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WebRhythms Lesson 3A

WebRhythms is a series of short articles designed to teach rhythmic reading. Each article includes musical examples that help explain the concepts and an exercise that tests your new reading skills. Along with the written materials, WebRhythms allows you to download and print a copy of each exercise and provides a computer-perfect MIDI performance at a number of different tempi. With all these materials, it’s easy to be creative and challenge yourself while you learn or improve your reading ability.

If you’re a novice at reading music, these articles will start you off by building a solid foundation. Those of you with strong reading skills can use these lessons to brush up and polish what you already know. The later lessons may even show you some new rhythmic ideas and procedures. Monster readers can take the Pro Challenge. Do you have what it takes to keep up?


Reading music is a lot like reading English. In English, letters are placed together to form words. Our eyes take in the visual picture of the words, and our mind interprets those pictures into different sounds and along with the sounds, different meanings. With music, note values are combined to form visual figures that work much like words. Musical figures are also interpreted by our mind and turned into rhythms and these rhythms–depending on musical context–have different meanings. As we learn more of the common musical figures, we are increasing our “rhythmic vocabulary”.

In this lesson, we will be mastering several new figures. We will cover one that uses silence: the eighth rest. We’ll explore the group of four sixteenth notes. And, we’ll look at two figures that combine one eighth note with two sixteenths.

What does a composer do when he wants a musician to play a note on the “and” of a count, but not on the “number”? Well, one solution is to throw away the first eighth note in a group of two eighths (the rhythm covered in the last lesson) and replace it with an eighth rest. Since the eighth rest has the same value as an eighth note, any eighth note could be replaced by an eighth rest. Since the eighth note stands alone on the second half of the beat, it is written with a flag instead of a beam.

webrhythms 03ex1

Examples A and B show the two figures that result when each of the two eighth notes in a count is replaced by an eighth rest. To perform example A, count the number (but, don’t play it), and strike the drum on the “and” count. To perform B, do the opposite and only play on the number count.

Figure B sounds the same as the quarter note when you play it on a drum. But, keep in mind that rests actually signify a certain duration of silence and for this reason, the two figures are not quite the same. If you were playing a wind or string instrument, then you would stop the sound when you came to the rest. Since most drums do not have a very long duration, these figures sound pretty much the same and you don’t need to worry about stopping the sound. If you want to have some fun, try playing these exercises on a suspended cymbal. You can then observe the eighth rests by reaching up and grabbing the cymbal with your hand in order to muffle the vibrations and create the required silence.

  1. WebRhythms Lesson 3A - Bronze 3:17
  2. WebRhythms Lesson 3A - Silver 2:11
  3. WebRhythms Lesson 3A - Gold 1:39
  4. WebRhythms Lesson 3A - Platinum 1:04
  5. WebRhythms Lesson 3A - Diamond 0:47