Each note always includes a “note-head”. Every time you see a note-head, you will hear a note. It’s really just that simple! A note-head can either be open (white or hollow), or closed (black or filled). Sometimes the note-head can have a stem attached. As shown in the example below, the stem can either go up or down, depending upon the note’s position on the staff. Notes below the center line of the staff generally have stems that are up. Notes on or above the center line of the staff have down stems.
For most of the WebRhythm exercises, we will be following a slightly different convention. Very often, percussion music that calls for only one instrument (for example the snare drum) can be written on the third space of the staff with the stems going up. There is a long history for this type of notation, and while it’s not exactly “following the rules” it is an accepted practice.
Flags and beams are also used in determining a note’s duration. A stem can have any number of flags attached, but you rarely see more than three. Below is a chart that shows the most common note types along with their names. There are other symbols used to determine duration, but we will discuss them in later lessons.
Let’s define a few terms before we discuss how to play the exercise in this lesson.
Time Signature – This is the marking at the very beginning of the music that looks like two numbers. In order to play the first measure in the exercise, count the numbers “1,2,3,4” out loud at a steady speed, and play a note every time you speak a count. You should hit the drum four times, and the distance between the strikes (the speed of the notes) should be exactly the same.
In the second measure, you see a quarter rest followed by three quarter notes. The quarter rest is exactly the same as the quarter note in every respect except one: The quarter note instructs the musician to make a sound, while the quarter rest is an indication to make no sound (to be silent). To play this measure, count “1,2,3,4” and only strike the drum on counts two, three, and four. You must still speak count one out loud, just don’t play a stroke.
Believe it or not, that’s about all there is to it. If you see a quarter note, strike the drum on the proper number within the bar. If you see a quarter rest, count the number, but don’t play anything. Since these notes are all the same duration, they will need to move at the same speed.