Rhythm and Melody Games

Learning how to reproduce and write down the rhythms and pitches we hear is one of the basic skills every musician needs. If you can play music “by ear” you are halfway there! The last step is to learn how to write it down so that someone else can read it. This called “transcribing”, and doing it sharpens your ears, and gives you the ability to feel, see, and hear music in new ways.

Here are the rhythm fundamentals that you should know before you try the rhythm transcriptions!

In case you forget: transcribing rhythms

Here are the rhythms for February, 2008:
Try the first one, move on to the second and third. Bring them to your lessons when you finish, be sure to try as many of them as you can each month…

Rhythm 1 — Try Me!
Rhythm 2 — Me Next!
Rhythm 3 — If You Dare…
Intermediate Level Rhythm
Advanced Level Rhythm


First, listen all the way through the example; count how many measures it has. Divide your manuscript paper into that number of measures.

Then listen again, this time identify the strong pulses in the music, mark them as accurately as you can. If you can also identify other parts of the rhythm, mark them down too. Check your work for accuracy by listening again.

Try to hear groups of rhythms, like “Mississippi” (four sixteenth notes), or “Run Puppy” (one eighth and two sixteenth notes).

If you get stuck, take a break, play your instrument...come back and try again after a few minutes.

You will probably listen to the whole thing more than three times, unless it's really easy. When that happens, complete the example, then go try the next level up!

“The most important thing I look for
in a musician is whether they* know how to listen.”
- Duke Ellington