Category Archives: Music

Children’s Folk Songs (Day Twenty-Seven of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Children’s folk songs have perhaps been among the most enduring cultural songs. Who hasn’t heard Skip to My Lou or Hush Little Baby, for example? Today, I wanted to share some delightful (and perhaps less well-known) children’s songs that deserve our attention.

In my prep time, however, I was slightly disturbed by the lack of reliable chord sources for these songs. Most links that I found had either poorly written tab, over-popularized and stylized remake versions, or incorrect notation. And so I must apologize. I don’t want to lead you astray with these sites, so I simply didn’t include them. We have our own children’s music books at home, but I was hoping to be able to pass on a free resource to those who don’t.


Also, I must apologize for the cheesy and obnoxious kids’ animation videos. I don’t usually go for these types of videos. I prefer to keep to tasteful or simple videos for the sake of developing a more beautiful sense of aesthetics in my kids. However, I was having a difficult time finding videos that were not either shallow animations or overly-stylized band versions of these traditional songs.

And-last apology, I promise!- there are so many good kid’s songs to sing, but I only have posted three here because of the ridiculous amount of time I took searching for accurate chords and decent videos of other songs that didn’t make it to this post. Tomorrow I will be sure to post further resources for folk and children’s music so you can find where to go from here!

Regardless, I still think these are worthwhile, so I will include whatever elements I can find for helping you learn the songs. Even the videos and lyrics, for example, will be enough to get you singing these with your kids. (I think I see a need here to record some of these songs!)

First up, Old Molly Hare– Here’s a kid’s video version- again, not my favorite style, but very easy to learn the tune and words from. If you want to hear an old-timey version from the early 1900s, try this one instead. Click here for yet another different version with chords.

Here’s one called Little Nut Tree, a traditional English nursery rhyme. It’s a pretty little tune with humorous text. You can find additional lyrics here.

How about Go Tell Aunt Rhody?  (Or, alternatively, The Old Grey Goose.) The name of the Aunt varies by the region the sung is sung. You can watch a short video tutorial here that includes chords and lyrics. Here’s a version by the Weavers:

The fun part about these songs is that even if you’re not really musically inclined, you can still sing-chant them together with your kids. It doesn’t need to be perfect to enjoy it! What’s your little one’s favorite tune?

Spirituals (Day Twenty-Six of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Let’s check out another common folk genre- the Spiritual. From work songs to freedom songs to praise songs, African American heritage has passed on a broad repertoire of beautiful music. Now spirituals are spread and sung by many people groups in America, particularly in choral music.

Follow the Drinking Gourd. A familiar spiritual that was actually a map for slaves trying to escape to the north. The drinking gourd was code for the big dipper, and many of the song’s lyrics give instructions for navigating the Underground Railroad.  You can click here for detailed information on each of the song’s lyrics. You can find the chords for the song here.


Swing Low Sweet Chariot- An enlivening acapella version of a well-known spiritual, sung by the Plantation Singers. This song speaks longingly of the day when the Lord will “swing low” in his chariot to take his people home to glory, safe at last from sin and sorrow. Of course, it could also be metaphorical- referring to the day of salvation, or even to freedom from slavery. I posted this song on my Facebook page a few days ago, but I liked it so much I just have to put it on the blog too. For some more information and the chords, click here.

The last one I’ll share with you today is Roll, Jordan, Roll. If you haven’t noticed yet, crossing the River Jordan has become a great symbol of crossing over to heaven to Christians of many heritages. This song portrays that hope beautifully. Grab the chords here.

(This video clip is from the movie 12 Years a Slave, based on the autobiograpy by Solmon Northup. While a very powerful and moving film chock full of traditional music, it deals poignantly with the cruel realities of American slavery and is definitely not for every viewer.)

Spirituals are wonderful for practicing acapella singing, part singing, call and response, percussion, or just regular old strumming with a guitar. Which song will you try next?

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Songs for Social Change (Day Twenty-Five of Homegrown Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here

Another sub-genre of folk music are those songs which advocate for social justice and cultural change. There are countless songs that protest war and promote peace, or cry for the rights of the abused and downtrodden. Music has at many times been a voice for the weak and a powerful catalyst for societal shifts. Whether or not you agree with the position of any given song, you can certainly appreciate the historical context and effects of each. Let’s have a listen, shall we?

First up, Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya. Though the origins of this song are somewhat debated, it likely dates to 1867, and has had many remakes (even by punk rock band Dropkick Murphys) throughout the years. It is sung to the same tune as “The Ants Go Marching One by One.” It has become an anti-war song that has been applied to various times. You can get the words and chords here to give it a go at home. (Hope you enjoy the old video recording.)


Next, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, first featured on a Coke commercial, became an iconic peace-promoting (and tree-hugging) sing along song, sung in this video by the New Seekers in 1972. I first heard this sung by an 8 year old girl playing the ukelele, and I have to say she got me teary with her clear voice singing such big ideas at such a young age. Get the chords and words here.

Finally, how about Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill, a song lamenting the poor working conditions and unfair rules placed upon those workers constructing new railways in the mid-19th century. These men “worked all day for the sugar in their tay (tea),” and sometimes suffered terrible accidents while drilling and blasting holes in rocks. While it is a work song, it certainly also highlights the injustice of the harsh working conditions. Here are the chords and words for this one.

Do you have a favorite song that calls for some improvement to society, life, or culture? Share it below!

Story Folk Songs (Day Twenty-Four of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Yesterday we had a brief introduction to folk music. The thing is that “folk” is a very broad category that encompasses many styles. Today, I want to share with you a few of my favorite folk songs that tell a story. There are a gazillion and one to list, but I’ll start with three.

For each song, I’ll share the lyrics, a video, and a link to the chords so you can give these a whirl yourself. Don’t play an instrument? No problem. Try singing them, improvising harmony along with the video, or writing your own additional verses. Feel free to vary the melody or change the strum patterns. (If you listen to 10 different artists play these songs, you will hear 10 different versions.) That’s the beauty of a folk song- you can make it your own.


Ready or not, here we go!

Bird’s Courting Song– A beautiful little song in which several birds (and a bat) disclose in clever verse how they came to own the characteristics that mark them. And should it surprise us that they all came through love gained or lost?

Lyrics:

Hi! says the blackbird, sitting on a chair,
Once I courted a lady fair;
She proved fickle and turned her back,
And ever since then I’m dressed in black.

Hi! says the blue-jay as she flew,
If I was a young man I’d have two;
If one proved fickle and chanced for to go,
I’d have a new string to my bow.

Hi! says the little leather winged bat,
I will tell you the reason that,
The reason that I fly in the night
Is because I lost my heart’s delight.

Hi! says the little mourning dove,
I’ll tell you how to gain her love;
Court her night and court her day,
Never give her time to say “0 nay.”

Hi! said the woodpecker sitting on a fence,
Once I courted a handsome wench;
She proved fickle and from me fled,
And ever since then my head’s been red.

Get the chords for Bird’s Courting Song here.

I Ride an Old Paint- This is an old western song that outlines a sorrowful cowboy’s tale, but highlights the comfort and familiarity of riding his horse throughout life’s many troubles.

Lyrics:

I ride an old paint, I lead an old dan
I’m goin’ to Montana to throw the hoolihan
They feed in the coulees, they water in the draw
Their tails are all matted, their backs are all raw

Ride around little dogies, ride around them slow
For the fiery and snuffy are rarin’ to go

Old Bill Jones had a daughter and a son
One went to college, the other went wrong
His wife, she got killed in a poolroom fight
But still he’s a-singin’ from mornin’ till night

When I die, take my saddle from the wall
Place it on my old pony, lead him out of his stall
Tie my bones to my saddle and turn our faces to the West
And we’ll ride the prairie we love the best

Read Cowboy Poetry’s commentary on the song for more info on all the cowboy lingo in this song. Get the chords for Old Paint here.

The Lily of the West- A man meets lovely Flora and falls in love with her. Flora cheats and the singer is so enraged that he murders Flora’s lover. Ultimately the author serves time, but still he loves his Flora, the lily of the west. This is a classic murder folk song, of which there are many.

When first I came to Louisville, some pleasure there to find
A damsel there from Lexington was pleasing to my mind
Her rosy cheeks, her ruby lips, like arrows pierced my breast
And the name she bore was Flora, the lily of the west.

I courted lovely Flora some pleasure for to find
But she turned unto another man whose sore distressed my mind
She robbed me of my liberty, deprived me of my rest
Then go, my lovely Flora, the lily of the west.

Away down in yonder shady grove, a man of high degree
Conversin’ with my Flora there, it seemed so strange to me
And the answer that she gave to him it sore did me oppress
I was betrayed by Flora, the lily of the west.

I stepped up my rival, dagger in my hand
I seized him by the collar, and bodly made him stand
Seing mad by desperation I pierced him to the breast
All this for lovely Flora, the lily of the west.

I had to stand my trial, I had to make my plea
They placed me in the witness box and then commenced on me
Although she swore my life away, deprived me of my rest
Still I love my faithless Flora, the Lily of the west.

Grab the chords for Flora here.

If you enjoyed these songs, you can also have a listen to other story songs like Barbara Allen and Frankie and Johnny, for starters. For fun before you go, you can also check out our own “murder ballad” played with friends. I’ll also be posting more songs on my Facebook page. I just can’t decide which ones I want to share with you because I love so many! Looking forward to having you come back tomorrow.

 

 

Introduction to Folk Music (Day Twenty-Three of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Now that we’ve spent considerable time playing with music basics and incorporating some of that into listening to the classical genre, it’s time to examine some wonderful quality music at the other end of the spectrum: folk music.

roadsidejam(Hubby and J enjoying some roadside folk tunes on a cross-country road trip we took 2 years ago.)


When I’m not practicing my classical singing, I’m singing folk songs with my husband or my kids. We hum along, sing along, strum along. I can’t help it. I just love it, and I want to share some of it with you.

What is folk music? It can have several definitions and characteristics. Some people refer to the 20th century folk revival as a genre in and of itself. Others would say folk music is simply traditional music of a particular people group. Some call varying styles of world music “folk music.” Some focus on the idea that folk music encompasses those songs which have been passed on by oral tradition. All of these are true. But this is how I like to sum up the definition of folk music:

Folk music is created by the people for the people.

Folk music traditionally has been written by the common man, expressing common sorrows, common joys, and common hopes. People from a wide age and geographical range can resonate with the themes of the songs. Folk music may be particular to its culture of origin, but can speak to a wide audience of what it represents. So even if I know nothing of Romanian folk music, I can still enjoy and get the gist of a song by listening to it. Even though I have never been a slave, hearing a traditional spiritual can communicate to me some of the intense pain and sorrow of being in that position. But if I listen to American Appalachian folk music, I feel my heart strings pull and can’t help but hum along, since it’s close to my heritage and home.

Even popular folk music (Simon and Garfunkel, Pete Seeger, etc.) can evoke similar feelings of commonality and community, whether you are from the era and culture the songs were written in or not. That’s the beauty of a good folk song- it can stand the test of time and cross some cultural bounds.

What’s the difference between folk and pop? Folk music generally has easy, singable, memorable melodies; pop music melodies are ofen either dull or unsingable. Folk music is driven by ideas; pop music is often driven by drivel and a good beat. Folk usually is communicative to a wide range of people; pop usually speaks to the people who enjoy the particular genre the most. Folk songs are passed on from person to person and everyone forms their own versions (including melody variations, new verses, etc.); pop is reserved for the original singer and people are restricted to making covers. Folk is community-oriented and made for everyone to join in; pop is exclusive to the people who can perform it.

Okay, okay, maybe I’m making generalizations. Or just being too hard on pop music. I should lighten up, I know. (And I do enjoy some pop music! Honest!) In truth, there will always be some crossover between the two genres, and that’s okay. Not all pop is bad, by any means, and not all folk is golden. But if you’ve never joined in singing traditional folk music, now is the time to join in and help keep it alive. It’s worth your time!

Listening Activities: Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Day Twenty-Two of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Today, we will be having a listen to Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, written in 1946. The title of the piece suggests that it is music meant for children, but in reality anyone who is unfamiliar with the orchestra can benefit from it.

This piece has an impressive subtitle: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell. What this means is that Britten took a short section of melody (the theme) from a work by English Baroque composer Henry Purcell (remember him from our Listening Through History post?), changed it up in several ways (that’s a variation) and composed a fugue on that melody. But Britten himself didn’t concern himself too much with the “Variation and Fugue” title- he referred to the composition simply as “Young Person’s Guide,” so I believe we should follow suit.


Here’s the piece itself. Have a listen- you’ll hear that main theme right away:

Did you hear the theme, and did you hear it being repeated? Britten uses that theme as a tool to introduce his listeners to the four main families of the orchestra, then to individual instruments. If you don’t know already, the four instrumental families are as follows:

  1. Woodwinds (clarinet, flute, saxophone, oboe, bassoon, etc.)- an instrument played using a reed.
  2. Brass (trumpet, trombone, tuba, French horn, etc.)- an instrument played by buzzing one’s lips onto a mouthpiece.
  3. Strings (violin, viola, cello, bass, etc.)- anything that sounds by drawing a bow across or plucking strings.
  4. Percussion (drums, xylophone, piano, etc.)- anything that must be struck to produce a sound.

Now, listen to the Young Person’s Guide again, and listen for the introduction of families and individual instruments as described below:

“In the introduction, the theme is initially played by the entire orchestra, then by each major family of instruments of the orchestra: first the woodwinds, then the brass, then the strings, and finally by the percussion. Each variation then features a particular instrument in depth, in the same family order, and generally moving through each family from high to low. So, for example, the first variation features the piccolo and flutes; each member of the woodwind family then gets a variation, ending with the bassoon; and so on, through the strings, brass, and finally the percussion.

After the whole orchestra has been effectively taken to pieces in this way, it is reassembled using an original fugue which starts with the piccolo, followed by all the woodwinds, strings, brass and percussion in turn. Once everyone has entered, the brass are re-introduced (with a strike on the gong) with Purcell’s original melody.” (Thanks Wikipedia, for saving me the trouble!)

If you like to have a visual of the orchestra lay-out, Miriam-Webster has provided this helpful map:orchestra

Here’s some suggested listening activities for you:

  • Pick out the main theme by ear on your instrument of choice. This may take some time, but have patience- it’ll be fun once you finish!
  • Sing along with the main theme whenever you hear it.
  • Identify when the theme changes. Discuss how it changed- did it go higher? Lower? Get more complicated? Simplified?
  • Play a game of “name that instrument.” See which of you in your family can pick out individual instruments. Make a guess if you don’t know, or use the video and above picture map as a cheat sheet.
  • Try sketching or painting as you listen to this. What does the theme sound like to you? What type of imagery comes to mind as you listen? If the music had colors, which colors would it have? What type of movement does the piece have? Try to convey these ideas and characteristics in your artwork. (This can be a great exercise for any piece of music.)

If you want to have your own copy, you can download an mp3 file of it here for $ 0.89. Woot!

Over the past few days, we have visited three major pieces frequently used in children’s music education, all written within 65 years of each other. Often found together in musical collections, they offer much to the young child or to the inexperienced listener in the way of introduction to high art and music making.  What’s your favorite of the three?

Listening Activities: The Carnival of the Animals (Day Twenty-one of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Gray_Elephant_Drawing

If you and/or your little ones enjoyed Peter and the Wolf, you may also enjoy The Carnival of the Animals. Written by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886, this suite portrays a wild mixture of animals (and other creatures) through fourteen movements. From a royal lion to an enormous elephant to fossils and a swan, this piece is definitely a musical menagerie.


In 1949, Ogden Nash wrote short verses to accompany the pieces, and the two are often performed in tandem. This piece is just plain fun! Have a listen to it here:

Suggested listening activities:

  • Improvise along with the recording on your instrument of choice.
  • Have children imitate the different animals, taking their cues from the music.
  • Discuss: How does the music make you think of different animals? (i.e., can different instrumental characteristics remind you of different animal characteristics, etc.?)
  • Write your own animal poems to accompany the music.
  • Try reading an accompanying children’s book like this one.

Which animal is your favorite from the Carnival?

I’ve also been posting additional resources and videos on my Facebook page as I find them. Join me there to share more musical resources! (As well as homesteading/parenting/homeschooling resources once this whole 31 Days thing is over. Whew! :))

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!

Artwork credit: “Gray Elephant Drawing” by published by Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London – http://www.reusableart.com/d/4377-2/elephant-05.jpgGallery page http://www.reusableart.com/v/animals/elephants/elephant-05.jpg.html. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Beginner Piano Resources (Day Nineteen of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

You now know the basics of reading rhythm and pitch. Are you ready to take that to the next step? Since we’ve been talking so much about ways you can play with music in your own home, I thought I would include here some resources for a common foundational instrument: the piano.

piano 001


I am by no means a pianist. I can play block chords and simple arpeggios, but I have very little technical skill. I attribute this to beginning piano later in life and not practicing as much as I should have after I stopped taking lessons. That being said, what I can do on piano is enough to (roughly) accompany my vocal students and play simple songs for my kiddos or my own enjoyment.

Why think about studying the piano? It gives you a strong foundation in reading music and playing instruments. Even if you have intention of ever really picking up the piano, it can be a great reference for playing other instruments too. For example, I often check my vocal pitch against the piano for accuracy, and you can always use the piano for tuning your other instruments. Plus, it’s nice to be able to read at least part of a piano accompaniment to a song so you can hear the other parts in a song.

There were several books that I found particularly helpful during my own time studying the piano under a few different teachers. I have tried to select the most tasteful, beautiful, and efficient books that I have used to share with you.

Keyboard Musician for the Adult Beginner (Frances Clark Library for Piano Students)This is a progressive course for adults that gradually build your skills and technique. I like that this book goes a long way- you don’t need to buy 5 different “levels” as you work your way up, since the book has multiple levels in it.

Hanon – Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises – Complete: Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics– This book is a standard for developing dexterity of the fingers through daily exercises of increasing difficulty. Good if you already know how to read music and know where the notes are on the piano, but not for the complete beginner.

Masterwork Classics, Level 1-2 (Alfred Masterwork Editions)– Beautiful, simple pieces for beginners with the help of finger markings throughout. This book includes classic repertoire that is worthy of the attention of the professional, but easy enough that the newbie can give them a go.

Piano Pieces for Children: 1 (Kalmus Classic Editions)– I played out of a Bartok beginner’s book when I was studying, and the pieces were so pretty and enjoyable that I simply must share this book. Once you get past some of the beginner method books, this one or any other by Bartok provides alluring music for the novice pianist.

Children’s Beginner Piano Books– There are too many children’s method books to count, though I have left you a link here for your perusal. Check the reviews to find out what piano teachers did and didn’t like about each method book. Then pick your favorite. With most children’s beginner books, even if you are not a pianist yourself, you will be able to follow the lessons and help your child understand the basic concepts. We have used this Music for Little Mozarts book for J.

I remind you again, I am not a real pianist myself, so if any of you piano teachers have suggestions that you would like to give, please list them below in the comments.

What have you enjoyed trying the most during this series? Is there anything in particular you would like to see covered before 31 Days is over? I appreciate hearing your thoughts and wisdom. 🙂

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the links and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!

Note Reading 101 (Day Eighteen of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Yesterday you learned a bit about reading rhythms (and hopefully you’ve been practicing). Today, you’ll learn the basics of how to tell which notes are which on paper.

First, let’s start with the staff.


treble clefThe musical staff is simply five horizontal lines used to mark particular pitches on paper. Just like each letter of our alphabet stands for a certain phonetic sound, each line or space on a staff stands for a certain pitch.

Now, the thing is that you have to know which clef you are in to know which lines and spaces are which notes. The swirly symbol on the staff above is a treble clef, or the G clef. (The swirl circling the second line from the bottom marks the pitch “G.” ) The symbol on the staff below is the bass clef, or the F clef. (The second line from the top – the one between the two dots- is the pitch “F.”)

Bass_ClefWhat do I mean by G and F? Just as each phonetic sound in our language has a letter to represent it, each pitch in the musical language has a letter to represent it. The musical alphabet goes from A-G and then repeats again.

Next, let’s figure out how to put these notes on the staff. Various mnemonics have been imagined to help folks remember the names of the lines and spaces.

Here’s the note names on the treble clef:

treble clef linesspacesThe most common memory phrases for these lines and spaces are “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and, simply, the word, “FACE.”

Here’s the note names on the bass clef:

bass clef linesspacesSome favorite mnemonics for the bass clef are “All Cows Eat Grass” and “Grizzly Bears Don’t Fly Airplanes.” Clever, right?

To me, however, it seems almost simpler to think of lines and spaces in alphabetic succession. For example, we know that in the bass clef, the line between the two dots is F. So the space above the F is G. (Now remember that the musical alphabet starts over after G!) The line above G is A. The space above A is B. And so on and so forth, in alphabetical order.

This chart makes that idea a little clearer:

grandstaff2Make sense? (If it doesn’t, please let me know!)

You’re ready to start quizzing yourself now. Try the Note Identification Game and other great exercises from MusicTheory.net. If you’re doing this with kids (or you like colorful displays that play the notes), try the Note Name Game on Classics for Kids.

Next, you must learn where these notes lie on any given instrument. It can feel tedious at first, but don’t worry- with time, note reading becomes second nature.

 

 

Rhythm Reading 101 (Day Seventeen of Homemade Music)

Welcome to 31 Days of Homemade Music! This month we are exploring how and why everyone can benefit from being an active participant in music making. To read more posts in this series, click here.

Perhaps you enjoyed goofing off with percussion a bit and decided that you would actually like to learn to read rhythms. If you plan to pursue music to any extent, you will eventually need to learn it, so let’s start by identifying the notes:

note-values(Thank you to Emily Clark Music for making this chart and many other music theory worksheets available for free download. I tend to only use the note value names on the left, but Emily also uses the British names, listed on the right.)


Just FYI, Emily has her eighth and sixteenth notes shown in groups of two and four, respectively, for the sake of clearly seeing how a beat is divided. It should be noted that they can come in various other groupings, or they can come alone. The stems on a note can also go up or down, depending on where it sits on the staff. The important thing to pay attention to are the “flags” or lines at the end of the stem. Eighth notes always have one flag or line, sixteenth notes have 2 flags or lines, thirty-second notes always have three, and so on.

If you have no idea what “flag” or “stem” means, here’s an eighth note all by its lonesome just waiting to demonstrate for you:

eighthnote2

So, as we can see in Emily’s chart, when we are in 4/4 time (you will find out what that means if you continue studying!), the quarter note gets the beat. That means that the whole note gets 4 beats, the half note gets 2 beats, the quarter note gets one, the eight note gets 1/2 beat, and the sixteenth note gets 1/4 of a beat. Think math with me here and it will all make sense.

Let’s practice. Pretend you’re about to march. Count off at a steady tempo: “1, 2, 3, 4! 1, 2, 3, 4!” etc. Each of those counts is now a beat. If the quarter note gets the beat, then each of these counts is one quarter note. Try clapping quarter notes while you count (one clap with each number.)

Now try clapping half notes. Since half notes will get two beats, You will only clap when you say “1” and “3.” Here’s what this would look like:

Clap ————- Clap————-

1          2             3            4

A whole note gets 4 beats, so you will only clap on “1” and hold it for four beats, like this:

Clap———————————–

1           2              3             4

Try eight notes. Remember that an eighth note only gets half a beat, so that means that you can fit two eighth notes into every beat. (Now the “clap” is represented by “C” for space’s sake.)

C    C    C    C     C    C     C     C

1           2           3            4

And for fun, sixteenths- fitting four sixteenth notes into the space of one beat:

C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C

1            2            3           4

Want to try some more? Vic Firth has a free progressive online course in reading and playing rhythms. Once you get the basic concepts, you can try the rhythm tool at Practice Sight Reading, or you can give the free Flash player-based Rhythm Trainer a try.

Rhythms are not just for percussion- they’re for every instrument! So tomorrow, I will give you a note reading 101 course in case you want to pursue playing something else. Enjoy counting in your head all day long… 😉