Beyond E Major
is written music rock'n'roll?
Go further with the rhythm method — Billy Jenkins continues to show how you can work it out on paper.
And the beat goes on...
Continuing last month's diatribe on rhythm and tempo, it would be a good idea to see if you could recognise well known patterns in order to help you understand how rhythm is written.
Here's the rhythm of the opening vocal line of an all time Elvis the Pelvis rock and roll classic. Tap it out with an empty medicine phial:
It's patently obvious its 'Blue Suede Shoes' ain't it?
There may be a couple of things here that confuse you. Why doesn't the first bar have four beats?
This shows the importance of bar lines and the accent that is given to that first beat. It's obvious that the sequence clicks in on the word "one" — especially for any cabaret singer who knows how to squeeze as much as possible out of such a well worn song. He might hold the word "Well" till either his lungs collapse, or until some wag shouts "Well get on with it then...". This lead in is common in all types of music and this example is made all the more obvious when the drummer drops five tons of wood onto the snare with the word "one" — the count starts here.
The first full bar also contains a rest on the fourth beat... a silence, a pause, a moment for contemplation. There are rests for all occasions and rests to match all types and lengths of notes. "Hardest things to play" says trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. And how right he is — when attempting to straddle a run of super fast demi-semi-quavers (remember, they're 32nd notes) only to hit a gap about 19/32nd of a way through a bar. You can't bluff it — you've got to be quiet.
The diagram shows the seven types of notes with the names and symbols of their equivalent rests.
When writing rhythm it is good manners to divide a bar into exactly half with an invisible line, and try not to cross it e.g.
is not as acceptable as
by the same token
is preferable to
This is not a hard and fast rule — more a question of neatness.
What is this symbol?
This has two names, and two functions. As a tie it is used to join one note to another of the same name. It is the chief way of producing syncopation, which is the moving or displacing of the usual accent.
(Another way of shifting the accent is by the placing of a sideways "vee" shape over or under notes. In these examples the "vee' sign accented notes would be louder than the first beat of the bar.)
A tie might be used to extend the same note across a bar line so that it may be played for longer than the time represented by one bar. The example below would mean the note is held for eight beats.
Ties are not used with rests — they are utilised per bar, so for example a two bar rest would simply be written:
It must be pointed out that we have not yet encroached upon melody and the five lines of the musical stave, and that a whole note rest hangs from the second-from-top line, and the half note rest sits on the middle line. Think of the longer rest being too heavy with beats to support itself, unlike the half-as-heavy minim rest that can sit up quite comfortably of its own accord.
The second name and function of the bowlike symbol is as a slur — a curved line covering groups of two or more notes their use being chiefly to indicate a smooth rendering of the music known as legato. It also, along with the ties and accents, helps to shape the phrasing of a piece. The slur will come into Beyond E Major when melody lines are discussed.
Pick up that empty phial again, and let's Tap-A-Long-A-Nother-Elvis opening vocal phrase:
Our Sports Correspondent writes:
"An interesting use of tied note intro, and tactical use of quaver (eighth note) rests, which neatly divide up the second half of the first and second bars. A stunning display of strength by the mighty quaver...!" Let's add the words:
Once more a delight for our clockwatching, cabaret pal with a limited repertoire. "WWWWWEEEELLLL..." could again last from the bingo to last orders and Still wouldn't qualify for bar line recognition. For as it is with 'Blue Suede Shoes', the first accent/emphasis is on the second word, in this case, 'since'. This use of two notes tied together could be made quite invalid if the vocalist chooses to extend the first word, but that is the beauty of musical interpretation. The 'official' chart may well have it as a beat and a half, but what one wishes to do with it is down to personal or collective choice.
Note also the dotted quavers — the shorthand term for 'a quaver-and-a-half, then a semi-quaver'.
To memorise the sound of these, jot down a couple of bars of them i.e.
and imagine John Wayne riding into the sunset on his horse. Better still, recall the opening to 'Wandering Star' complete with Limping Lee Marvin and rickety wagon. Shut your eyes and tap away with two empty coconut shells.
But what, you must really want to know, is this grouping of three quavers in bars two and three?
Different groups of notes other than those divided by regular divisions can be used, the most common of which are TRIPLETS.
These are three notes written in the place of two of a similar kind i.e.
A rest may replace one or more notes of a triplet i.e.
The easiest way to memorise the feel of a triplet is to simply say the three syllable word — 'EA-SI-LY'.
A very slow 4/4 blues will often have what they call a '12/8' feel to it — the drummer plays crotchet triplets on his cymbal against the 4/4 of the bass guitar, while acknowledging the 4/4 time by accenting the second and fourth beats with the snare drum.
It's probably that triplet push on the intro to 'Earache Hotel' that makes the whole line so soulful. You should see my grandma cry...
Besides triplets, a note may be divided into other groups. For example, a note divided into six equal notes is known as a sextolet. Even odd or irregular groups may be used (five notes are a quintuplet) provided a figure denoting the division is placed over the group as I have done over the triplets of 'Motel'.
Well by now, if you've studied this and last month's articles thoroughly, you should have some picture of understanding, writing, and reading chord and rhythm charts, but let me leave you with a few tips...
Use of rhythm patterns on a chord chart will help to refine the information needed to either write your own music, or for others to play it.
Always use the time signature and bar lines. Spread the bars over one line and always have four bars per line. This assists sightreading. Write the chord names above or below the stave (if you're using one).
Rhythm chart shorthand varies from person to person. Some, like myself, make use of the minim and semi-breve. Others will just use the stem of the crotchet and quaver, and simply tie these together using the bowed symbol when more than one beat is to be played by one note or chord.
When reading a chart someone has given you, it may help to slow the tempo down, and divide the number of beats in the bar so that the shortest note has a value of one count. So say the shortest note is a semi-quaver — break the bar up into 16 counts.
I bet you never knew music was so mathematical!
Feature by Billy Jenkins
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