If you find yourself asking what is rhythm and how can I get to grips with it? Then this is the article for you. In this article we will be going over the very basics of rhythm. The topics we will be covering are as follows:
What Is A Pulse?
Firstly a good place to start learning about rhythm is what is a pulse.
The reason being is that a pulse is the heartbeat of a song.
The pulse gives life to a song and allows for a listener to get carried away with the music. Without a steady pulse its harder to trust what is happening in the music.
If you want people to enjoy your music have a steady pulse so it gives the audience a sense of security to know its not going to become unpredictable at any moment. To Feel the pulse all you need to do is allow for the music to take you and then single out the feel of the down beat.
To do that you’ll find the pulse of the music where all the music is responding to that heartbeat.
When you do this, you will identify the pulse of the music. Music can be fast and it can be slow. Which brings us onto our next topic.
What’s The Difference Between Fast And Slow Music?
This may sound like an obvious question…. And it is really. But this is more about engaging your ears and body to the pulse, so that you can detect when a song is fast or slow. We measure these pulses as Beats per minute. A bit like a heart rate monitor. See it all ties together!
So, if we say a piece of music is 60 beats per minute it means 60 pulses happen equally and divide up that minute by having 60 of them! See its easy not rocket science at all! 60 is typically quite a slow pulse and if we listen to music that goes faster that BPM or beats per minute comes at you at a faster rate.
If it were 120 it would be double the rate of 60 naturally. It is very important to get used to these different rates as this is what we musicians refer to as the tempo.
Over time you will get used to these tempos and internalise what feels like an estimate of that tempo at the right bpm. Speaking of internalising things, I should explain the next topic Timefeel.
What Is Timefeel?
Timefeel is how a musician feels time and internalises time as its happening. Its how the musician responds to music there and then in a timely fashion.
Some musicians have better Timefeel than others.
If you ever find yourself rehearsing in a band, you’ll soon figure out who has the stronger Timefeel because the band will be leaning on them as their Timefeel is steadier than the others in the band. The good news is that Timefeel is like riding a bike, its possible to be trained and once you get trained in feeling time, its very difficult to go backwards or worse at it. Which is why its always good to invest time and effort in listening to different music while simultaneously internalising it with the feel of the beat. Part of Timefeel is learning to move your body with the music, our next topic is exactly about that!
The Importance Of Moving Your Body
In music to be a part of a song or piece of music you really need to move your body to it or your timing will be off with it. While performing on an instrument you will often feel like you are dancing onstage, this can feel embarrassing sometimes. Overtime you get used to it and it really helps keep intime with the music. Often common methods of moving your body include:
Bopping your head back and forth Moving from side to side when standing And tapping your feet.
The most common one is tapping your feet because you can practice this when sitting with your guitar. Its also good for feeling the down and upbeat. As when your foot goes down its on the down beat. And when it releases up it’s the weaker up or the upbeat. At first moving in this way is quite difficult if you are not used to it. Especially when you combine playing and try to move another body part at the same time. My advice is to learn to tap your feet first with the beat separately from the instrument and then gradually as you get used to it introduce the guitar. It will feel alien at first but its one of those “like riding a bike” things its hard to get worse after more training. Usually when you are tapping your foot to 99% of songs you are tapping in a steady 1 2 3 4. Which is the subject of our next topic
What Does 4/4 Mean?
4/4 means there are 4 beats and every beat is a quarter note. And each time you count 4 beats it makes a bar. The first part or top part represents how many beats there are and the bottom part represents what type of beat it is. There is a deeper explanation but its beyond the scope of this article as that involves explaining time signatures of which there are many but the most popular of them is 4/4 which will give you a good basis of understanding music in most situations. There is also a skill to counting these bars that is simple yet effective which is our next topic!
How To Count Bars Effectively
Counting bars should be simple as 1 2 3 4 right? Wrong! Because if you need to know how many bars you have counted how would you keep a tally? What tends to happen is if you do 1 2 3 4 onwards and onwards. Its hard to keep track of what bar you are on. A secret to this is instead to count 1 2 3 4 and the next bar start with the right number for that bar, replacing the 1 and repeat the number if it’s the same as the bar, for example: 1 2 3 4, 2 2 3 4, 3 2 3 4, 4 2 3 4 etc etc…. This will help you keep what bar you are on which is useful for working out patterns within song sections. So, these were my tips and guides on your introduction to rhythm, in future articles we will dive deeper into the theory of rhythm. If that interests you, please subscribe to our mailing list to keep up to date with more tips and tutorials!