16. Rhythm notation

Hi there, I am woochia and this is music theory in 5 minutes. For 15 episodes we've talk about chord, harmony, everything about the pitch of the notes, but I couldn't make a series on music theory without talking a bit about rhythm as well. So just like we did with harmony, we'll start with the very basics, and then build upon that. Let's get started.

If harmony is the way we organise the notes in pitches, rhythm is the way we organise the notes in time. This is not to confuse with tempo, which is the global pace of a music. For example a tempo of a 100 beats per minutes, is a different than a tempo of 140 bpm.
But a rhythm, which is a grouping of several notes, can be played at any of these tempi.

Now to talk about rhythm we'll have to define how we divide time, define the length each note can have and how we notate that. And there I'm happy to make these videos in english, as the french terms make a little less sense.


So we start with a tempo that defines the speed of the music, by telling us how many beats fit in one minute.
Then one of the longest note we have is a whole note, which is 4 beats long, (and is noted as a little circle.)
Then we can divide it by 2 to have half notes, which are 2 beats long
(and is noted as little circle with a tail.)
Then we divide them by 2 to have 1/4 notes, which last for 1 beat
(and is noted as a black note with a tail. )
Then 1/8 notes would last for half a beat long
(and is noted as a black note with a crochet.)
And 1/16 notes which are as long as the quarter of a beat,
(and is noted as a black note with 2 crochets.)
Then you can go on dividing the length of these notes by 2,
(adding a little crochet everytime.)
So we have a whole note which is the length of 2 half notes, each of them is the length of 2 1/4 notes, etc...

You also have equivalent symbols to write silences of equivalent lengths.

We can then begin to combine these notes and silences to create some rhythms. For exemple let's pick some notes at random. Here the pulse, given by our bpm would land here, and this rhythm would sound like this.


Then we can add some modifiers to these notes to change their length.
First you can link them, so their lengths add up.
so a half note linked to a quarter note would last 3 beats. The length of the half note plus the length of a quarter note.
Or a 1/4 note linked to a 1/16 note would make a note that last for 1 beat + a quarter of a beat.
You can also add a dot to a note. Basically it extends the length of the note by the half of its original value.
So a dotted half note would be a half note + the half of a half note, so it's the same length than a half note + a quarter note, 3 beats.
A dotted 1/8 note is the same than a 1/8 note + a 1/16 note. Which can be very groovy but we'll probably get back to that, sometimes.

And then there are tuplets. If we can divide the length of each note by 2 or 4, tuplets are here to divide them by other odd numbers.
They are noted as a group of notes, linked by a bracket, with a number above that indicate the ratio of the division.
There are triplets that divide a length into 3 equal parts. Triplets on quarter notes for example are 3 notes that will take the same length than 2 quarter notes. Triplets on 1/8 notes are 3 notes that will take the same length than 2 1/8 notes. Here is what it sounds like.

Then quintuplets are a way to divide a length in 5 equal parts, sextuplets divides it by 6 and septuplets divide it by 7. Quintuplets, sextuplets and septuplets on 1/8 Notes are respectively 5, 6 or 7 notes that will take the length of 4 1/8 notes.

Quick note aside, most DAWs allow you to make triplets by editing the time grid, but they doesn't allow other tuplets.
So I'll show you how I do them in my DAW of choice, ableton live, hopefully it would work in a similar way in other daws.
So for quintuplets, you put 6 notes, the five notes of the quintuplets plus 1 note. Then select them all, and squash them, so the 5 first notes fill the right amount of beats. You then have a perfect quintuplet that you can duplicate.
For a Sextuplet, you can use the triplet grid, as six is a multiple of three.
And for the Septuplet, you put 8 notes, the septuplet + 1 note. Then select them and squash them like before.

So you can see the time of your song as divided in beats, which are furhter subdivided, as much as you want really. That forms a grid that is well represented in a piano roll in a daw.

And we now  have all these notes to chose from to fill that grid. We can pretty much create any rhythm pattern we like. Would they be a drum pattern, a melody or a harmonic rhythm, which is the rhythm with which your chords will change.

And these rhythm patterns dont have to be all of the same length. They can be of 3 beats, 4 beats, 5 beats longs. the length of this rhythm will be determined by the bar we'll put this rhythm in, rather by th time signature of the bar...
Bars are like containers to put the note in, and their length, that will give us the core structure of our rhythm is given us by their time signature. That's the numbers sometimes at the beginning of a bar and that is presented like a fraction.

These bars and time signatures will be the topic of the next video. we'll talk about  how this different types of bars and time signatures can change the whole structure and feel of a song.
With some general blueprint of where the strong beats and weak beats are in each of them.

In the meantime don't forget to like and comment this video, subscribe to the channel if you don't want to miss the next ones, thank you very much for watching and I'll see you next time!