Tuesday, 21 September 2010



Now for my own convenience I am going to say you are writing for a rock band. This means writing for guitar, drums, bass and maybe rhythm guitar too. Now rhythm guitar and solo guitar should be playing the same strumming patterns as each other, it doesn’t matter if the strumming pattern changes but make sure the guitarist realise they are changing it

For a strum pattern pick a time signature. A time signature shows how many beats in each bar and which note value constitutes one beat. All western music is made entirely out of bars and depending on the top number is how many beats in a bar and the bottom number determines how many beats there are in the bar and these bars can be made of either

          A whole tone/Semi breeve- 4 beats
          Half Note/Minim- 2 beats
          Quarter Note/Crotchet- 1 beat
          Eighth Note/Quaver- ½ beat
          Sixteenth Note/Semi Quaver- ¼ beat
          Thirty Second Note/DemiSemi Quaver- 1/8 beat

This looks like this in sheet music

10.1.Rhythm Diagram

Time signature and when commonly used

1- Used very rarely

2- used in music that is either really slow or really fast

2, 1- cut time or alla breve used usually for marches

2, 2- Used in marches and fast orchestral music

3- An alternative to 3, 4 usually shows that the piece is getting faster or it’s going very slow

3, 2- known as double triple or major triple, because its pulse should be twice as slow as that of ordinary triple time (i.e. 3/4)

4, 2- alla breve, rare in music since 1600, usually used in counterpoints and recitatives

2, 4- used for polkas or marches, generally used in moderate speeds

3, 4- used for ballads, waltz’s,

4, 4- probably the most common time signature, used in many rock, pop, classical pieces, jazz and dance music.

5, 4- usually grouped in 3+2 or 2+3. I have heard this in some metal pieces and famously has the mission impossible theme tune is in 5, 4

6, 4- Used in very slow pieces and was very common in the baroque period of music

7, 4- used by pink Floyd and is very common in experimental music

9, 4- another moderate speed, generally used in baroque music

12, 4- is used in many romantic songs and has been described as the “tender, affectionate kinds of expression, and sometimes for lively and animated kinds”

2, 8- Usually used for tambourines and is quite a rapid beat

3, 8- twice as fast as music in 3, 4 and is quite a rapid tempo

4, 8- sometimes used in place of 2/4, the marking 4/8 is usually to be thought of as a metre of two rapid beats

6, 8- usually used in jigs, fast waltzes and marches

7, 8- is usually mistaken between 7, 4 and is also used in a lot of experimental music

9, 8-  Used very rarely and is to be taken half as fast again as its parallel 9/4

12, 8- Commonly used in blues music, slides and jigs. Used usual as well in tender pieces

3, 16- A rare compound time and used for extremely rapid pieces

6, 16- another extremely rare and fast rapid timing signature. The Italians describe it is as prestissimo

9, 16- a third rare compound time used also for fast music

12, 16- the fourth rare compound time that is used for rapid music

14, 16- cool time signature used in Jazz. Gives a 1, 1 2, 1 2 3 feel

However these are most general and to get all the rare and obscure time signatures I would suggest listening to pieces with the time signature. Here is a good place to start with obscure time signatures

For most rock, pop and mainstream pieces you want a 4,4 time signature however 6,8 and 3,4 is sometimes used too. There are a lot of different time signatures but for these are usually quite advance and will require a bit of experience writing in that time signature

To measure a time signature take the top number and make a pulse with you foot. For a 4,4 time signature you want to beat your foot 4 times and that creates a bar.
In rhythm there is also the matter of notation. If we have a 4,4 bar

For strumming patterns or picking patterns the best thing to do is to research some songs you like and use similar methods. You can also have a list of different strumming patterns and switch between them for different parts of the form

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