Thursday, 16 June 2011

RHYTHM, AN ELEMENT IN MUSIC. What is rhythm all about? (beats, meter, accent, syncopation & tempo)

Rhythm is an arrangement of sounds and silences to create specific musical patterns during time. Rhythm also includes beat, meter, accent, syncopation and tempo. Let us look at these interrelated aspects of rhythm.
Beat is very important because it allows the music to flow in an organized way. Beat is a regular, repeated pulsation that divides music into equal units of time. So if the music is slow then the beats are arranged to move at a slow pace. It is important to note that the beats in music are not notes but they are pulse that the arranger or conductor used to create melodies and other rhythmic patterns. Therefore a note can be a fraction less than a beat, can be the same length as a beat and even longer than a beat. The pulse that is created by your heart is a perfect example because it is a steady regular pattern.
Let us now look at the term “Meter”.
Meter is the organization of beats into regular groups. When a group of set number of beats is used then a measure is created. The first beat in the group is usually stressed. This stressed beat is called the down beat.
There are different types of meter. Each meter is named according to the number of beats in each measure. Some types of meter as they relates to music are; duple meter, triple meter, quadruple meter, sextuple meter, quintuple meter among others. In this article we will only focus on three types of meter. They are; duple, triple and quadruple meter.
Duple meter is when each measure in the music has two beats in it. A group of two beats in each measure is counted like this:

Triple meter is when each measure in the music has three beats in it. A group of three beats in each measure is counted like this:

Quadruple meter is when there are four beats in each measure. A group of four beats in each measure is counted like this:

Click link for topic on Time Signature
Accent and Syncopation are two effective musical techniques used to enhance the rhythmic structure of a piece of music. Accent is when a note in the group of beats in the measure is played stronger than normal times in the music. The symbol used to illustrate accent is >. (When the accent sign (>) is placed over specific notes in each measure it means that the note must be played stronger than the other notes.)
Syncopation is an “off-beat” note that is stressed or accented. If you listen to a jazz music then you will hear a lot of syncopation.
The tempo of the music definitely has an effect on the rhythm. Tempo refers to the pace of the music. However, there are different types of musical terms that are used to tell us the tempo that is to be used or suitable for the music. Two popular tempo terms are; andante and allegro.
Andante means – at walking pace or moderately slow.
Allegro means – fast.
Some other tempo terms used in music are;
Largo – very slow
Grave – solemn and very slow
Adagio – slow
Moderato – moderate
Allegretto – moderately fast
Vivace – lively
Presto – very fast
Prestissimo – as fast as possible
It is very important to note that most tempo terms used in music are normally Italian.
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