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Symbols, Timing, and Notes (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Symbols, Timing, and Notes

Jim Deeming explains more music symbols in this lesson. He also introduces 3/4 time and eighth notes.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Music Reading seriesLength: 10:25Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (05:26) Review, Music Symbols, and 3/4 Timing Skills Check-up

At this point, you must have the location of all first position notes memorized. You must also be able to recognize how all of these notes are written on the staff. You should also feel comfortable with the reading exercises that Jim has presented in the past several lessons. If you do not have these concepts mastered, go back and review the past lessons.

Review of Symbols

A. Rests

In the last lesson, Jim introduced quarter note rests. Remember that these rests resemble an ear or a backwards number three. A half note rest resembles a hat sitting upon someone's head. This is easy to remember since "half" and "hat" both start with the letters "h-a." A whole rest looks like a hat that has been flipped upside down.

B. Time Signatures


The top number indicates the number of beats per measure. The bottom number indicates which note is counted as the beat. A number 4 on the bottom indicates that a quarter note receives the beat. As a result, in 4/4 time, there are four quarter notes in each measure. Other note values are usually played in addition to quarter notes. However, the sum of these rhythmic values always adds up to a total of 4 beats.

Common Time

4/4 Can also be indicated with an uppercase letter "C." The C stands for "common time." 4/4 is referred to as common time, because it is the most commonly used time signature in Western music.


3/4 is another time signature that shows up frequently in sheet music. Within this time signature, there are three quarter notes per measure. The waltz is a type of dance that is played in 3/4. Within the waltz, the first beat of each measure is stressed. The next two beats are considered to be weak beats.

At this point, you need to acquaint yourself with how it feels to count and play in these time signatures. 3/4 and 4/4 must feel equally comfortable. The only way to accomplish this goal is through diligent practice in both time signatures. As you practice in these time signatures, add a slight emphasis to the first beat of each measure. This will help internalize the feel of each signature.

C. Repeat Signs

A repeat sign is written with two vertical bar lines. One line is thicker and bolder than the other. Two dots are written in the two middle spaces of the staff where the notes A and C are written. An open repeat sign is written at the beginning of a repeated section. A closed repeat sign is written at the end of the final measure of the repeated section. The number of repetitions is often indicated above the closed repeat sign. For example, you may see something like "play 4x." When the beginning section of a piece is repeated, an open repeat sign typically isn't written. It is assumed that the piece repeats from the first measure.
Chapter 2: (04:59) Eighth Notes Note Values

So far, Jim has discussed several note values. The quarter note receives one beat or a quarter of one measure in 4/4 time. A half note receives two beats or half of a 4/4 measure. A whole note receives four beats or a full measure.

The quarter note can be divided into equal parts to create shorter note values. For example, if a quarter note is divided into two equal parts, two eighth notes result. An eighth note receives half of a beat or one eighth of a measure in 4/4 time.

An eighth note looks similar to the quarter note. The note head is filled in. A stem extends from the note head. A flag or tail extends from the right side of the stem. When multiple eighth notes occur consecutively, the tails are typically beamed together. In 4/4 time you may see groups of 2 or 4 eighth notes beamed together. If a measure of 3/4 is comprised solely of eighth notes, all of them may be beamed together. Eighth notes are either beamed together or written with flags depending on which is easier to read in the context of the music. Refer to Jim's marker board for a visual representation of the various ways eighth notes can be written in 4/4 time.

Counting and Playing Eighth Notes

Count "1+2+3+4+" for a measure in 4/4 time that consists of eighth notes. A note is played on the numerals as well as the "+" symbols. The note that occurs on the numeral is referred to as a downbeat. The note that occurs on the "+" symbol is referred to as the upbeat. If you tap your foot along with the beat while playing eighth notes, a note occurs as you tap your foot. Another note occurs while your foot is in the air to prepare for the next downbeat.

Listen at 01:52 to compare how eighth notes and quarter notes sound. First, Jim plays through a one octave C major scale in quarter notes. Then, he plays through the scale in eighth notes. He picks each note in the scale twice in a steady eighth note rhythm.

Eighth Note Rests

An eighth note rest resembles a number seven. A point or ball is drawn on the upper left hand corner of the seven. Count eighth note rests the same way that you count eighth notes. Eighth note rests are never beamed together. They are always written separately. Refer to Jim's marker board for a visual representation of this rest.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

BethGBethG replied on November 15th, 2017

Great lesson, Jim. I like the way you explain things.

BuffyLOLBuffyLOL replied on July 10th, 2012

Nice explanation, thanks Jim. Loving your theory lessons!!!

john1215john1215 replied on July 18th, 2010

the video for Symbols, Timing, and Notes is not there. Was there about a week ago?

jboothjbooth replied on July 19th, 2010

Are you having problems getting the lesson to play? I'm not having any issues with this lesson.

J.artmanJ.artman replied on March 22nd, 2009

Great set of lessons. I've been playing for awhile, and I'm an intemediate, and sheet music intimidates me. I've decided to take it head on, and this helps. Thank you, and keep up the lessons.

steven_taylorsteven_taylor replied on September 8th, 2008

this easy

Music Reading

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Reading music and rhythm is the foundation for anyone serious about music. In order to understand the theory necessary to progress as a player, a basic understanding of how to read music and how to read rhythms is necessary.

Lesson 1

Basic Notes and Theory

Understanding notes, intervals, and scales is key to music reading. Jim proves a beginner crash course on these subjects.

Length: 18:53 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Basic Music Reading

Jim covers basic music concepts such as the staff, time signatures, clefs, measures, note duration, and note representation.

Length: 16:25 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

The First Two Strings

Jim covers the first two strings in this lesson. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 17:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

The Third and Fourth Strings

Jim covers the third and fourth strings. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 11:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

The Fifth and Sixth Strings

Jim covers the fifth and sixth strings. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 11:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Symbols, Timing, and Notes

Jim Deeming explains more music symbols in this lesson. He also introduces 3/4 time and eighth notes.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

In this lesson Jim Deeming uses the classic song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" as a music reading exercise.

Length: 11:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

The Low Strings

In this lesson Jim takes the song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and plays it on the lower strings. This is an excellent exercise for reading and memorizing these notes.

Length: 5:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9


Jim Deeming teaches a music reading exercise entitled "Echo." This fun, play-along lesson is a perfect way to hone your reading and counting skills.

Length: 18:03 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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