Rhythm Tips

velcro reach in the jumpy slide


My grandson had a fabulous time at our church Harvest Festival. He went on the slide, bungee slide and velcro wall, to name a few. I got to thinking about his rhythm and how it changed with every event he attended. So it is with musicians and their rhythm. Keep practicing the scales, inversions and octaves. Here are a few articles I wrote awhile back on rhythm.

  • Beginner
Quarter Note = 1 count
A quarter note is all black with a stem on it either going up or down. I call it our "stepping" note because the note just steps and moves along. With 4/4 time, you would have a measure of 4 quarter notes because one quarter note gets 1 count. Remember music and math go together.

Half Note = 2 counts

A half note is all white with a stem on it. When playing this kind of note you would pause, like coming to a yellow traffic light. You would play a half note, counting 1 & 2 &. With 4/4 time, you would have 2 half notes in a measure to play because 2 + 2 = 4. Remember music and math go together!

If you are not sure what a measure in written music is, always remember that the notes placed between bar lines is a measure. Bar lines divide music into measures. When looking at a piece of music, go to the very end of a song and there you will find a double bar line.

Repeat Dots (Repeat Sign)

The two dots at the end of the piece are a repeat sign, meaning to play the song from the beginning. Sometimes my students ask, "Oh, do I have to?" The answer is "yes" because the composer intended for that section of music to be played again! Another way to look at it is that you will not have more pages to turn. Just play the first page again or perhaps it will be just a few lines repeated. The repeat sign is a very valuable sign indeed.

Whole Note = 4 counts

A whole note is a white note, too but it does not have a stem on it. I call it our doughnut note. Some of my students call it a "hamburger" note! When you see a whole note, you must hold the note down and count, 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. It is just like coming to a red light and making a full stop.

Dotted Half Note = 3 counts

A dot after a note adds half the value of the note. So, you now have 2 + 1 = 3 beats. You hold the note down and count, 1 & 2 & 3 &.
Now, the cool thing is that every type of music note has a corresponding rest. A rest sign means "do not play" like a rest area. Sometimes it means get your hand ready in position and move up, yet still do not play a note, just rest! Examples of some rests are:

Quarter Rest

It looks like a "Z" and a quarter rest gets 1 count.

Half Rest

It looks like a black top hat. A half rest gets 2 counts or beats of silence. A half rest sits above the third line.

Whole Rest

Looks like an upside down black top hat. The whole rest hangs below the fourth line. It gets 4 counts or beats of silence.
Each measure in 4/4 time has notes and rests adding up to 4 counts.

Time Signature

The time signature is the two numbers written at the beginning of a piece. The top number tells how many beats are in each measure. The bottom number tells what kind of note gets one beat.
2 means two beats in each measure
4 means the quarter note receives one beat or count.
3 means three beats in each measure.
4 means the quarter note gets one beat.
4 means four beats in each measure
4 means the quarter note gets one beat.

Practice Directions
1. Clap and count the rhythm aloud.
2. Play and say the name of notes aloud.
3. Play and count the rhythm aloud.

  • Intermediate
Tempo is the speed of any piece of music. Just like driving a car and seeing the 45 M.P.H. speed sign, it is the same for Tempo words in music.

At the very top left hand corner, on the beginning page of your sheet music, you will often see a word that tells you how fast or how slow to play a particular song. Sometimes you will be asked to slow down your speed of playing in a particular passage.

Usually you will find that these tempo words are written in Italian. Here are some of the more common Italian words you will discover in music. It does help to memorize most of these words. Having flash cards to quiz yourself is a very good idea.

Slow Tempo Marks:

Adagio (play with ease)
Largo (very slow and broad)
Lento (very slow)
Grave (heavy and solemn)

Medium Tempo Marks:

Andante (a moderate, graceful, walking tempo)
Andantino (a little slower than andante)
Moderato (a moderate tempo)
Molto (very)
Larghetto (somewhat slow)

Fast Tempo Marks:

Allegretto (lively and quick but a little slower than Allegro))
Allegro (cheerful, fast and quick)
Vivace (lively and brisk)
Presto (very fast)
Prestissimo (very, very fast)

Right in the middle of a piece, you will see that the composer has decided he wants you to slow down. Look for a new tempo marking at the very beginning of a new section. Here's what to look for.

Gradually Getting Faster:

Accelerando (becoming gradually faster and abbreviated accel.)
Stringendo (quickening)

Gradually Getting Slower:

Ritardando (becoming gradually slower and abbreviated rit.)
Ritenuto (held back)
Rallentando (becoming gradually slower)
Rattenuto (holding back and slowing down)

When you slow down at the end of a phrase of music or a particular section of a composition, you will notice at the start of the next section a new word, a tempo. This means to go back to the original tempo. It is like slowing down while driving a car because you see a sign that says, "Speed Reduced Ahead.", and then going back up to the regular speed limit once again.

Now your piano practice sounds playful and energetic while observing accelerando. Sometimes your moderato walking tempo sounds smooth dance-like. Time completely changes within a song all because you changed speed when playing the piano. The pace of a piece of music becomes alive because you have observed tempo marks with expression. Well done.



6/8 Time Signature

This time signature can be a bit tricky to play at first. When you first learn to read music, the time signature usually has a 4 on the bottom: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. This means that a quarter note gets counted as 1 beat.

When you see a time signature with an 8 on the bottom like 6/8, this means that an eighth note is counted as 1 beat and there are six eighth notes in each measure.

When you look at some music, you will notice that six eighth  notes are grouped together into two groups of three eighth notes.

Things to watch out for in 6/8:

The three notes in 6/8 are not triplets but eighth notes.
This time signature will often feel like the music has two strong beats instead of six. We often feel a strong beat for each group of three eighth notes.

  • Advanced
Sometimes you see the triplet sign situated on top of the first measure of a song. Most often it follows the indication of style such as swing, boogie-woogie, big band, rock-a-ballad, funky shuffle, slow blues, back-beat, be-bop, dixieland, twelve-eight feel, jazz-waltz, salsa, soft-shoe, country, gospel-waltz, bounce, jump or groove tempo.

These eighth-notes are sometimes called rolled eighths. If you have a rhythm machine handy, set it to swing, rock-ballad, whatever. Make sure your beat-box has a setting that goes (1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4-2-3) or a variation of that beat. Set the tempo to 82 (Andante). Once you have mastered that tempo, just increase the tempo.

  • Practice: Left Hand Chords with Single Right Hand Notes

C/C, D, E
G7/F, G, A, B
C/C, C, B, A
G7/G, F, E, D
C/C
G7/G

Db/Db, Eb, F
Ab7/Gb, Ab, Bb, C
Db/Db, Db, C, Bb
Ab/Ab, G, F, Eb
Db/Db
Ab7/Ab

D/D, E, F#
A7/G, A, B, C#
D/D, D, C#, B
A7/A, G, F#, E

D/D
A7/A


Keep ascending by a half-step. Then increase the tempo.

Sometimes you may be wondering when a composer wants you to play straight eighth notes. When there are both dotted eighths and sixteenths, regular eighth notes are played straight. Some professional musicians will make notes on their sheets when it comes to sudden key changes, difficult passage, time signature changes, etc. 

If interested, visit Backpocket Band Software It will help you keep a beat and works with pcs and macs. Easy to use on the computer, next to your keyboard or piano.






"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

Learn In Dreams: The Breaking of the Fellowship

The songIn Dreams included in movie cover art The Lord of the Rings
Featured in The Breaking of the Fellowship, the song In Dreams was written by Fran Walsh and Howard Shore. Copyright 2001, this beautiful piece is in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Shore composed the music in an emotional, operatic way, threading through the scores over 90 identified leitmotifs, which are categorized by the Middle-earth cultures to which they relate.

The music was performed primarily by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Voices, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra contributing some of the early Moria music. A wide variety of instrumental and vocal soloists contributed to the scores as well. For more information on the film series, visit wikipedia.org


The Breaking of the Fellowship (feat. "In Dreams") - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)


My junior high and high school students enjoy playing the piece, especially at recital time.
Play the song rather slow and flowing with 4/4 time signature.

  • Fran Walsh and Howard Shore (YouTube Piano Video)





  • Key of C: In Dreams



          C       Em       F     -   C
When the cold of winter comes
           F              G     C    -    G
Starless night will cover day
         C     Em        F       -     C
In the veiling of the sun
         Am             G
We will walk in bitter rain
[ Tab from: http://www.guitaretab.com/h/howard-shore/334409.html ]
         Am 
But in dreams
       F - G      C - G
I can hear your name
          Am
And in dreams
              G    Am      
We will meet again

Instrumental Interlude:
C - Bb - C / Ab - Eb - Bb - Ab - Bb
C - Bb - C / Bb - Ab

Key Change:

          D       F#m       G   -   D
When the seas and mountains fall
         G  -  A           D   -   A
And we come,    to end of days
       D    F#m      G    -   D
In the dark I hear a call
             Bm
Calling me there,
            A
I will go there
            D
And back again



  • Key of D: In Dreams
         D        F#m     G    D/F#
When the cold of winter comes
          G          A    D   A
Starless night will cover day
         D      F#m    G    D/F#
In the veiling of the sun
         G        Bm/F# A/E  C/E
We will walk in bitter rain
[ Tab from: http://www.guitaretab.com/h/howard-shore/334409.html ]
  Bm/D A/E Bm/F# A/E
But in dreams
      G     A   D  A
I can hear your name
 Bm/D        A/E Gmaj7
But in dreams
 Bm/F#   G   A    
We will meet again

Instrumental Interlude:
Bb/D F/C / Dsus4 D F / D
Bb/D C/E / 



          D       F#m       G   -   D/F#
When the seas and mountains fall
         G  -  A           D   -   A
And we come,    to end of days
       D    F#m      G    -   D/F#
In the dark I hear a call
            G Bm/F#
Calling me there,
            A/E
I will go there
            D
And back again

  • Chord Breakdown
D/AF# When the cold of
F#/AF# winter
G/BD comes,
D/F# starless
G/GB night will
A/EC cover
DAC#/F# day
C#/AC#E In the
D/AF# veiling
F#/AF# of the
G/BD sun
F#/AF#A we will
G/DB walk
F#/DB in bitter
E/C#E rain
E/GE
D/DB But in dreams
E/AC#
F#/BDF#
E/AC# I can
G/GBD hear
A/EC# your
DA/F# name
C#/E But in
D/BDF# dreams
E/AC#
G/BDF# we will
G/GBD meet
A/AC#E a
BF#G/BDF# gain
DF#A/D
FAC/A
F#/AD
DBb/FBb
CA/F
DGA/G
DF#A/D
FA/C
F#/AD
DBb/FBb
EC/GC When the
DA/F# seas and
F#A/F# mountains
GB/D fall and we
DG/GB come to
EA/EC# end of
DA/F# days
C#/A in the
D/AF# dark I
F#/AF# hear a
G/BD call
F#/ADA calling me
G/DB there
F#/DB I will go
EAE/E there and back
DA/F#D again
The Breaking of the Fellowship (feat. "In Dreams") - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
There's a key change in the song. Do you know how to modulate a whole step up? 
You can hear the change, usually almost towards the end for a dramatic finish.
Need some help with transposing? Check out Songrobot software for pc or mac.
Love the song!
All the best,







"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

Learn In The Hall Of The Mountain King

In The Hall of the Mountain King cover art


Edward Grieg wrote a very popular song that my students love to play around Halloween, In The Hall Of The Mountain King. It has a real cool sound, with a staccato bass and right hand, that is played so quick and lively. (Allegro moderato)


  • The Peer Gynt Suite
The famous Norwegian writer and poet Henrich Ibsen asked Grieg to write music for his play Peer Gynt. This work, first performed in 1876, became so popular that it made Grieg nationally known.

allison flannery adaptation
Allison Flannery.com


The story is about Peer, a foolish and bold young fellow, who sets out from home in search of fame and fortune. The group of pieces (called a suite) tells the story of his adventures. Grieg wrote the pieces for orchestra and later transcribed them for piano.

illustrations by vesper stamper

"In The Hall of the Mountain King'" Peer goes into a dark cave where the trolls live. The music expresses the excitement and danger of the adventure.


  • Song in the Key of F
Bass Line (Single notes)

D, A, D, A (3 times)... then F, F (repeat)

*A to E, A to E / A to F, A to E / A, E, A, E / A, F, A* repeat

D, A, D, A / D, A, D, A / D, A, D / A, D

Right Hand (Single notes)

D, E, F, G, A, F, A / G#, E, G#, G, Eb, G / D, E, F, G, A, F, A, D / C, A, F, A, C. (repeat)

*A, B, C#, D, E, C#, E / F, C#, F, E, C#, E / A, B, C#, D, E, C#, E / F, C#, F, E* repeat

D, E, F, G, A, F, A / G#, E, G#, G, Eb, G / D, E, F, G, A, F, A, D / A, G, F, E, D

Free printable sheet music, here. This song would sound cool with an organ setting, too.
You may be interested in Gospel Keys Organ Collection

All the best,






"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

How To Play Overwhelmed: Joel Weldon



I've played Overwhelmed from the Revive! album many times. Are you familiar with the song? It's pretty laid back, slow tempo with the ladies voices doing an echo. You can get the MP3 at Overwhelmed
  • Overwhelmed - Joel Weldon
http://www.joelweldon.com Intro: E B F#m7 A E B I am nothing yet You bid me F#m7 A Come to You, Lord Almighty E B F#m7 A And as I come I'm overwhelmed with You E B Humbly now I break the silence F#m7 A As I'm weeping in Your presence E B F#m7 A I'm so wretched, overwhelmed with You B C#m7 A And Your blood of redemption is covering my shame B C#m7 A And Your voice that shakes the heavens is whispering my name C#m7 B And as You catch my tears A B With Your nail scarred hands C#m7 B A B I'm overwhelmed, Overwhelmed with You C#m7 B A B I'm overwhelmed, Overwhelmed with You



  • Overwhelmed - Joel Weldon
Key of D D Asus A7 I am nothing yet You bid me Em G Come to You, Lord Almighty D Asus A7 Em And as I come I'm overwhelmed with You D Asus A7 Humbly now I break the silence Em G As I'm weeping in Your presence D Asus A7 Em I'm so wretched, overwhelmed with You A Bm G Em And Your blood of redemption is covering my shame A Bm G Em And Your voice that shakes the heavens is whispering my name Bm A And as You catch my tears G A With Your nail scarred hands Bm/A G A I'm overwhelmed, Overwhelmed with You Bm/A G A I'm overwhelmed, Overwhelmed with You

D             Asus    A7
I am nothing, yet You bid me
Em             G
Come to You, O Lord Almighty.

Have fun with the song! Oh, maybe you play the guitar also. 
If so, look into Gospel Guitar101

Thanks,






"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

Learn To Play Hero: Mariah Carey


Mariah Carey
Photo Credit: StarPulse.com

With excitement in the air as Halloween approaches, my grandson wants to dress up as a "Hero" for his costume. I asked him what he had in mind, since he is 5 years old... and he said, "A cop!" His response reminded me of a very popular song in 1993 sung by the beautiful and talented, Mariah Carey. (Hero)

It's a moderately slow song in the Key of D with 4/4 time.
The words and music are by Walter Afanasieff and Mariah Carey.


  • HERO Chord Chart
Intro: Dadd9 Bm G D/F# Em7 G/A D C There’s a hero If you look inside your heart Bm A7 You don’t have to be afraid Of what you are D C There’s an answer If you look into your soul Bb A7sus4 A And the sorrow that you know will melt away [ Tab from: http://www.guitaretab.com/m/mariah-carey/303030.html ] Chorus:
Dadd9               Bm7
Then a hero comes along
                           G
With the strength to carry on
                  D/F#     Em      
And you cast your fears aside
         G/A               D
And you know you can’t survive
            D                 Bm
So when you feel like hope is gone
                        G
Look inside you and be strong
                  D/F#    Em7
And you’d finally see the truth
         A7           D   Bm   G  A
That the hero lies in you


        D                    C
It’s a long road   When you face the world alone
         Bm                              A7
No one reaches out a hand    For you to hold
          D                  C
You can find love    If you search within yourself
         Bb                            A7sus4 A
And the emptiness you felt    Will disappear

*Modulate to Key of F

Bridge:
Bb    F/A      F         C
Lord knows, dreams are hard to follow
Bb              F     C
But don’t let anyone tear them away
Bb   F/A F         C        Bb
Hold on there will be tomorrow
Bb   F/A              G/A
In time will find our way

Chorus:


Dadd9               Bm7
Then a hero comes along
                           G
With the strength to carry on
                  D/F#     Em      
And you cast your fears aside
         G/A               D
And you know you can’t survive
            D                 Bm
So when you feel like hope is gone
                        G
Look inside you and be strong
                  D/F#    Em7
And you’d finally see the truth
         A7           G D/F# Em7
That the hero lies in you
         A7           D
That the hero lies in you.
I know you folks know these chords. Here's an idea of what
is on the song sheet.

L.H./R.H.

D = DAD/AE

C = CC/GE

Bm = BB/BE

A7 = A/GB

A7sus4 = AG/DE

A = A/AC#E

Dadd9 = DAD/DEF#A

Bm7 = BF#A/BD

G = GDG/BD

D/F# = F#/AC#

Em = EBE/GB

G/A A/GBDA

Em7 = EBE/BD

Bb = BbBb/FD

A7 = AG/AF#

D = DAD/F#AD

Some musicians are in a process of learning how to modulate. There's a music resource that can help you with that. Visit, Instant Transposer Software. If you enjoy singing like Mariah and you want to discover some more training tips, see the series on the Vocal Mastery System

*some affiliate links in post*

All the best,





"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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