Music Classroom

Introduction to Reading Western Music 1 - Beats, Measure and Time Signature

By: Prenashan Singh

Introduction

 

Music is a way of self-expression, which could stir up many emotions to the listener.

Since the beginning of music and even till today musicians that have the ‘ear’ for music prefer to play and write their songs by listening and making their own specific memos or small written diagrams to remember their melodies. However, this made it slightly difficult for others to understand the music that was written. The western musical notation was developed to have a standard practice of writing and reading music to ensure that there would be a solid communication between artists and composers in which they both could understand each other and play their music with the least amount of conflict and misunderstanding.

 

A basic understanding of the western theory of classical music will not only be able to allow you to read other peoples compositions but also allow you to write your music down in a way that could be read by others.

 

These lessons will aim to provide you with the basics of reading and understanding music al notation in the western classical system.

 

Reading music

The system of music notation allows us to specify two of the main characteristics of music: The note to be played, and its duration.

We will first look at how to specify the durations of sound.

Beats

Theory: Similar to the way a clock ticks, beats are a constant pulsation.

Practice: If you tap your foot to the constant tick of a clock you will get the pulsation or a beat at a constant rate. Each tap of your foot is a steady beat or pulsation.

 

Measures

Theory: A measure is a pattern of a group of beats. These beats are grouped in numbers of two, three and four.

Practice: By keeping a constant tapping to the tick of a clock we shall demonstrate the 2,3 and 4 beat times.

 

2 Beat

Tap your foot to the constant tick of a clock and count one for the first beat and two for the second beat. It should go like this:

 

               1   2   1   2   1   2   1   2   1   2   1   2

 

This is similar to the Left, Right, Left, Right marching of an army in training.

 

3 Beat

Tap your foot to the constant tick of a clock and count one for the first beat, two for the second beat and three for the third beat. It should go like this:

 

          1   2   3   1   2   3   1   2   3   1   2   3

 

4 Beat

Tap your foot to the constant tick of a clock and count one for the first beat, two for the second beat and three for the third beat. It should go like this:

 

          1   2   3   4   1   2   3   4   1   2   3   4   1   2   3   4

 

 

You may have noticed that the 1 in each example is in Bold.  This is because the first beat is always emphasised.

So now try again and tap with making the first beat louder than the rest.

 

Time signature

When you read music the first element you will see is the time signature. The time signature is used to represent how many beats there are in a bar and which note value establishes one beat.

The time signature appears at the beginning of the piece of music as a time symbol. This creates the time count or beat that the piece of music will follow.

 

 

Breaking it down

 

The time signature is quite similar to fractions in mathematics

 

This concludes Lesson One. If you feel comfortable with the understanding in this lesson feel free to move on to Lesson Two- Note Values - Basics 1.

 

Leave us a comment or contact us at classroom@sounds-of-the-world.com if you have any questions in regards to any topic from our online classroom. 

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