Understanding Rhythm (Beginner Piano Theory)

Lisa Witt  /  Rhythm Theory  /  UPDATED Jan 13, 2023

Understanding rhythm is one of the most fundamental building blocks for any musician. When sight reading, there are a million things to think about. What are the left hand notes, what are the right hand notes, and how do you coordinate them to work together?!

Download the sheet music »

When you are processing all of that information, the last thing you want to have to do is struggle to understand the rhythm you need to play it in. This is why having a firm grasp on rhythm before hand is so important. Once you can see notation and immediately get a sense for how the rhythm will feel, you are ready to sight read.

One of my favorite ways to practice developing a sense for rhythm in notation is by writing the notes out with a pencil and paper. We’ve got an awesome cheat sheet for you to download above to use as a guide!  You can review it and then see how many notes you can remember on your own. Draw the note symbol and then it’s name and value.

Once you’ve got a good sense for each note and its value, write them out in random order and try clapping or tapping the rhythm you’ve just created! This will help you to internalize how it all works together. Don’t be afraid to count out loud as you clap or tap.

For a complete break down on the most common note values you will need as a beginner piano player, enjoy the video!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

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