Beaming to reflect the beat (a.k.a. rebeaming)

Beams help communicate to the reader how long beats are and where each beat starts. When given a rebeaming exercise, the rhythms have been beamed incorrectly because they are not doing a good job of clarify information about each beat. It is your job to fix it so that the start of each beat is notated as clearly as possibly and that notes that should be beamed together, are beamed together. Note, you are only changing the look of the music, the sound must be exactly the same. This is the equivalent of spelling a word correctly. For example, "phraug" and "frog" sound the same, but the second way is the proper way to spell it. To beam music to reflect the beat, follow this procedure:

  1. Find the length of the beat
  2. Divide the measure into beat-length groups
    • If necessary, "break apart" note values and re-connect them with ties
  3. Within each beat, beam anything that can be beamed

More Information Below:

Example in Simple Meter

Example with "Breaking Apart" note values

Example in Compound Meter

Example in Simple Meter

First, find out is find out how long a beat is in the given meter. Below is a summary of simple meter signatures, their number of beats, and their beat lengths:

Next, divide the measure in question into beat-length groups. In 3/4, which has quarter-note beat lengths for example, I'd take this ...

... and I would group together the notes with circles like this to clarify the beats while I work:

Now, I consider each of my circled beats separately. Anything that can be beamed within each beat needs to be beamed together. Only notes that can have flags can be beamed together, so eighths, sixteenths, thirty-second notes can be beamed (because they have flags), but quarters, half notes, and whole notes cannot (because they don't have flags).

The music is now properly beamed because the span of each beat is now very clear. The final product looks like this:

Example with "Breaking Apart" note values

Often you'll run into a situation where the a beat is unclear because it starts in the middle of a longer note like below:

Notice that you'll have trouble finding the end of beat 1 and the beginning of beat 2 when you start circling beats:

In situations like these, you'll need to "break apart" the longer notes and stitch them back together using a tie. Notice how I took the problematic note, the quarter note, and broke it into two eighth notes that I tied together:

This maintains the original sound. Initially it was a 1/4 note, but an 1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4. In the original there was only one attack point, but when I broke it into two eighths, I've created two attack points so I used a tie to combine the two eighth notes and prevent the second eighth from receiving an attack. Now, that we've made it possible to see all the beats, our new version looks like this:

Now we can start the process from the beginning and circle all the beats:

Then, anything that can be beamed within each beat needs to be beamed together:

The music is now properly beamed because the span of each beat is now very clear. The final product looks like this:

Example in Compound Meters

For compound meters, the process is exactly the same. The most important question is, "how long is a beat in the meter you're working with?" When that question is answered incorrectly, it causes a lot of confusion. Many people are incorrectly taught that the top number of a meter signature tells you how many beats there are. That's only the case for simple meters and it is simply not true for compound meters. In compound meters, the top number tells you how many total beat divisions are in each measure. In 6/8, for example, each measure has six eighth notes, but not six beats. In a compound meter, the real beats can be divided into three, equal-length divisions. That means that you can take 3 of 6/8's beat divisions (the eighth notes), add them together, and you'll get the length of a single beat in 6/8, which is a dotted quarter note. Remember, if you can't find the true length of the beat, you will not be able to rebeam properly, so consider this paragraph carefully, or go review compound meters before continuing.

Here's a summary of some compound meters and the length of their beats:

Let's beam this measure below which is in a compound meter:

Just like before, the first step is to determine the length of the beat. In 6/8, beats are a dotted quarter-note long. I'll divide the measure into beat-length groups and circle each one:

Then, anything that can be beamed within each beat needs to be beamed together:

The music is now properly beamed because the span of each beat is now very clear. The final product looks like this:

I hope that helps!