Today we’re going to start to learn how to read and play on-beat (straight) rhythms. The only way to learn rhythms is to have a go at playing them. Rhythm must be felt and played, not just read so, as we go through this session make sure you try out the examples.
Feel The Pulse
First you will need to tap the beat with your foot (you can choose whatever tempo you want, but I would suggest that you keep it fairly steady). Keeping a clear sense of pulse is a crucial part of learning how to read music.
OK… So start tapping a beat with your foot. I want you to think in groups of 4 so count “1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4, etc..” (I’ve marked the beat with a “<“ in the following examples to help you keep a sense of the beat).
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Clapping Some Simple Rhythms
Now you’re tapping a beat with your foot we’re going to clap some rhythms with our hands.
(In the audio the clave sound plays the beat whilst the snare drum is playing the notes)
Let’s start with the easiest combination – a series of Quarter Notes (crotchets) – these will occur on every beat so all you need to do is clap in time with the beat..
Now halve the frequency of your clapping so you are only clapping on beats 1 and 3. You are now clapping half notes (minims) as shown below.
Now have a look at this rhythm below. You will see that there is only one whole note (semibreve) at the start of the bar. This means that you now need to only clap on beat 1 of the bar.
Clapping More Complex Rhythms
Now try clapping a bar of quarter notes followed by a bar of half notes followed by a bar with a whole note (as shown below).
Keep clapping this series of bars until you feel that you’ve got the rhythms firmly in your head.
Finally let’s try combining a few rhythms within a bar. Try clapping these 2 examples:
How did you get on? Remember the key to grasping this is to play the rhythms – too many people try to just read them – you ned to play, play and play some more!!