Create a Rhythm Without Notation Programs or Music Software

Composers use rhythms to infuse a composition with a pulse that serves to drive a piece forward and articulate sections, melodies, and ideas. You don't need expensive equipment, but a basic understanding of tempo, simple notation, and basic note values helps you to create effective rhythms.

Rhythm generators won't help you to compose music rhythms and typically won't produce high-quality, driving rhythms. Automatic rhythms produced with music software lack structure, logic, and a sense of musical development.

Learning how to create your own rhythms can eventually lead to the ability to create something new and original not based on pre-constructed rules and forms. While you are ultimately still limited by the notational system you decide to use, by learning to write down your rhythms you develop a greater ability to edit and improve your ideas.

Once finished creating your rhythm, use a notation program like MuseScore, Finale, or Avid Software Sibelius v. 7 for playback, recording, and hearing how your rhythm sounds with different instruments.

Note Durations

Before attempting to compose your own rhythm, learn the names of the notes. Basic notes for rhythm include the whole, half and quarter note. Of the three, whole notes occupy the longest durations and are held for the duration of four steady beats of your foot.

Beats are equally spaced units of time and they are used to count notes and rests in a composition. Seconds on a clock move at 60 beats per second. If you had a piece that beats 120 beats per second, you would move your foot two times per second. Half notes occupy half the value of whole notes. Quarter notes occupy half the value of half notes.

Creating a Rhythm

After learning the basic note values, create a simple rhythm using the basic note values. Music uses a system of weak and strong beats. Strong beats occur on the first beat of each measure. When there are four beats in a measure the first beat is the strongest, followed by the third beat, second beat, and finally, the fourth beat acting as the weakest.

Most rhythms begin on strong beats and end on the first beat of the next measure. Rhythms that end on a weak beat are considered to be unfinished and lack a definitive cadence. When possible, avoid ending on weak beats unless you are trying to invoke a particular effect.

Advanced Rhythms

Advanced rhythms aren't really any harder to learn than basic rhythms, but they divide the beat even further. The 8th note and 16th note are both considered to be advanced rhythms. Eighth notes contain a flag on the stem of the note and divide the basic beat in half. This means that two 8th notes would play in the time it takes to play a single quarter note. The 16th note contains two flags and plays twice as fast as the eighth note. Each flag added to the notes stem doubles the speed of the note. It is possible to have 32nd notes with three stems, sixty-fourth notes with four stems and 128th notes with five stems.

Music Notation Programs

Use MuseScore, Finale, or Sibelius to input your rhythms and hear them played back accurately. Input your newly created rhythms by dragging and dropping the note values onto the score. When finished, play your file back and listen to your rhythmic creation. If you wish, change the sound of your instrument using the notation program's instrument list.

While notation programs provide a simple way to play back and listen to your rhythms accurately, you should always aim to notate your rhythm using a sheet of paper first. Then, input your rhythm into the notation program to check and see if it is accurate. In time, you may find you don't need the notation program at all, and you can notate any rhythm you can imagine.


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