A Word on Writing Rhythms

Posted on Posted in Rhythm

Here are four examples of rhythms:

Ex 1:

horrible rhythm

Ex 2:

bad rhythm 2

Ex 3:

second best rhythm

Ex 4:

best rhythm


All of these produce the same result rhythmically, only they are written differently.

  • Ex 1 is confusing and written horribly. Never write this way.
  • Ex 2 is just as confusing and bad.
  • Ex 3 works well. The ties can be confusing in the second bar on the eighth notes, but I can see the location of each beat.
  • Ex 4 is my favorite. In the second bar, I can sight-read the eighth-quarter-eighth rhythm with ease. Notice how it doesn’t obscure beat 3. I can still see where I’m at in the measure.

Sometimes it’s clearer to tie notes together than to dot notes. Other times it’s clearer to dot notes than to tie notes together.

Use good judgement on grouping stems together vs leaving them single.

Just because a writer can make a simple rhythm look more complex, doesn’t mean he or she should do it.

I’m writing this post because I see a lot of bad ways to write rhythms on the internet (tablature, sheet music, etc.)

Remember even with the most complex math, 2 + 2 still equals 4.

About Nick Grinlinton

Nick Grinlinton has written 113 entries on this blog.

Nick Grinlinton is a guitarist, composer and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. He is a two-time ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award finalist and has composed and played music for Jerry Seinfeld's web series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee". A speedy runner, Nick currently focuses on racing distances from the mile all the way to the marathon. As he continues to train daily, he is currently examining what effect music has towards running. To learn more and to contact Nick, visit his website.

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