Measures can be of different lengths

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Measures can be of different lengths to accommodate different rhythms. The initial measure length is specified at the beginning of the piece. It takes the form of a fraction, the upper number expressing how many beats in each measure, and the lower one the length of each beat. Here’s how it looks:

This indicates four beats to the measure (the upper number). The lower number specifies that each beat has a duration of a quarter note. We call this “four four time.” This is the most common time in music, so is often shown by the abbreviation

The three on top indicates that there will be three beats. The eight below shows that each beat will last an eighth note. We would refer to this as “three eight time.”

How to Count Time
Knowledge of the mathematical lengths of the notes is only useful upto a point. More important is how to relate these to the onward flow ofthe music, and this is done by counting the beats. It is the same asbeating time to music that you hear—you respond to the beats and tapyour foot accordingly. But when you become the player, you have toestablish your own beat to set the time.

Here are some examples to put this into practice:

First count these measures evenly as shown, with a slight extra stress onthe first beat of each one.

Now try these measures with varying note lengths. See if you can tap out the notes while
keeping an even count., i.e.:

Here is an example in 3/4 time. Notice the dot after the half note which increases its time by half again. Thus, it gets three counts instead of two:

Now let’s try this with the guitar, playing the tablature notes instead of just tapping. Use alternating rest strokes for the melody (counting practice #1):

It is very important to try to count at the same time as you play. It seems a lot to remember at this stage, but if you try it a few times you will find it becomes quite natural. This will help tremendously later, when you start reading regular music notation. Now here is an example in 3/4 time (counting practice #2):

Be careful in the second to last measure, where the rhythm is a little different.