Developing A Rhythmic Vocabulary

The Rhythmic Vocabulary

In the previous lesson we discussed three of the most important types of the notes, or rhythmic values: whole notes worth 4 beats each, half notes worth 2 beats each and quarter notes which have a rhythmic value of one beat. in this lesson we will introduce a new type of rhythmic note which has a value of three beats: the dotted half note. Study the interactive diagram below to learn about dotted half notes.


One of the interesting things we learned in math class is the word permutations, or taking a set number of items and rearranging them in a particular order. For example, the four digit password on your smart phone has only one series of numbers that will unlock it. That one and only correct series, that passcode is some four digit permutation of the numerical characters 0,1 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.
Here in this lesson, we are looking at all the possible permutations of the four musical characters, whole, dotted half, half and quarter notes you are currently studying. Just like that for digit passcode on your smart phone, where each and every one of the possible permutations has a different, definite and distinct meaning, each and every one of the permutations of our four musical characters on unlocks one and only one musical rhythm. There is absolutely no room for argument, each and every written musical rhythm has one and only one correct answer.


Vocabulary Building

Just below you see an interactive illustration which will enable you to play and hear every one of the eight possible permutations of the musical characters being discussed here in this lesson. This is one of those instances where being a little bit of a music geek pays huge dividends. Once again, practice sight singing these rhythms before you play them on your guitar. Try to hear the rhythms in your head so clearly and accurately that you can perform them vocally. This is how most professional musicians learned how to read music so quickly and smoothly.

Four Keys To Success


Traditionally, there are four important, although often overlooked practicing techniques, that I believe are still the keys to becoming an effective reader quickly. As I said before, these are the old school methods and techniques used by top level music teachers and associated with music schools. You may have already guessed it, but the first technique is sight singing, habitually sounding out written music with your voice. Another good word for this is simply musicianship, which pertains to someones knowledge, skill and ability to function well in a variety of situations including ones that involve sheet music. Sight singing is an absolutely invaluable skill that gives a musician a good idea good idea of what the music they are about to play is supposed to sound like, even before playing it.

The second one is learning to look ahead at the upcoming measure or measures while you are in the act of reading music, that may sound impossible but it really isn’t hard to do. As you develop your ability to read music, train your eyes to be continually moving to the right -trying to see what’s coming next. This is called looking ahead. You don’t have to stare at a rhythm or a measure for the entire four beats allotted to it. It really is possible to keep your eyes moving across the music giving you a good idea and preparing you for what is about to come.

My third key is another simple one: always, always always have a metronome or at least a drum machine on when you are reading music. The reason for this one is simple: although most of us think we do, no one has a flawless, infallible sense of timing. Also, rhythm, more than anything else is the common ground that we all stand on his musicians. After being united by the rhythm of a piece of music we all have our own jobs to do. Obviously, an impeccable sense of rhythm and timing is necessary if you plan on playing with other musicians. Using a metronome to continually increases your comprehension of and ability to function within the beat.

The fourth thing I concentrate on in my teaching and practicing is reading duets with another musician or recording. This is by far the most educational, challenging and informative type of sight reading you can do. There is absolutely nothing like taking care of your business while someone else is taking care of theirs – it’s the way the real world of music works. Playing a duet requires the utmost in concentration and focus on your part, because it is different from the other person’s part. This means you can’t depend on your reading partner to figure the rhythms out for you or to “light the way” because he’s going his own way. There is no shortage of great reading material out there, and I will be suggesting a few titles for you at the end of this course.