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Justinguitar.com on the Basics of Playing Guitar

This article is designed to give you a fundamental understanding of rhythm reading. It provides the basic information that you'll need to get started and the accompanying audio examples make it easy to understand.

PDF File

To make the most of this lesson - I have provided you with a pdf file of all the info on this page, so you can print it out to do the exercises! Enjoy ;) Download pdf file here.

The Basics

The Notes
A note is a symbol that represents a sound of a specific length. The most commonly used notes, their different names and their values (in beats) are shown in the table below:

Notes

The Rests 
A rest is a symbol that represents a silence of a specific length. The most commonly used rests, their different names and their values (in beats) are shown in the table below:

Rests

Beaming 
In order to preserve the metric structure of the bar, eighth notes and sixteenth notes often have their tails ‘joined' together. This is called beaming.

no beams

Once beamed, the bar is becomes clearer, less ambiguous and therefore easier to read.

beams

Exercise 1

  • Take a look at the following exercise. Then, download and listen to the accompanying audio file to see how this exercise sounds. Once you have done this try playing it, counting aloud throughout.

 

ex 1

TB-010-Ex1 by justinguitar

 

Time signature 
This defines the contents of the bar. Here we see the time signature 4/4, which tells us that each bar will contain four beats. Notes and rests can be combined in different ways to create various rhythms but the contents of a bar of 4/4 must always add up to exactly four beats.

Counting systems 
These are the way in which we calibrate musical time so that we know exactly when to play any given note. In 4/4 we describe each beat with its respective number (1, 2, 3 and 4) and use the word ‘and' (represented by ‘+') to divide the beat into two. When we want to divide the beat into four, we simply add the phonetics ‘ ee' and ‘ah' (represented by ‘e' and ‘a').

Clef 
This defines which pitch or sound each line (or stave) of the staff represents. In this case percussion clef is used.

Repeat brackets 
These surround a section of music that is to be immediately repeated.

 

Exercise 2

The following exercises feature bars that combine the different notes that you have encountered so far. Try playing this exercise whilst counting aloud:

ex 2

TB-010-Ex2 by justinguitar

 

Exercise 3

Print out the following exercise and write the appropriate count above each bar, being careful to make it line up accurately with the relevant notes.

Once you've done this try playing the exercise, counting aloud throughout

ex 3

TB-010-Ex3 by justinguitar 

Exercise 4

    The following exercises incorporate quarter note and eighth note rests. When working out the count, treat them just like notes but don't forget that they will remain silent when you play the piece.

    ex 4  TB-010-Ex4 by justinguitar

 

Exercise 5

    Print out the following exercise and write the appropriate count above each bar, being careful to make it line up accurately with the relevant notes and rests.

    Once you've done this try playing the exercise, counting aloud throughout.

ex 5

TB-010-Ex5 by justinguitar

 

Hope you have enjoyed this look at rhythm and I hope to see you on my drum site (justindrums.com) as soon as JustinGuitar gets off his butt and gets it up and running for me!

Justin Drums (Justin Scott)

 

URN

If you like this lesson you should certainly check out the book I have written with Justin Scott - Understanding Rhythm Notation.

Go check it out - over 200 page pdf download that will get you understanding reading and playing 8th and 16th note rhythms!

Understanding Rhythm Notation