• RHYTHM in music is the regular succession of audible events in time.  If music can be defined as organized sound moving through time,  then rhythm is the time factor.  Music is organized as well according to form, timbre, intensity and texture; but rhythm is the timetable, the schedule.
  • PULSE:  We all know the sound of our own heartbeat, of water dripping from a faucet or the ticking of a clock– single sound events that recur many times at regular intervals.   We can generate a pulse mechanically or electronically using a metronome.  The term BEAT is often used as a synonym for pulse.
  • TEMPO:  How frequently pulses recur is TEMPO.  Tempo is most commonly expressed as beats per minute.
  • METER:  Pulses themselves are often organized into recurring patterns of strong and weak beats. example:  STRONG-weak-weak  (OOM-pah-pah) typifies a waltz.
  • MEASURES:  In notation we mark out these repeated patterns into packages (measures) using vertical lines (barlines).  The performer can readily see which beats are to be stressed.
  • BARLINES also provide a convenient means of discussing the music.  Musicians can easily locate a spot within a piece by counting measures.  Measures are often numbered to aid finding a particular place quickly.
  • COUNTING WITHIN MEASURES:  The placement of sounds within measures is crucial.  By numbering the beats within measures, we can know exactly when to begin and end each sound.  Every measure starts with ONE.  The numerator of the time signature tells us how many beats are included in every measure.
  • TIME SIGNATURE:   We find a time signature at the beginning of each piece.  There are always two numbers stacked up.  The upper number tells how many beats are contained in a measure.  The lower number is a code for the notation character that represents one beat.  The number 4 in the denominator stands for a quarter-note, 8 for eighth-note, etc.  We need to know if a price tag on an item in an airport duty-free shop is expressed in euros, pounds, US dollars or yen.  The lower number in a time signature is our “unit of exchange”– the kind of unit on which we will base our time values.
  • READING THE DOWNBEATS:  Conductors all over the world use standardized time beating patterns.  By knowing the gestures and knowing the placement of notes within measures,  performers can continuously check their location in time and make corrections if needed.
  • ORDINAL VERSUS  CARDINAL NUMBERS:  It is important to realize that the counting we use to locate sounds within measures deals with the ordering of notes, not their value.  The number we write under a note will tell where a sound will begin.  A note which begins on beat two need not last for two beats.  We are going to count “One, two, three,” (cardinal) but be really mean “First, second, third” (ordinal).  Cardinal numbers are easier to write and say.  Ordinal numbers tell us when a sounds start;  it takes a separate calculation to know when to end them.
  • USING THE METRONOME:  Keeping with a metronome will present problems for some students at first.  Doing all the mathematics while keeping an ear on the metronome is a complex set of tasks using different parts of the brain.  Nevertheless  it is a skill which must be learned.  Students who have these difficulties must first build the important listening skills by learning to walk, clap or play open strings at various tempos completely apart from any notation.  We have to coordinate the ear with the rest of the body before we can add the additional task of calculating note durations. Tempo markings given on the worksheets can be adjusted to any convenient setting.  In the end players have to play in rhythm at any speed.
  • WHAT ADVANCED PLAYERS DO:  Experienced players recognize a printed rhythm and play it directly without any need to analyze counting.  However, occasionally something tricky will come along which will require some figuring.  At moments like this, a well-oiled system of counting goes into action which enables the player to analyze and execute perfectly “on the fly.”  The player plays one sound while the eyes are reading ahead several notes; the brain does the calculation in time to begin the next tone properly.  The player will instantly know to place, for instance,  the F sharp on the fourth quarter of beat three.  For less experienced players it all happens a lot slower, but it’s the same process.
  • WHAT AND WHEN?:   In these worksheets pitch will be limited to a single open string.  In reality reading musical notation involves translating a printed note into at least two pieces of information:
    • a pitch indicated by its placement on the staff and
    • a duration (when it begins and ends) indicated by the shape and color of the symbol.
    • Other markings “around the note” may supply further information such as accents, staccato dots, bowings, etc. leading to a third factor–HOW.
  • BOWINGS:  Some rhythmic patterns are often bowed in certain ways.  For example, dotted-eights and sixteenth note patterns are usually linked or hooked.  For the purposes of these worksheets, just bow them “as they come.”  Limit the amount of bow used.
  • STYLE CONSIDERATIONS:  A clear, well-defined articulation is suggested for all the exercises.  Start each sound clearly and detach each tone.  This will build definition and precision. A legato approach promotes inexactitude and a lazy brain.  In some respects it is impossible to teach rhythm without teaching style.
  • HOW WE PLAY IN RHYTHM:1.    INNER CLOCK:   Musicians develop a consistent internal sense which allows us to maintain a steady pulse.  This comes from many years of playing with a metronome and with other fine players.  This skill requires constant maintenance;  even the finest artists refer to their metronomes regularly.
    2.    MATHEMATICAL MANIPULATION  OF TIME:   We develop the ability to add, multiply and divide time.  Beginning from single pulses, we can sustain sounds for several beats (example: a whole-note lasting four beats) or play two sounds between beats (eighth-notes–two per pulse).  Our math has to be precise.
    3.    LISTENING:  We synchronize our sounds with other musicians.  We have to know what else is going on while we are playing and make our sounds coincide.  If we notice that our partner is playing eighth-notes, we can make our quarter-notes fit in precisely.  Of course, we have to notice.
    4.    EXTERNAL TIMEKEEPERS:  We sometimes get the help of a conductor or something mechanical like a flashing electronic metronome that we can watch to help us maintain a steady pulse.All four of these abilities have to be developed and refined.


1 Basic Counting click to download
2 Dotted Quarter & Eighth click to download
3 Ties click to download
4 Eighth Note Rests click to download
5 Sixteenth Notes click to download
6 Dotted Eighth & Sixteenth click to download
7 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8 click to download
8 Syncopation click to download
9 Triplets click to download