Beginner Music Steps: Rhythm

Tuesday Teaching: Rhythm


Music is composed of pitch and rhythm. While there are finer elements that come into play later on, such as dynamics and expression, music can be made by knowing simply this: which note and how long to hold it. Without rhythm, people couldn't fully read music. For a basic understanding of note value, yYou can read a short article about Rhythm in Music

Rhythm: Eighth Note

Rhythm is music's way of setting the duration of a note. Music accomplishes this task by varying the appearance of the notes that sit on the staff. Different rhythms indicate different note lengths. To get rolling, you need to hear about an essential concept; beat. Have you ever noticed how everyone claps together in a steady pattern? Did you ever wonder how 30,000 people could possibly agree on anything? If you have been to a dance club, you may have noticed that there is always a steady drum beat or bass line, usually up-tempo, to drive the music along. Those are examples of pulse and beat in music. Rhythm is a primal element and pulse and beat are universal concepts.

Basic Rhythms

In music, changing the appearance of the notes indicates the rhythm. As you will remember, the location of the notes is fixed on the staff, which will never change. The appearance of the note varies, indicating how long that note should be held. For a more complicated look at rhythm, take a look at Syncopation-Workshop of Rhythm.

Now, let's go through all the basic musical symbols for rhythm.

Quarter Note: LadyDpiano

Quarter Notes

A quarter note, which is signified with a filled-in black circle (also called a notehead) and a stem, is the simplest rhythm to talk about. Quarter notes receive one count; their duration is one beat.

Half Note

Half Notes

The next in our series of simple rhythms is the half note. As you can see, the half note looks similar to the quarter note, except the circle is open and not filled in. Like a quarter note, it also has a single stem that points either up or down. The half note receives two counts; its duration is two beats. In relation to the quarter note, the half note is twice as long because it receives two counts.

Whole Note

Whole Notes

A whole note is a rhythm that receives four beats. It's twice as long as a half note and four times as long as a quarter note - count to yourself: one, two, three, four. It is represented as an open circle without a stem. The whole note is probably the single longest rhythmic value that you will come across. Whole notes are easy to spot because they are the only notes that lack a stem.

Eighth Notes

Eighth Notes

The smallest rhythm you have encountered thus far is the quarter note, which lasts for one beat. Chopping up this beat into smaller divisions allows musicians to explore faster rhythms and faster passages. Chopping the quarter note in half gives us the eighth note, which receives half of one beat.

Sixteenth Note

Sixteenth Notes

The beat can be broken down even smaller for the faster note values. The next rhythm is called the sixteenth note. A sixteenth note breaks the quarter note into four equal parts and the eighth note into two equal parts.

I'll be talking about Triplets Vs. Eighth Notes next time!

Back Pocket Band Software

Are you familiar with the Hear and Play software that keeps a steady beat? Check out,  BackPocket Band Video. Learn about Back Pocket Band Software and you can order, here.

-- LadyD

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

Friday Freebie: Harmonization

Friday Freebie: LadyDpiano

I wanted to share these fun and free worksheets available for you on I discovered some great songs for students to work on for understanding I-IV-V chords and to help them with some ear training. You'll find many useful songs for harmonization, like If You're Happy and All Through The Night.

Also, you may want to read this article I wrote called, Can You Harmonize The Melody?

Harmonizing the melody means playing a chord to accompany every note of the melody. Since the I, IV & V (V7) chords contain all the notes of the major scale, many melodies in a major key can be harmonized with just these three chords.

To determine the chords used, analyze the melody notes and know them. When more than one chord can be chosen, your ear should always be the final guide.

When harmonizing a melody, many prefer that the chord is in the inversion which places the melody tone as the highest note.

Here's another tip... In most cases, the I major chord will be used to accompany the I, III & V scale degrees because those are the tones that make up the I major chord.

I major (1st inversion): Accompanies the 1st scale degree because this inversion puts the I tone on top.

I major (2nd inversion): Accompanies the 3rd scale degree because this inversion puts the III tone on top and the tone in the middle).

I major (root position): Accompanies the 5th scale degree because this inversion puts the V tone on top and the I tone on the bottom.

Two Steps To Harmonize The Melody

1. Figure Out The Melody

  • Choose a key center (what major key your melody will be played in).
  • The notes of the melody should only use the notes of the major scale(for most situations).
  • Apply the appropriate rhythm to your melody.
2. Use the I, ii, IV & V Chords To Harmonize The Melody To The Highest Note

  • Determine which corresponding chords will be used in situations where there can be more than one choice.
  • Look for chord inversions which are the easiest to transition from the previous chord.
  • Apply the appropriate rhythm to your harmony.
  • Look for Passing and Neighboring tones as these tones don't always require an accompanying chord.
For more information on this subject of harmonizing a melody in a Major key, visit 300 Page Piano By Ear Home Study Course.

All the best,

-- LadyD

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

Friday Freebie: Gilbert and Susan

Friday Freebie: LadyDpiano

I often search the internet for "free" song sheets for my beginner students. Especially easy recognizable songs for my primer level students. Those who are able to read music notes on both staffs will like Middle C and C position songs to play on the piano or keyboard.

Gilbert DeBenedetti

I'd like for you to meet Gilbert DeBenedetti who has many Freebies to offer those who are just starting to learn the piano and those in Level 4 You will want to join the Free Piano Music group discussion on FaceBook, too. One of my favorite selections is Autumn from the Four Seasons.

Susan Paradis

If you're a piano teacher then you will want to stop by the Susan Paradis website for Free Resources and stop by her FaceBook page, too. I have been teaching students for over 20+ years and I can count on this lovely lady offering top quality teaching resources. You may want to print songs and worksheets for yourself. I use Rhythm Dominoes in my studio. Kids love to play music games and it's fun to learn music theory this way.

Oh, and you may want to glance at the Hear and Play's  4 Free Video Lessons.

Do you have a favorite site for free music sheets, games, and worksheets?

All the best,

-- LadyD

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

Beginner Music Steps: Learn Intervals

LadyDpiano: Beginner Music Steps l Intervals

The most elemental part of music theory is understanding the relationship between single notes. The distance between those notes is an interval, which will serve as the foundation for practically every single concept throughout this book.

So an interval is defined as the distance from one note to another. Intervals are going to provide the basic framework for everything else in music. Not only is knowledge of intervals as a subject itself important, but intervals are used everywhere. Small intervals combine to form scales. Larger intervals combine to form chords. Intervals will aid you in voice leading, composition, and transposition. There are virtually no musical situations where intervals aren't used, and even in some dissonant music of the twentieth century, intervals are still the basis for most composition and analysis.

There are five different types of intervals:

  • Major Intervals
  • Minor Intervals
  • Perfect Intervals
  • Augmented Intervals
  • Diminished Intervals

      LadyDpiano: Learn Intervals
      Photo Credit: Keyseeker

      You've got to learn intervals! What are they? Well, an interval in music is the "distance in pitch between two notes." The interval is counted from the lower note to the higher one, with the lower counted as 1. All intervals (except for the unison and octave) are named by the number of the upper note: 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, etc.

      Now, if you're referring to the distance between notes played separately, they are called melodic intervals. If you are referring tot he distance between notes played together at the same time, they are called harmonic intervals.

      You can also use similar terminology to describe distances between chords by saying that you will want to play the major chord a fourth up from C. In this case, it would be F major because F is a fourth up from C. Regardless of whether you're referencing single notes (melodies), notes played together (chords) or distances between chords, intervals are intervals.

      For example, F will always be a fourth up from C. Bb will always be a third up from Gb and G will always be a fifth up from C. Briefly, I'll list the names of each interval here.

      In the Key of C Major:

      The interval between C and the same C is called: Perfect Unison.

      The interval between C and the next C on the piano (an 8th up) is called: Perfect Octave.

      The interval between C and D is called: Major Second.

      The interval between C and E is called: Major Third.

      The interval between C and F is called: Perfect Fourth.

      The interval between C and G is called: Perfect Fifth.

      The interval between C and A is called Major Sixth.

      The interval between C and B is called Major Seventh.

Notice that some names get a "major" put in front and some get a "perfect" put in front. This would be a big deal if you were taking a music theory test tomorrow, but for now, we just want to focus on the numbers.

As a reference:

Unison, octave (which, in C major would be "C") get to use "perfect" along with the fourth and fifth intervals.

So, 1, 4, 5, and 8 use the name "perfect."

Second, third, sixth, and seventh use the name "major."

For playing by ear, the importance is that you start mastering a major second sound or a major third sound both as melodic intervals (played as separate notes going from one to the other) and as harmonic intervals (played together).

If I played "C" on the piano and asked you to listen to it and then hum the main tone along with me, since you know that C is the reference point, you should be able to hum any interval from C.

* If you know the starting note, with relative pitch, this is all you need! *

For example, If I play "C" on the piano, you should be able to sing "D." From C, you might be able to sing E and from E, you probably can sing Eb because Eb is one-half step below E. Once you have Eb, try to sing Ab.


1. As you study intervals and build your ear skills, have someone play any first note and tell you what it is.

2. Then have them play the second note (start off easy and make sure it's a note from the same major scale). Start in the key of C major.

3. Make sure after the first initial note, they don't tell you what note they are playing.

4. Based on your understanding of intervals, attempt to guess what note is being played. If you get the note right, have them play another note from that note.

5. This will really get you to hear second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh intervals.

6. The easiest ones to guess are the fifth intervals. Think of C going to G and then back and forth...
 C-G-C-G-C-G. Does that sound like a tuba player in the orchestra warming up? Perhaps circus music or intro music for a clown.

7. Make a habit of doing exercises like this so that you are constantly testing yourself.

Two resources you may be interested in are:

Jazz, Rags & Blues, Bk 1: 10 Original Pieces for the Late Elementary to Early Intermediate Pianist, Book & CDand  PITCH Ear Training Software

I hope you'll leave me a note and let me know if this helps. How is your piano playing coming along?  I'm thinking about getting ready for back to school... not yet but it's a-coming real soon!

-- LadyD

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

Friday Freebie: Old Rugged Cross

Friday Freebie: Old Rugged Cross l

Jennifer Cook is a blessing to so many. She offers a free arrangement of her own composition to a very familiar hymn, Old Rugged Cross. You can download the free sheet music at The Church Pianist. If you're looking for more songs to play in your church or for your own personal enjoyment, be sure and stop by, More Free Hymn Arrangements.

I think you will definitely want to visit Olive Huisman and her website, Hymn Arrangements. You'll find a free arrangement of Amazing Grace in the Key of F. If you read piano music then spend some time printing out these songs, especially Old Rugged Cross.

More Friday Freebies

Music Symbols

Rhythm Printables

Music and Apps

Sheet Music for Piano

-- LadyD

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

Beginner Music Steps: Clefs and Time Signatures

Tuesday Teaching: Clefs and Time Signatures l

Treble Clef:


A clef is a symbol that sits at the beginning of every staff of music that you look at. A staff contains five lines and four spaces. How do you know where the note A or the note C is? The missing element needed is the clef. The clef defines what notes go where functioning a lot like a map. Placing a treble clef at the start of the staff defines the lines and spaces with note names.

Treble Clef on Staff: LadyDpiano

The treble clef circles around the note G. This is why it's commonly called the G clef. As for the notes, there is an important pattern. Look at the lowest line, which is designated E. Follow the musical alphabet to find where the next note is. The F is in the space just above the E. The staff ascends in this fashion - line, then space, then line - as it cycles through the musical alphabet (A-B-B-D-E-F-G).

Bass Clef:

Even though you may understand the notes on both clefs, the only way to get proficient is to read other clefs as often as you can. Set aside a few minutes a day to look at other clefs so you can easily identify their notes. Since clefs define notes, you can almost think of being able to read in many clefs as a kind of musical literacy.

Bass Clef on Staff:

The bass clef is a different clef than the treble and identifies not only different note names but also notes in different ranges. The bass clef is used for instruments that have a lower pitch, like a bass guitar. Even though the bass clef sits on the same five-line staff, it defines very different note names. Many musicians read treble clef because it is the most common clef. Because of this, too many musicians have a greater difficulty reading bass clef than reading treble clef. In order to progress your understanding of theory, you will need to be adept at reading all clefs.

Alto Clef: LadyDpiano

Moveable "C" Clefs

The last type of clef is called the C clef. Typically, you see this clef associated with the viola because it's the most common instrument that reads in that clef; however, more instruments than just the viola read it. When the C-clef is used with the viola, it is called the alto clef. Thankfully, this clef is very easy to read because the symbol for the C clef has two semicircles that curve into the middle of the staff and basically "point" toward the middle line, which is a C. It's not just any C, it's middle C.

Alto Clef

Alto Clef on Staff:

Since this is a movable clef, you can place the clef anywhere you want, and whatever lines its two semicircles point to become middle C. Some very old choral music uses a different movable C clef for each part (tenor clef, alto clef, and soprano clef). Just as long as you know that the clef always points toward middle C, you will be able to decipher the notes in this clef.

Point to Consider

When notes use ledger lines that are extremely high or extremely low, they can be difficult to read; it's much easier to read notes that sit in the staff you are reading. Using different clefs allows you to move the location of middle C in such a way that the majority of your notes are in and around the staff.


Time is a fundamental aspect of music theory that is often left out of the formal music theory study. Time has more to it than just measures counting beats and bars. Time can dictate the feel and flow of a piece, and even harmony has a rhythm to it, aptly called "harmonic rhythm."

Time Signatures

Music is divided into bars, also called measures, for reading convenience and for musical purposes. Most music adheres to a meter, and that affects the phrasing of the melody. If you don't have a lot of experience with reading, rhythm can be a very difficult concept to grasp.

Common Time:

The most standard time signature is 4/4 time, which is also called "common time" and is abbreviated by this symbol c.
4/4 Time Signature:

Common time looks like a fraction and it signifies two things. First, the top number 4 means that every measure will have four beats in it. The bottom number 4 indicates what note value will receive the beat; in this case, 4 stands for a quarter note. So common time breaks up each measure into four beats, as a quarter note receives one beat. You can, of course, further divide the measure into as many small parts as you feel like, but in the end, it must add up to four beats.

So, I just wanted to introduce you to a few "Beginner Music Steps" for Tuesday Teaching with LadyD!

For more Beginner Music Steps, visit:

Wheels On The Bus

Beginner Piano Lessons

Beginner Steps To Success

Beginner Corner: Ledger Lines

300 Page Course Book

Discover how to play by ear. Over 20 chapters in the 300pg Course Book


-- LadyD

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