The Complete Language of Music – Rhythm

Rhythm is a very important part of Music and when you add it to chords and melodies it has the power to get the listener tapping their feet or moving their bodies. When we start moving to music it is generally the Rhythm that is behind it.

To understand rhythm we break it down to its simplest form. Rhythm is simply the interaction between sound and silence, in relation to time. Both play an important role in rhythm.

The simplest rhythm is called a metronome beat (the name given to sound). In this rhythm there is no silence generally and the beats occur at regular time intervals. The closest you can get to this is the ticking of a clock. The ticking is regular at 60 ticks a minute, or 1 tick a second. The tempo (the name given to the measure of the speed of music) of the clock is said to be 60 beats per minute or 60 bpm.

60 bpm is considered relatively slow for a piece of music with anything from 80 bpm to 120 bpm as the popular speeds.  Interestingly the resting heartbeat of a healthy adult is around 60 bpm. So anything faster than that gives the impression of being high energy because it is faster than our resting heartbeat. 120 bpm is double the resting rate of the heart and is considered high energy to our minds.

There have been studies that link the tempo of music with the listener’s heartbeat and breathing speeds, creating excitement or calm in the listener, depending on the tempo. Musicians have known the power of tempo on the listener and can use it to good effect.

Back to Sound and Silence. The combination creates the pulse in the music and the movement around the tempo. These create mini excitement and calm through the music.

Rhythms commonly come in patterns that are repeated or have variations. I will look more at these in the next blog.

For the sake of reading music, it is broken up into sections that are easier to read called bars. Each bars lasts the same amount of time and so they have a regular feel to them. When we listen to music we often hear or feel an energy in the music and this is called the pulse. We generally dance or just move to the pulse of the music. This pulse can generally be related to the first beat of every bar played a bit louder than the others. Often we feel it more than we hear it.

In the next blog on rhythm I will break it into how rhythms look and sound. See you then. Enjoy.

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