Learn about Rhythm

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Measures and Measure Lines

To make music and rhythms easier to read, beats are grouped into measures. The measures are marked by vertical lines on the staff. They are called measure lines, or bar lines.

Example of a measure and measure lines

Time Signatures

The number of beats in a measure is determined by the meter and is indicated by the time signature, which consists of two numbers written vertically.

An example of a time signature

The top number in the time signature indicates the number of beats in a measure. The bottom number in the time signature indicates what note value is equal to one beat. We will begin with three different time signatures:

Example of 2/4 time signatureTwo beats in a measure. The quarter note equals one beat. Pronounced “two-four.”

Example of 3/4 time signatureThree beats in a measure. The quarter note equals one beat. Pronounced “three-four.”

Example of 4/4 time signatureFour beats in a measure. The quarter note equals one beat. Pronounced “four-four.”

2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 are not the only possible time signatures, but they are very common. In fact, 4/4 is also called common time and is sometimes represented by this symbol:

The symbol for common time

Continue on to the next step of the introduction: Counting Rhythms
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Get the Book

The Fundamentals of Rhythm, book by Kyle Coughlin

Fundamentals of Rhythm book

If you would like all of this information in book format so that you can put it on your music stand and practice it wherever you go, get The Fundamentals of Rhythm, by Kyle Coughlin. The book includes all of the lesson information and practice exercises found on the website.

 

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