Understanding Basic Rhythm

Music on a staff is broken up into groupings of counts called measures.


Each measure contains a certain amount of beats based upon a set of two numbers placed at the beginning of a staff called the time signature. This is a 4/4 time signature.


What this essentially means is that, because the top number is 4, within each measure there are four equal beats, or counts.


Likewise, if the top number of the time signature was 3 this would mean that within each measure there would be 3 equal beats.


In order to understand music from a rhythmic aspect we have to take a look a multiple different note durations.

The first, and most basic, note duration we will discuss is called a whole note. A whole note sounds for four equal beats, or counts.


Therefore, on a staff with a 4/4 time signature which we already know as having four beats per measure a whole note would last for the entire, or whole, measure.


This here is a whole rest.


This means that instead of sounding for 4 equal beats, you rest for 4 equal beats.


Now, you may be asking yourself, “But what if the top number of the time signature is 3 like we just saw a little earlier?”.

If this was the case you would not be able to use a whole note in any single measure because a whole note lasts for four beats and the measure has been designated by the time signature to hold only 3 beats. You would need at least 4 beats in a measure in order to have a whole note in that measure.


If we take a whole note and break it in half what we end up with is a half note. A half note can be identified as an open dot with a stem.