## Rhythms & Fractions

Build and play your own music rhythms, and learn how to count them!

### Overview

Did you know that music is full of fractions? Music is made up of all sorts of rhythms, and each rhythm can be broken down into smaller pieces: *measures*, which are fractions of rhythmic phrases, and *beats*, which are fractions of measures. Musicians must be able to count and subdivide rhythms in their head in order to play them, and this activity provides a tool to help early musicians learn how to count their own rhythms.

This activity is great for mid-older level elementary school level students who have started learning about fractions. Prior exposure to any music playing in general is also helpful, but not required!

See the Supporting Resources section at the end of this activity page for additional details on how to read music rhythms.

### Materials: Interactive Beat Maker

##### How to play:

- Click on a note to change its rhythm. You can also change notes by selecting the beat number you want to change, then clicking one of the rhythm boxes at the bottom of the screen.
- Click the green triangle to playback the rhythm. Click the red circle to stop playback. You can also change the rhythm while it's playing!
- Drag the Tempo slider to change how fast or slow the rhythm is played back.
- Click the "Fractions: On/Off" button to toggle between counting to 4 and counting to 4/4.
- To reset the program, click the green flag Start button on the upper right hand corner.

### Project Details: Activity #1 - Clapping Rhythms

This activity is a good first step towards learning to read music rhythms. You don't need any experience reading music to perform this activity.

1. Start the program by clicking the green flag at the top right corner. Now click the green Play triangle button at the bottom right to start playing the rhythm. Listen to the starting beat for a little while - this should be 4 quarter notes, which look like this:

2. When you're ready, try clapping your hands or tapping to the beat. Make sure you clap at the same time the beat sounds. Feel free to drag the Tempo slider left and right to change the speed of the beat if you think it's too fast or too slow.

3. Once you feel comfortable clapping to the beat, try changing the rhythm (by clicking on the notes). Listen for how the rhythm changes. Once you have the new rhythm in your head, try clapping that rhythm. If you need help, try slowing down the tempo, or listen to the rhythm for a little while before trying to clap again.

4. Repeat Step 3 as many times as you want. See how many rhythms you can come up with!

### Project Details: Activity #2 - Counting Rhythms

This activity teaches you how to count various music rhythms, which can help improve your music reading skills.

1. Reset the program if needed, click Play to play the starting beat (4 quarter notes), and count each beat as it's played ("one", "two", "three", "four"). Follow the red arrow and make sure you say the correct number for each beat:

2. Now change one of the quarter notes into a quarter rest (by clicking on one of the quarter notes once) and try counting this rhythm. This time, when the beat hits the rest, don't say anything. Try this with a few combinations of quarter notes and quarter rests.

3. Change all of the beats to eighth notes and try counting this rhythm. To count eighth notes, the first eighth note gets the number of the beat, and the second eighth note gets the word "and", like this:

4. Once you feel comfortable counting eighth notes, try changing the rhythm to include other combinations of quarter notes, quarter rests, eighth notes, and even eighth rests. See how many rhythms you can count! Remember, if you're having trouble, try slowing down the tempo until you can count the rhythm and then slowly bring the tempo back up.

BONUS - Try adding and counting sixteenth notes! Sixteenth notes are counted like this:

##### Activity #3 - Adding Rhythms

In music, we use time signatures to tell us how many beats are in each measure, and what kind of note gets the beat of the rhythm. Beat Maker uses the 4/4 time signature, which means that each measure has 4 beats, and each beat is equal to 1 quarter note. This activity shows how to add beats and rhythms together in different ways to compose a complete 4/4 measure.

Reset the program (if needed), and make sure the Fractions button says "Fractions: Off". Now look at the numbers below the music staff:

The 4 on the left is the number of beats in a 4/4 measure, and each 1 on the right is one beat. See how each beat on the right adds up to equal the 4 on the left? Now try changing one of the beats to two eighth notes (by clicking a quarter note twice) and see how the numbers change:

Each eighth note has the fraction 1/2 below it. That's because an eighth note is half of a quarter note, and just like 1/2 + 1/2 = 1, two eighth notes added together equal one quarter note. Try making different combinations of quarter notes and eighth notes together and add them together - do they still equal 4 beats?

Reset the program, but this time click the Fractions button so it says "Fractions: On". Now look at the numbers below the staff again:

Now we see that the 4 below the time signature has changed to 4/4 (which is the same number as the time signature itself)! And all the numbers on the right have changed to fractions too - each quarter note now has the fraction 1/4 beneath it, meaning that the quarter note is one fourth of the entire 4/4 measure. Now try adding the four fractions together and see if it equals 4/4. Before changing rhythms, can you guess which fraction eighth notes have?

Now that we know how to add beats and notes, let's try turning equations into music. For this activity you'll need paper and a pen or pencil:

###### Beginner

- Reset the Beat Maker program, make sure the Fractions button is set to Off, and make your own rhythm.
- Once you have a rhythm, try and write down which fraction each note and rest in your rhythm should have without clicking the Fractions button.
- When you are done, click the Fractions button and see if your fractions match the fractions shown by Beat Maker.

###### Advanced

- Start by writing down one of the following fractions down: 1/4, or 1/8.
- Write down another fraction next to the first one and add it to the first one.
- Repeat step 2 and keep adding more and more fractions until they all add up together to equal 4/4.
- If your equation adds up to more than 4/4, remove fractions until you reach 4/4.

- Now, for each fraction you wrote down, pick either a note or rest and draw that note or rest above the fractions. For example, if you wrote 1/4, draw a quarter note or quarter rest. If you wrote 1/8, draw an eighth note or eighth rest.
- Now try clapping or counting your rhythm. See if you can make and play this rhythm into Beat Maker.
*Note: Not all possible rhythms can be entered into Beat Maker.*

- BONUS #1 - Try making multiple measures and counting/clapping them one after another.
- BONUS #2 - Try this activity again with more types of fractions, such as 1/2 (half note) and 1/16 (sixteenth note).

### Project Details: Activity #3 - Adding Rhythms

In music, we use time signatures to tell us how many beats are in each measure, and what kind of note gets the beat of the rhythm. Beat Maker uses the 4/4 time signature, which means that each measure has 4 beats, and each beat is equal to 1 quarter note. This activity shows how to add beats and rhythms together in different ways to compose a complete 4/4 measure.

Reset the program (if needed), and make sure the Fractions button says "Fractions: Off". Now look at the numbers below the music staff:

The 4 on the left is the number of beats in a 4/4 measure, and each 1 on the right is one beat. See how each beat on the right adds up to equal the 4 on the left? Now try changing one of the beats to two eighth notes (by clicking a quarter note twice) and see how the numbers change:

Each eighth note has the fraction 1/2 below it. That's because an eighth note is half of a quarter note, and just like 1/2 + 1/2 = 1, two eighth notes added together equal one quarter note. Try making different combinations of quarter notes and eighth notes together and add them together - do they still equal 4 beats?

Reset the program, but this time click the Fractions button so it says "Fractions: On". Now look at the numbers below the staff again:

Now we see that the 4 below the time signature has changed to 4/4 (which is the same number as the time signature itself)! And all the numbers on the right have changed to fractions too - each quarter note now has the fraction 1/4 beneath it, meaning that the quarter note is one fourth of the entire 4/4 measure. Now try adding the four fractions together and see if it equals 4/4. Before changing rhythms, can you guess which fraction eighth notes have?

Now that we know how to add beats and notes, let's try turning equations into music. For this activity you'll need paper and a pen or pencil:

###### Beginner

- Reset the Beat Maker program, make sure the Fractions button is set to Off, and make your own rhythm.
- Once you have a rhythm, try and write down which fraction each note and rest in your rhythm should have without clicking the Fractions button.
- When you are done, click the Fractions button and see if your fractions match the fractions shown by Beat Maker.

###### Advanced

- Start by writing down one of the following fractions down: 1/4, or 1/8.
- Write down another fraction next to the first one and add it to the first one.
- Repeat step 2 and keep adding more and more fractions until they all add up together to equal 4/4.
- If your equation adds up to more than 4/4, remove fractions until you reach 4/4.

- Now, for each fraction you wrote down, pick either a note or rest and draw that note or rest above the fractions. For example, if you wrote 1/4, draw a quarter note or quarter rest. If you wrote 1/8, draw an eighth note or eighth rest.
- Now try clapping or counting your rhythm. See if you can make and play this rhythm into Beat Maker.
*Note: Not all possible rhythms can be entered into Beat Maker.*

- BONUS #1 - Try making multiple measures and counting/clapping them one after another.
- BONUS #2 - Try this activity again with more types of fractions, such as 1/2 (half note) and 1/16 (sixteenth note).

### Discussion

Beat Maker allows you make a handful of different rhythms, but there are many more kinds of rhythms you can make!

1. What would happen if we were to change the time signature from 4/4 to 3/4?

- How many beats would be in a measure?
- What would the beats add up to?
- How would this change how we count each measure?
- How about 2/4? 5/4? 7/4?

2. What would happen if we were to change the time signature from 4/4 to 4/8?

- What kind of note would each beat get? Half note? Quarter note? Eighth Note?
- What would the beats add up to?
- How would this change how we count each measure?
- How about 3/8? 6/8? 10/8?

### Supporting Resources

You can learn more about how to read and count music rhythms by checking out these other great resources:

- Understanding the Basics of Counting Rhythms
- Rhythm Patterns at Theta Music Trainer
- Also contains interactive puzzles and games used to help learn how to read music (requires creating a free account).

- Definitions for beat, measure, and time signature.

Beat Maker was created with Scratch, a graphical programming language that you can use to make all sorts of interactive programs such as games, tools, and other activities!

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