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Music Timing

The concept of timing in music, while to some extent being perceptual in nature, is firmly based on a simple mathematical division of time. These segments of time are called Measures, and each measure is further divided into smaller increments of time called Notes. Notes have specific time values assigned to them and are shown as fractions of the whole measure. A Whole note being equal in time to 1 measure, a Half Note equal to 1/2 measure, a Quarter Note being equal to 1/4 measure and so on. Timing is the most important aspect of music theory. Music timing enables the composers' to express themselves in their music, directly affecting our perception of the music, and allowing any musician to play the composition as the writer intended. The music's beat is created by the note duration or note timing, the tempo and rhythm are controlled by the mixture of these musical beats and the silence placed between them. Each note is assigned a specific value of time that tells the musician how fast to play that note, the time value of the note determines how many of those notes will appear in a measure. The measure can be defined as the specified length of time in which these notes must be played. Using a simple mathematical example, if the composition is written in common or 4/4 time, (see Time Signatures for more detail ), there will be four musical beats in a single measure of time, each beat will be equal to a single 1/4 (quarter), note; 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 1 measure = 4/4 There are several different types of notes we can use, each note having it's own specific time duration and each having an equivalent mathematical symbol that defines them as a fraction of the "Whole Note" . The Whole Note is a note whose value of time is equal to one measure; 1 whole note = 1 measure All of our notes are defined as a fraction of a whole note, or in other words a fraction of the measure in which they appear. Any combination of these fractions /notes may be used as long as their combined value does not exceed 1, (the value of the whole note or measure in 4/4 time);

1/16 + 1/16 + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/4 + 1/4 = 1 whole note = 1 measure = 4/4 The common or 4/4 time signature is just one of many, and these time signatures are also shown as a fraction, the top number telling the number of beats to a measure and the time value of the notes or beats given by the bottom number. So in essence a musical composition, just like the clock on the wall, is divided into segments of time or measures, which are further divided into smaller segments of time or notes.

Timing in music refers to the concept of adjusting the duration of notes or beats, and the subtle placement of silence between those notes. The style of your music, and the music genre or, category it falls into, is defined by your use of tempo, rhythm, and note duration. Tempo is how fast or slow the beat is counted. The tempo, or pace, at which your music is played will determine whether your audience is dancing cheek-to-cheek, or bobbing-and-weaving in a mosh pit frenzy for survival. Rhythm is the relationship between the notes, the rests, (silence), and the basic tempo of the song. How long you hold a note, how long you rest between notes, and how you count these notes and rests in relationship to the tempo of the music determines the rhythm. In other words the flow of the music will be determined by your use and placement of silence, the emphasis on certain notes within the measure, and the repetition of this pattern throughout the composition.

The Notes Time Duration of Notes

Click on notes to hear timing

The Whole Note gets 4 beats in a measure of 4/4 time

Each Half Note gets 2 beats in a measure of 4/4 time

Each Quarter Note gets 1 beat in a measure of 4/4 time

Each Eighth Note gets 1/2 beat in a measure of 4/4 time

Each Sixteenth Note gets 1/4 beat in a measure of 4/4 time

Each Thirty Second Note gets 1/8 beat in a measure of 4/4 time

Each Sixty Fourth Note gets 1/16 beat in a measure of 4/4 time

At this level I believe counting is more metaphysical than practical, but you could consult an auctioneer. The playing speed of each successive measure shown above must be increased two-fold as we attempt to play an increasing number of notes in the space occupied by a single whole note. In a tempo = 60 we have 60 quarter notes per minute, or 120 eighth notes per minute, and so on. Eg : 16 - Sixty Fourth notes are played in the same space of time as required for 1 quarter note, which translates to 16 notes per second.

The speed at which notes are played is also influence by the "TEMPO" of the composition. The tempo is indicated by a musical note symbol and a number that designates how many of those notes will fit in one minute of time. As you can see in the tempos shown below a higher number will indicate a faster pace to the music. A composition with a quarter note =120 tempo will be twice as fast as one with a tempo of a quarter note = 60.

Means that 60 Quarter note must be played in one minute of time

Means that 120 Quarter notes must be played in one minute of time