Grouping & Beaming Notes

A beam is the line that joins quavers, semiquavers or demisemiquavers together.

In the ABRSM Grade 3 music theory exam you might be asked to find a bar with the notes correctly grouped, or beamed.

In the Trinity Grade 3 music theory exam you will be expected to use correct beaming in a composition. (Demisemiquavers/32nd notes will not be expected).

Follow the rules for beaming:

  • Beam notes together in complete beats
  • Start a new beamed group on each main beat.
  • Four quavers (8th notes) can (optionally) be beamed to equal a minim (half note), as long as the group doesn’t cross from a weak to a strong beat (e.g. beats 2-3 in 4/4 time).
  • You might need to change the direction of the stems on some notes in the group.
  • If you have several notes in a group where some go up and some go down, use the direction which would be correct for the note furthest from the middle line.
  • The angle of beams follows the pattern of the music – if the music is rising in pitch, they slope upwards. If the music is falling in pitch they slope downwards. If the music stays at the same pitch, they are horizontal.

Here is a badly beamed passage:

badly beamed passage

The time signature is 2/4, so we should have two crotchet beats per bar. The groups of quavers and semiquavers need to be beamed together to show this, and we also had to change the stem direction on a couple of notes:

correctly beamed passage

Here is an example of how the time signature affects beaming. These notes will be beamed in a different way, depending on the time signature:

beam these notes

In 3/4 time, three beats per bar need to be shown. In 6/8 time, there are two beats per bar. Here is the correct beaming in each time signature: 

beaming in different time signatures

(You could also beam together the last two quaver notes in the 6/8 bar, keeping the rest in the middle, if you prefer).

Beaming Exercises

Hover your mouse over the questions (tap on mobiles) to reveal the answers.

Rewrite the following melodies with the notes correctly grouped/beamed.

  1. b

  3. b) b