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Easy music rhythm exercises for beginners

Team Soundbrenner, in Music lessons
May 10, 2022 | 5 min read

Rhythm is the succession of sounds, beats or patterns that we perceive as time flows. We represent such time durations of sound by using rhythmic figures. Each representing a slice of time in relation to a beat. In this post, we’ll be looking at simple rhythm exercises to get you more comfortable with some of the most common rhythmic figures. You’ll need some basic knowledge about what meter and beat. If these terms are new to you, please read this post before continuing. 

The importance of learning how to read and write rhythm

Whether you’re practicing an instrument or want to compose music, being able to read and write rhythm is very important. It’s useful for reading notated melody (which has a rhythm of its own) or to read rhythmic parts in chord charts. 

You’ll be able to open your DAW and input the notes in the key editor of your virtual instrument. No more playing the hit and miss game and wasting time, so you can focus on your creative endeavor. 

Last but not least, being able to read rhythm helps you make the most out of practicing with a metronome. Work on developing better internal timing and improve your “pocket playing”. Over time, you should be able to understand and execute the various ways in which a beat can be subdivided.

In sum, it is paramount to your development as a music student and composer/producer. 

Rhythmic figures

As said, to be able to represent sound and silence you need to learn the conventions. Here is a brief explanation of how to interpret some of these rhythmic figures. Just as we learn to gather letters and syllables to form words, we will do the same with rhythm as we respect the sound and silence durations. Below are some examples of rhythmic figures and rhythmic combinations: 

rhythm exercises

To read this, you can set your metronome to 60 bpm (beats per minute). In the case of whole notes you need to count 4 beats as you extend either the sound (i.e. a note or chord on your instrument) or the silence between notes. The same applies for the half notes, where you need to extend sound for 2 beats. And finally the quarter notes where the sound or silence equals to 1 beat. 

In the case of eight notes, the way to interpret them is by understanding how each beat is divided. In simple meter, each full beat is divided in two parts: the downbeat and the upbeat. Pay attention to your hand when you tap through the beat. You’ll see that your movement is divided in two parts; when you actually tap and create the sound (downbeat), and the upward movement that prepares for the next tap (upbeat). 

downbeat upbeat

This means that you will have to play two sounds that equally divide 1 beat. One that hits the downbeat and the other that hits the upbeat: 

The same explanation applies to sixteenth notes, but instead you need to create 4 equally divided sounds within 1 beat; 2 sounds on the downbeat and 2 sounds on the downbeat: 

group of sixteenth notes
rhythm exercises

Of course, there are other rhythmic figures that represent the division of the beat in the most varied ways. However, get comfortable with these first. Once you understand the basic principle behind the beat subdivision, you’ll be able to jump to the other rhythmic figures and interpret them with more ease. 

Rhythm exercises

Now, the time has come to start practicing some simple rhythm exercises. So, pick up your instrument, turn on your metronome and use a single note, a stroke or a chord, and follow through. As soon as you feel at ease with these exercises, you should move on to more challenging ones and learn about new rhythmic figures. But you have to start somewhere so, here it is. Have fun! 

About the author:

Pedro Murino Almeida is an Award-Winning composer with the musical project Follow No One, expert musician and experienced music teacher. He maintains a blog called Beyond Music Theory with the aim of providing tools and instruction for beginning to advanced music students and those wishing to learn about music theory, how to use it and improve their songwriting and music production skills. 

Soundbrenner is a company dedicated to helping musicians stay focused on what truly matters: their music. By creating innovative devices, such as Soundbrenner Pulse and Core, our goal is to deliver the best possible practice experience for musicians. Click here to find out more.

Got a question about Soundbrenner wearables? Reach out to us at [email protected], we’re happy to help!

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