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Allen's Master Theory Help & Hints

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Lesson 21-26

Eighth Note Rhythms

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Handling eighth-note rhythms is one of the most difficult hurdles that young musicians cross. One reason is because it's the first experience that students have with periods of time shorter than a full beat. For those using the Master Theory Workbook, it also means that the letter "R" for rests can now have more than one time value.

It's important to follow ALL of the instructions in these exercises, and to master the art of tapping your foot in an even,  binary down-up, down-up motion. This is the point where you realize that timekeeping is your top priority as a player.

The metronome is particularly valuable here. You can set it to click each downbeat (as in 1, 2, 3, 4...) or double the speed to have it click both downbeats and upbeats (1 an 2 an 3 an 4 an...).  You should practice tapping your foot to the metronome until you are completely comfortable with it. Does this sound crazy? If you saw Mr. Holland's Opus, this was the task that he had to teach the athlete who was trying to play the bass drum. When Mr. Holland grabbed that kid's tennis shoe and started moving it up and down in time, every music teach in America stood up and said "Yeah!"

Seriously, physical timekeeping is very important to band instrument players and you should do it to any music that you listen to. Timekeeping is your always your first priority as a player, and you must learn to play your instrument along to your tapping--not tapping along to the playing of your instrument. Do you understand the difference?

Don't tap along to your playing--play along to your tapping!

Here are two drills to help you get into the groove. They are done in Noteworthy Composer.

Now, the good news. Once you have learned to count eight-note rhythms properly, you have an easy time with just about everything else. Once you're able to subdivide a beat in half, it's not terribly difficult to learn to divide it into thirds or quarters.

Lessons 21 and 22 should go smoothly, both in notating rhythms and counting them. Just use your metronome and your foot to meter yourself.

Lessons 23 and 24 are tricker because musicians never deal with rests as well as they do with notes.

Lessons 25 and 26 deal with the next step--dotted quarter & eighth note patterns. This rhythm is prevalent in songs like America the Beautiful, My Country Tis of Thee, and Auld Lang Syne. The best way to get used to the sound is to sing these songs to yourself while keeping time. The best way to learn the actual counting of the rhythm is to draw yourself a full measure of eighth notes and tie them together as needed.

Here are some examples to help you get a feel for the pattern:

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