TME Tuesday: My Rhythm Notation Struggles (And How I've Fixed Them!)

I admit it.

I have a rhythm notation block that I have not really been able to practice out of my repertoire in all my years of taking dictation and writing songs. For some reason, rhythm notation is my downfall when I am composing. I can't tell if what I've written is actually what I am thinking until I hear it again. Unfortunately, if you are interested in writing music, you need to be able to notate rhythm as well as melody lines, harmonic figures, and other elements of music.

For years, I've written music down and then given it to competent musicians to play. I then hear what I've written and have to change things because what they play is not what I want.

The best thing that happened to me was the advent of music notation programs!

Over the years, I've used all sorts of music notation programs, including Cakewalk (which I LOVED!), SheetMusic Notation (another one I LOVED!), and Finale's Printmusic (which I am learning and don't find as intuitive as the other two). I had to give up on my two favorites because they stopped making them about 6 operating systems ago and running the programs using administrative set-up just isn't working anymore. So, I found Printmusic and asked for it for a gift. I got it, and I am using it!

(By the way, I don't get any sort of recompense for mentioning things on my blog - all opinions expressed are my own and completely shared because I like a product - not at all because I am paid to express a favorable opinion. Just me, folks!)

I no longer have to find competent musicians to play my pieces back while they are still in the development stage. The computer software does it for me!

Is this cheating? Probably. Should I have done better during dictation? Probably, but I did well enough when replicating the music of others during classes. I just have a bit more difficulty when I am making my own music. Is this something I should be practicing? Well, sure, but who has the time? I have a tool that I can use to make up for this challenge that saves me time and energy!

I now sit with my computer and replay music compositions, listening to the rhythm and changing things to make them more like what I hear in my head.

One of the things that I recommend to music therapists is some good music notation software. Even (or maybe especially) in these days of loops and apps and all that, software is still a valuable tool. This is even more important if you are interested in sharing your music in a printed format for others.

When I sit down during therapeutic music experience (TME) writing sessions, I open up my form and my software. I work on the song as a whole - melody and rhythm and accompaniment simultaneously - and I hear it as a whole as well. I can tweak things as needed (and they often need tweaking!). It often takes me longer to figure out the rhythms than any other part of composition and TME development. Thanks to my notation software, I no longer have to wait until one of my interns says, "I don't think the rhythm that you have written here is the one that you actually sing." What a great invention and wonderful gift for myself!

Rhythm - one of the most important musical elements (in my opinion), and yet, the most challenging for me. Thank you, software, for making my life so much easier!!


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