Key:

Style:
All Styles 
Focus:
Reference 
Difficulty:
Absolute Beginner 



Understanding Music Notation Lesson 6 – Rhythm Basics 

Christopher Schlegel
Understanding Music Notation Lesson 6 – Rhythm Basics
Music notation shows what notes to play by placing a dot on a line or space of the staff. In order to know when to play those notes and for how long we have to learn the musical notation symbols for rhythm. This is frequently the hardest part of learning to read music for beginners. So take your time and be patient.
Essentially rhythmic notation is a matter of fractions. All the symbols represent divisions of smaller or larger relative lengths. The largest value is the whole note, which gets 4 counts (1, 2, 3, 4). Then we divide it into two equal halves and get, appropriately, half notes, which get 2 counts (1, 2). Here are the divisions:
Whole note – a whole measure of 4 beats – 4 counts
Half note – a half of a measure of 4 beats – 2 counts
Quarter note – a quarter of a measure of 4 beats – 1 count
Eighth note – an eighth of a measure of 4 beats – 1/2 of a count
Sixteenth note – a sixteenth of a measure of 4 beats – 1/4 of a count
Thirtysecond note – a thirtysecond of a measure of 4 beats – 1/8 of a count
And so on. We can keep on dividing these forever, but they really have so practical application probably past 1/128th notes. Rarely will you see anything smaller than 1/16th notes. Here’s an image to illustrate these rhythmic divisions and how their symbols look.
Note that an 1/8th note has a “flag” on it’s stem and if more than one 1/8th note occurs right after another, then their “flags” can be drawn as a “beam” connecting their stems. Similarly with 1/16th notes, except they have two “flags”, therefore two “beams”. For each smaller division add a “flag” or a “beam” to connect adjacent similarly rhythm valued notes.
Here they are on the musical staff with their proper grouping amounts.

Understanding Music Notation Lesson 6 – Rhythm Basics 

