An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

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An introduction to music theory

3.6 Grouping and beaming notes

So far, when writing notes with flags such as quavers and semiquavers, each one has been written separately. However, for ease of reading, groups of quavers and semiquavers are joined or ‘beamed’ together. Thus, the previous example should more properly be written as shown in Example 22. In Example 22 (a) the two quavers are beamed together with a single beam, and in Example 22 (b) the four semiquavers are beamed together with a double beam. (Demisemiquavers would need a triple beam.)

Example 22

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In Example 22 (a) and (b) the beaming joins together notes that belong to a single beat, and this is a useful rule of thumb to follow when beaming notes together, especially with more complex examples, as demonstrated in Example 23, which shows one line of music twice – once unbeamed (Example 23 [a]) and once beamed (Example 23 [b]).

Example 23

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However, the following groupings shown in Example 24 are also used. Although these groupings break the ‘show each beat’ rule, they are treated as conventions.

Conventions that break the ‘show each beat rule’

  • Example 24 (a) Where there is a complete set of quavers in a bar of 2/4, these can be beamed together with one beam rather than with two beams as two sets of two quavers. A similar convention is allowed for a complete set of quavers in a bar of 3/4 – only one beam is needed.
  • Example 24 (b) In 3/4, where four quavers ‘replace’ a minim, only one beam is needed instead of two.
  • Example 24 (c) Similarly, in 4/4, where four quavers ‘replace’ a minim, only one beam is needed instead of two. However, in 4/4, the beam joining the four quavers cannot extend across the middle of the bar.
  • Example 24 (d) In 3/8, all quavers and semiquavers in a bar can be beamed together.

Example 24

There are several exceptions to the ‘show each beat’ rule here and it will take you time to absorb them. Perhaps the best way to tackle this is to pause for a moment or two and examine Examples 23 and 24 carefully once more so that you become familiar with how the beaming looks visually. Sometimes visual information can be easier to access than verbal information, particularly if the latter is extensive and detailed. So pause for a little now, and make an effort to familiarise yourself visually with the beaming patterns.

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