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Counting Time

Tuesday 29th January 2013 Hints And Tips

Here at Jamtrack Central, we provide all our transcriptions with both Tab and standard notation (the "dots"), so everyone has a chance of learning those amazing solos. But wait... why is the standard notation there at all? Doesn't everyone just read the Tab?

Well, maybe that's true. Even if you ask very experienced guitarists, they'll probably admit that they follow the Tab if it's there. But some people like to read standard notation, so it's important for them. They might want to figure out their own fingerings, and standard notation is actually better for that.

But there's an even more important reason... standard notation shows the RHYTHM. Even if you never learn to read music properly, we recommend that you learn how rhythm and time is shown in standard notation. Sometimes the rhythm symbols are also added to the Tab (you can do this in Guitar Pro) but the basic system is the same. It makes it much easier to look at the Tab and understand how the numbers relate to what you are hearing.

Here's our first type of note. It's just a black dot with a stick. It's called a quarter note and you hold it for one beat.

(The "beat" is the basic pulse of the music. In most rock, metal, fusion, jazz and a lot of blues there are four beats in each measure. That's what the 4/4 symbol means.)

There are other symbols to show longer notes...

And symbols to show shorter notes...

You may have noticed that we're using the American names for notes. We decided to do this because they follow a simple pattern and are easiest to remember. In Britain, the quarter note can also be called the crotchet, and then there's the semibreve, minim, quaver and semiquaver.

When it comes to real music, you're obviously going to see a total mixture of these symbols...

That only gives us a limited range of rhythms. We have a couple of more advanced tricks for getting even more rhythm values. If you put a small dot after a note, it becomes 50% longer. So a dotted quarter note is 1.5 beats, and a dotted 8th note is three quarters of a beat. Then you can use a "tie" (the curved line) to join notes together. When two notes are joined with a tie, you don't play both notes. Just play the first note and let it sustain for the value of both notes. So a half note tied to a dotted quarter note...?

Did you get the answer? A half note tied to a dotted quarter note lasts for 3.5 beats!

Of course, you still don't HAVE to know this stuff. When you're learning a new solo, the Tab tells you where to put your fingers and you can hear the rhythms on the CD or mp3. But we think it's better to use as many senses as possible when learning a piece of music. Learn music with your ears, your fingers and your eyes!

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