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Grade 2 Music Theory - Lesson 16: Composing a Rhythm

(To read this page with US terminology, hover your mouse over any word with a dotted underline.)

 


Composing a Rhythm

 Rhythm Review

Composing a rhythm in Grade Two Music Theory is just a little bit harder than for Grade One. Read the Grade One lesson first, to get the general idea, then return to this page to see what's new for Grade Two.

 

 

 What's New

In Grade Two, you're only given one bar of rhythm, (in Grade One you get two), and you have to compose three more.

The rhythms you are given (and those you are supposed to write) will be a little bit more complicated than in Grade One. They'll often include dotted rhythms or triplets, for example.

 

 Example Question

Here's a question for us to work through together:

Write a four-bar rhythm using the given opening.

Write a four-bar rhythm using the given opening

 

How do we start? The first thing to learn is that your 4-bar rhythm must be made up of two phrases - we'll call them A and B. Phrase A is the first two bars, and phrase B is the last two.

We can think of phrase A as a "question", and phrase B as the "answer".

Phrase A is a question, and phrase B is an answer

 

 Question Phrases

As you can see, in Grade Two we are actually only given half a question (whereas in Grade One you're given a complete 2-bar question). The same kind of thing in words could be something like "why do you.....?" or "have you ever......?"

There are probably millions of ways to finish these questions in a sensible way, and even more ways to finish them with something meaningless!

We could ask

  • Have you ever been to France?
  • Why do you get up at 7 o'clock?

 

But it wouldn't make much sense if we asked

  • Have you ever yesterday afternoon?
  • Why do you rabbit mountains?

 

In music, the question must also make sense - musical sense. This means that you need to write something which fits with the first bar, and not something that is totally unconnected to it. Let's take a look at some examples.

 

1 This is ok, but not very interesting. We didn't create anything new, so we shouldn't expect many points for this!
2 This doesn't fit very well because none of the note values in bar 2 appear in bar 1, so there's no connection.
3 This one is very good - bar two uses some old material from bar one (the triplet), and some new material (the minim).
4 This one is also good - the note values all appear in the first bar, but we've changed the order of them. So, there is a strong connection, but it's not an exact copy.
5 Again, this is good because it re-uses some, but not all, of the rhythms from bar 1.
6 Not a good choice - the only note value which appears in both bars is the crotchet, but everything else is completely different.

 

Answering Phrases

Before we think about answering the question phrase, we need to choose a completed question! Let's say we finish our question phrase like this:

Finished question phrase

 

Look at the types of rhythm we've used. We've got three types: a plain crotchet, a triplet quaver group and a dotted quaver/semiquaver pair.

 

We should use mostly these same types of rhythm in our answering phrase. The very last note of the phrase should be a reasonably long one (at least a crotchet), so that the rhythm sounds properly finished. Let's take a look at some answering phrases and see which ones are any good, and why.

 

1
This sounds fine. We re-used some of the important rhythms, but not in the same order, and we finished on a nice long minim.

 

2

This doesn't sound very good. Because we forgot about the triplets, the last two bars don't fit very well.

 

3

Here we forgot to use the dotted quaver rhythm, and the last bar is certainly not very interesting!

 

4

This one is good - the rhythms are re-used in a different order and the final minim is a good ending note.

 

5
This is also a good answer. The rhythms are linked, and the last crotchet is a long enough ending note.

 



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