Rhythms happen all around us, from the tides, the sunrise and sunset, to our breathing and heartbeat. We spend the first nine months of our lives listening to our mothers' heartbeat. Tha-dump, tha-dump, tha-dump... Is it any wonder then that our heartbeat is considered the foundation of all musical rhythm?
Find the Beat!
What do you think are some of the main aspects of musical rhythm? Listen to the following examples:
What is your definition of the beat? Write it down in your journal.
Listen again to the excerpts above for the beat. Try to clap your hands on the beat. Try to play the beat on one of your musical instruments. When you're done, check your first definition and revise it if necessary.
Find the Tempo!
What do you think are some of the main aspects to rhythm besides the beat? Listen to the following examples:tempo? Write it down in your journal.
Listen to the above examples and clap your hands, snap your fingers (or whatever works for you) to find the beat. Now count how many beats there are in fifteen seconds (you can use the second hand on a watch or clock). Multiply the number by four. This gives you the number of beats per minute or the tempo!
Two of the most common way composers create a gradual change of tempo is with the accelerando and ritardando. These are Italian words, that mean, gradually speed up (accelerate) and gradually slow down deaccelerate).
Hands-On Activity – Listen to your Heart Beat
What's the Point?
We live in a world of time and duration. Since music takes time to unfold, we measure it and divide it in many different ways! So when we measure rhythm we use the term meter.
Meter is the underlying beat pattern. In its simplest form it will appear as a two (duple meter) or a three (triple meter). You can combine twos and threes to create more complex meters. For example, you can create a four by adding two plus two, or a five by adding two plus three.
What is meter?
Musicians use a meter signature to show what the meter is at the beginning of a composition. For example, let's explore the meter of Common Time, shown as a large C on each musical staff.
There are two basic items in a meter signature.
Just for Fun!
1. What happens to the feeling of the rhythm when you speed up or slow down the tempo?
2. Create a rhythm on one of your instruments. Try and show the following ideas:
3. Gently press the small flap shut on each of your ears. Can you hear the blood flowing inside your ears? Can you hear your heartbeat? What else can you hear?
"Rhythm is one of the principal translators
– Edith Sitwell
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