Rhythm is one of the most important elements of music. The name itself comes from Greek word rhythmos (derived from rhein, meaning “to flow”). Rhythm, in the broad sense, is a relationship of durations, stresses, and accents in the music. Basically, it is the arrangement of sounds and silences in time. There is no music without any rhythm. In fact, we can say that it is more important than notes itself for music. Why? Because you can make music with something to make sound with and rhythm alone. You can tap your feet, clap your hands or bang on something rhythmically to create a basic beat.
Any music piece is a creative organization of sounds and silences. Each note sounds at a particular time and then silence or other notes take their place. So there is a movement, a regulated succession or alternation of strong and weak elements in music. This movement or pattern is what we feel as rhythm. Although there is a pattern in every rhythm, a rhythm doesn’t have to be regular. There are irregular rhythms too. The basic elements of rhythm are beat, pulse, measure, duration, and tempo.
Rhythm is a concept that occurs everywhere. There is a rhythm in human life (e.g., walking, running, speech, pulse, heartbeat), in nature (e.g., biological rhythms), in other arts (e.g., poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture etc.)
The elements of rhythm
A beat is the basic unit of time in any musical piece. It divides the time into equal lengths. When you listen to music if you count, tap and clap according to its rhythm, it means that you are experiencing the beat. One of the best examples of a beat is a ticking clock. The second hand of a clock ticks 60 times each minute and each of these ticks is a beat. We use beats for counting time while playing a piece of music. Rhythm consists of repeating sequence of strong (stressed) and weak (unstressed) beats.
Pulse is a regular, reoccurring emphasis of a fixed interval of time. Just like we feel our heart beat in a regular pulse, we often feel a regular pulse in music. Pulse consists of groups of beats. The tempo of a piece determines the speed of the beats and therefore pulse.
A bar is basically a grouping of a specified number of beats between two successive vertical lines on a staff. (Staff is the where we write the musical notation) These vertical lines are bar lines. There are also specific types of bar lines which I will talk about later in my articles. When we divide music into bars, it gives us a reference to pinpoint specific locations in a piece. Bars are also useful for reading and counting music. Time signature determines the number of beats in a bar.
Meter in music is a rhythmic pattern. Grouping beats into regular measures or bars forms meter. When we group the beats into measures, the pulse of the music is in a meter. Time signature indicates the meter in a piece of music.