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Andrew Cockburn
Time 101

Hi all,

In this 3 part lesson we are going to explore something dear to all of our hearts – timing! The good news is that it’s all about counting, and we can all do that right? We will learn first about individual notes, and in the second part of the lesson we will learn about how the timing of a song fits together and also about how to understand time signatures. Finally in part 3 we will look at odd time signatures,

The guitar tabs we are all familiar with, whilst great for understanding fingering and technique are lacking in timing information. Whilst this is not usually a problem because you will have a reference track that will give you the timing, in isolation a Tab doesn’t contain enough information to recreate a song.

On the other hand, standard music notation does contain this information, but does not give guitar specific technique, so it is important to have an appreciation for both methods of representing music. Those of you that have concentrated on tabs may not have formed a full appreciation for the subtleties of timing, and this lesson aims to help with that.

Note Lengths

Timing in music begins and ends with the length of the individual notes that we play. A lot of you will be familiar with 16ths and 16th triplets from your metronome practice, but what does this actually mean?

The basic unit of timing is called, not surprisingly, a note. We can then take a note and divide it into halves, quarters etc. to make shorter notes. It turns out that a whole note is quite long, and it is far more common to make use of quarter and eighth notes in music. Of course in speed picking circles we want to go even faster and talk about 16th notes a lot.

Let’s look at the individual lengths of notes and check out the technical names for them all. You don’t need to call them by these names, but it wouldn’t be much of a theory lesson if I didn’t at least list them! Each note length has a fancy name used in classical music, but more commonly we name them by the subdivision of the basic note that we are using. I’ll also give you the musical notation for the notes – this may be helpful if you are trying to figure out the timing of a particular riff sometime and you have the music and the tab.

Click to view attachment


In the symbols above, for notation purposes you can show the individual notes with tails going up or down depending on their position of the stave – it makes no difference to the duration of the note. There are a couple of other note types but they are not in common use so we will ignore them for in this lesson.

Next, we’ll look at a couple of ways we can modify these basic notes to get different durations

Tied Notes

Our first modifier is called a tie. Tied notes are individual notes that are played as one note, for a duration which is the sum of their individual durations. For example, suppose you wanted a note that lasts for five 16ths of a whole note – there is no single note that can do that for you. But you could tie a quarter note (which is four 16ths) to a 16th note, and together they would last for five 16ths, like this:

Click to view attachment

The arc between the notes is the tie.

Dotted Notes

A dotted note is a second way to modify note duration. Very simply, placing a dot, or period after any note makes it half as long again. So, a quarter note with a dot after it lasts for 3/8ths of a note (this is where you start to actually use the fractions you learnt at school!), because 1/8 is half of 1/4 (the original note length), and:

1/4 + 1/8 = 3/8

Written down, it looks like this:

Click to view attachment

The astute among you will have realized that we could get the same effect by tying a quarter note to an eighth note like this:

Click to view attachment

You can put a dot after any of the notes I listed above to extend it by half of its duration again. Dotted notes are used a lot in swing timings in Jazz, to give a particular kind of groove.

Triplets

Of more interest than tied or dotted notes are triplets. We use these a lot in speedpicking but what exactly are they? In general, a triplet is an example of a borrowed division. This name refers to the fact that triplets and other borrowed divisions add a different quality to the timing of a piece that makes it sound like the notes and timing are “borrowed” from some other piece. If you have played 16th triplets at all you will know that when you go into a 16th triplet run the song temporarily takes on a different groove. On its own, that description probably doesn’t help much, so lets look at an example. In the timing we have learnt so far, we are able to subdivide notes in halves quarters etc. But what if we want to use say a 5th or a 3rd subdivision? This is where borrowed divisions come in. Of these, by far the most common is the triplet. 5ths and 7ths are possible, but extremely difficult to play and are not commonly used.

To make this a bit easier to understand, let’s look at an example - our much loved 16th triplet.

In a regular 16th sequence, we play a run of notes that are each 1/16 in duration. In 4/4 time, we get 4 quarter notes to the bar, and each quarter note is a single beat (we’ll be looking at beats and time signatures in more detail in part 2). Each quarter note is divided further into four to give us 16 16ths per bar.

Here are a couple:

Click to view attachment

In music notation terms, when you have multiple 8th,16th or 32nd notes, you usually join them together into units up to a quarter note long.

For 16th triplets, we are going to replace each two of these 16th notes by three evenly spaced triplet notes. If you do the math, you will see that for 16th triplets you will end up with 24 notes in a bar, grouped 6 per beat. So not only will the notes be played more quickly, there will also be more of them to compensate, so overall we are playing for the same length of time.

In musical notation, we show 16th triplets like this:

Click to view attachment

For comparison, here is a bar of 16ths and a bar of 16th triplets:

Click to view attachment

Click to view attachment

In each case, the phrase, or bar is the same length timewise – we are just playing a higher number of shorter notes in the same time period when we use 16th triplets.

(If you are interested, the notes I am using here are all G – the same as an open G string – the line on the music stave that you put the note on denotes its pitch).

Of course it is possible to have 8th triplets, quarter triplets and any other type of triplet. Just remember that you are replacing two of the target notes with 3 triplet notes of the appropriate duration each case.

Rests

Rests are places in the music where no note is played. Rests have a similar system of lengths as notes and work in pretty much the same way except that they have their own symbols. For completeness, here they are:

Click to view attachment


That’s it for this lesson – in the next lesson we’ll start to look at the timing structure of songs now that we understand how the individual notes work!
Rockwouldbe
andrew good layout ,

you need to show me how to get those notes images!

Eyal
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Rockwouldbe @ Mar 25 2007, 08:09 AM) *
andrew good layout ,

you need to show me how to get those notes images!

Eyal


Hi again Eyal,

I use Guitar Pro. I tab bits and pieces out, then export to a bmp file, then I use a program like Photoshop to cut out just the bits or notes I am interested in, then upload the images. It takes a little effort but it helps the lessons I think!
Jeff
Those classical rest names are killing me! I can see it now on Bevis and Butthead - "He said Demisemiquaver, huh, huh, huh!! laugh.gif
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (jeff @ Mar 30 2007, 11:23 AM) *
Those classical rest names are killing me! I can see it now on Bevis and Butthead - "He said Demisemiquaver, huh, huh, huh!! laugh.gif


laugh.gif laugh.gif laugh.gif
mattacuk
Andrew, this is a good lesson. It should be pretty easy then to see from musical notation if im playing 16th notes, or 16th note triplets just as in your above diagram.

I have a few Paul Gilbert peices where its tabed and written in music. Nearly the whole peice is made from 16th note triplets. However just at the end, the are sixteenth notes (4 notes per beat) and a few 5 bar parts,

noted like !----- 5 ------!. Does this mean i play 5 notes per peat? smile.gif
Tank
QUOTE (mattacuk @ Apr 18 2007, 10:13 AM) *
Andrew, this is a good lesson. It should be pretty easy then to see from musical notation if im playing 16th notes, or 16th note triplets just as in your above diagram.

I have a few Paul Gilbert peices where its tabed and written in music. Nearly the whole peice is made from 16th note triplets. However just at the end, the are sixteenth notes (4 notes per beat) and a few 5 bar parts,

noted like !----- 5 ------!. Does this mean i play 5 notes per peat? smile.gif


Yes. Technically the notes won't be 16ths. You'll have to divide the beat into 5 equal notes. (So they'll be slightly faster than 16ths to all fit in). Dividing runs into 5's (and other odd groups) in this way is a really cool sounding technique very Paul Gilbert, and of course Marty Friedman smile.gif
mattacuk
QUOTE (Tank @ Apr 18 2007, 12:55 PM) *
Yes. Technically the notes won't be 16ths. You'll have to divide the beat into 5 equal notes. (So they'll be slightly faster than 16ths to all fit in). Dividing runs into 5's (and other odd groups) in this way is a really cool sounding technique very Paul Gilbert, and of course Marty Friedman smile.gif


Sweet, Im can definatly see its a good idea for musical notation and TAB can run together.

Paul Gilbert ROCKS!!! cool.gif
mattacuk
After a quick course of Musical Theory and this lesson I am really appreciating Musical Notation. One thing though, can you explain what a "Bar" is please? smile.gif

Edit* Its ok, ive read the second part and I realise the Bar is a measure!!
sillyman
know that i know what these time signatures mean i'm looking again at some of my the older songs i know. in iron man by black sabbath there is a power chord quaver followed by a rest quaver . am i supposed to play the chord and then dampen it immediately or leave it ringing
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (sillyman @ Apr 29 2007, 06:37 AM) *
know that i know what these time signatures mean i'm looking again at some of my the older songs i know. in iron man by black sabbath there is a power chord quaver followed by a rest quaver . am i supposed to play the chord and then dampen it immediately or leave it ringing


Play the chord for a quaver, then dampen it for a quaver - the note lrngths denote the exact time yu should let the note ring for.
sillyman
thanx andrew
Zag
Good Lesson Thanks cool.gif
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Zag @ May 18 2007, 07:42 PM) *
Good Lesson Thanks cool.gif


Glad you liked it smile.gif
mmihaa
QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ May 19 2007, 02:56 AM) *
Glad you liked it smile.gif


wau good lesson....but i hate theoretical class because i used to go to musical school...i hated the teacher..i 've heated the notes...tongue.gif hehe i love tabs:P haha but i've rad it Andrew...and i'ts great:) thnx oh and Andrew... In the TAB it says L what does that L means?or two L's? thnx smile.gif
Pavel
It's TIED note so read about TIED notes up there! Sorry for not translating it before - just passed by me somehow! smile.gif
mmihaa
QUOTE (Pavel @ May 30 2007, 08:55 PM) *
It's TIED note so read about TIED notes up there! Sorry for not translating it before - just passed by me somehow! smile.gif


oh....thanks Pavel...thnx:)
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (mmihaa @ May 30 2007, 01:14 PM) *
wau good lesson....but i hate theoretical class because i used to go to musical school...i hated the teacher..i 've heated the notes...tongue.gif hehe i love tabs:P haha but i've rad it Andrew...and i'ts great:) thnx oh and Andrew... In the TAB it says L what does that L means?or two L's? thnx smile.gif


Heh, Pavel beat me to it - glad you enjoyed the lesson smile.gif
Pavel
Yeah tied notes are very important to learn to read as you actually use a lot of them in different rythms and stuff so i use a lot of them in my playing. Not intentionally - it just comes out that way!
Hungus
Hey Andrew (or anyone else) just wondering if I can get abit of help with something... I wasnt sure where to post this but considering it is to do with timing I thought this might be the right place, if not just delete my post and maybe I will make a thread asking the question. but anyway here goes...

I was looking at this piece of music here earlier:
Click to view attachment
and I couldnt really figure out how it was suposed to be played. I have already read your threads on musical notation and timing but I couldnt spot these symbols in any of the threads. Some insight into how I should be looking at this would be greatly apreciated. this bit (and the rest of the song) sounds really awesome and I would just love to be able to crank it.... Just try playing it yourself with some thick heavy distortion smile.gif


edit:
sorry about it poking out the side like that but im pretty sure I did make the image within the size guidelines... maybe I will have to figure out exactly how wide I can make images.
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Hungus @ Jul 26 2007, 07:03 AM) *
Hey Andrew (or anyone else) just wondering if I can get abit of help with something... I wasnt sure where to post this but considering it is to do with timing I thought this might be the right place, if not just delete my post and maybe I will make a thread asking the question. but anyway here goes...

I was looking at this piece of music here earlier:
Click to view attachment
and I couldnt really figure out how it was suposed to be played. I have already read your threads on musical notation and timing but I couldnt spot these symbols in any of the threads. Some insight into how I should be looking at this would be greatly apreciated. this bit (and the rest of the song) sounds really awesome and I would just love to be able to crank it.... Just try playing it yourself with some thick heavy distortion smile.gif
edit:
sorry about it poking out the side like that but im pretty sure I did make the image within the size guidelines... maybe I will have to figure out exactly how wide I can make images.


The image size is fine smile.gif

The way to read this is as a sequence of 8th notes and 16th notes.

Looking at the first 3 notes, they are all joined together, but that doesn't make any difference to anything. The first note is an 8th note, the 2nd 2 are 16th notes. Why? Because they have an extra bar (they are sharing it but it applies to both of them).

So we have, 8th-16th-16th

The next 3 notes have the bar between the first 2, so we get:

16th-16th-8th

The next unit of 4 notes has that extra bar for alll of them, so it would be 16th-16th-16th-16th

After that the rythm repeats.

Let me know if this answers the question smile.gif
Hungus
Awesome thanks Andrew, that deffinitly cleared it up for me. sounds slightly difficult for such a beginner as me but I will deffinitly give it a good shot tomorrow.. but now I am just going to read a theory lesson or two before I go to bed. I think I am really starting to get it now (theory) and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside tongue.gif
Andrew Cockburn
QUOTE (Hungus @ Jul 26 2007, 09:09 AM) *
Awesome thanks Andrew, that deffinitly cleared it up for me. sounds slightly difficult for such a beginner as me but I will deffinitly give it a good shot tomorrow.. but now I am just going to read a theory lesson or two before I go to bed. I think I am really starting to get it now (theory) and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside tongue.gif


Excellent!
preownedguitar
The astute among you will have realized that we could get the same effect by tying a quarter "not" to an eighth note like this:


Just a typo, I was reading it and was like, wait this is how not to tie it! lol Its obviously suppose to be "note".

Great lesson
Andrew Cockburn
Thanks - I fixed it smile.gif
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