Five Minute Mozart ©

Basic Rhythm

Run time: 4m 30s  |  Release Date: June 18th, 2012

Music on a staff is broken up into groupings of counts called measures. Each measure contains a certain amount of beats based on a set of two numbers placed at the beginning of the staff called a time signature.

With a 4/4 time signature, because the top number is 4, within each measure there are 4 equals beats.

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 fully understand music from a rhythmic aspect, we have to take a look at multiple different note durations.

The first, and most basic note duration that we will discuss is called a whole note. A whole note sounds for 4 equal beats, or counts. Therefore, on a staff with a 4/4 time signature, which we already know as having 4 beats per measure, a whole note would last for the entire, or whole, measure.

A whole rest means that, instead of sounding for 4 equal beats, you would 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 4 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 will end up with is a half note. If a whole note sounds for 4 beats, and half of 4 is 2, a half note would then sound for 2 equal beats. This also means that it would take 2 half notes to sound for the same amount of time as one whole note. Obviously enough, two halves equals one whole.

The final note duration that we will discuss in this video is called a quarter note. A quarter note sounds for only 1 beat, or count. Now, if there are 4 beats to a measure, and a quarter note sounds for 1 beat, then in one measure there could be up to 4 quarter notes. This is interesting because if there are 4 beats to a measure, and 4 quarter notes, what this essentially means is that the quarter note is the beat. 4 equal beats, 4 equal quarter notes.

This is where the bottom number of a time signature comes in. The bottom number in a 4/4 time signature is 4. This number 4 represents a quarter note. Therefore, whenever you see a 4/4 time signature, you will know that within each measure there are 4 equal beats in which the quarter note gets the beat. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that there will always be four visible quarter notes in every single measure that is part of a 4/4 time signature. Any combination of whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, as well as a number of other note durations which we have not yet discussed can be used throughout.