The Quarter Note – Hero Of Musical Rhythm

If your goal is to master musical rhythm, the quarter note is your guy.

He is the rhythm-warrior that fights bad timing and rhythm rot.

Mr. quarter note is not afraid of any musical style and will fight for good timing and rhythmic accuracy 24/7.

He keeps us all “in time” and never a beat off!

He is relentless, dependable, steady & regular – like a ticking clock.

From Rap to Country, Classical to Funk, the quarter note is always fighting for your groove to feel good and stay in the pocket.


Organized Sound

Most of the time, music is organized into groupings of accented and unaccented patterns or Beats.

Without these beats, music can seem unorganized and chaotic.

That can be good for special effects, movie scores or avant-garde compositions.

But for everything else – it leaves the listener confused and frustrated.


Where’s the beat?

What’s the point?

I can’t relate…

Steady Beat

Most music happens in time.

It has a steady pulse or beat that makes us want to move to its’ rhythm. Some music has an obvious beat (EDM) while other styles may be more syncopated and surprising (Jazz).

This steady beat is often given to the Quarter note.

We feel it and count it “on the beat”. If you’ve seen a marching band/drum corp, there is usually one step for every quarter note. Every time your foot goes down, it is a “downbeat”.

This steady beat creates a tempo(speed) that we hear and grasp. No more chaos.



Accented & Unaccented Beats

Likewise, when you lift your leg, there is a moment when your knee is highest called the “upbeat”.

You now have two types of beats: The downbeat and the upbeat.

They are counted the same, but downbeats are stronger.

The upbeats are weaker, unaccented.

These accents will be helpful later as we organize quarter notes into different patterns knows as time signatures.


Musical styles are largely based on how the quarter note is treated.

A ballroom dance known as a Waltz, places an accented beat on the first of every 3 counts.

ONE  2 3  ONE  2 3  ONE  2 3 “

The dancers take bigger steps on the ONE.. using them as strong beats. The other two beats can be thought of as smaller, unaccented steps.

All 3 beats are quarter notes, but only the first one drives the train.


Disco, on the other hand, has strong down-beats on every beat.

The drummer plays his bass drum on every beat. It’s called, “four on the floor”. In addition to that, he sizzles his high hat cymbals on every upbeat… producing a breathing effect that gives the music a hypnotic groove.

Musicians hated this music, saying it was brainless and simple-minded. But it served its purpose… to make people hit the dance floor.

Same Note – Different Vibe

The important thing to notice is that the quarter note is at the core of these musical styles, and many others.

The quarter note is your starting place for understanding different musical feels and basic rhythms.

No matter how complex the music is, if you understand the quarter note, counting and playing is much easier.

Music Math

Understanding rhythm is not difficult if you learn the basics. The quarter note is the best place to start.

Now let’s move on and look at Eighth Notes.

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