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Decoding The Shred

Tuesday 5th February 2013 Hints And Tips

LESSON - DECODING THE SHRED

In our last lesson we showed you how it can be useful to understand how time and rhythm is shown in music notation, even if you normally only read the Tab. We showed you how different note-lengths can be made using five basic symbols, with dots or ties added to make other lengths.

But you might have wondered about the fast notes... there are four 16th notes in a beat, but surely you can go faster than that? What about all those crazy solos by Guthrie Govan, Andy James or Alex Hutchings? Well, it's actually pretty simple, but first we'll review the information so far...

To make faster notes, we just follow the same principle, adding a tail to the note (which becomes a horizontal beam when the notes are joined together) and cutting the length by 50%. A 32nd note is half the length of a 16th note, and a 64th note is half the length of a 32nd note. Simple!

As before, you can still use dots and ties to create other rhythm values. But there's one more trick we need to add, something a little more advanced. Let's have a quick introduction to the subject of "tuplets"!

The simplest type of tuplet is a triplet. This tells you that three notes are played (evenly!) in the space normally filled by two notes. You normally play two 8th notes in the space of a beat, but an 8th note triplet has three notes in the space of a beat. All of our rhythm values can be made into triplets.

There are other types of tuplets, but they're less common. In Jam Track Central transcriptions, you might see an occasional quintuplet, sextuplet or septuplet... that's five, six or seven notes in the space normally filled by four notes!

[You could say that the sextuplet is the same as two groups of triplets... we use both, depending on how the notes are emphasised. If there's an obvious "ONE-two-three-ONE-two-three" sound, we'll notate it as two sets of triplets.]

This is getting complex, but there's a good reason to know this stuff. If you understand how these rhythms work, it's a lot easier to learn fast licks. If you only look at the Tab, you just see a long line of notes. Listening to the mp3 doesn't always help, as the notes go by so fast. But if you understand the rhythm notation, you can see the structure. Look at this scary Andy James line (from "Ultimate Force", in our package Custom Metal 1)...

There's 27 notes in the space of four beats! If you were just working from the Tab numbers, you'd have to listen pretty carefully and keep trying until you figured out the rhythm. But if you know how to read the rhythm notation, you can immediately see where the four beats are (look for the gaps where the beams are not joined together). So when you practise that line, you can work on one beat at a time, or even half a beat at a time. And you gain a much deeper understanding of music in the process!

[Unfortunately, Powertab joins 32nd and 64th notes in groups of eight, which is harder to read. We prefer groups of four, but there's nothing we can do about that!]

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