Rhythm is peculiar to our everyday life. It is involved majorly in our daily activities starting from weather down to the seasons. Even our heartbeats speak of this same element. We also witness rhythm from our very breathing and even the sound of our walking.
In this article, we’ll expound and explain the concept of RHYTHM in it’s simplest term.
What is rhythm then?
Rhythm is tension and release in a recurring manner.
It is the alternation of release and tension done in a rhythmic pattern.
We cannot discuss rhythm without involving TIME. Rhythm thrive with time and rhythm itself is measured with time.
With the above analogy, it’ll suffice to say that the lifeline of music lies with Rhythm.
No rhythm; No music!
This is because music can only flow through time and without time, everything becomes noise.
To make rhythm a complete entity, there are other core principalities that aids it’s entirety.
They are: meter, tempo, accent, syncopation, beat (in no particular order).
It’s getting interesting isn’t it?
Let’s start the discussion with BEAT!
BEAT is a pulse recurring regularly to break music into diverse or similar units with time.
To represent beats musically, marks are inscribed on timeline.
The beats however maybe unnoticeable and not obvious to feel but most times it is strong and obvious.
Before we continue, let me make something known.
There is a difference between Pulse and rhythm!
The difference is this: The pulse is continuos while the rhythm may change and alternate but inline with the pulse.
Let’s make an illustration.
With the aid of your right hand, hit a table or anything surface close to you gently and count 1 2 3 4 (i.e 1 and 2 and 3 and 4) when you get to 4, start from 1 then get to 4 again. Continue hitting the surface while you stop counting with your voice.
Try to sing ‘JOY TO THE WORLD’ while still hitting that surface with your palm.
What did you observe?
If you did it correctly, you must have observed that the song was alternating while the sound made from the surface you were hitting did not change but constant.
Here is the explanation to that.
The sound your hand made due to hitting of the table or any surface you were hitting is the pulse while the sound from the song you were singing is the rhythm.
Rhythm changes but the pulse doesn’t change!
Hope you’ve understood that?
Let’s move on with the beat.
Beat is the basis or background on which notes of different lengths are built by the composer or arranger as the case may be. They are very important to music because they form the basis from which notes are measured.
To this end, notes may sound for just a little segment of a beat, quarter of a beat, half a beat or a full beat. It can even be more than a beat.
When these notes (of different lengths) are combined, rhythm is created.
To this end, rhythm can also be seen as notes of different lengths arranged in a music piece.
Also note that some notes are perceived to be stronger than others. This means some beats come with strong emphasis while others appear to be weak. This leads us to meter.
Meter is the arrangement of beats into groups. We can not talk about meter without taking measure into consideration.
A measure is a fixed number of beats contained in a group.
The first beat is usually stressed and it’s always the downbeat.
Meter are divided into types and the division is solely based on the number of beats present or allowed in a measure.
The meter is Duple if there are 2 beats found in a measure. (1-2, 1-2).
You can use the song ‘Mary had a little lamb’ to check it out.
The meter is called triple meter if there are 3 beats in a bar.
As in 1_2_3, 1_2 _3 etc.
The meter is quadruple when a measure is made up of 4 beats. The first beat is the strong beat but the third beat is stressed a little bit.
A quadruple meter looks like 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 and so on.
As in the song Twinkle Bell.
Sextuple is a meter with 6 beats in a measure. In this case the stress is on the first beat and the fourth beat.
Sextuple is often mistook for triple meter. In the real case, the sextuple meter is divided into two groups of 3 beats (1_2_3/4_5_6). To this end we’ll say that sextuple meter is made up of Duple and triple time combined.
A meter is regarded as quintuple when 5 beats are allocated to a measure while a meter is septuple when a measure is allocated 7 beats.
We have decided to pair them together because the two of them have some similarities.
Quintuple and septuple meter are made up of the combination of duple and triple time. Example 1_2_3/4_5 or 1_2/3_4_5.
These two meters are not common as they are seldomly used in the music of the earliest time even though they are widely used in the 21st century music.
Let’s quickly move to syncopation.
One of the crucial parts of rhythmic flow is the stress pattern of individual notes. An emphasi is laid on a note by stressing it more than others which of course means the note is played more loudly than other neighboring notes.
Considering the types of meter we’ve talked about above, SYNCOPATION is simply when a note without stress is stressed. It is usually called OFF-BEAT which means that an off-beat note that is usually unaccented is accented.
Let’s take a duple meter for example. The first note which is the downbeat is usually accented right? Now if the accent moves to the second note it becomes a syncopation.
The whole essence of syncopation is accenting a weak beat.
Syncopation is one of the main characteristics of Jazz music.
Hope you’ve grabbed that?
Tempo is how fast or slow a music is. Metronome mark is used to indicate the pace (how fast or slow) of the music by pointing out the number of beats to be played or sung per minute.
There are terms associated with tempo and they are always written in Italian and of course, most musical terms are written in Italian and Latin.
Terms and their meaning:
Grave – Very Slow and Solemn
Largo – Very Slow
Adagio – Slow
Andante – A walking Pace
Moderato – Moderator
Allegretto – Moderate
Allegretto – Moderately Fast
Allegro – Fast
Vivace – Lively
Presto – Very Fast
Prestissimo – As fast as possible.