1.Relative Duration of Sound

Music is made of two basic elements – rhythm and pitch. Rhythm is connected with the relative duration of sound (how short or long one sound is relative to another). Pitch is connected with the relative frequency of sound (how low or high one sound is relative to another). Rhythm are more fundamental than pitch. Rhythm can exist without pitch, whereas pitch cannot exist without rhythm. This is because every pitch, whether high or low, must have a duration or length of time that it is heard for. If it did not have duration, then we would not be able to hear it.  

Another reason why rhythm is more fundamental than pitch is because it is more natural to people. Pitch is divided into two groups: melody and harmony. Melody is an ordered sequence of pitches and harmony is when two or more pitches are heard simultaneously. 

Notating Duration 

In music, we communicate the duration of sound through written symbols called “notes”. There are three basic parts to a note: the note head, the stem and the flag. We are able to alter the duration of a note by changing any of its three parts.  

There are five different types of note durations. The first duration note is called the Whole note or Semibreve. It has no flag and no stem.  

(http://www.liberaldictionary.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/semibreve.png

The whole note is the note of longest duration. 

(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/09/Half_note_with_upwards_stem.svg/461px-Half_note_with_upwards_stem.svg.png

The note above is called a Half note or another word, Minim. It has a note head and a stem. It is called a half note because it is half the duration of a whole note. Because of this, the duration of two half notes is equal to the duration of one whole note. 

The next note is called Quarter note or another word, Crotchet

(https://cdn1.iconfinder.com/data/icons/musical-notes-1/100/Music_Note2-01-512.png)   

A quarter note has a note head colored in and has a stem. It is called a quarter note because it is one quarter the duration of a whole note. Because of this, the duration of four quarter notes is equal to the duration of one whole note.

The following note is called an Eighth note or Quaver. 

(http://www.drumscore.com/images/Lessons/Theory/NoteValues/NoteValues/Quaver.jpg)  

An eighth note has a head which is colored in, a stem and a flag. It is called an eighth note because it is one eighth the duration of a whole note. Because of this, the duration of eight eighth notes are equal to the duration of one whole note. 

The next note is called Sixteenth note or Semiquaver.  

(https://static.thenounproject.com/png/16346-200.png

A sixteenth note has a note head which is colored in, a stem and two flags. It is called a sixteenth note because it is one sixteenth the duration of a whole note. Because of this, the duration of sixteen sixteenth notes are equal to the duration of one whole note.  

As you have probably noticed that each time a flag is added the duration of the note is shortened by one half. (Eighth notes have one flag, sixteenth notes have two flags, thirty-second notes would have three flags, and so on and so forth). 

Very often in music, notes with flags are grouped together. When this happens, the flags are replaced with beams. For example, two eighth notes that are grouped together would be joined with a beam like this. 

(https://www.pngkey.com/png/detail/50-506489_quaver-musical-notes-music-staff-png-clipart-png.png)  

For sixteenth notes that are grouped together would be joined with two beams, like this. 

(https://images.vexels.com/media/users/3/143593/isolated/preview/31c02abff8ad83f6cd9eaa8c33106912-sixteenth-note-by-vexels.png)  

Below you will find a chart of the note durations. It is very important that you recognize the mathematical proportions between the notes. Notice how each type of note is half the duration of the note above it. For example, a sixteenth note is half of an eighth note; and eighth note is half of a quarter note; a quarter is half of a half note; etc.  

(http://www.jazclass.aust.com/rhythmcl/rc1201.gif)

2.Assigning Values to Notes Duration

The Definition of Beats 

People often comment that a song has a nice beat, when what they are referring to is the song’s rhythm. Although beat and rhythm are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Rhythm deals with the relative duration of sound, whereas beat is a unit of measurement.  

When we measure the physical length of a thing, we may do so using different units of measurement, such as inches, feet, miles, etc. Let’s say that we want to measure something using inches. When we do so, we are designating the inch as our unit of measurement by assigning to it a value of “1”. We can apply this same concept of measurement to musical notes; but instead of measuring physical length we will be measuring duration of time.  

Any type of note may be chosen as a unit of measurement if we assign to a value of “1”. By assigning a value of “1” to the quarter note we are designating the quarter note as the “beat” or the “unit of measurement” by which we will measure the duration of all other notes. From the previous chapter, we learned that the duration of a quarter note is one quarter the duration of a whole note. If we assign the value of “1” to the quarter note, the whole note will therefore be equal to a value of “4”. In musical terms, when a quarter note equal to one beat, the whole note equal to four beats.  

Also, if we assign a value of “1” to the quarter note, the half note will therefore be equal to a value of “2”. In musical term, when a quarter note equals one beat, the half note equals two beats. Remember: a half note is not a half of a beat. Its name comes from its relation to the whole note. We also know from the previous chapter that the duration of a quarter note is twice the duration of an eighth note. If we assign a value of “1” to the quarter note, the eighth note will therefore be equal to a value of “1/2”. In musical terms, when a quarter note equals one beat, the eighth note equals ½ of a beat. 

An eighth note is not an eighth of a beat and sixteenth note is not a sixteenth of a beat. Its name comes from its relation to the whole note. We know that the duration of a quarter note is four times the duration of a sixteenth note. If we assign a value of “1” to the quarter note, the sixteenth note will therefore be equal to a value of “1/4”. In musical terms, when a quarter note equals one beat, the sixteenth note equals ¼ of a beat.  

Here is a helpful chart that shows the quarter note as the unit of measurement and its relations to all the other notes.  

Beat Vs. Tempo 

It is a common mistake for beginner music students to associate “1 beat” with “one second” of time. When we assign numerical values to notes we are not designating that they be played for any specific amount of time. The actual time it takes to play a note is determined by something called tempo. Tempo is Italian word for “rate of speed”. When the tempo of a song is quick, the beats will be occurring at a much faster rate and therefore the durations of the notes in actual time will be shorter. When the tempo of a song is slow, the beats will be occurring at a much slower rate and therefore the durations of the notes in actual time will be longer.  

A whole note has a numerical value of four beats, its duration may be longer or shorter depending on how quickly or slowly the beats occur in actual time. When beats occur at a faster rate, the whole note will be played for a shorter period of time.  

The tempo is always indicated above the first measure of music in a song, usually with a metronome marking. (A metronome is a mechanical device that keeps track of musical time.) Here is an example of metronome marking.  

This marking indicates to the performer that they are to play at a rate of 120 “beats per minute” or “BPM”.  

Up until the early 19th century, tempo was indicated with Italian words above the first notes of a song. For example, the word “Allegro” placed at the beginning of a song would to the performer that they have to play quickly. This method is not precise as metronome markings, since the word only give the performer a rough idea of the tempo and does not indicate an exact measurable speed. Here is a list of some common tempo markings.  

Largo = very slow  

Adagio = slow 

Andante = a medium slow tempo 

Moderato = Medium 

Allegretto = Not as fast as allegro 

Allegro = fast 

Presto = very fast 

Prestissimo = very, very fast. 

Here is another list with modern day metronome (beat per minute) equivalents. 

Largo (40-60 bpm) 

Adagio (66-76 bpm) 

Andante (76 – 108 bpm) 

Moderato (101 –110 bpm) 

Allegro (120 – 139 bpm) 

Presto (168 – 200 bpm) 

Prestissimo (over 200 bpm) 

3.Meter

The Definition of Meter 

Rhythm is connected with meter but they are not the same thing. Meter is the natural division of rhythms into equal sized groups. Here is an example of this.

The six quarter notes above can be grouped together in various ways, using what we call “bar lines”. By placing a bar line every two notes, these six notes can be grouped into three sets of two.  

By placing a bar line every three notes, the six notes can be grouped into two sets of three. 

We call the space from one bar line to the next a measure. In the first example there are 3 measures. And in the second example there are only 2 measures. We are measuring time through beats. 

When someone say that a piece of music is “in 3”, it means that there are 3 beats between each bar line (3 beats in each measure). The preceding example is “in 3” because there are 3 beats in each measure. The example before that is “in 2” because there are 2 beats in each measure. (Remember, the quarter note has been designated as the “unit” or “beat”).

It is very important to understand that 2 “beats” per measure does not necessarily mean 2 “notes” per measure. For example, although there is only one note in the second measure above (the half note), it is equal to 2 beats. Therefore, every measure above contains the same number of beats (2) but not the same number of notes.

In the preceding example there are 4 notes in the first measure, 1 note in the second measure, and 2 notes in the last measure. When adding up the total number of each measure, it can be seen that there are 4 beats in each. This is an example of music “in 4”

Time Signatures 

Meter is always indicated at the start of a song by two numbers. We call these two numbers a time signature. 



As you can see from the preceding diagrams, the top number indicates the number of beats in each measure. The bottom number indicates which notes has been designated at the unit of measurement. In each of the time signatures above, the number 4 appears on the bottom. 4 stands for “quarter”. It is indicating that the quarter note has been designated as the unit of measurement (I.e., assigned a value of 1).  

The time signature “4/4” can also be written using the letter “C”.

The letter “C” stands for “common” time. This is due to the fact that majority of music has been written in “4/4” time. 

Occurrence of Strong Beats 

Meter was defined as “the natural division of rhythms into equal sized groups”. It was previously demonstrated that through placement of bar lines, music can be divided into equal sized groups which contain the same number of beats.

As we saw previously, these six notes can be grouped into sets of 2 or into sets of 3 using bar lines. Bar lines are placed based on where the strongest pulses in the music “naturally” occur. When the strongest pulse occurs every two beats, then the six quarter notes above will be grouped into sets of 2.

(Chapter 3 – Audio Sample 1)

When the strongest pulse occurs every three beats, then the six quartet notes will be grouped into sets of three. 

(Chapter 3 – Audio Sample 2)

Music that has a strong pulse every four beats will be written in 4/4 meter. Note: Musicians will often times place a strong pulse on the first beat of each measure and a slightly less strong pulse on the third beat of each measure.

(Chapter 3 – Audio Sample 3)

4.Rests

Relative Duration of Silence 

During a piece of music there are not always notes being played. Sometimes there are periods of silence. Just as there are relative durations of sound, so too there are relative durations of silence. We call the symbols for these durations of silence rests

Whole Note Whole Rest

Half Note Half Rest

Quater Note Quater Rest

Eighth Note Eighth Rest

Sixteenth Note Sixteenth Rest

On the left-hand side of the above chart are all notes, and on the right-hand side are the corresponding rests of equal duration. Because they are of equal duration, they share the same names with their counterparts. For example, a half “rest” is half the duration of a whole “rest”, just as a half “note” is half the duration of a whole “note”.  

The whole note fills an entire measure with silence no matter what the meter. This means that the whole rest will be equal to 2 beats in a measure of 2/4 meter. 

A whole rest will be equal to 3 beats in a measure of ¾ meter. 

A whole rest will be equal to 4 beats in a measure of 4/4 meter. 

5.Dotted Notes

Adding on the Duration 

Dotted notes have a dot directly to the right of the note head. When a dot is placed to the right of the note head, the duration of the note is increased by one half of the note’s value. 

The note above is called a dotted half note or dotted minim note. We know that the half is 2 beats in duration. By placing a dot to the right of the half note, the note’s duration is increased by one half. Half of 2 is equal to 1; therefore, the half note is 2 beats in duration, the dot is 1 beat in duration, and altogether they are 3 beats in duration.  

The note below is called dotted whole note. We know that the whole note is 4 beats in duration. By placing a dot to the right of the whole note, the note’s duration is increased by one half. Half of 4 is equal to 2; therefore, the whole note is 4 beats in duration, the dot is 2 beats in duration, and altogether they are 6 beats in duration. 

The note below is called dotted quarter note. The quarter note is 1 beat in duration. By placing a dot to the right of the quarter note, the note’s duration is increased by on half. Half of 1 is equal to ½; therefore, the quarter note is 1 beat in duration, the dot is ½ beat in duration, and altogether they are 1 and a ½ beat in duration.  

The note below is called dotted eighth note. The eighth note is ½ beat in duration. By placing a dot to the right of the eighth note, the note’s duration is increased by one half. Half of ½ is ¼; therefore, the eighth note is ½ beat in duration, the dot is ¼ beat in duration, and altogether they are ¾ of a beat in duration.

6.The Tie

Adding Notes Together 

The note of longest duration we know so far is 6 beats in duration (the dotted whole note). To create notes of longer duration we must add two or more notes together. For example, to create a that is 12 beats in duration we could add together three whole notes. This is done using something called a “tie”. A tie is a curved line strung between two notes, indicating that the durations are to be added together. 

In the preceding example, the first whole note is played and then held for a duration of 12 beats. (The second and third notes are not “replayed” but are continued to be held.) The use of the tie also allows for note durations that last longer that a single measure. 

Remember that they are tied together do not necessarily need to be of the same length. Any two note durations may be tied together. Gor example, a whole note can be tied to a quarter note (4 + 1 = 5); a whole note can be tied to a dotted half note (4 + 3 = 7) etc. 

Ties Vs. Dots 

Sometimes, rather than adding a dot to a note, notes are tied together to create a duration equal in length to that of a dotted note. For example, a half note tied to a quarter note is 3 beats. 

This is a same as adding a dot to a half note.

A quarter note tied to an eighth note is 1 & ½ beats.

This is the same as adding a dot to a quarter note. 

7.Re-designating the Unit

3/8 and 6/8 Meter  

We know from chapter 2 that any note can be designated as the unit of measurement if we assign to it a value of “1”. So far, we have only studied meters in which the quarter note was designated as the unit of measurement. In this chapter, we are going to look at meters in which the eighth note is designated as the unit of measurement. Let’s start with 3/8 meter.

Beat per measure

Note designated as the unit

As we have previously learned, the top number of a time signature always indicate how many beats there are in each measure. In 3/8 meter there are 3 beats per measure. The bottom number in a time signature always indicates which note has been designated as the unit of measurement. In this case, the number 8 represents the eighth note. (Just as the number 4 in ¾ represented the quarter note.) 

This means that the eighth note has been designated as the unit of measurement (i.e., the eighth note has been assigned a value of 1). 

Let’s also take a look at 6/8 meter.  

Beat per measure

Note designated as the unit

Once again, the top number indicates how many beats there are in each measure. In this case of 6/8 meter, there are 6 beats in each measure. The bottom number indicates that the eighth note has been designated as the unit of measurement and assigned a value of 1.  

Quarter Note as Unit Eighth Note as Unit

= 1/4 = 1/2

= 1/2 = 1

= 1 = 2

= 1&1/2 = 3

= 2 = 4

= 3 = 6

= 4 = 8

If you study the chart above, you will find that the value on the right side are double those on the left. When we made the eighth note equal to 1 beat, we doubled its duration (from ½ to 1). We must therefore double all the other notes so that their durations relative to one another remain the same.  

Strongest Pulses 

When we studied 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meter, we learned where the strong pluses occurred. In 3/8 meter the pulses strength of the beats is “strong – weak – weak”.

(Chapter 7 – Audio Sample 1)

In 6/8 meter the pulse strength of the beats is “very strong – weak – weak – less strong – weak – weak”.

(Chapter 7 – Audio Sample 2)

8.Classifying Meter

Simple Meter 

When a meter has two pulses per measure it is called duple meter. An example would be 2/4 time.  

When a meter has three pulses per measure it is called triple meter. An example would be 3/4 time. 

When a meter has four pulses per measure it is called quadruple meter. An example would be 4/4 time.  

All of these meters are called simple because each pulse can be divided by “two”. For example: 

Because each pulse (quarter note) in the preceding diagram can be divided by two, the meter is classified as simple. There are 4 pulses in each measure, which mean that the meter is classified as quadruple. 4/4 time is therefore called simple quadruple meter. 

There are 3 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as triple. ¾ time is therefore called simple triple meter.

There are 2 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as duple. 2/4 time is therefore called simple duple meter.

Compound Meter 

In a compound meter each pulse can be divided by “three”. For example: 

(Pulses)

(Beats)

In the preceding example, even though there are 6 beats in each measure (each eighth note is one beat) the rhythmic pulse falls every 3 beats. The strong pulse is on beat 1 and the second strongest pulse is on beat 4. This gives it the feel that there are 2 “beats” in each measure rather than 6.  

Because each pulse (dotted quarter note) in the preceding diagram can be divided by three, the meter is classified as compound. There are 2 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as duple. 6/8 time is therefore called compound duple meter.  

(Pulses)

(Beats)

There are 3 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as triple. 9/8 time is therefore called compound triple meter. (There are 9 eighth note beats in each measure, but we feel 3 pulses per measure.)

9.Introduction to the Staff

Staff Lines 

A staff is the device by which we indicate pitch. The staff consists of 5 lines called staff lines. 


In between the lines are 4 spaces. 

Notes may be placed on either the staff lines or in the spaces. 

The note that are placed higher on the staff represent higher pitches. The note that are placed lower on the staff represents lower pitches. For example, the first note in the following diagram will sound lower than the second note. 

Ledger Lines 

Since classical music era, musicians wouldn’t be able to play or sing very high or very low using only 5 lines and 4 spaces. To indicate higher pitches, we add additional lines above the 5 staff lines. And to indicate lower pitches, we add additional lines below the 5 staff lines. These additional lines are called ledger lines.

Notes may be placed on the ledger lines, just as they were placed on the staff lines. And they can also be placed in the spaces.

Clefs 

A clef is a symbol placed at the beginning of a staff, which indicate the “exact” pitches the staff lines and spaces will represent. Without a clef we would not know which pitches the lines and spaces represent. 

The following symbol is called treble clef. When a treble clef is placed on the staff, it indicates that the 5 staff lines and 4 spaces will represent specific higher pitches. The staff itself is now referred to as a “treble” staff.

The following symbol is called a bass clef. When a bass clef is placed on the staff, it indicates that the 5 staff lines and 4 spaces will represent specific lower pitches. The staff itself is now referred to as a “bass” clef.

Type of Movements on the Staff 

There are three basic movements that notes can make on the staff: stepping, skipping, and repeating. Here are some examples of each movements.  

Note: We read from left to right in music just as we do when reading words.  

When a note is on a line and the next note is on the same line, it is called a repeat. Also, when a note is a space and the next note is on the same space, it is also called a repeat.  

(Chapter 9 – Audio Sample 1)

When a note is on a line and the next note is in the space above or below, it is called a step. Also, when a note is on a space and the next is on the line above or below, it is also called a step.

(Chapter 9 – Audio Sample 2)

When a note is on a line and the next note is on the line above or below, it is called a skip. Also, when a note is on a space and the next note is on the space above or below, it is also called a skip.

(Chapter 9 – Audio Sample 3)