Rhythm for me is not only a beat. It beholds a feel for the song, and a tempo to determine if that all fits together. And I am going to keep it simple at first. There are so many possibilities of how to time rhythm, that alone is years of study. Most of the songs however, have a 4/4 time signature. I'll keep to that and do some extra dividing in that time signature. Okay ready?
And a 1 & 2 & 3 & 4!
Tip 1 on Rhythm: The basics of rhythm.
Learn how to count your music and keep the intended rhythm.
When you know how to count in music, it will help you in every aspect of making music. As a musician, but definitely as a songwriter too. Keeping the rhythm as straight as possible, means not speeding up or slowing down. Unless you intend to do that in your song. But even when slowing down or speeding up is intended, you need to practice this.
To start with practicing counting, I'll start with the basics.
So, 4 counts is a bar. Every count is a quarter note. 4 quarter notes become a bar. Full circle here, right? On to the next step.
Hold it: If music was that simple, you wouldn't need much more tips.
In the picture above you can see in the column on the left side:
Pitch | Instrument | Snap Drum and a blue line with 3.2 | 3.3 | 3.4 Drum | 4
It is 1 bar starting at 3 and ends at 4, making it 1 measured bar.
C1 | Bass drum (kick) | 1/16 and a total of 16 diamond shapes.
When I solo play this in a example in a D.A.W. I'll get a very fast playing bass drum sound. Mostly used in Hardrock and Metal music, although not throughout the whole song. I am just making sure that you know a little bit more about what genre it could be useful in. More about that in my next blog on Genre.
C#1 | Side Stick | 1/8 and a total of 8 diamond shapes.
8 is half of 16, right. You do not have to be a mathematician to know this, right?
D1 | Acoustic Snare | ¼ and a total of 4 diamond shapes
D#1 | Hand Clap | ½ and 2 diamond shapes
E1 | Electric Snare |1/1 and 1 diamond shape
I am sticking to a 4/4 rhythm, but you can imagine that there are many more time signatures to play around with. Also, when using different kinds of drums, you'll get more different possibilities in sounds too. I limited the sounds to these 5 instruments as an example, nothing more.
In some D.A.W.'s you use a piano roll, and then it could look like below.
You can see that all notes are now the precise length of the divided count. You can use shorter notes when you want. Find out how your D.A.W. works and what it does to change the length of the notes.
Tip 2 on Rhythm: Start counting.
To make a rhythmic sequence (pattern) you have to see what it brings. Using a rhythmic instrument like drums or percussion, can make it a bit easier. When you are not used to playing that, clapping or tapping can help you out to start with.
Start counting 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 in a tempo that is slow.
Tap or clap along with every count.
Keep on counting and see if you can just tap (or clap) on the 1 and 3.
Did you get that?
Change it to clap only on 2 and 4. You got that, right?
Now challenge yourself by tapping on 1 and 4.
When you got that, change to 2 and 3.
Are you making small mistakes? That's okay, keep on trying these until you can do this perfect. All the time when you practice this.
Would you like to challenge yourself even more?
Cool, but remember to have fun with it.
Now take a piece of paper. Write down 4 bars and in every bar put down the numbers 1 - 2 - 3 – 4.
In the first bar, you circle the numbers 1 and 3.
In the second bar you circle the number 2 and 4.
The third bar circle 1 and 4 and the last bar 2 and 3.
Start counting and only tap on the circled numbers while you count all numbers out loud. When you played it slow and made no mistakes, speed it up a bit. And after playing without mistakes, speed it up again. You can use a metronome at some point to help you stay in the same speed, or a simple drumbeat.
Let me know in the comments, on how it went and at what speed you lost the control of tapping the sequence without mistakes.
After you have done this exercise, you can switch it up and make up your own sequences. You can repeat some numbers and leave out others, make it longer by adding bars and different sequences. I wouldn't mind seeing examples of what you created, so let me know what you have made by commenting down below.
Also, I'll get back to this tip later in the bonus part of the blog.
Did you know you can read sheet music in the same way, by starting doing the counting part first? Do not worry about notes and scales. Just do the tapping a bit for now.
Tip 3 on Rhythm: