Saturday, March 7, 2009


Rhythm is controlled by the note values (and rest values) and the time signature.

Note and rest values

From left to right, on the upper staff (treble clef), we have a whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note and sixteenth note. On the lower staff (bass clef), we have a whole rest, half rest, quarter rest, eighth rest and sixteenth rest. This is by the way Music Studio from Activision on the Commodore 64.

Time signature

The time signature appears at the beginning of a music piece, as two numbers, one on top of the other. The top number indicates the number of beats per measure. The lower number indicates the note corresponding to one beat.

An heavily used signature is 4/4, also known as C, for common time. With 4/4, you have 4 beats per measure and one beat corresponds to a quarter note. So, within a measure, you can have one whole note, two half notes, four quarter notes, etc.

You of course have quite a few time signatures at your disposal. Another common signature is 3/4 where you only have 3 beats per measure. That's a signature used for waltzes for example.

It is usually pretty easy to tell the number of beats per measure (the upper number in the time signature) by just listening to when the kick drum is hit.

On the Nintendo KORG DS-10, we have 16 steps per pattern as the default. It kinda means the signature is 4/4 (assuming the pattern itself represents a measure) and that each step is a sixteenth note. The time signature on the KORG DS-10 is certainly not limited to 4/4. If we change the number of steps in the pattern to 12, we can possibly have a 3/4 signature and play waltzes (if we really want to).

In this video, we use the legato effect to change the duration of notes from sixteenth (default) to quarter notes. Note that the BPM (beats per minute) has been quite lowered so that we can easily follow the 16 steps of the pattern as the beat goes on.

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