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Part of a 12-part course on reading rhythm.

We covered how to count offbeats in part 5. What about “off-offbeats” (not a technical term), i.e. 14-beat notes that fall halfway between a beat and an offbeat? They require a different technique. Let’s work through a few examples:

So, count 14-note beats by counting “1, 2, 3, 4”, and don’t confuse them with beats. In time you’ll be able to play 14-beat rhythms without counting, just as with beats.

Next, we’ll deal with a particular use of 14-beat notes called “dotted rhythms”.

Part of a 12-part course on reading rhythm.

In the last couple of tutorials we saw how to write the beats into Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and Brahms’s Lullaby. Now that we know where the beats go, how do we translate that into playing the pieces rhythmically accurately?

So, to play any piece in time with the metronome, work through the following steps in order, splitting the piece into section if necessary:

  1. Make sure you’re on top of the notes and fingering.
  2. Set the metronome to a slow speed.
  3. Practise saying the rhythm in time with the metronome, without playing the notes. Put the beats on the clicks and the “and”s in between. (Putting an “and” on a click is a really common mistake.)
  4. Then practise playing the notes while saying the rhythm without the metronome.
  5. Put steps 3 and 4 together and practise playing the notes while saying the rhythm in time with the metronome.
  6. Play the notes in time with the metronome without saying the beats.
  7. Gradually speed it up.

As you get better at this you can skip steps. (An experienced musician can sight read a score for the first time in time with a metronome without counting anything!)

Next up: counting 14-beat notes.

Part of a 12-part course on reading rhythm.

We touched on how to count offbeats in the last video. Let’s work through another example so you get more practice, in this case Brahms’s Lullaby:

So that’s how to write beats into a score. How does we translate that knowledge into actually playing the tune rhythmically accurately?

With a metronome.

Part of a 12-part course on reading rhythm.

(Note: this article contains musical symbols that might not display on mobile devices. I recommend reading it on a desktop/laptop if so.)

In the last post, we establied that:

  • a dot after a note multiplies its length by 112

That gives us this chart (click the image to download the PDF):

Here’s the trick: memorize the first and last columns.

It’s much quicker to think:

𝅗𝅥 . = 3 beats

than it is to think:

𝅗𝅥 . = 𝅗𝅥 × 112 = 2 beats × 112 = 3 beats

There are other dotted notes, but the above 3 are by far the most common. We had an example of a dotted 12-note in the last tutorial, and will cover some dotted 14-notes in the next. Dotted 18-notes mostly occur in dotted rhythms, which we’ll cover in a later tutorial.

Important: don’t confuse dotted notes, where the dot comes after the note, with staccato notes, where the dot goes above or below the note.

Part of a 12-part course on reading rhythm.

(Note: this article contains musical symbols that might not display on mobile devices. I recommend reading it on a desktop/laptop if so.)

3 rules for reading rhythm

Let’s do an experiment.

I’m going to give you 3 rules about rhythm notation, and then we’re going to analyze my arrangement of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from my Intermediate Classical course and see how many others we can work out.

Here are the 3 rules, true for all pieces:

  1. the 1st note* after a bar line is always on the 1st beat of the bar
  2. the length of a note* tells you when the next note* is happening
  3. if 2 notes* are vertically above each other on the staff they’re played at the same time

*(or rest)

And in this particular piece the bottom note of the time signature is a 4, so:

𝅘𝅥 = 1 beat

(Consult my note lengths chart again if that doesn’t sound familiar.)

Ready? Okay, let’s go.

Counting beats in a bar

So we were actually able to work out that if

𝅘𝅥 = 1 beat

then

𝅝 = 4 beats

𝅗𝅥 = 2 beats

and

𝅘𝅥𝅮 = ½ a beat

In other words, we worked out the first 4 rows of the chart I showed you in the previous tutorial (again, click the image to download the PDF):

Plus we worked out that:

  • a dot after a note multiplies its length by 112

So if

𝅘𝅥 = 1 beat

then

𝅘𝅥 . = 112 beats

and if

𝅗𝅥 = 2 beats

then

𝅗𝅥 . = 3 beats

They’re called dotted notes and require a mini-post all to themselves.