One important part of a melody is the pitch but besides that we must deal with another highly important characteristic of notes – duration or length. You might have heard terms rhythm, meter, tempo. What are they?
- To produce rhythm, we need at least two notes, and they should not be played very far from each other in time. If I play one note today and the next one tomorrow, it won’t be perceived as rhythm. Rhythm is what characterizes the relations between lengths and pitches of notes.
- Meter is produced by regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed beats. The rule of thumb says that that the first beat of a bar is always stressed. However, there are several types of dance where the stress is elsewhere.
- Tempo is used to characterize how quickly it all is happening – the greater the tempo, the shorter each note will get, and vice versa. Before we start, we need to know a thing or two about rhythms and note durations: see the table above.
If there is a dot next to the note, it will add 50% to its duration. For instance, a dotted quarter note would be the length of a quarter plus an eighth.
In time signature, the more important number is the upper one – it shows how many beats there are in a bar. Time signature C means 4/4. This is an ancient time signature, abbreviation from common time, and it is indeed the most common time signature.