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Piano Rhythms

Piano notes are musical signals that tell us which keys to play and how long we have to play them.

Just like a heart which beats and keeps the blood flowing, your fingers play the notes and keep music going. However, there is one difference.

How speed the piano piece goes, in another word, the rhythm, depends on the notes.

Rhythm is extremely important in music. Music and Noise are different because the former is organized whereas the latter is simply random; one has beats while the other has none. This is why music is often said to be mathematical. (No worries, there are no functions or graphs involved.)

Music is always separated into little sections called measures. Within each measure are notes which will tell you what keys to play, and how long to play them. Also, there will be a consistent number of beats in each measure i.e. these measures all have the same number of beats. However, pieces of music differ in their number of beats i.e. a piece of music can be separated into different parts, having measures of differing number of beats as well.

So how can you know the number of beats in a measure then? One easy way is to count the number of beats in a measure, which can also be really tedious. Therefore, all sheets of music have a time signature.

A time signature is a pair of numbering on the left end of a measure.

The number on top tells you the number of beats present in the measure, and the number on the bottom tells you what note gets the beat. Before you can successfully read the time signature, you’ll need to learn about notes and the specific length of each of them; some are long, while some are very short. There are 4 basic notes: the whole note, the half note, the quarter note and the eighth note.

So, in a 4/4 time signature, a measure has four beats, and a “whole note” which also has four beats will take up the whole measure i.e. the whole measure will only have that one “whole note” in it and nothing else. Get it?

The half note has two beats. So how many half notes can there be in that same measure? TWO!

The quarter note has one beat. So how many half notes can there be in that same measure? FOUR! (I hope you are getting this.)

Lastly, an eighth note has half a beat and there will be eight eighth notes in that measure.

However, please do NOT try to gel the notes up together. Eight eighth notes do not equate to one whole note, and of course, do not sound like it as well. The above is only correct in terms of length with regards to the time signature. Eight eighth notes sound different from one whole note as there will be releases in between the eighth notes.

So, for 4/4, 4/2, 4/8 time signatures, we will have four beats in the measure. The bottom number shows you which note gets the beat. For example, in a 4/4 time signature, there are four beats in a measure and the quarter notes gets the beat. Another example, in a 4/8 time signature, there are four beats in a measure and the eighth notes gets the beat. In a 3/4 time signature, we have three beats to the measure and the quarter notes get the beat; so there are three quarter notes in each measure, or six eighth note.

In, a 2/2 time signature there are two beats to a measure and a half note gets a beat. Therefore there are two half notes in a measure, which is pretty similar to 4/4 time signature if you’ve noticed. In a 4/2 time signature, there are four beats to a measure and a half note gets a beat. So there will four half notes in a measure, which also equals to two whole notes or eight quarter notes or sixteen eighth notes in the measure.


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