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November 5, 2014

Cheat-Sheets for Rhythm

Difficulty: Intermediate

Skills Needed: Ability to read note/rest durations, understanding of ties and dotted notes

Being a composer and improviser, one of the things the founder of MusicTools really wanted was to have a great familiarity with every possible rhythm. He came up with these complete-sheets when he was designing and programming the application, Composer, and ended up using them a lot to practice rhythm.

Nowadays he tends to use the xBeat app instead because deep down it's the same thing yet better since it gives you the rhythms in random order and it tests your accuracy. Another difference is that you don't have to be able to read notes so anybody can play xBeat. Having been made into a game it's also a lot of fun.

The cheat-sheets are more for musicians than enthusiasts but before making a new app we've decided to use the website to offer the rhythms for free. Here you can find links to view and download the rhythm complete-sheets as a PDF for personal use. We'll be posting more sheets soon and we've carefully thought about the best order to present them for the sake of beginning musicians.

Follow us on our Facebook page if you'd like to stay informed of the latest releases. We'll be offering other tutorials, tips, and tricks as well. Now would be a good time to share this with your musician friends and students in order to get in early.

Suzuki teachers can use these sheets to supplement the Twinkle rhythms. Students could roll Dungeons and Dragons dice to choose them. No rhythm will ever surprise your students again after they master these lists. At the end of their lesson they could be rewarded by allowing them to play xBeat.

November 10, 2014

An Insight Into Rhythm Possibilities

Here is the newest rhythm cheat-sheet as promised; Quarter Note with 8ths. It may seem trivial but there's something about it that might not be immediately obvious. It's interesting to realize that all longer rhythms can be built simply by combining all of the shorter forms. The point is that you don't have to master a huge number of rhythms if you know the shorter lists.

The first two list are a good example of this. If you want to make the bigger list yourself you combine each rhythm with every other rhythm from the shorter list. You combine certain rhythms twice when the rhythm on the right doesn't have a rest on the first position, and with this case you tie the two rhythms together. In this example the tied notes in the second list are converted into a longer note, often a dotted-note.

To make it a little easier to see how it works with the first two lists, reduce all of the first list's notes by half, looking at it in terms of 16th notes.

November 17, 2014

Speed Vs. Duration

Intermediate musicians and above know that durations of notes are all relative. In other words, if you were to reduce all of the durations by half and play twice as slow the piece would sound identical. Composers might use longer durations with a faster tempo to make the notes easier to read psychologically because when players see a lot of black on the page, caused by shorter durations, it can cause them to panic and play too fast.

Teachers are aware of this point in a student's education where they clarify the fundamental difference between speed and duration, and that shorter doesn't necessarily mean faster. Students begin to learn how to interoperate the tempo of a given piece before they being reading.

New Complete Rhythm Cheat-Sheet with Durations

This complete-sheet may seem a little overkill to some because it's a little fussy. A better and more common solution is to use the staccato marking instead. Staccato is notated using dots just above or below the note head as in the first example. The second and third example show the durations written out but all three would basically sound the same.

rhythm notation staccato rhythm notation duration beams rhythm notation duration flags

In fact, it is correct to use the longer durations, even with percussion instruments which don't sustain. The reason for this is that it is easier to read. The added benefit is that it's usually easier to notate.

There will be times when composers use a more detailed approach to make their art come through. This list shows you all of the possible durations they could use to do that.

Any given row's rhythms has notes starting in the same points in time. For example, if played by a snare drum, each rhythm in the same row would sound the same.

Mathematicians might be interested in the number of possibilities and the formulas that describe them but we won't give that away here in case they want a puzzle.

November 25, 2014

Enrhythmic Notation and New Complete Rhythm Cheat-Sheet

This complete-sheet is the first of three that will have only subtle differences. We would like to coin a new term. You've heard of enharmonic equivalents or enharmonic spelling haven't you? Well, what about enrhythmic as a term to denote different ways of notating the same rhythm? When you get deep into it, you'll realize that it gets pretty complex when you consider dotting/tying, beaming/flagging, broken beams, extended beams, durations, and articulations.

There's no one right way to notate rhythm but with the next couple of cheat sheets we'd like to raise questions about what's easiest to read. Perhaps this list isn't the easiest to read. The next two lists will be coming soon.

We are really excited to offer this cheat-sheet because it's so musical and so much fun to play with. Flamenco guitar players will really appreciate these because most of the Flamenco rhythms are in 12. Looking at 12 in terms of two 6s is not only efficient, but often designed that way in certain Flamenco forms.

There are a fair amount of rhythms here making it a little more challenging to master. Just to make it very clear, every single rhythm is accounted for, so this list is complete in the sense of when notes happen in time. This list doesn't have varying durations; all notes are at full duration.

Another interesting thing to be learned from this list is that there are some durations which must use a tie in order to notate them. In other words, you can't notate every duration with dotted notes alone. This is one of those things that may not be obvious even to intermediate composers since you don't run across these possibilities very often, and because the more common ties are often used in place of their dotted equivalents. This particular list uses ties only where absolutely necessary.

November 27, 2014

New Complete Rhythm Cheat-Sheet Tied from Weak Beats

Here's the new cheat-sheet.

This sheet may be easier for some to read because it replaces longer notes on weak beats with ties onto the strong beats. If you count to 6, beats 1, 3, and 5 are the strong beats and 2, 4, and 6 are the weak beats.

December 2, 2014

Final Complete Rhythm Cheat-Sheet?

Here's the final cheat-sheet unless you have a special request. Let us know ( and we'll post a cheat-sheet to your specifictions on the rhythm tab of this website.

This sheet is interesting but you probably won't see composers going this far very often. It may be easier to read though since notes fill up their slots in time. The spacing really helps to see when note happen. The last sheet. tied from weak beats only but this one ties notes from strong beats as well. It's a little reminiscent of breaking the inner beam which makes it clear where the strong beats are.

rhythm notation inner beam broken rhythm notation inner beam not non broken

Interestingly enough, you don't see composer breaking inner beams very often either. They do it more often when they start getting into 32nd and 64th notes where strong beats become more and more difficult to find.

The best thing about this list might not be immediately evident but it's how the rests are broken up. It may not be advisable to tie notes from strong beats within a measure but breaking up rests like this makes it clear where the strong beats are.

xBeat App

If you've gotten this far and you have Apple mobile device, or know someone that does, and haven't previewed xBeat yet, please give it a look here. We're pretty sure you will like it.

Coming Up Next...

A new complete-sheet using ties

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