this popular tune, the bass drum plays a steady slow pulse through most of the song
at 86 BPM.

If you find yourself tapping or nodding your head along with music, it’s probably the
beat you’ve synced up with. As you tap along in time with the music, you’re keeping
track of the tempo.
It’s instinctive: a skill we generally develop naturally in early childhood as we start
listening to music, and dancing, clapping or singing along with it.

Although it’s a natural human skill, you can improve how precise your sense of the
beat is, and learn to accurately judge the tempo of music by ear.

Changing Tempo for Musical Effect

Applying different tempos to a song creates interest for the listener. Here are a few
ways that you can apply changes in tempo to a tune:

 Slowing down at the end of a song to bring it to a satisfying finish.


 Speeding up as you approach the big chorus or guitar solo to build excitement.
 Switching tempo between verse and chorus to make the difference between them
more striking.

Another way tempo training can help your musical expression is by providing a
strong foundation for free use of rhythm.

Tips for Learning Tempo


Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work on your tempo training:

DON'T

Ignore timing errors and imprecision


For you and those you play with, it’s vital to keep the beat.

DO

Use a metronome
Over time you’ll find you internalise that steady tick, tick, tick…

DON'T

Be fooled by double- or half-time


It can be easy to hear the beat as being half or double the actual
tempo. Listen carefully!

DO

Experiment with tempo changes


When you play, write, or improvise music, try adjusting the tempo
for musical effect.
DON'T

Study tempo in isolation


Make it part of your overall music practice and look for ways to
do ear training for tempo alongside pitch.

DO

Learn some common tempos


Associate them with the traditional music terms (e.g. allegro) and
Beats Per Minute measures.

DON'T

Settle for “good enough”


Even once you have a pretty good sense of the beat, keep working
to increase your precision.

What is Syncopation?
Where's the Beat?

You are listening to a hot jazz trio or your favorite metal band when you notice that
the beat seems to be jumping all over the place. While the band seems to know where
they are going, you are wondering, “Where’s the beat?”

The chances are that the band has left the comfortable land of boring 4/4 repetition
and is journeying into the exciting musical world of syncopation. And if you want to
keep your own music from being a rhythmic snoozefest, then read on to learn how to
develop your ear for syncopation.

What is Syncopation?

When you count, there is a natural “stress” or strong inflection on the downbeats
(think “1&2&3&4&”). A syncopated rhythm will often omit the strong downbeat or
stress an unexpected part of the rhythm, often using 8th notes and 16th notes patterns
(e.g. 1&2&3&4&). Syncopation is when a beat is divided in two unequal parts, a long
note and a short note.
You can often find syncopation in musical styles like Latin music, Jazz music, and
Funk.

Syncopation is important because without it your music can easily become repetitive
and uninteresting. While that might be what some artists strive for, most musicians
like to both entertain and challenge the listener with new exciting musical ideas!

Straight beat

Listen to a steady (“straight”) rhythm like this:

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Straight example

Hear a musical example of a straight dance beat in Lady Robotika:

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Lady Robotika (from the Classic Chords module)

Syncopated beat

Listen to a syncopated “swung” rhythm like this:

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Swung example

This kind of syncopated rhythm probably sounds familiar, especially if you’re a jazz
fan.

Here a musical example of a syncopated Latin Jazz beat in Club Mango:

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Club Mango (from the Introducing Intervals module)

Skip to 01:28 to hear syncopation mixed with a Latin jazz swing.

Improve Your Syncopation Skills

To improve your syncopation listening skills try clapping a syncopated rhythm over a
steady beat (like your metronome), or take a piece of music you know with a straight
beat and try swinging it.

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Tempo and the Beat


Introduction
The Pulse

Downbeat vs. Upbeat

Tempo

Tips for Learning Tempo

What is Syncopation?

Practice the Beat

Discussion

Practice the Beat


Practice your beat listening skills in fun, musical ways.

1. Listen to the Radio

In this simple exercise, turn on Spotify or Pandora and listen to your favorite
mainstream tunes. As you listen, close your eyes and try to hear the constant beat of
the song. When you are ready, tap your toe to the pulse that you feel or lightly clap
your hands on every beat.

If you are comfortable with the rhythms, try to find where the first beat of each
measure falls and determine the beat.

Try it with this track, La La La by Shakira:

2. Listen with a Friend

After playing along to the radio, find a friend and try testing out your rhythmic skills
by finding the beat to these tunes that have more variety. Listen to the song. Sit next
to your rhythm buddy. Play the tune. Close your eyes and concentrate on the rhythm.
Have your friend tap the pulse on your shoulder gently to help you internalize the
beat. Tap your toe along with the rhythm.

Notice where you and your friend might differ in your tapping. Depending on your
musical experiences, you or your friend might have a tendency to rush the beat or fall
behind.
3. Tempos Exercise

Practice finding the beat. You will need a metronome and drumsticks (tapping is
okay, too).

1. Practice keeping a beat at 60BPM.


2. Set the tempo at 60 BPM on your metronome. This is the equivalent of one beat per
second and a good tempo to start at since many people have a resting heart rate
around 60 BPM.
3. Use the drumsticks tap a single beat along with the metronome.
4. Repeat at 40BPM, 80BPM, 120BPM, and 180BPM.

You might find that it is difficult to maintain a slow beat. If so, try subdividing by
playing 8th notes, meaning two notes per beat. If you aren’t sure what that sounds
like, set the tempo to 120 BPM to hear, then adjust back to 60 BPM.

After you have mastered playing along with the metronome for at least five minutes in
time, practice at different tempos like 40BPM and 80 BPM. Use subdivisions for
slower beats until you are comfortable playing single beats.

4. Listening Exercise

Now that you have practiced playing a steady pulse and are comfortable at different
tempos, try to play along with the electronica track Lady Robotika below. Although
the tempo is steady, there are variations in the rhythm, which make it more difficult to
follow along.

1. Practice your ear training skills by listening to the introduction.


2. See if you can figure out the beat within the first 15 seconds of the piece.
3. Play Lady Robotika (from Classic Chords) once from beginning to end, listening for
changes in the rhythm (notice the pulse stays the same).
4. On the second listen, tap along with the drumsticks.
5. Once you are comfortable, try playing only on beats 2 and 4.

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Lady Robotika

Everyday Practice

Practice the exercises above to develop your rhythmic musicianship skills. If you do
not own a metronome, buy one from your nearest music store and use it every time
you practice or check out a free online metronome.
When you listen to the radio on your way to work or at home while finishing
homework, take a few minutes to listen to the pulse and use your body to internalize
the rhythm. This can be as simple as nodding your head, tapping your toe, or patting
your hand on the steering wheel.

Introduction
Now that you've connected with the beat, your sensation of the regular pulse will give
you a solid backdrop to explore the other rhythmic layers and characteristics in most
any piece of music.

In this module, you will practice recognizing the speed of the beat, which is known
as tempo. We will maximize your rhythmic learning potential with these important
rhythm practice tips. We will explore more advanced rhythmic phenomena such
as syncopation and swung rhythms which can be found everywhere in popular and
jazz music. And we will practice honing your inner metronome with rhythmic
precision exercises.

Rhythm vs. Tempo


It’s important to appreciate the difference between tempo (how fast or slow music is,
overall) and rhythm (the particular timing of notes on top of that overall tempo).

You can have a simple rhythm with few notes or a “busy” rhythm with a lot of notes,
and either can be played at a slow or fast tempo.

Listen

Listen to these examples and hear the difference.

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Slow Simple Rhythm

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Slow Busy Rhythm

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Fast Simple Rhythm

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Fast Busy Rhythm

Ask yourself these questions:

 Can you clap along with the the beat of the slow, busy rhythm? What about the fast,
simple rhythm?
 Can you hear how the simple and busy examples can share the same underlying
tempo, even with very different rhythms?

Practice Recognising Tempo


Estimating Tempo

We measure tempo by counting how many beats occur in one minute: called “beats
per minute” abbreviated BPM. In classical music this number is normally written at
the top of the score so you know how fast to play the piece.

Tempos in music generally range from 40 BPM (very slow) to 200 BPM (very fast)
with most falling in the moderate 60-160BPM middle range.

Fast and Slow

Here’s a “click track” or “metronome” beat at a range of speeds:


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45 BPM (“Lento”)

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60 BPM (“Adagio”)

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90 BPM (“Moderato”)

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160 BPM (“Presto”)

Being able to estimate the BPM of a piece of music by ear is a useful skill in itself.
You can judge the right tempo when sight-reading from sheet music. You can decide
the right tempo for your own music. You can discuss tempo with other musicians
using meaningful shared terms.
Guessing the right BPM number is a bit of a “party trick” skill, but doing ear training
for estimating BPM is still very valuable for the knock-on effect it has on your overall
sense of steady tempo and timing precision.

The simple way to practice this skill is by spending time with a metronome, setting
tempos, listening to them, guessing mystery tempos and so on.

Use Loops to Train Tempo

A more interesting and modern approach is to use a music sequencer like Logic,
Cubase or GarageBand which allow you to assemble “drum loop” sound clips in a
sequence and adjust their tempo. By experimenting with different percussion rhythms
and the overall tempo you’ll develop your sense of what the BPM numbers mean and
get a feel for their pace.

Adjusting Tempo Smoothly

Speeding up and slowing down smoothly is an important skill, whether you’re playing
alone or in a group.

Locking eyes with a fellow musician and gradually changing tempo together is one of
those moments that really makes you feel part of a group.

It does take practice. Spend time with another musician, a song which features tempo
changes, or an artificial beat, to practice speeding up and slowing down smoothly in
sync with the beat.

Again, you can use music sequencers to practice this. For example, you can set a
“tempo automation curve” in GarageBand to gradually change from one tempo to
another. Set a basic drum beat and then play along with the changing beat. You can
start by just playing a note on each beat, aiming for precision. When you master that,
try playing a melody or improvising over the changing beat.

“Rubato” is a musical term for when you play around with the tempo, loosely getting
faster and slower to suit the phrasing of the music. It’s powerfully expressive—as
long as you’re doing it on purpose! There’s a big difference between expressing
yourself intentionally using rubato, and simply having a poor grip on the beat.

Change in tempo

Tracking changes in tempo by ear is an important skill. Can you tell when the music
gets just a little bit faster or slower?

Some useful traditional terms for these changes:

 Rallentando (“Rall.”) or Ritardando ("Rit."): getting slower


 Accellerando (“Accel.”): getting faster

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Rallentando Click Track

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Rallentando Drum Track

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Accelerando Click Track

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Accelerando Drum Track

A Reliable Sense of the Beat

Develop your internal sense of tempo to be:

 Precise: Your own notes’ beats are perfectly synchronised with the underlying beat
of the music.
 Reliable: You can stay precise even when the music’s tempo changes, or the
underlying beat is not clear

Like most listening skills, this will develop somewhat just through regular instrument
learning, but focused ear training exercises can help you improve much faster.

Rhythm Practice Tips


Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work on your rhythm skills:

DO

Practice singing rhythms


Before trying to play complex rhythms, use syllables like “da, ba,
pa, ta” to speak or sing them.

DON'T

Be lazy about rhythm


Including varied rhythms and playing them precisely is key to
keeping your listener engaged.

DO

Experiment with rhythm


When you practice a piece of music, try playing the melody with a
variety of different rhythms.

DON'T

Feel self-conscious about your rhythm


Even good musicians sometimes worry about clapping or dancing
in time.
Just trust your instinct and enjoy yourself!

DO

Broaden your rhythmic horizons


Try listening to new styles and genres of music and pay attention
specifically to the rhythms used.

DON'T
Forget that metronome!
Whether the rhythm you’re playing is simple or complicated,
remembering the clear steady beat underneath is essential.

Practice Syncopation
Syncopation is Everywhere

While syncopation is found in many musical styles, Latin music has some of the most
complex syncopated rhythms in popular music. While you might find some
syncopation in rock and jazz, mainstream pop tunes, dance music, and indie rock
rarely deviate too much from basic rhythms. In hip-hop music, the syncopation is
often found in the actual lyrics, and the truly talented hip-hop artist can create
complicated rhymes as intricate as the most complex drum beats.

Listen

Listen to a few of the musical examples below to further explore syncopation in


music. As you listen to the music, use your ear training skills to:

 Find the pulse of the song


 Tap a basic four note rhythm
 Identify the downbeats
 Hear how the instruments and/or vocals deviate from the stronger beats
 Listen for rhythms on the weaker beats

If you are comfortable with syncopation, take out a pair of sticks and try to tap out the
more difficult rhythmic beats. If you are vocalist, try to make up your own rhythms
and vocal lines using nonsense syllables, like jazz scat singing.

Tom Sawyer by Rush

In this music example, the entire band goes crazy with the beat, throwing in so much
syncopation that it can be difficult to determine the pulse of the piece. This includes a
change of time signature to 7/8 (or seven 8th notes per measure instead of the typical
eight 8th notes per measure to make standard 4/4 time).

Brick House by The Commodores

Almost by definition, funk music is syncopated. Whether it’s the bass player messing
with the beats or the drummer skipping quarter notes left and right to play syncopated
16th note rhythms, if you want to find syncopation, funk is where it is at.

So Much To Say by Dave Matthews Band (Live Version)

The Dave Matthews Band is one mainstream band that is not afraid of experimenting
with rhythms, time signatures, and syncopation. With a myriad of musical influences,
The Dave Matthews Band is a great example of music that can also challenge the
listener.

There are literally hundreds of syncopated rhythms used in all musical genres, from
classic rock to jazz to samba. As you become comfortable with basic rhythmic
patterns, start experimenting with your instrument or voice. Learn how to really
master the rhythm with good listening skills!

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Rhythm Practice
Introduction

Rhythm vs. Tempo

Practice Recognising Tempo

Rhythm Practice Tips

Practice Syncopation

Practice Swung Rhythms

Hone Your Rhythmic Precision

Discussion

Practice Swung Rhythms


In music the beat can be straight or swung, as explained in the Tempo and the Beat
module.
Although you can compare straight rhythms with their swung equivalents and try to
develop an instinctive feel for the "lazier" beat of the swung rhythms, there is also a
more structured way to interpret swung rhythms. In general a swung rhythm can be
interpreted based on straight triplets, although some musicians will play them looser
or tighter depending on the type of music.

Below you will find some practice tracks you can use to help you develop good swing
rhythm. These simple tracks, in a variety of tempos, will help you internalize the
swing beat.

You will encounter several familiar rhythms. Here is one rhythm pattern which is a
very common one that you might hear in both slow and fast jazz.

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Common Swing Rhythm 1

For example, you can hear this rhythm in the cymbal/high hat part in Glenn
Miller's In the Mood. Listen for the how the beat swings the 8ths, stretching them into
the triplet patterns above.

You will hear this simple rhythm plus other variations of this rhythm in the examples
below. You will also encounter this rhythm and variations:

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Common Swing Rhythm 2

In this example the triplet rhythms are played out entirely. You will find these types
of rhythms at the end of a phrase, as a transition, near the end of a piece, in solos and
in drum fills.

Swing Practice Tracks

In these examples you will practice basic triplet rhythms and a very simple swing
rhythm. Hear the similarities between the triplet rhythm and the swing rhythm. You
can play along with your instrument or simply tap or count out the rhythm with the
audio samples.

1. Read through the examples with a metronome at a comfortable tempo


2. Play or tap along with the audio examples provided
3. Try all three tempos
4. When you are comfortable, try to improvise with your instrument or voice by
choosing notes to fit these rhythms

You can listen to these examples in your car, on your smartphone, or online. Each
repetitive practice track gives you time to learn the various rhythms. Remember that
in traditional swing and jazz, the strict rhythm is often stretched or shortened as the
musician improvises. Once you internalize these basic swing beats, try jamming with
your friends and experiment with stretching out the swing rhythm.

Rhythm Practice 1

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Ex. 1: 60 BPM
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Ex. 1: 80 BPM

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Ex. 1: 120 BPM

Rhythm Practice 2

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Ex. 2: 60 BPM
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Ex. 2: 80 BPM

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Ex. 2: 120 BPM

Rhythm Practice 3

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Ex. 3: 60 BPM
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Ex. 3: 80 BPM

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Ex. 3: 120 BPM

Rhythm Practice 4

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Ex. 4: 60 BPM
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Ex. 4: 80 BPM

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Ex. 4: 160 BPM

Rhythm Practice 5

This final example is a longer track that will allow you to practice for three minutes.
You might want to download this track and listen to it, jam to it with your instrument,
or sing along to the rhythm using vocal improvisation throughout the day. Practice
listening to the track, tapping your foot with the pulse, and internalizing the swing
rhythms.

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Ex. 5: 60 BPM
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Ex. 5: 80 BPM

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Ex. 5: 120 BPM

Hone Your Rhythmic Precision


The #1 tip: Pay attention to timing!

Many musicians focus on the pitch skills of music, worrying about playing the right
notes or chords and playing them faster. It’s often far more valuable to spend a bit of
time focused on precision of those notes’ timing.

Better a slow, steady and precise performance than a fast flurry of jumbled notes!

Exercise 1

Use a metronome with flashing light. One specific technique which can help you
improve is to use your eyes as well as your ears.

1. Get a digital metronome which flashes a light in time with the beat, or use a
software or online metronome which shows you the beat as well as playing it. This
visually reinforces what your ears are hearing.
2. Practice your music while the metronome clicks and flashes, paying attention to
your timing.
Switch off the audible tick so that you only have the flashing light. You’re now more
reliant on your internal sense of tempo, but have the light to help keep you on track.
3. Put the metronome somewhere out of sight while you play. Try to perform with a
steady tempo.
4. If you’re unsure, glance over at the metronome’s light to check.
5. Eventually, turn off the metronome entirely.

Exercise 2

Another exercise which can help is to clap, tap or play along with a metronome beat,
then silence the metronome (but don’t stop it!) for a few bars, and continue to play.
Re-enable the metronome’s sound and see if you’re still in time.

Clap Through the Gaps Tempo Testing

With a solid internal sense of tempo you should find yourself in perfect sync with the
beat when you return. If your tempo is unreliable you’ll find you’re a bit behind or
ahead of the beat when you rejoin it.
1. Listen to the beat and clap along.
2. When the track goes silent, keep clapping.
3. When the beat returns, listen: are you still in time with the beat?

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Tempo Testing Click 1

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Tempo Testing Click 2

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Tempo Testing Drum

Note: This is easiest with a visual metronome as you can simply glance away and then
back again to check yourself.
Exercise 3

The first stage of tempo skills is to develop your internal sense of the beat, but it’s
important to take the next step of connecting it with your instrument (or voice).

1. Practice playing with a metronome ticking in the background.


2. Record yourself, and listen back.
3. Were you in sync with the beat?
4. Were you playing just before the beat or just after it?
5. Were you playing at a different tempo to the beat?

Once you get good at locking in to the beat and playing along with it consistently,
turn the metronome off, record yourself again, and try to be objective about your
timing.

You will probably have a keener sense of the beat in your ear than you do through
your instrument, so you can notice your own mistakes and aim to improve them.

Introduction
Are you having difficulty understanding rhythm notation? Sometimes a complicated
string of syncopated 16th notes and 8th notes may seem too difficult to comprehend -
let alone transcribe them, or sight-read from notation.

Don’t worry! You are not alone if you have difficulty understanding rhythm notation.

Thankfully there are ways to “speak rhythm” that will help you understand rhythm
like the best of the rhythm masters. In this module, you will learn two simple methods
to let you better understand rhythm by ear.

Many musicians struggle with understanding rhythm, especially if their primary


musical skills are melodic like singing or playing an instrument like the flute, or they
play a low brass instrument or bass guitar that usually do not have complex rhythms.
In fact, percussionists and pianists often seem to have the monopoly on great rhythm!
Well, now you can learn their secrets.

How to Speak Rhythm

If you have ever watched two percussionists chat about rhythm, you might wonder if
they are speaking an entirely different secret language as they start spouting out a
string of nonsensical syllables like “three ee and ah” or “ta ti ti ta”. Believe it or not,
you don’t need a translator, and all drummer jokes aside, these people are actually
quite sober... What they are doing is using simple short words like “ta” or “e” or
“tika” to represent rhythm notation.
Here's a simple and useful example: you can use a word like “superman” to represent
rhythms like triplets:

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Superman Example 1

In this example, each syllable of the word “su-per-man” lines up with a triplet. So
you can repeat saying “superman” over and over again to “speak” the triplet rhythm.

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Superman Example 2

Why Speak Rhythms?

If you are like most musicians, rhythmic notation can be daunting, especially if more
complicated syncopated rhythms are involved. Learning how to speak out rhythms
helps you easily read and write rhythms in notation but (more importantly) it gives
you the mental frameworks for really understanding how rhythms you hear or play
are put together.

What You Will Learn

In this module you will learn how to count rhythms out loud using two methods:
count chant and the Kodály approach. Both of these are easy ways to understand
rhythmic notation using simple syllables. Easy exercises will present you with
opportunities to practice and apply what you have learned

Let's take a quick look at each of these two methods.

The Count Chant Method

The count chant method is a very common method using syllables like “and” or “ah”
to stand in for more complicated rhythms.

Here is a really simple example:

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Count Chant Example


In this example the downbeat is represented by a number and the offbeats are
represented by “and”. When you say “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and” you are counting the
eighth note rhythm out loud and keeping time.

Here's an exercise to practice counting with the audio example above.

1. Set your metronome to a moderate tempo


2. Start by tapping your foot on the downbeat
3. As you tap count 8th notes using “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”

Practice staying in time and counting the simple rhythm out loud. It is helpful if you
look at the notation as you count to help your mind associate the visual image with the
syllables.

When you first try tapping your foot while speaking a rhythm it can be a challenge!
Some musicians compare it to trying to pat your head while rubbing your tummy. It
can confuse the brain! If you find this too difficult, just practice saying the words
without tapping your foot. You'll learn later in this module why the foot-tapping is
important for the count chant method, so do try to keep practicing this.

You can now start to practice counting 8th notes whenever you are listening to music.

The Kodály Method

The Kodály Method was developed by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály, who
believed that learning music should instil joy in the student.

“Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not torture but joy for the
pupil…”

-- Zoltan Kodály.

Kodály developed his method to help young musicians develop musical skills in a
simple way that was both helpful and enjoyable. The full method covers many aspects
of musicianship, including solfa for relative pitch, and the rhythm-speaking method
you'll be learning about in this module.

The Kodály Method uses specific syllables for rhythm notation like the "ti" and "ta"
mentioned earlier. In this module you will learn exercises that will help you develop
your rhythmic skills using simple syllables.

So, are you ready to learn to speak rhythms? Let's get started!

Count Chant: Basics


The first method we'll learn for speaking rhythms is called "Count Chant". This will
be familiar to anyone that has played in a school band or chorus, or a community
choir. In fact, even at the university level, many musicians still use this simple method
for counting out rhythms.
The benefits of using this method is that it can be adapted to much more complex time
signatures and rhythms easily. The drawback is that it relies somewhat on your music
theory comprehension of how the beats and sub-beats in a bar are arranged, and how
the rhythm you are analysing fits into that framework.

A Reminder About Durations

Before you can start counting out a rhythm, you need to remember some basic music
theory about rhythm. Specifically, how long each of the note (and rest) symbols last
for.

Below is a chart to help remind you as you learn how to count:

As you can see, one quarter note equals one beat and there are four in a 4-beat bar. In
the count chant method each beat is given a number. Right now we will be dealing
with simple time signatures like 4/4. Later in the module you will learn about more
complex counting methods for compound meters.
Exercise: Quarter-note counting

Let's begin with perhaps the simplest possible example: counting out quarter notes.
This is the same as simply counting out each bar as you may be used to from learning
about time signatures.

For these exercises you will need a metronome to click the beat. One beat equals one
quarter note. At first you will only try to say the words along with the recorded
example. Practice counting with the audio example first, then try to count out the
examples without the recorded example.

When you find that you can do this easily, then try to tap your foot on the beat with
the metronome while you count out loud. This may involve some coordination, but
over time, being able to internalize the pulse allows you to become your own
metronome. Tapping your foot while you count is just one way to develop this steady
pulse in your mind, your "inner metronome". This is fundamental to counting out
rhythms correctly with the count chant method.

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Quarter Notes Example 1


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Quarter Notes Example 2

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Quarter Notes Example 3

Exercise: Introducing Eighth Notes

Now let's add in eighth notes, which last for half a beat in 4/4, 3/4 or 2/4 time. To
count the 8th notes, you simply say “and” for each 8th note. Remember that there are
two 8th notes for every beat.

Here is the exercise for you to try with these two rhythm examples:

1. Count the examples below with the audio


2. Set your metronome to 80
3. Count the rhythm without playing the audio clip
4. Once you can do that, try to tap the beat with your foot and count the rhythm at the
same time
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Eighth Notes Example 1

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Eighth Notes Example 2

Count Chant: 16th Note Patterns


Now that you've mastered quarter and eighth notes you may be wondering how to
count 16th note rhythms.

Drummers seem to have a musical language all of their own as they dissect
complicated 16th note rhythms like the one below.

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16th Notes Example 1

Let’s take a moment to dissect what you are hearing. In this simple counting method,
musicians use the syllables “e”, “and”, or “ah” to denote 16th note rhythms. Using
the syllables “1-e-and-ah” to count out 16th notes, the musician can easily count out
a complicated syncopated rhythm.

As mentioned in the last part of the module, rests and long notes are usually counted
in the head silently. If you look at the rhythm above, you can see that in the
syncopated rhythms, rests like the “and” of beat 2 are not spoken out loud.

Counting 16th Notes

Now let’s see how to count simple 16th note rhythms. Before you begin the
examples, practice saying “1-e-and-ah-2-e-and-ah-3-e-and-ah-4-e-and-ah” a few
times in a row.

“1-e-and-ah-2-e-and-ah-3-e-and-ah-4-e-and-ah”

Once you are comfortable counting these syllables out loud, move on to the recorded
examples below.
Review these simple examples below. In this example the musician is counting out
16th notes using short syllables like “e” and “ah” for the 16th notes.

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16th Notes Example 2

Listen to the audio several times. Practice reading the music notation and counting
with the audio sample. If you can, try to tap your foot as you count. Learn how to
internalize the pulse by tapping your foot as you practice counting.

Exercise 1: Counting 16th Notes

Listen to the example below and practice counting 16th note rhythms. In this exercise,
you will practice counting 16th notes and dropping out syllables. Practice this
exercise several times. Identify the patterns used in this exercise. Learn to recognize
these patterns by sight and by ear.

1. Listen to the recorded example carefully.


2. Practice counting with the audio example.
3. If you can, try to tap your foot as you count.
4. Set your metronome to a moderate tempo.
5. Practice counting out loud without the audio example.
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16th Notes Exercise 1

Exercise 2: More 16th Note Patterns

After working on Exercise 1, try working on the rhythms in Exercise 2. If you find
these difficult, try to recognize the 16th note patterns from the first exercise. Which
patterns are the same? Which are different?

1. Listen to the recorded example carefully.


2. Practice counting with the audio example.
3. If you can, try to tap your foot as you count.
4. Set your metronome to a moderate tempo.
5. Practice counting out loud without the audio example.
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16th Notes Exercise 2

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16th Notes Exercise 3

More Ways to Practice

Start trying to count out rhythms in the pieces you play. Do you feel comfortable
counting 16th note rhythms? If not, continue using exercises like the ones above with
new rhythms you find in your music.

Once you feel comfortable with these exercises, try to improvise with your instrument
or voice. Create interesting melodies and riffs that have these 16th note patterns.

Over time, you will see that you no longer have to count these rhythms out loud.
Instead you will internalize them and know instinctively how they should sound when
you see the notation - or how to write them when you hear them.

Count Chant: Triplets


So far we have learned the basics of counting quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th notes,
along with their corresponding rests. Now let's talk about some more complex
rhythms that you might run into.

Once you internalize these rhythms and practice them again and again, you will find
that identifying them and writing them down will be much easier.

Triplets

Triplets are a rhythmic pattern that tends to trip up beginner musicians but learning
how to count triplets is actually not difficult. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of
the count chant method is that it has been developed over many years without any
official formalisation. In other words, depending on a musician’s training, different
musicians may count rhythms a little differently. A good example is counting the
triplet out loud.

Below are two different ways to count triplets out loud. In the first example, the
musician uses a variation on the word “triplet” by saying “1-o-let” for each of the
triplet notes. This way of counting triplets is most likely derived from
mispronouncing the word “triplet” to match the actual triplet rhythm “trip-o-let”. In
fact, you can practice saying “trip-o-let-trip-o-let-trip-o-let” to hear how this
counting method developed.
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Triplets Example 1

In the second example, the musician says “1-and-ah” for triplet rhythms. This
method is often used more often for faster complex rhythms. Saying “4-o-let” at
presto can become a mouthful!

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Triplets Example 2

While both methods are being introduced here, for simplicity’s sake the examples that
follow will use the “1-o-let” method to help distinguish a triplet from a 16th note
pattern (which you'll remember is counted "1-ee-and-ah").

Exercise: Triplet Patterns

Using what you have learned, practice the triplet patterns below. Listen to the audio
examples several times to familiarize yourself with the patterns.

1. Practice counting with the recorded examples below


2. Practice tapping your foot as you count the rhythm
3. Without a metronome, try to count out the patterns at different tempos
4. Set your metronome to various tempos – moderate, slow, fast, very fast
5. Practice counting these patterns with your metronome

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Triplets Exercise 1
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Triplets Exercise 2

Next time you encounter a triplet rhythm in one of your pieces, try speaking it out
using one of these two methods.

Count Chant: Compound Meters


Not all music is written in simple meters like 2/4 or 4/4. While most of the music you
hear in the radio does not stray from these easy meters, you will find that as you grow
as a musician, your knowledge of compound meters will grow, and you will need to
count these rhythms aloud to learn them.

Let's see how the count chant method approaches compound meters.

The most common compound meter that you will encounter in Western music is 6/8.
There are many, many more complex meters like 7/8 or 5/16 that you might
encounter, but 6/8 is found most often in styles like pop, jazz, classical, and rock.

In 6/8 the 8th note gets the beat and there are six 8th notes per measure. You will
count 6/8 rhythm like this:
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6/8 Example

At faster tempos, you will count a 6/8 time signature like this:
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6/8 Example (fast)

You can apply this counting method to similar meters like 9/8 and 12/8. Below are
examples for both slow and fast tempos with different time signatures.
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9/8 Example
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9/8 Example (fast)


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12/8 Example
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12/8 Example (fast)

When you encounter a rest in a compound meter, you will count the “missing” or long
notes in your head. Often compound meters move very quickly, and you may find that
it is easier to figure them out slowly and memorize the rhythms to perform faster,
instead of trying to count them in your head at full speed.

Exercise: Counting Compound Meters


Listen carefully to the audio examples several times before beginning the exercise.
Try to internalize the beat. If you can, tap your foot on the beat. You may find it
easier to memorize these rhythms once you are comfortable with them, especially for
faster tempos.

1. Practice counting with the example


2. Set your metronome to a moderate tempo
3. Practice counting the example aloud without the audio
4. Set your metronome to a faster tempo
5. Practice counting to a faster tempo
6. Once you are comfortable with this rhythm, try the exercise while tapping
your foot on the beat

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6/8 Exercise

Kodály: Basics
So far we have discussed how to use a simple count chant method to understand
rhythms, from basic quarter and eighth note patterns to more complex rhythms
involving 16th notes, triplets and compound meter.
Now we will explore an alternative way, used in the Kodály Method. This is a full
approach to developing key musicianship skills developed by Hungarian composer
Zoltán Kodály in the early 20th Century. The Kodály Method is both educational and
fun, using a combination of singing, folk music, solfège, and practical sequencing to
teach key skills like reading notation and developing ear training. When learning
rhythm in the Kodály Method, the musician uses simple syllables to represent key
rhythms. These exercises have been proven to work for half a century and now you
too can use these simple principles to learn rhythm.

Note: There are various systems used for speaking rhythms based on syllable patterns
and more than one definition of the "Kodály" method. In this module we will present
one particular system which is reliable and useful.

Background: Who was Zoltán Kodály?

The world-renowned composer Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) believed strongly in


developing musicianship at an early age. A multi-talented composer whose work
stretched into regional ethnomusicology, music education, and full scale orchestral
composition, he developed the Kodály Method to “liberate the mind” through
teaching young children music, primarily through singing. His method delved into
many aspects of music theory, singing, and rhythm, and Kodály wrote countless
pedagogical works for young children.

“The characteristics of a well-trained musician are a well-trained ear, a well-trained


mind, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand. All four parts must develop
together in contact equilibrium.”

– Zoltán Kodály

His strong musical principles, rooted deep in classical Greek education, touched every
area of his life, and compelled Kodály to spend a great part of his time teaching
children the value of music from a very early age.

Speak Rhythms with the Kodály Method

Below you will see a chart detailing how to speak out rhythms using simple name
syllables. For example, when counting a quarter note, you will say “ta” or when
speaking a series of 16th notes you will read “tika-tika”.
Don't worry about memorising all these syllables right now, you'll learn them as we
go through the exercises below.

Listen to the example below. In this example, the musician speaks a very simple
rhythm using the Kodály Method. One clear benefit of the Kodály Method over the
traditional count chant method is that the syllables actually sound like the rhythm they
represent and hold out the same amount of time. This means there's less need for
tapping out the beat with your foot while you speak the rhythms to know where to
place each note: speak the right syllables and the notes should automatically occur
with the right timing.

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Simple Example

Much more complex notation can also be read using the Kodály symbols, as you'll
discover below.

Exercise 1: Counting Quarter Notes and 8th Notes

In this first example you will count out quarter note and 8th note rhythms. Notice that
you do not count out the quarter rests in this example. You only count the actual
notes.

1. Play the audio sample several times


2. Practice counting with the audio sample
3. Count out the rhythm without the audio sample
4. If you can, practice tapping your foot in time as you count the rhythm
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Exercise 1

Exercise 2: Counting 16th Notes

In this example you will practice counting 16th notes. Take your time reviewing the
Kodály Rhythm Symbol chart before practicing this example. The system uses the
syllables “ti-ka” to represent a pair of sixteenth notes, to make it easier to say. When it
comes to rhythms with sixteenth notes, it’s easier to think in terms of patterns of
syllables, rather than individual syllables for each note length.

It may take a little bit of time to familiarize yourself with the different syllables for
quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th notes. Be sure that you count these rhythms out
loud. Hearing yourself count these rhythms will help you train your ears to connect
your listening skills with written notation.

1. After reviewing the rhythm symbol chart, play the audio sample
2. Practice counting with the audio sample
3. Count out the rhythm without the audio sample
4. If you can, practice tapping your foot in time as you count the rhythm

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Exercise 2

Exercise 3: More Advanced Practice

In this final example, you will practice counting the rhythm using the Kodály Method
for a longer period of time. Be sure that you are familiar with the rhythm names
before reading out the samples.

1. Play the audio sample several times


2. Practice counting with the audio sample
3. Count out the rhythm without the audio sample
4. Tap your foot in time with the beat as you count the rhythm again

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Exercise 3
Everyday Practice

You can start applying this Kodály rhythm method to your everyday music practice.
Look over rhythms that you encounter on popular sheet music. Write out the Kodály
rhythm names under the rhythms and practice saying them out loud.

As you listen to music on the radio, sing a favorite song, or jam out on your
instrument, take the time to identify the rhythms that you are playing. Did you just
play a quarter note or a string of 16ths? Using the Kodály Method, count out the
syllables out loud, then try to notate the rhythms. Continue applying these skills every
day!

Kodály: Syncopation
Syncopated rhythms and swung beats tend to be the more challenging rhythmic
patterns for musicians to read. For example, could you immediately clap or play this
rhythm? Could you speak it out?

You've already learned how to approach syncopation with the count chant method.
Now let's see how the Kodály Method handles speaking syncopated rhythms. Here's
our syllable chart again for reference:
Let’s return to the notation example above. While the rhythm may seem very
complicated at first, by breaking up the different notes and applying Kodály rhythm
syllables, translating the rhythm becomes easier:

Now that we have written in the syncopated rhythm names, we can practice counting
this rhythm out loud. Listen to the audio example a few times. Familiarize yourself
with the syllables for each note. Try to count along with the audio clip.

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Syncopation example

Exercise 1: Syncopation and 16th notes

In this example you will practice transitioning from a simple 16th note rhythm to a
more complex syncopated rhythm using the Kodály Method. You may need to listen
to the example several times. Remember that it is better to practice at your own pace
than to fly through these exercises and that continued practice will yield the best
results.

This exercise uses a modified version of “chunking” which means taking a longer
rhythm and breaking it up into its separate components. This is a very common way
of learning new skills from music to language art skills and mathematics. By breaking
a longer exercise into its smaller parts and learning the smaller parts first, the longer
exercise becomes less daunting. We'll begin with a simple 16th note rhythm and then
move to a syncopated rhythm like the one we looked at above.
1. Go through the rhythm and try to label the notes with the correct Kodály syllables
2. Try speaking the rhythm
3. If you can, tap your foot along with the beat at the same time
4. Check your spoken rhythm against the labelled version below. Did you get it right?
5. Play the audio sample several times
6. Practice tapping the beat along with the audio sample
7. Practing counting out the rhythm without the audio sample

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Exercise 1
How did you do on this exercise? If you need more time to learn these rhythms, take
the time to practice with a metronome at various tempos. Tap your foot as you play to
internalize the pulse. Invite a friend to play the rhythms with you or jam out on your
instrument or a set of drums as you count out loud.

Once you feel that you can transition from a 16th note rhythm comfortably to a
syncopated rhythm like the example above, then move on to the next exercise.

Exercise 2: Get Syncopated!

In the last exercise you practiced going from 16th note rhythms to syncopated
rhythms. In this example you will read through a short syncopated rhythm using the
Kodály Method.

Again, before you look at and listen to the labelled version below, try speaking
this rhythm yourself. Then listen and check if you had the timing right.

Compare the rhythms from Exercises 1 and 2. Do you recognize any of the rhythms in
common? Use what you have learned so far of the Kodály Method to understand
which syllables are used for each of these rhythmic patterns.

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Exercise 2

Exercise 3: Rock Rhythm

In this example you will use the Kodály Method to read through a rock rhythm that
uses a combination of simple rhythms and syncopation. You will probably recognize
many of these rhythms from popular music.

Note: The bass drum in this clip might be hard to hear on speakers, so if it sounds like
notes are missing, listen on headphones!

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Rock Rhythm

This kind of rhythm is very common for the bass player, pianist, or drummer in a
band. Other instruments like the low brass or string bass in an orchestra may also play
rhythms like this.

Use your audiation skills and knowledge of the Kodály method to work out the
syllables and imagine the rhythms in your head. Then speak it out loud. Finally listen
to the audio clip and see how your performances matched up.

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Rock Rhythm: Spoken

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Rock Rhythm: Spoken with Drum

Memorise the Kodály syllables and practice using them on rhythm examples like the
ones above and you are well on your way to gaining a powerful tool for understanding
rhythm notation and improving your natural sense of rhythm.

Putting it all together


In this module you have learned two powerful methods for counting out notated
rhythms. With the count chant method you learned how to use simple numbers and
syllables like "ah" and "ee" to count out notation. You also learned about the Kodály
Method and learned how to use syllables like "ti" and "ti-ka" to count syncopated
rhythms using a tried-and-true teaching method.

These two methods let you take rhythms like this:

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Rhythm Example

and apply spoken labels to know immediately how the notated rhythm should sound,
or how the heard rhythm should be written down:

Count Chant
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Rhythm Example: Count Chant

Kodály

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Rhythm Example: Kodály

Now let's apply all the skills you've learned to figure out three different examples that
use common real-world rhythms from rock/pop, jazz, and Latin music.

We will use the method that works best for each particular rhythm. Most musicians
end up using a combination of methods to count, especially depending on the tempo
or what is most familiar to them. Depending on the type of music that you play, you
may find that one method may work better than another for you.

As you have learned in this module, these rhythm-speaking methods can be used both
to write down rhythms you hear, or to perform rhythms you see notated. In the
exercises which follow you can choose to focus on one or other skill by either
listening to the rhythm or looking at the score to begin with. If you find it difficult, try
using both together to understand the rhythm.

Try It: Rock


Exercise 1: Rock/Pop

In this exercise you will practice going from a simple rhythm to a more complex rock
rhythm. Notice the similarity in the different rhythms featured. See if you recognize
any of these musical patterns from commercial music as you practice. If possible,
practice tapping your foot to the pulse as you count out loud. Knowing where the beat
falls as you count out loud will help you develop these advanced music skills.
For this example we will use the Kodály method of counting.

1. Look at the unlabelled score or play the audio sample several times
2. Try to determine the right syllables to use for these rhythms
3. Practice tapping the beat along with the audio sample
4. Speak out the rhythm with and without the audio sample
5. Check your spoken rhythm with the labelled score and audio clip below

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Rock Exercise

Once you're happy with how to speak this rhythm using the Kodály method, check
your answer:
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Rock Exercise (labelled)

Try It: Jazz


Exercise 2: A Little Bit of Jazz

In this rhythm exercise you will practice a moderate swing beat using the count chant
method. Practice tapping your foot to the pulse as you listen the first few times.
Remember in the count chant method you will use syllables like “1-o-let” to count out
triplet rhythms.

A note about notation


This example uses fully notated jazz notation. Triplets are used to notate common
swing beats. In other words, a swung 8th note rhythm will look like this:

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Triplet Rhythm

Many jazz charts instead notate using “straight” rhythm, with a written instruction to
the musician to “swing” the beat or a small indication of how to interpret eighth notes,
as shown below. This simplifies writing for the arranger and is a universally-accepted
way to notate jazz beats. The example above would sound the same but look like this
instead:

For this example we will notate out the full jazz rhythm with triplet patterns instead of
the shortened version.
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Jazz Exercise

As you progress in your rhythm-speaking skills, you will find that you will be able to
move easily between different ways of notating rhythm. Right now focus on learning
how to understand and practice these rhythms.

1. Look at the unlabelled score or play the audio sample several times
2. Try to determine the right syllables to use for these rhythms
3. Practice tapping the beat along with the audio sample
4. Speak out the rhythm with and without the audio sample
5. Check your spoken rhythm with the labelled score and audio clip below
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Jazz Exercise (labelled)

Try It: Latin


Exercise 3: Taste of Latin

For this exercise you will practice using the count chant method for more complex
syncopated rhythms of Latin music based loosely on the son clave and Afro-Cuban
rhythms. The music of the African diaspora and Latin American delve deeply into the
most complex of rhythms, often exploring polyrhythms and syncopations that can
make your head spin!

Here we demonstrate a few relatively simple rhythms that you might encounter in
Latin music.
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Latin Exercise

1. Look at the unlabelled score or play the audio sample several times
2. Try to determine the right syllables to use for these rhythms
3. Practice tapping the beat along with the audio sample
4. Speak out the rhythm with and without the audio sample
5. Check your spoken rhythm with the labelled score and audio clip below
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Latin Exercise

Try It: Jam Time


Exercise 4: Jam Time

Now that you have practiced several common rhythms, you can practice improvising
to the some of the rock rhythms from the first exercise. In this exercise you will apply
what you have learned to performance skills.
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Jam Track

1. Listen to the audio sample or look at the score


2. Try to figure out the right count chant or Kodály syllables to use
3. Practice counting the beat out loud with the drums
4. Tap your foot as you count
5. Improvise on your instrument matching the rhythm, or tap it out with drumsticks
6. Speak out the rhythm as you play
7. Download the track and repeat the exercise regularly
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Jam Track (labelled)

Conclusion
Now you should feel confident about using both the count chant and Kodály methods
of speaking rhythms. You might not be totally fluent yet, particularly with the more
advanced rhythms. It will take regular practice over time to really master this and
develop it into an automatic instinct.

Continue practicing these exercises and similar ones as part of your everyday music
routine.

Here are some more exercises you can use to help you learn:
1. Take a favorite nursery rhyme and practice “singing” the rhythms using the
Kodály rhythm names instead of the lyrics.
2. Take your sheet music and write the Kodály or count chant syllables under the
rhythm. Practice the rhythm out loud.
3. Take turns practicing notating syncopated rhythms with a friend.
4. Make up a short rhythm and write it down. Or write a rhythm example and
then try speaking it out with syllables.
5. Listen to a favorite song on the radio and try to figure out the rhythm using
Kodály or count chant.

Introduction
Get your rhythm skills onto a solid foundation by first connecting with the beat, then
practising core rhythm principles like the pulse, the downbeat, upbeat, and tempo with
the examples and exercises in this module.

Connect with the Beat

For drummers and many musicians, finding the beat is as easy as checking your
heartbeat or breathing, but not everyone picks up on the pulse so easily. Maybe you’re
that guy who can’t hear the rhythm and has two left feet, or the girl who always finds
herself clapping on beats 1 and 3-ish when everyone else is jamming out on 2 and 4.
Maybe you are a singer who has perfect pitch but can’t find beat 1...

Clap Power

Clapping hands stimulates the senses, body, and brain, and helps you make the beat a
part of yourself. Clapping in time takes ear training skills and a little bit of practice,
but it’s not impossible for anyone to learn, however alien it might seem to you at first.

Let’s practice the basics of clapping in time step-by-step:

1. Learn how to listen and truly hear what is around you


2. Learn how to sense rhythms in your environment
3. Clap basic rhythms
4. Apply basic clapping to simple instrumental excerpts like the drums, keys, and bass
5. Learn about clapping on “2 and 4” and “1 and 3”
6. Learn how to clap along with a song

How to Listen

The first step to clapping in time is learning how to listen, really listen.

What this means is that in your everyday life, you take the time to listen and use your
ears to extract sounds - specific sounds.

Exercise 1. Quiet

There is rhythm all around you. This can be anything from the sounds of traffic and
the city to the quiet of the woods, to the rushing and cyclical pounding of ocean
waves on the shore. Birds, insects, weather… all have rhythm. Learning how to
discern different pulses within a greater soundscape will help you learn how to
properly clap in time and find the beat.

For this first exercise, you will take ten minutes to simply sit still and listen. As you
sit:

1. Listen for sounds around you


2. Try to pull out specific rhythms you might hear in your environment
3. See if there is a steady beat, like a backing truck or the chirping of a grasshopper,
that you can try to lightly tap your hand in sync with what you hear

As you learn to hear the pulse in your environment, you will be better able to hear it
in a piece of music.

Feel the Pulse

Nearly every civilization and society have developed some sort of percussive rhythm
in their music, even if they have been isolated from modern society for all time. Part
of this is that we have an intrinsic rhythm in our bodies through our heartbeat, even
our breathing.

Pulse Point
Exercise 2. Heartbeat

For this exercise:

1. Find your pulse on your wrist or neck


2. Start counting with your heartbeat 1-2-3-4
3. Tap your foot along with your heartbeat
4. For a variation, stand up and jog, doing a few jumping jacks, or walk briskly and
repeat the exercise
5. How has your heartbeat changed?

What does this have to do with real music?

Musical pieces often have several layers of rhythm competing for our attention.
Sensitizing ourselves to the pulses in our bodies and environment allows us to ground
ourselves in the sound and feeling of a steady beat before we enter into that more
rhythmically intensified world.

Clapping in Time to Real Music


Now let’s move on from the stripped-down examples and see how this all works in
real music:

Eye of the Tiger

If you listen to “Eye of the Tiger” below, starting at [0:26], you can hear a very basic
quarter note rhythm in the drums that continues throughout the entire song.

Exercise 1: Clapping with “Eye of the Tiger”

The drum part is very basic. You can hear the bass drum and snare drum rhythm
isolated here:

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Eye of the Tiger Drums


1. Listen to “Eye of the Tiger”
2. Starting at 0:26, listen specifically to the drum set part
3. If you can, tap your foot to the basic 4/4 rhythm
4. Count 1-2-3-4 with the drum part
5. Clap as you count

Exercise 2: Clapping on beats 2 and 4

While you are listening, you may have noticed that the snare drum part falls on beats
2 and 4. In many pop, rock, hip hop, and even jazz tunes, the snare drum or
tambourine falls on beats 2 and 4. In fact, most of the time, when you clap along with
a popular tune on the radio, you will want to clap on beats 2 and 4, not on beats 1 and
3 (don’t be that guy!):

1. Listen to the Example below


2. Count out loud
3. Practice clapping on beats 2 and 4
4. After you have done this, go back to “Eye of the Tiger” and try clapping on beats 2
and 4 along with the snare drum

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Eye of the Tiger Drums

More Practice

You can practice clapping on beats 2 and 4 every time you turn on the radio. There
are many examples of pop and rock songs especially that have a clear drum part that
will help you find the pulse and clap on beats 2 and 4.

Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” is another great example of clapping on beats 2 and 4.
Check it out:

Now, not all genres have the audience clapping on beats 2 and 4. There are many
popular folk genres where beats 1 and 3 are emphasized or even every beat, but in
most popular music cases, you will want to clap on beats 2 and 4.
For example, in this Americana Bluegrass video, you would clap on every beat, not
just two and four.

Still Struggling? Call a Friend!

So far you have practiced listening to rhythm and beats in your environment, picking
out simple drum parts in tunes, and clapping along with a drum set. If you find that
you have been struggling with the exercises up to this point, take some time to
practice these exercises with a friend. Sometimes practicing with someone else will
help you develop your own skills.

And don’t worry if they struggle as much as you do or if they are a clapping-in-time
superstar. Either way, working together will help your musical skills!

Clapping with Instruments


Now that you are comfortable clapping with simple drum beats, let’s move on to
clapping with instruments like keys or the bass. In many popular tunes, the bass, keys,
guitar, and drum set (often called the rhythm section) have similar rhythms. If you can
pick out the drum part, you can usually pick out the keyboard or bass drum rhythms
since they are all interrelated.

First, listen to the full track “Elektron”. This track was created with a very heavy
emphasis on the basic pulse. You might be able to sense the constant 1-2-3-4 pushing
the track forward:

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Elektron

Exercise 1: Listening Exercise

As you listen, try to pick out the following parts with your ears:

1. The drum set


2. The bassline
3. The piano

Clapping in time to this track may seem difficult, but let’s give it a try by breaking
down some of the key parts of the rhythm section.
Drums

The easiest part to pick out of “Elektron” is the drum part, which is based on the
earlier drum set part from “Eye of the Tiger”.

Exercise 2: Clapping with the Drums

Listen to the Drum Track with Click:

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Drum Track with Click

1. Tap your foot or clap with the click track


2. Listen to how the drum set part lines up to the basic pulse of the beat
3. Isolate the snare drum part
4. Listen for how the snare drum is on beats 2 and 4 in this excerpt
5. Clap along with the snare drum

Now, just using the drum set part as your guide, listen to the Rhythm Section part of
“Elektron”.
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Rhythm Section Track with Click

1. Listen to the drum part


2. Clap in time to the drums as you listen to the full Rhythm Section

Practice clapping with the drum part on 1-2-3-4 with the Rhythm Section excerpt.
When you feel comfortable, go back to the original track and see if you can clap along
with the drums. If you can, congratulations!

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Elektron - Full Arrangement

You have learned how to clap in time! Keep reading for more clapping practice.

Clapping Exercise Challenges

For a deeper understanding of how the different instruments interact with the beat,
clap along with the more varied parts of the rhythm section: the keyboards and the
bass.

Clap with the Keys

Many times the rhythm section of a song will have very similar patterns. In this case,
the piano part plays on beats 2 and 4 with the snare drum part. In this exercise you
will practice clapping on beats 2 and 4. (The score is provided for music readers, but
you do not have to know how to read music to complete this exercise.)

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Piano Track with Click

1. Clap only on beats 2 and 4 with the piano


2. If you find that it is difficult to maintain the offbeat pattern, tap your foot with the
pulse on beats 1-2-3-4

Clap with the Bass

If you have mastered clapping in time to the “Elektron” drum set and keyboard parts,
challenge yourself by clapping in time to the bassline. The bassline for “Elektron”
uses a combination of quarter notes and eighth notes. If you need extra help with
reading rhythms, check out the Reading Rhythms module.

In this example, you will practice clapping in time to quarter notes and 8th notes.

1. Listen to the example several times


2. If you can read music, follow along with the notation
3. Clap with the click track
4. Listen to how the bass line 8th notes fit with the click track (2 8th notes per beat)

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Bass Track with Click

Listening Challenge

1. Listen to “Elektron” several times


2. Clap on beats 1-2-3-4
3. Clap on beats 2 and 4 with the snare drum and keys
4. Use your ears to hear the bass line while still clapping 1-2-3-4

Clap On and Connect with the Beat

Now you have the basics that you need to clap in time. As you become more
comfortable with easier pop and rock songs, move on to other genres like jazz or hip
hop. With some practise, you will soon be a clapping champion!

Now that you feel confident clapping along to the beat and meter of the music, you
will have made powerful pulse connection that will never leave, and form the
foundation of all your future rhythmic understandings.
Introduction
This module is designed to help you get comfortable and fluent with reading and
writing rhythms with traditional score notation.

If you are not familiar with the symbols used for quarter, 8th and 16th notes and rests
you should study the "Learn" rhythm modules before continuing.

In each lesson you will be introduced to the rhythm elements being used. Check that
you are confident in recognising their symbol and duration. If you are using the Speak
Rhythms methods you should also confirm that you understand the corresponding
way to speak out those kinds of rhythm.

Each lesson has three difficulty levels: "Easy", "Medium" and "Hard":

 The "Easy" rhythms are about one bar long and played at 60 BPM.
 The "Medium" rhythms are about two bars long and played at 80 BPM.
 The "Hard" rhythms are about two bars long and played at 100 BPM.

You will see examples of each difficulty level which you can use to freshen up your
skills and make sure you're ready for the lesson's quizzes.

Then take the three quizzes to check your abilities!

Note: It's important to take your time with these. At first you may find you
immediately know the right answer for the easy examples. However, as the rhythms
get more complex you may find you need to clap along with the beat, speak out the
rhythm, and take a bit more time to figure out the timing.

Go slowly and think them through. This process of "working out a rhythm" will
gradually turn into that "obvious right answer" instinct and soon you will be able to
recognise even more complex rhythms directly.

Quarter Note Rhythms


In this lesson you will practise rhythms which use the following rhythmic patterns:

Quarter notes:
Quarter note rests:

Examples

Here are some example rhythms. You can use these in two ways:

1. Listen to the clip, and try to work out the rhythm.


Write it down. Speak it out as an intermediate step if that helps.

Or, scroll down and then:

2. Read the score and then speak it out or try to play it on your instrument.

Easy

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Example 1

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Example 2

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Example 3

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Example 4

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Example 5

Example 1:
Example 2:

Example 3:

Example 4:
Example 5:

Medium

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Example 1

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Example 2

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Example 3
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Example 4

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Example 5

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Example 6

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Example 7
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Example 2:

Example 3:
Example 4:

Example 5:

Example 6:
Example 7:

Hard

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Example 1

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Example 2

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Example 3
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Example 4

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Example 5

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Example 6

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Example 7
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Example 2:

Example 3:
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Example 5:

Example 6:
Example 7:

Universal Rhythms
Module Status: Not Started

Apply your rhythm skills to identify, notate, and practice popular global rhythms
including Rock, Pop, Jazz, and Latin beats.

After completing this module: you will be able to play and notate popular rhythms
from around the world.

Introduction
In this module we'll cover some common rock rhythms used in popular music.
Besides these common rhythms in pop and rock music, a complex globalization of
musical rhythm has taken place. From Korean pop to world fusion to Latin jazz,
music today enjoys a wide variety of stylistic influences from all over the world.
Technology has accelerated this trend, with musicians collaborating and sharing
music quickly at the click of a mouse.

This means that to have good rhythm skills as a modern musician means being
familiar with the classic Western rock/pop beats as well as a wide variety of global
rhythms.

Explore

Explore some of the more popular musical rhythms from around the world from jazz
and Latin American music. In this module you will learn about:

1. Classic rock rhythms


2. Swing and straight rhythms
3. Syncopation in Latin music
4. Afro-Latin rhythms
5. Popular Brazilian rhythms
6. Recognizable dance, rock, and pop beats

Why Learn Popular and Global Rhythms?

Learning classic rhythms and rhythms from around the world not only gives
musicians a much more eclectic musical tool box, but allows them to experience the
universality of music. Practice these rhythms, add them to your daily improv and jam
sessions, and integrate them into your mixes. Apply the rhythm skills you have
learned so far to these exciting sounds.

Meet the Drum Kit


Let's Groove

A great drum groove is the foundation of popular music, but a surprising number of
music lovers can’t tell a snare from a hi-hat. Before we move on in this module to
exciting rock, pop, and world beats, let's make sure you're familiar with the classic
drum kit.

Being able to identify parts of a drum kit doesn’t just improve your appreciation of
music, it’s also a great skill to have at your disposal when songwriting, allowing you
to explain your ideas to your drummer or program a groove into a drum machine with
something better than trial and error.

The Drumkit

Let's start by taking a look at a typical rock kit:


1. Hi-Hat
2. Ride
3. Crash
4. Splash
5. China
6. Snare
7. Bass Drum
8. Tom Tom

It may look pretty complicated, but we can soon break it down. At the end of this
lesson you should be able to name all the common parts of a drum kit by sight and by
sound.
Cymbals

Cymbals are hammered and lathed from bronze. They consist of two parts – a central
raised cup called the bell and the main body of the cymbal called the bow. Cymbals
fulfil two main functions: riding (A steady, typically 8th-note, beat defining the pulse)
and accenting.

Cymbals vary a huge amount in sound depending on their exact composition, shape
and manufacture technique. Careful selection of cymbals has a much larger impact on
music’s sound than drums (where tuning is more important). In general jazz players
favour darker sounding cymbals with irregular hammering patterns to produce
complex overtones while rock and metal players favour clean, bright sounding
cymbals to cut through distorted guitars.

Hi-Hat

The hi-hat (1) is the most versatile cymbal in a drummer’s arsenal. It consists of two
cymbals of around 14″ in diameter which can be clashed together using a pedal-
operated clutch. The hi-hat evolved by taking the low-hat (a pedal driven device used
to bring two orchestral clash cymbals together) and modifying it to raise the cymbals
to a playable height.

The pedal can be used to splash the cymbals, or for a tight sound:

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High Hat Pedal Splash

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High Hat Pedal Tight

Riding a tightly clenched high hat provides a crisp “chk”, perfect for a pop verse.

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Hi-Hat Cymbal: Closed

Relaxing the pedal so the hats sizzle and clash gives an aggressive sound for quarter-
note rock riding and accents.

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Hi-Hat Cymbal: Open

Hi-hat playing can be very expressive. Funk/disco grooves often feature the
characteristic “shh” sound of the hi-hat pedal opening and closing to the beat heard
here with the bass drum.

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Hi-Hat Cymbal: Pattern

Ride

The ride cymbal (2) is usually the largest and heaviest cymbal (typically between 18″-
22″ in diameter). As its name suggests it is almost exclusively used for ride patterns.
The ride cymbal produces a “ping” at stick contact followed by a wash of sound. A
drummer will typically switch to the ride in a chorus to fill out the sound.

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Ride Cymbal: Bow

Striking the bell turns the “ping” to a “clang”, reducing the wash and is commonly
used for accenting and quarter note ride patterns in hard rock.

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Ride Cymbal: Bell

Riding the edge of the cymbal is known as crash riding and removes most of the
“ping” for an expansive wash, which may be overwhelming in all but a hard rock
chorus or jazz break.

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Ride Cymbal: Edge

Crash and Splash

Crash (3) and Splash (4) cymbals are principally used for accenting. The only
difference between splash, crash and ride is size, with a splash typically 8″-12″ and
crash 14″-20″ (indeed the renowned rock drummers John Bonham and Taylor
Hawkins both used light rides as crash cymbals). Unlike the ride and hi-hat,
drummers often have multiple crashes for different tones and strength of accent.

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Crash Cymbal: Example 1

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Crash Cymbal: Example 2

In drum patterns the crash is almost always played in conjunction with the bass drum
to reinforce the sound. The splash is used for subtler accents without the bass drum
and is not used by all drummers.

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Splash Cymbal: Example


China and FX

The China or Pang (5) is a harsh, trashy-sounding cymbal with a flared rim which
produces a huge explosion of sound. It is used for strong accents and occasionally
used as a ride for extreme metal styles.

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China Cymbal: Example

There are also numerous FX cymbals available with holes, rivets and chains attached
to produce lo-fi sounds or simulate electronic break beats.

Drums

Drums are made of a wood or metal shell with a taught skin (in reality made of Mylar,
as real skin is a difficult to tune) stretched over each end. The top or batter head is
struck with a stick and the bottom or resonant head vibrates in sympathy. The pitch of
the note produced is determined by the tension of the head and the size of the drum (A
larger drum will create a lower tone).

Something that often surprises non-drummers is that there is no one right way to tune
a drum. It’s a very personal thing and an expertly-tuned beginners kit will outshine a
lazily-tuned professional kit. Rock drummers will typically use large drums slackened
to the lowest pitch before becoming deadened while jazz drummers favour smaller
sizes and a tighter, more tonal tuning.

The Snare
The Snare Drum (6) is typically 14″ in diameter and has tight metal wires or snares on
the resonant head which slap back against the skin when struck producing a whip
crack sound. The snare drum sits between the drummers knees. In a rock pattern the
snare provides the all important back beat on beats 2 and 4.

When recorded the snare is usually damped and processed to sound tighter and
punchier.

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Snare Drum: Processed

The snare can be struck so the stick contacts the rim as well as the skin for a rim shot
a popular jazz accent:

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Snare Drum: Rimshot

Laying the stick on the head and dropping it onto the rim produces a click called a
sidestick, great for reggae:

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Snare Drum: Sidestick


The snare is the most versatile and expressive drum. Listen to how these subtle off
beat ‘ghost’ notes combine with the hi-hat to add colour to this groove:

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Snare Drum: Ghost Notes Example

The Bass Drum

The bass or kick drum (7) is the largest and deepest drum. It is played with a felt
beater attached to a pedal. The bass drum provides the thump that punches you in the
gut on the 1 and 3 of a rock beat. The bass drum is usually heavily muffled with
pillows or blankets to make it sound punchy:

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Bass Drum: Example

Heavy metal often features brutally fast kick drum patterns played with both feet:

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Bass Drum: Metal Pattern

Tom Toms
Tom Toms (8) are come in a variety of sizes. Kits usually have two or three, but may
have as many as ten! Smaller toms from 8″-13″ are called rack toms and are
suspended from stands:

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Tom Tom Drum: High

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Tom Tom Drum: Mid

Larger and deeper toms from 14″-18″ are called floors and produce a much lower
tone:

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Tom Tom Drum: Low

If you listen carefully you can sometimes hear a pitch bend on the decay of the note.
This occurs when the two heads are tuned differently. (Listen to the verse groove of
“Song 2″ by Blur for a great example of this).

Toms are occasionally used for ride pattens, but mostly for fills where they are
usually played from high to low along with the snare drum.

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Tom Tom Drum: Fill

Putting It All Together

We have listened to the separate components of a drum kit, but the fun part is using
what we have learned to get more enjoyment from great drum grooves. Try listening
to this drum instrumental which uses all of the kit and see if you can use your new
skills to identify the sounds you hear.

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Drumkit Example

We have only really scratched the surface of what a drum kit can be and the sounds it
can produce. See what parts you can identify in the rest of the lessons.
Frank Zappa's drummer Terry Bozzio rocked on this sick kit.

Rock on with Popular Rhythms


Learning common beats is a lot like learning the ABCs of music. Learn how to
recognize common rhythmic patterns for popular musical styles like rock, pop, jazz,
and Latin music, and play back these rhythms using your listening skills with the easy
examples below. Combining notation knowledge with musical training will help you
develop strong musical rhythm skills.

Common Rock and Pop Patterns

Below are common rhythmic patterns that you can learn for your instrument. While
these examples are based on common drum set rhythms, you can apply most of these
rhythms to other instruments and vocals.

For each rhythm example, practice your musical skills by:

1. Listen to the rhythm


2. Follow the rhythm notation
3. Count out the basic pulse (“1, 2, 3, 4”)
4. Clap or tap the rhythm
5. Play on your instrument or sing along on neutral syllables

Classic Rock Beats

While modern rock variations are more likely to include double bass pedals, extreme
syncopation, and dizzying coordination between limbs, learning this basic pattern can
help you with any instrument, most notably percussion, piano, bass, and any rhythm
section instrument, which often holds the band together. If you are a vocalist or lead
instrumentalist, it can help to know these basic patterns to develop a strong sense of
pulse and the downbeat during your melody or solo.

Basic Bass Drum (or Bass Rhythm) Pattern

This basic pattern is often played in the bass drum, the lowest synth, the bass, or in the
left hand of the piano part. You can hear a metronome keeping the time with a steady
"click" in the background.

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Classic Rock BD

To complete this pattern for a drum set, you will often hear claps/tambourine/snare on
beats 2 and 4 and a steady 8th note or 16th note rhythm in the high hat (sometimes
doubled in maracas or other percussion instruments, a variation on guitar, or a higher
synth/piano part).

Practice counting this rhythm and play along to gain a strong sense of beats 2 and 4.
For variation, quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th note patterns are played on beats 2
and 4. Try practicing clapping on beats 2 and 4 first, then practice these variation
rhythms.

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Classic Rock SD

This is the entire classic rock pattern with bass drum, snare drum, and high hat
playing simple 8th note patterns. The three patterns are notated below. While in
regular sheet music, the pattern would be consolidated into one staff, or even notated
“Rock Style” slashed measures, the patterns in this example have been separated to
help you read the notes easier.
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Classic Rock FULL

Listen

You can find these patterns and variations of this simple classic rock pattern in both
pop and rock music today and from the past.

Classic 80s pop pattern by Toni Basil: Mickey (Director’s Cut)

1950s Rock Pattern

In this 1950s rock beat, you can hear some variations in the popular pattern in both
the bass and drumset rhythms. Listen to Summer School Rock, tap the rhythms, and
play along. Compare the rhythms you have learned to what you hear.

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"Summer School Rock" 1950s Rock Patterns (from the Popular Progressions
Module)
More Common Rhythms

You can hear basic rock patterns in the drumset and bass lines throughout Elton's
Journey starting at 00:27. Try tapping along with the drums or bass.

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"Elton's Journey" Rock Patterns (from the Classic Chords Module)

Modern Pop Example

Now that you probably can sing this pattern in your sleep, use your
musicianship skills to pick out similar rhythms in other modern songs like this. Listen
to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and notice how the simple bass drum pattern hits
primarily on beats 1 and 3 and how several percussion instruments play along on
beats 2 and 4, with a syncopated version of the straight 8ths.

"Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke

If It Ain't Got that Swing

"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing"


- Duke Ellington
What’s a “swung beat”?

The basic rules of rhythm say that a sequence of the same kind of note (e.g. quarter,
eighth, crotchet, quaver) will each have the same duration, creating a steady beat. For
a march, the quarter notes are used to coincide with footsteps, so it’s essential they
stay regular!

Here’s an example of this normal, steady beat, using eighth notes:

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Straight 8s example

Handy for marching, but the early jazz musicians decided that the regular beat was
just too straight, and they livened it up by ‘swinging’ it: pairing up notes, and
‘stealing’ some time from the second note to add to the first, creating a ‘long/short,
long/short, long/short…’ rhythm:

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With a little swing

Often you will just find that simple text instruction, to ‘swing’ the beat: “Swung”,
“With a slight swing”, “Slow swing”, “Medium swing”. It’s up to you and your ear to
know how to change the rhythm accordingly!
If a composer wants to be more precise about it, they could actually spell out the
rhythm they wanted. Here are a couple of examples:

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Swung rhythm examples

The first example is a slight swing using triplets, the second quite a heavy swing using
‘dotted’ notes. It’s important to understand that these are the kind of rhythms which
actually underlie the instinctive ‘swing’ beat. This lets you connect what you hear
with the theory, and traditional music notation.

You will soon start noticing that mainstream music often follows the same rhythmic
patterns, with minimal changes like adding in extra beats, omitting beats, or
incorporating syncopation.

Notice that the notated example below has a "swung" pattern and that the notation is
not strictly followed. You will find that jazz rhythms allow much for interpretation
and that each musician interprets the rhythms differently, adding in their own artistic
style. You can hear in the example below how some notes are emphasized with strong
accents and some rhythms are swung a little heavier than others.
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Jazz Swing Basic

Dance Rhythms
Basic Dance Music

From Disco to Techno, the beats in dance music are pretty standard, with a solid
pounding beat that moves you to dance. Listen to this simple example, clap along,
then listen out for how this same beat is used across a variety of musical styles. Notice
some of the subtle difference, like the high hat on the offbeat in disco or how music
from multiple cultures adds syncopation to the rhythm.

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Basic Rhythm

Listen

You can hear this type of beat at 1:40 in the musical example Body Crash below:
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"Body Crash" (from the Introducing Intervals module)

The drumset plays the basic rhythm with synths playing very basic rhythms in a
moderate 4/4. The high hat sounds play a simple 16th note rhythm over the basic beat
with a slight autopan function that moves the sounds from one ear to the other rapidly.
There is a slight accelerando at the end. You can hear the tempo speed up. In dance
music, the rhythm often is very constant, but variations in rhythm, tempo,
synthesizers, and instrumentation create interest for the listener.

In Lady Robotika, you can hear how many artists today apply the same basic dance
rhythms in popular music. The repetitive nature of dance rhythm may seem boring
after several listens, but when remixed by a DJ in a club, more complex rhythms can
be created.

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"Lady Robotika" (from the Classic Chords module)

Disco

You can hear a classic example of dance in disco, the precursor to today's hottest
dance music.

The Trammps - Disco Inferno

As you learn the basic rhythms, use your listening skills to guess the rhythms in your
favorite tunes. We covered just a few basic rhythms, but there are literally dozens of
standard rhythms that you can learn!

Listen to Latin Syncopation


Listen

In this example, you will be listening to a Latin music clip. In Latin music like
merengue and salsa, the percussion instruments, piano, and bass line all work together
to make an incredible intricate rhythmic web. In the clips below you will hear all of
the different Latin percussion instruments solo. Then you will hear the full track
(repeated once for a total of eight measures).

1. Follow with the musical notation


2. Try to tap or clap the different rhythmic lines
3. Listen to the full track and try to tap the rhythm with the all of the instruments
playing

Triangle

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Triangle

Maracas

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Maracas

Congas

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Congas

Bongos

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Bongos

Agogo Bell
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Agogo Bell

All Together Now

After you have mastered all of the rhythms above, listen to the full track below.
Follow the notation. Then take turns playing along with each of the instrument parts
in turn. Once you are comfortable with these complex rhythms, pick up your
instrument and create a melody that follows the different rhythmic patterns. If you are
a vocalist, improvise a simple melodic line over the complex rhythms, occasionally
incorporating syncopation into your melodic line.

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Latin Percussion Full

More Syncopation Practice

Feel comfortable with these complex Latin rhythms? Then call a friend over. Each of
you take a different rhythm part above and take turns playing the rhythm and
improvising over the syncopation.

Afro-Latin Rhythms in Cuban Music


Background

To understand the development of Afro-Latin music, it is very important to have a


good knowledge of history and how things came about in Latin America. We use the
term Afro-Latin to describe types of music from Latin American countries that were
influenced by the black slave population that came from Africa and was forced to
establish itself mostly in major port cities. When the slaves were brought over, the
only thing they really could bring with them was culture; whether it was music, dance
or religious beliefs, they attempted to preserve as much of their rich cultural heritage
as possible in their new country. This led to very interesting musical developments, as
Latin American countries found themselves to be a melting pot of native individuals,
slaves and European colonies.

What we refer to as Afro-Latin music is simply music that evolved due to various
cultures being immersed with one another, influencing one another musically.

Afro-Latin Music: Cuba

Afro-Latin music in Cuba has its roots in four distinct African cultures: the Bantu,
Yoruba, Dahomey and the Carabali. All four of these cultures mostly used drums to
perform particular rhythms associated to religious ceremonies or cultural events. As
slaves were forced to travel to Cuba, they brought elements from these four distinct
tribes. From there, music in Cuba evolved in specific genres including Son, Rumba
and Salsa, amongst others.

Son Clave Rhythm

In the previous lesson Latin Syncopation you encountered some common rhythms in
Latin music. You can hear some of these rhythms in other Latin music styles. Much
of Afro-Cuban music is built on a rhythm called the son clave:

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Son Clave Rhythm

There are other versions of the son clave that you might hear, including the rumba
clave and the reversed son clave. These rhythms are often the glue that keeps the
various Afro-Cuban beats together in dance styles like salsa.

All three clave variations:

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3 Clave Rhythms

Listen

When you listen to the examples below:


1. Clap the pulse
2. Listen for syncopated rhythms and clap along
3. Improvise using these rhythms on your instrument or with your voice

Son

The Son is a musical style that emerged in Eastern Cuba and gained popularity in the
early 20th century.

There are a few different types of conjuntos (or ensembles) that played son:

 Trio: 3 guitars, or 2 guitars with maracas or clave


 Sexteto: Guitar, tres, bass (or marimbula), bongo, maracas and clave
 Septeto: Same instrumentation as the sexteto, with an added trumpet. This
particular type of ensemble appeared in the late 1920s.

Salsa

Salsa is the evolution of the Son, in many ways. It represents popular music from
Cuba but was also very in demand in New York City in the 1970s, where the term
“salsa” actually came from. Some of the most famous salsa artists include Fania All-
Stars, Willie Colon, Larry Harlow, Eddie Palmieri, etc. The common instrumentation
of salsa bands includes congas, bongo and other percussions, piano, bass, tres, a horn
section and singers.

Rumba

Rumba was developed in two major cities in Cuba: Havana and Matanzas. This
particular music evolved as a way for the slaves to cope with the struggles of the daily
life. There are three main types of Rumba: Yambu, Guaguanco and Columbia.
Outlining the African influences on Cuban music, Rumba is usually played with a
combination of three drums of different sizes, large, medium and small. Just like most
Afro-Latin music, rumba is often performed with dancers.

Rhythms of Brazilian Music


Let's look at two popular styles of Brazilian music: Samba and Bossa Nova.

Samba Music of Brazil

Samba is an umbrella term designing various subgenres of samba. The most well-
known, of course, is Carnival Samba, or Samba de Enredo. Carnival Samba is very
loud and performed by samba schools (community groups performing in the yearly
Carnival celebrations.

Samba de Enredo is associated with the poor Afro-Brazilian population and


considered music of the “street”. It emerged in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1900s.
Much of samba is based on the following rhythm:

Try clapping this rhythm and then find examples of samba music online and see if
you can hear it in use.

Bossa Nova

Also a very popular genre of Brazilian music, the Bossa Nova was a very short-lived
movement from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. Brazilian youth was very influenced
by American musicians such as Frank Sinatra and Stan Kenton – the main name in
Bossa Nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim, along with Joao Gilberto, created a new sound
that would better represent the current musical interests of the upper-class youth of
Brazil.