|The blues and early rock and roll was always played with a shuffle beat. My
original composition "Shuffle Beat Blues" is an example of this. As we've
mentioned before, the shuffle beat is an eighth note triplet with the first two
notes tied together. Most people learn it by feeling it not trying to count it out.
Notice how faster melody notes have the same feeling. Notice how we
occasionally go to straight untied triplets for emphasis and contrast. Notice the
contrast with the rock of today which is mostly an even eight or sixteenth note
beat. We will begin to study this song in this lesson. It has a lot to show us.
Click on the player below to hear this song again
Rhythm And Time
Once you learn what notes you want to play, whether single or multiple notes, you have
good readers of musical notation grasp the timing of whole groups of notes at once. It's
like a good reader of text being able to take in whole sentences and even paragraphs,
while a poor reader reads word by word. Learning how to read all the different ways that
notes can be timed can take a long time. But if they hear it played, it most people can
pick up the timing quickly by ear. That is why we will use sound samples to help you learn
timing and rhythm. I won't be able to cover the time aspect of music in one lesson. The
topic is two vast. I'll cover some basics and introduce new material as we need it. I'll
include sound examples so you can also use your ear to learn the timing. This lesson
completes our study of the basics. Now, we will use actual songs to teach you how to
read music with both music notation and sound samples. We'll analysis the songs for
both timing and note relationships. The song pages contain extensive analysis of how to
play the songs in the keys of C, G and F major. They will help you to understand note
relationships, timing, chord back up, and transposing songs into different keys. These
song lessons are keyboard based. They all have something different to teach you. Click
on the link below for each song. There will be a link to get back here.
Whole And Half Notes
Music really is a good shorthand system. Where the head of the
note is on the staff tells you what note to play and the style of the
note tells you how long to play it. Unfortunately the when to play it
or the rhythm part can become very complicated. The beginning
however is simple so let's start there. The picture at the left, the
top note, the hollow oval, is a whole note. It is held for four counts.
It it is held for a whole measure in a four beat song. The half note
has a hollow head and a stem. It is held for two beats so it would
take two half notes to fill in the measure of a four beat song. We
can begin to see how much information can be shown in a very
compact way with musical notation. The song Some Folks Do is
good for learning to use whole and half notes.
Half And Quarter Notes
Now lets compare the two beat half note to the one beat quarter
note. A quarter note has a head and stem just like a half note but
the head is filled in. It's simple math. You can play two quarter
notes in the time it takes to play one half note. You can play four
quarter notes in the time it takes to play a whole note. Since it
takes four quarter notes to fill a measure, you put one to beat.
For counting the beat, you should consider the quarter note the
basic note. It is one note to a beat. Look at the other notes as
being longer or shorter. The song Some Folks Do is good for
learning to use half and quarter notes.
Extending Notes With Dots
An eight note triplet is three notes on one beat. The best way to
foot. Give each syllable the same amount of time. In the picture in
the right panel we show an eight note triplet and below it the tied
triplet that is our shuffle beat. Begin tapping your foot. On each
tap say merrily to yourself and clap your hand on the first and last
syllable only, skipping the middle syllable. You will hear the sound
of a shuffle beat. Of course most people just get it by ear and
don't ever try to count it. You can of course also have sixteenth
note triplets. You can even have quarter note triplets, three notes
over two beats. They are not as common so we will ignore them
for now. We will work on the eight note triplets and the shuffle
beat with actual songs.
In this lesson we will only be scratching the surface of timing and rhythm in music. There
are faster notes, like thirty second notes. Syncopation where notes come in on off beats
causes a lot of variation. Lots of notes with syncopation is what makes todays music such
a music reading challenge. As you see how complex the timing of modern songs looks in
musical notation, you will appreciate why we are going to also depend on playing by ear.
We will use the musical notation and the midi sound samples side by side so you can use
both. You will learn how to look at groups of notes as whole rhythm patterns, instead of
laboriously counting out individual notes. Also you are going understand, the notes of
the song in different keys, as related to the scale type and the chord types that go with
that song, not as a bunch of unrelated notes. Go to different song pages to get started.
Each song has been chosen to teach you something different.
©2004 - 2009
Quarter And Eight Notes
The eight note is twice as fast as the quarter note. There are two
to a beat. It has the filled in head and a stem but to make it an
eight note you add a tail or flag. If you are counting by tapping
your foot, you play one eight note as your foot taps down and the
other as your foot comes back. The count is one-and, two-and,
three-and, four-and for eight total eight notes if you are going to
fill a whole measure. We can substitute & for and. That gives us
the more compact 1&, 2&, 3&, 4&. Of course you don't have to put
them on every beat. The song Skip To MY Lou is good for
learning to use eight notes. It also uses quarter and half notes.
Eight And Sixteenth Notes
The sixteenth note is twice as fast as the eight note. There are four
to a beat. It has the filled in head, stem and two tails. Let's use the
first beat as an example. The count is 1a as your foot goes down
and & a as your foot comes up or 1 a & a for that one beat. You
don't have to have four sixteenth notes in the count. You could
have 1a& to put two sixteenth notes on the down beat and an eight
note on the up beat or 1&a to put an eight note on the down beat
and two sixteenth notes on the up beat. Trying to count while you
sing or play while reading music like this is something else. But you
really only use counting to learn the rhythms. A good reader will
quickly see groups of notes and know what the notes are and their
rhythm without much conscience effort. I am not going to give any
song examples for sixteenth notes till later. Learn to use the longer
Tails, Flags And Beams
Eight notes and shorter have flags or tails. Each additional flag makes the note have half
the time of the previous note. Eight notes have one, sixteenth notes two and thirty
second notes three. If there are more than one of these shorter notes on a beat, they
are beamed together as shown below. One beam for eight notes and two beams for
sixteenth notes. As you can see the beams can extend across different time values. They
can even be beamed across more than one beat. Both the top line and second line of
music in the picture below are the same rhythm. The beginning of the third line shows
that a syncopated group of notes that goes across two beats needs flags. There is no
way to include a quarter note in a beam. I've used flags on the last three notes in the
picture but they could have been beamed as well.
There are two ways to increase the time of notes. First we will
look at the dot. A dot after a note increases the time value of
that note by half it's original value. It can't extend the note
beyond a measure, so the first note that we can use it on is
the half note. Half of a half note is one beat. Adding that to the
original two gives us three beats for a dotted half note. Half of
a quarter note is half a beat. Adding that to the original one
gives us, one and a half beats for the dotted quarter note.
Half an eight note is a quarter beat. Adding that to the original
time gives us a three quarter beat note. These dotted notes
are pictured in the panel to the left. In future lessons, we will
show you how to use these dotted notes with actual songs.
Extending Notes With Ties
The second way to extend notes is to tie them together. The
tie is the only way to extend a note across a bar lines into the
next measure. It is also used both within measures and across
the shuffle beat is a triplet with the first two notes tied
together. Some different length ties are shown in the right
hand panel. These curved lines go from the head of one note
to the head of another note. Both notes are held as one note.
We will learn how to use ties in music with actual songs.
Music today is very syncopated. Syncopation is the starting of notes on weak beats. The
down beats, the strong beats, are the 1-2-3-4. The weak beats are the +'s and a's, the
up beats. One way to accomplish this is to tie an up beat to the next down beat. Another
way is to start a quarter note on an up beat like we do in "Tom Dooley". Most people can
sing a syncopated popular song. They have of coursed learned it by ear. They can sing
songs with very complex syncopation with ease with karaoke. But only a very good sight
reader could read the music and play the song, if they had never heard it. That
syncopation that we sing so easily looks very complicated on the music score. Even the
composer probably couldn't read it. Singers today who create songs, often can't read
music. Once they compose it and it becomes a hit, a skilled professional schooled
musician has to transcribe it into written music. The only way to read syncopated music is
to see a group of notes and know the rhythm. If you have to count it out forget it. See the
song Tom Dooley for a common easy syncopation example.
At the beginning of a song you have the key and time signature.
On the panel to the right, we have two key of G major key
signatures. The difference is that they call for two different time
counts. The first is in four four time. The top number tells you that
there are four beats to a measure. The bottom number tells you
that the quarter note gets one beat. The second is in three four
time. The top number tells you that there are four beats to a
measure. The bottom number tells you that a quarter note gets
one beat. It is also called three quarter time. These are two of the
most common time signatures but there are many others. We will
study time signatures as we work with different songs.
Using The Lessons
People that come to these pages through search engines enter on different pages. I
would recommend that to get the full benefit of these music lessons, especially if you are
a beginner, you visit every page at least once. This is a totally new approach to learning
music. The focus is on "How Music Works". That page that you miss could be the one
that contains the key information, that you need. These pages are full of music tips and
music info that you probably won't find anywhere else.
The Shuffle Beat
A lot of the songs of today use an even beat based on eight notes and sixteenth notes.
But if you listen to jazz, standards and blues, you hear a different beat. It's called the
shuffle beat. The shuffle beat is based on triplets. If you tie the first two notes of a triplet
together, you get a shuffle beat. It's hard to count. If you use the word mer-ri-ly and just
say mer, hold ri silent and say the ly you have the feeling of the shuffle beat. Most
people don't count it they just feel it. We will learn the shuffle beat by first playing the
lead to a new version of a triplet ballad using tied triplets called "Tied Triplets Ballad".
This lesson is on the supplementary music page, "Triplet Ballads, Piano". Finally to
continue learning how to play the shuffle beat, go to the supplementary music page,
"Shuffle Beat Blues, Piano".
These free "learning how to read music pages" will give you access to additional
teaching songs. These special links will be here in the Supplementary Songs paragraph
at the top of the pages and in the relevant topic paragraphs on the pages. There will be
links on these Supplementary Songs pages to get you back to these free "learning how
to read music pages". This first link to a song page "Triplet Ballads, Piano" teaches you
how to play triplets on the piano. It is a part free music lesson 7, "What's That
Note".This song also teaches you all the natural notes on the treble clef, the triplet
timing and with tied triplets begins to show you how to play the shuffle beat. The second
link to a song page, "Shuffle Beat Blues Piano", teaches you how to play the shuffle
beat. It is a part of this page, free music lesson 8, "Timing The Notes".