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Suppose there are 2 chords within a measure of 4 beats. The first chord sounds from the first beat of the measure until the middle (or first half part) of the second beat. The other chord starts to be used from the middle of the second beat until the end of the measure as shown in the figure below:

two chords per measure

My question is: Is it wrong to say that the first chord lasts from the beginning of the measure until the middle of the second beat or would it be better to say that the first chord is used from the beginning of the measure until the middle of the second beat when the other chord will start to be used? I'm very confused about this. I'm not sure if I can say that the chord lasts, remains, is used for a part of the measure, or even sounds from the beginning until a given part of the measure. Could you help me please?

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Every phrasing that you used made sense to me.

Your possibilities were:

  • "The first chord lasts from the start of the measure until the middle of the second beat."
  • "The first chord lasts from the start of the measure until the middle of the second beat, at which point it changes to another chord."

Some other possibilities:

  • "The E-minor chord lasts for a beat and a half before switching to A minor."
  • "The switch from E minor to A minor happens on the and of 2."

If you're looking for a specific English verb, we say that the chord "lasts" (or, less commonly, "sounds") for a specific period of time. Example: "The chord lasts for three beats."

This is what we call the harmonic rhythm, which is just the rhythm of the chord changes. But in terms of specific ways of phrasing it, I don't really think there's one universal way; any of the four ways I mentioned seem fine to me, and would be easily understood by every musician I know.

The final option is the shortest and most concise, and with limited rehearsal time that might be ideal, but they all work.

  • Thanks a lot. I'm a musician from Brazil and it's hard for me to find the best words in English to describe some common musical situations. – rcguitar Jun 19 '17 at 20:29
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    That's why we're here. And your English is very good! – Richard Jun 19 '17 at 20:30
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    Thanks Richard. I hope I can help others in return. Maybe I can be helpful on topics about bossa nova and samba. – rcguitar Jun 19 '17 at 20:34
  • @rcguitar, you may already know of this, but if you're looking for a way to notate the rhythm without telling the musicians which specific notes they should use, one good option is "slash notation." Here is a nice example. – jdjazz Jun 19 '17 at 21:53
  • @jdjazz Thanks. But this is not the case. I was looking for a good way to say these things to beginner students. – rcguitar Jun 19 '17 at 22:01

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