In the Trinity Grade One Music Theory exam, you may have to write two bars of rhythm as an answer to two given bars. 

The question could look something like this: 

Write a two-bar rhythm as an answer to the given rhythm.

write an answering rhythm

Check the Time Signature

The first thing you need to do is look at the time signature. This tells you how many beats you will need to write in each bar, so it’s very important.

In the above question, the time signature is 2/4, so we will need to write note values which add up to two crotchet (quarter note) beats in each bar. Always double-check your finished rhythm to make sure you have the right number of beats.

When you beam (join) notes together, make sure that you beam each group correctly. See lesson the lesson on Beaming for more details about this.

For grade 1, the rhythm will be in 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4 time, with no upbeat.

Look at the Existing Rhythms

The next thing you should do is look at the kinds of rhythm which have already been used in the first two bars. What note values were used, and which values weren’t used?

In our question, we’ve got crotchets (quarter notes), quavers (eighth notes) and semiquavers (sixteenth notes). We don’t have any dotted notes, and we don’t have any ties. You should use similar kinds of rhythms in your answering phrase as you have in the given phrase – each bar must have a connection.

Re-use Rhythms

To write an answering rhythm, you should re-use some parts of the given rhythm, but don’t just copy it exactly, of course!

Look at the “blocks” of rhythm which occur on each beat. We could describe the above rhythm as three different blocks like this:

1. crotchet (quarter note)

2. two quavers (eighth notes)

3. four semiquavers (sixteenth notes).

You could use the same blocks of rhythm but change their order. Make sure that no two bars are identical though!

change the order

Or you could keep a couple of the simpler blocks the same, but swap the others. You will get a maximum 7/10 (ABRSM) for simply reversing the rhythm like this:

swap blocks of rhythm

Or, you can even invent something completely new, but only for one or two beats’ worth. For 10/10, you need to “reference the given material”, which means reuse a bit of it, and then create something else which is new and interesting. This makes a balanced rhythm.

invent something new

But watch out! It’s not a good idea to invent completely new rhythms for the whole of the answering phrase – you are being marked on your sense of balance, not on how wildly creative you can be! Also, don’t use too many rests. The examiner wants to see a rhythm, not bars of silence!

Finishing correctly

You should end your phrase with a reasonably long note. Usually this means a crotchet (quarter note) or a minim (half note). Phrases which end on quavers (eighth notes) or semiquavers (sixteenth notes) sound too abrupt.

Don’t write a melody!

Don’t forget that you only need to write a rhythm in Grade One Music Theory! Use the same notes as given in the example. Don’t start writing notes of other pitches!

Sample Answers

Here are some example answers, with comments:

good rhythm

Comment: The semiquavers (16th notes) from the original have been reused, with some other imaginative material (e.g. the dotted rhythm). (Distinction)

no connection with opening

 Comment: There is hardly any connection between the given and the answering phrase. There’s no good reason for the rest at the end either. (Merit)

don't copy exactly

 Comment: This is just an exact copy of the given bars. (Pass)

rhythm doesn't add up

Comment: The number of beats in the third bar is wrong, bar 4 is a copy of bar 2. (Fail)

both bars are the same

Comment: Nothing much of the given phrase has been used, both bars (3 &4) contain the wrong number of beats, and it’s not a good idea to write exactly the same rhythm in each bar. (Fail)

Composing a Rhythm Exercises

Hover your mouse over the stave to reveal the answers. (Tap on mobile devices).

What’s Wrong?

In each of the following rhythms the answering phrase (bars 3 & 4) is not very good, but why?

Explain two faults for each rhythm.









Choose the Best Response

Choose the best 2-bar answer (a-d) to the given rhythm.

Given rhythm:

complete the rhythm

Complete rhythms: