Daniel Laberge
Rhythm explained, including 27 rhythm exercises by Daniel Laberge



Hi rhythm lovers,
This method is based on «rhythmic figures».
Each one lasts one beat.
They are obtained by removing events off a master figure that contains all of them.
• If the beat is divided by two; there exist four rhythmic figures.
• If the beat is divided by three; there exist eight rhythmic figures.
• If the beat is divided by four; there exist sixteen rhythmic figures.
On this page, you will find an exercise specifically dedicated to each rhythmic figure.




Each exercise is preceded by a lesson, with graphic representations and detailed theory.
To help you learn, each exercise can be played back entirely on your loudspeakers or earphones at three increasing speeds.
For jazz musicians, the binary exercises also have a swing or double swing performance. Go to the bottom of the page for a link to the swing version.










The beats


Beats are the backbone of rhythm.
Their origin is probably related to the beating of the heart.




What is a beat?


A beat is the length of time between two pulses.


Beat graphic representation


The pulses can be:
• Expressed acoustically with the foot, the hands, a metronome or an instrument,
• Expressed visually by a conductor,
• Felt, not expressed.






How fast
are the


The speed of the pulsations is called the «tempo».
The slowest beats are around two seconds long, while the fastest are shorter than a quarter of a second.
Tempo is calculated in beats per minute (bpm).
A tempo of 60 bpm means that there are 60 beats in one minute, so every beat lasts one second.
At 120 bpm, there are twice more beats per minute, so each beat lasts half a second.
The average tempo for all music is just above 100 bpm.
The tempo can vary during a piece of music and it often slows down at the end, but it generally remains stable.


Choose among the following exercises:


Beat exercises

Rhythm exercise 1-1  
Featured figures



Rhythm exercise 1-2  
Featured figures



Rhythm exercise 1-3  
Featured figures










Binary beat division


The binary family is large as it includes:
•Division by two
•Division by four
•Part of division by six
•Division by eight

This section is concerned with the simple division by two.
Any binary beat has two alternating parts: the downbeat and the upbeat.




Binary beat


As you can see, there are only two places in a beat
where events or notes can be positioned or played:
•The downbeat
•The upbeat






This means that for any given beat you can have
any of the four following possibilities:

1•Only one event on the downbeat.

2•Events on both the downbeat and the upbeat.

3No event at all.

4•Only one event on the upbeat.



The rhythmic figure used to represent a binary beat is called:




Simple binary rhythmic figures

There exist 4 simple binary rhythmic figures:
•2 Primary
•2 Secondary



Secondary rhythmic figures lack the event that falls on the beat.
There is a secondary figure for each primary one.
Because the beat is so important, secondary figures have appeared after the primary ones had been well established.
The absence of event falling on the beat can be due to a silence or a sound that is held over from the preceding beat.
Because of this, there are two ways to notate secondary figures:
•With a rest
•With a tie




Choose among the following exercises:


Binary exercises
Rhythm exercise 2-1  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 2-2  
Featured figures


Rhythm exercise 2-3  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 2-4  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 2-5  
Featured figure

Rhythm exercise 2-6  
Featured figure









Ternary beat division


The ternary family is small as it includes:
•Division by three
•Part of division by six
•Division by nine

Everything goes in thirds in ternary music.
Any ternary beat has one downbeat and two upbeats.




Ternary beat


The rhythmic figure used to represent a ternary beat is called:






In ternary music writing, each eighth note is worth one third of a beat.
Since two eighth notes always equal one quarter note, these now equal two thirds of a beat.
It takes a dotted quarter note to represent one beat.



Ternary rhythmic figures

There exist 8 ternary rhythmic figures:
•4 Primary
•4 Secondary


Choose among the following exercises:


Ternary exercises
Rhythm exercise 3-1  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 3-2  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 3-3  
Featured figure

Rhythm exercise 3-1s  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 3-2s  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 3-3s  
Featured figure









Division by four


Beats divided by four are part of the binary family.
Everything goes in quarters in this feel.






The rhythmic figure used to represent a beat divided by four
is called:


by four



Binary rhythmic figures

There exist 16 binary rhythmic figures:
•8 Primary
•8 Secondary


Choose among the following exercises:


Division by four exercises
Rhythm exercise 4-1  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-2  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-3  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-4  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-5  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-6  
Featured figure

Rhythm exercise 4-1s  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-2s  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-3s  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-4s  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-5s  
Featured figure


Rhythm exercise 4-6s  
Featured figure








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