Musical Improvisation - Playing With Rhythm

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Bad Ideas






Put It Together

It's easy (well, sort of easy) to play with the rhythm of the notes in a piece of music. Let's start off with a simple little song, Old MacDonald.


Here we see the notes for the first four bars and the chords (the rest of the song is pretty much the same). Most of you can plunk this out on a piano or horn. No problems.

Now, play around with the timing. Here's one little way we could play it:


Is that all? Yup! It's really that easy. If you play this you'll find that you have taken a trivial song and converted it into yet another trivial song. This time with a bit of a swing feel.

Note that we didn't change any pitches relative to the chords. Every note still fits into the chords being played. For fun try the next little snippet:


Fun. Now we're getting some of the notes causing tension against the chords. Cool.

Challenge: If you play piano can you come up with something for your left hand? Play the chords in rhythm? Hit a chord every two beats?

A bit harder if you're just getting started ... how about adding more notes. One way to do this is by changing pairs of quarter notes to quarter note triplets. “Three against two” is often used and you should get used to playing it.


Yet another fun (and easy) technique is to collapse multiple notes into longer ones.


Lots of things, some easy and others not-so-easy, to play with. Remember, we've not worried at all about the chords and we've maintained a resemblance to the melody.

Have fun. And keep it musical!

Next: Embellishments.

And let me know if this article helps.

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This page "rhythm.html" was last modified on Tue Dec 7 09:54:53 2021