Today we are going to continue with our journey in learning to play the piano. It’s day number 3 and 4 of my piano lessons. If this is your first time on our website, I recommend you check out Day 1 and 2 of our piano lessons, so you don’t miss any valuable information.
Day 3 – 45 minutes of play – Understanding Rhythm for Beginners
During Day 2 of my piano lesson, I briefly talked about rhythm and beats. Today, we are going to learn more about this topic. I’m sure you have played with rhythm or beats so many times in your life. Remember, when you heard a song and start to snap your fingers and dance slightly? We’ve all been there. What you are experiencing is the natural beauty of music within you. You naturally responded to the beat of the music. The way you snap those fingers with regular interval is the rhythm or beat in music.
Rhythm and beat are within us, and music is a gift of life. It touches our soul. Thank God for this incredible and lovely gift. We do not have to be Albert Einstein to understand rhythm. We feel it and can naturally connect with it.
In playing the piano, however, there are more things that we need to understand to be able to connect to the music that we are playing. Emotions and delivery are a big part of piano playing. Understanding rhythm allows you to feel the story behind the piece of music you are playing. You can then share those emotions with your audience as they listen to you play.
So let’s dive into the beauty of rhythm in playing the piano
The first thing you need to know when it comes to the rhythm or beat in playing the piano is that every note that you see on sheet music has to follow a certain number of counts. Meaning, when you press those keys when you play some music on your piano – you need to hold down each key based on how long the counts are for each note. For example, a whole note counts four beats. That means you must hold down the key for a whole note while counting “1, 2, 3, 4”. Once you are an experienced pianist, this will be second nature to you. No more counting, but it will be automatic to you.
Okay, I get The count, but how fast should I count? What is the length of a beat?
The length of a beat depends on how long as the composer says it will be. Typically a metronome is used to set the speed of the piece. A metronome is a timing instrument. The “tempo” is born.
Here is a sample video of how long the length of a beat is, a half note vs a quarter note. You should have a good idea after watching this video.
What is a Tempo?
A tempo is a speed or pace of a given piece of music. It indicates how slow or fast music should be played for the proper delivery of emotion and set the mood. As you continue in your study, you will learn the many different tempos in music. In classical music, for example, the tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the beginning of a piece. Usually, an Italian word like andante, lento, vivace, etc., will be marked to determine the duration of the beat. Each of these words has a corresponding beat per minute (bpm). You will find a full list on Wikipedia, the link provided here. Don’t worry about these terms for now, as these are advanced music terms. You’ve heard the difference between a fast song or a slow song before. They have different tempos.
Keep in mind that tempo doesn’t take away the pattern or steadiness of the beat. Think of your heartbeat. Your heartbeat is faster when you are running compared to when you are walking. However, the beating of your heart remains steady. It’s similar to how you naturally change the speed of your fingers snapping when the song that you are listening to changes its tempo.
I hope my explanation above gave you a solid understanding of what tempo is. I was confused by this at first. I couldn’t differentiate tempo vs beat. I had to think it through. Now I got it.
So to recap:
A tempo tells you how fast to play a song. It doesn’t focus on individual notes. It’s more focused on the overall picture, or should I say the overall sound.
A beat, however, is a regular interval of sound (think of your heartbeat). In playing the piano, every note that you see on sheet music has to follow a certain number of counts called – note duration.
Note duration is the length of time to hold the note.
Five main types of Note Duration:
1. Whole notes (Semibreve): A whole note (American English) or Semibreve (British English) is represented by a ring with no stem. Whole notes have the longest duration of four beats.
2. Half notes (Minim): A half note (American English) or minim (British English) is represented by a ring, like the whole note, but with a stem. It has half the duration of a whole note or twice a quarter note. Thus, two beats.
3. Quarter notes (Crotchet): A quarter note (American English) or crotchet (British English) is represented by a ring, like the half note, but the ring is filed. It has half the duration of one quarter of the whole note, one beat.
4. Eight notes (Quaver): An eighth note (American English) or quaver (British English) is represented by a filed ring with a stem and with one flag. So think of a quarter note with a flag. So if you learned your basic fraction 1/8 of a whole note that plays four beats is? Yes, 1/2 beat.
Another thing to keep in mind with eight notes is that when there are more than one eight notes,
they are beamed together instead of flags. Like this image i show here
5. Sixteen notes (Semiquavers): A sixteenth note (American English) or semiquavers (British English) is similar to the eight notes but instead of one flag, it has two flags. It is played with 1/4 beat.
Again, similar to the eight notes, when there are multiple eight notes next to each other, the notes are beamed together as shown in the image here.
I hope you have a better understanding now on rhythm in music. You just learned the basics of:
- Beats, and
- Note duration.
We dissected the five main notes in music as well:
- Whole Note
- Half Note
- Quarter Note
- Eight Note
- Sixteen Note
Day 4 – 1 hour
The lessons I learned on Day 4 was about the following:
- Intervals – 2nds and 3rds
- Coordination – two hands playing together coordinating different notes
Do you ever wonder how a pianist knows how to play a song without looking at a music sheet? Not looking at any notes at all, they naturally know what note to play next. It’s because they have mastered the series of intervals in the piano. Being able to recognize intervals instantly is a dream come true to any piano enthusiast. You can play or create any music by ear. It’s amazing!
The interval on a piano is simply the distance between two musical notes. There are many different piano intervals, but it takes time to learn them all. Day 4 of my lesson is where I learned the first two intervals, the 2nds and 3rds. These two are the very basic of intervals in music.
2nds: This means that there is no gap between two notes. Example a major 2nd: from C note to D note. An interval of 2 different notes next to each other. The picture below shows the music interval of a 2nd. You can see one note on a line, and the second note is just above it.
3rds: This one is the jump from note C to note E. Example is the major 3rd playing by ear is the sound of a doorbell. The picture below shows the music interval of a 3rd. You can see one note on a line, and the second note is on the next line, skipping one note on the staff.
This one was a big brain twister for me. Lots of practice is the key to be able to get this. Again, learning the piano is like learning a new language so you won’t get it unless you spend time on practice.
In this stage, this is where you need to spend more time practicing. You need to actually sit with your piano and just keep practicing both hands playing simple chords, starting with your right hand, then slowly adding your left hand. If you don’t have an online app, I would suggest taking the time to look for simple chords music online or any tutorials that you can use. Make sure you pick songs that you like as well as the songs will help and motivate you to keep going. We have plenty of great music to practice with our Simply Piano app.
Practice Practice Practice!
My suggestion is to keep practicing until you get comfortable with using both your hands. Stick with the lesson, focus on the first ten fingers and first ten notes first, and slowly move your way out.
Below are some samples of beginners easy to learn simple chords songs that you can practice.
Keep practicing, and don’t forget the fun part of it.