Making Time Relative



You’ve been reading with different shapes and anchors, and with a moveable anchor clef. And now we’ll add two more pairs of shapes: 3 to the Left and Right, and 2 to the Left and Right.

To get oriented, it will help to play through the shape fingering along with each new song first, before you start reading the notation.

So start by placing your fingers on the group of top keys closest to the song’s anchor note [show]. Then move your hands into the shape [show], and then play up and down, starting from the anchor note, along with the beat of the song. Remember to feel your way around the shape rather than looking.

Then, as we add these new shapes, let’s also add something new to the notation.

So far, you’ve been playing only on beats where a note is written. And so the beats themselves have been represented by these little dots, evenly spaced across the staff [show].

But what happens if you want to play more than one note in the space of one beat, like this [play]?

Either you’d have to squeeze more notes in between the dots, or you’d have to use more than one dot to represent a single beat.

But another option is to use some different symbols for the notes themselves, so that the beat is no longer represented by a dot, but instead, by the way the note itself looks.

So say that rather than the dot, we assign our note, the little blue circle, to represent a beat.

And then we add a different note, a blue circle with a stem, to represent half a beat [show]. So that two of the notes with a stem fit within the time of one beat, like this [play & show].

Try reading this first notation along with some songs. And then, you can switch it up, and make the note with a stem represent the beat. Which means that since the note with a stem was half the value of our original note, now the original note represents two beats, like this [play & show].

Now, when you’ve got the hang of reading this notation, move on to the second notation and we’ll add another note symbol, like our note with a stem, but with the circle filled in [show]. If we make this note represent the beat, now, the note with a stem is two beats, and the original circle is four beats, like this [play & show].

And if you go back to making the original stemmed note the beat, now our new filled-in note is half a beat, like this [play & show].

We can continue on like this, adding new note symbols that are half the value of the last, and we get more and more flexibility in the different rhythms we can represent, relative to the steady beat.

And since we’re on a roll, let’s add one more note, this time with a flag at the end of the stem, that connects two or more notes together.

So now, in the third notation, we have a note that’s half the value of our filled in note. So if we make the filled in note the beat again, now we have notes to represent half a beat [point], a beat [point], two beats [point], and four beats [point], like this [play].

The third notation also removes the dots, since now their meaning has been absorbed into the note symbols. And without them, there’s also a little more freedom about how to space the notes. It may be a little clearer, even, to group the shorter notes a little more closely together, and to give the longer notes some more space.

But it doesn’t have to be exact, because now the real meaning of the spacing in time is covered by the note symbols themselves.

So give it a try, and you’ll start to hear some surprising rhythms as you play along with different songs. Remember to pay attention to where the anchor clef is placed on the staff, and you can also start to hear and recognize the tensions of the notes you play relative to the anchor, especially on notes that you hold for several beats.

In fact, staying aware of the anchor—in the notation, by ear, and under your fingers—will help you keep your place as you read. And you can always skip to a slower song if you need to, or a faster song if you want to, and you can try reassigning the beat to any one of these new note symbols.

Have fun with this, and take your time. And when you feel comfortable reading these three notations along with the playlist, that’s when you’re ready to come back for more.

Playlist and Notation

Level 27 Playlist

Notation: Original and Half Notes

Notation: Add Quarter Notes

Notation: Add Eighth Notes