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Rhythm (from Greek ῥυθμός, rhythmos, "any regular recurring motion, symmetry" [1] ) generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions". [2] This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds (as with the riff in a rock music song); to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.


Rhythm is related to and distinguished from pulse, meter, and beats:

Rhythm may be defined as the way in which one or more unaccented beats are grouped in relation to an accented one. ... A rhythmic group can be apprehended only when its elements are distinguished from one another, rhythm...always involves an interrelationship between a single, accented (strong) beat and either one or two unaccented (weak) beats. [3]

In the performance arts, rhythm is the timing of events on a human scale; of musical sounds and silences that occur over time, of the steps of a dance, or the meter of spoken language and poetry. In some performing arts, such as hip hop music, the rhythmic delivery of the lyrics is one of the most important elements of the style. Rhythm may also refer to visual presentation, as "timed movement through space" [4] and a common language of pattern unites rhythm with geometry. For example, architects often speak of the rhythm of a building, referring to patterns in the spacing of windows, columns, and other elements of the façade.[ citation needed ] In recent years, rhythm and meter have become an important area of research among music scholars. Recent work in these areas includes books by Maury Yeston, [5] Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, [6] Jonathan Kramer, Christopher Hasty, [7] Godfried Toussaint, [8] William Rothstein, [9] Joel Lester, [10] and Guerino Mazzola.


Percussion instruments have clearly defined sounds that aid the creation and perception of complex rhythms. Traditional indonesian instruments02.jpg
Percussion instruments have clearly defined sounds that aid the creation and perception of complex rhythms.

In his television series How Music Works, Howard Goodall presents theories that human rhythm recalls the regularity with which we walk and the heartbeat. [11] Other research suggests that it does not relate to the heartbeat directly, but rather the speed of emotional affect, which also influences heartbeat. Yet other researchers suggest that since certain features of human music are widespread, it is "reasonable to suspect that beat-based rhythmic processing has ancient evolutionary roots". [12] Justin London writes that musical metre "involves our initial perception as well as subsequent anticipation of a series of beats that we abstract from the rhythm surface of the music as it unfolds in time". [13] The "perception" and "abstraction" of rhythmic measure is the foundation of human instinctive musical participation, as when we divide a series of identical clock-ticks into "tick-tock-tick-tock". [14] [15]

A simple [quadr]duple drum pattern, which lays a foundation of duration common in popular music

Joseph Jordania recently suggested that the sense of rhythm was developed in the early stages of hominid evolution by the forces of natural selection. [16] Plenty of animals walk rhythmically and hear the sounds of the heartbeat in the womb, but only humans have the ability to be engaged (entrained) in rhythmically coordinated vocalizations and other activities. According to Jordania, development of the sense of rhythm was central for the achievement of the specific neurological state of the battle trance, crucial for the development of the effective defense system of early hominids. Rhythmic war cry, rhythmic drumming by shamans, rhythmic drilling of the soldiers and contemporary professional combat forces listening to the heavy rhythmic rock music [17] all use the ability of rhythm to unite human individuals into a shared collective identity where group members put the interests of the group above their individual interests and safety.

Some types of parrots can know rhythm. [18] Neurologist Oliver Sacks states that chimpanzees and other animals show no similar appreciation of rhythm yet posits that human affinity for rhythm is fundamental, so that a person's sense of rhythm cannot be lost (e.g. by stroke). "There is not a single report of an animal being trained to tap, peck, or move in synchrony with an auditory beat", [19] Sacks write, "No doubt many pet lovers will dispute this notion, and indeed many animals, from the Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to performing circus animals appear to 'dance' to music. It is not clear whether they are doing so or are responding to subtle visual or tactile cues from the humans around them." [20] Human rhythmic arts are possibly to some extent rooted in courtship ritual. [21]

Compound triple drum pattern: divides three beats into three; contains repetition on three levels Compound triple drum pattern.png
Compound triple drum pattern: divides three beats into three; contains repetition on three levels

The establishment of a basic beat requires the perception of a regular sequence of distinct short-duration pulses and, as a subjective perception of loudness is relative to background noise levels, a pulse must decay to silence before the next occurs if it is to be really distinct. For this reason, the fast-transient sounds of percussion instruments lend themselves to the definition of rhythm. Musical cultures that rely upon such instruments may develop multi-layered polyrhythm and simultaneous rhythms in more than one time signature, called polymeter. Such are the cross-rhythms of Sub-Saharan Africa and the interlocking kotekan rhythms of the gamelan.

For information on rhythm in Indian music see Tala (music). For other Asian approaches to rhythm see Rhythm in Persian music, Rhythm in Arabic music and Usul—Rhythm in Turkish music and Dumbek rhythms.


Pulse, beat and measure

Metric levels: beat level shown in middle with division levels above and multiple levels below. Metric levels.svg
Metric levels: beat level shown in middle with division levels above and multiple levels below.

As a piece of music unfolds, its rhythmic structure is perceived not as a series of discrete independent units strung together in a mechanical, additive, way like beads [or "pulses"], but as an organic process in which smaller rhythmic motives, whole possessing a shape and structure of their own, also function as integral parts of a larger ["architectonic"] rhythmic organization. [22]

Most music, dance and oral poetry establishes and maintains an underlying "metric level", a basic unit of time that may be audible or implied, the pulse or tactus of the mensural level, [23] [6] [24] or beat level, sometimes simply called the beat. This consists of a (repeating) series of identical yet distinct periodic short-duration stimuli perceived as points in time. [25] The "beat" pulse is not necessarily the fastest or the slowest component of the rhythm but the one that is perceived as fundamental: it has a tempo to which listeners entrain as they tap their foot or dance to a piece of music. [26] It is currently most often designated as a crotchet or quarter note in western notation (see time signature). Faster levels are division levels, and slower levels are multiple levels. [25] Maury Yeston clarified "Rhythms of recurrence" arise from the interaction of two levels of motion, the faster providing the pulse and the slower organizing the beats into repetitive groups. [27] "Once a metric hierarchy has been established, we, as listeners, will maintain that organization as long as minimal evidence is present". [28]

Unit and gesture

A durational pattern that synchronises with a pulse or pulses on the underlying metric level may be called a rhythmic unit. These may be classified as:

From left to right: metric, intrametric, contrametric, and extrametric rhythmic units

A rhythmic gesture is any durational pattern that, in contrast to the rhythmic unit, does not occupy a period of time equivalent to a pulse or pulses on an underlying metric level. It may be described according to its beginning and ending or by the rhythmic units it contains. Rhythms that begin on a strong pulse are thetic, those beginning on a weak pulse are anacrustic and those beginning after a rest or tied-over note are called initial rest. Endings on a strong pulse are strong, on a weak pulse, weak and those that end on a strong or weak upbeat are upbeat. [29]

Alternation and repetition

Rhythm is marked by the regulated succession of opposite elements: the dynamics of the strong and weak beat, the played beat and the inaudible but implied rest beat, or the long and short note. As well as perceiving rhythm humans must be able to anticipate it. This depends on repetition of a pattern that is short enough to memorize.

The alternation of the strong and weak beat is fundamental to the ancient language of poetry, dance and music. The common poetic term "foot" refers, as in dance, to the lifting and tapping of the foot in time. In a similar way musicians speak of an upbeat and a downbeat and of the "on" and "off" beat. These contrasts naturally facilitate a dual hierarchy of rhythm and depend on repeating patterns of duration, accent and rest forming a "pulse-group" that corresponds to the poetic foot. Normally such pulse-groups are defined by taking the most accented beat as the first and counting the pulses until the next accent. [30] Scholes 1977b A rhythm that accents another beat and de-emphasises the downbeat as established or assumed from the melody or from a preceding rhythm is called syncopated rhythm.

Normally, even the most complex of meters may be broken down into a chain of duple and triple pulses [30] [14] either by addition or division. According to Pierre Boulez, beat structures beyond four, in western music, are "simply not natural". [31]

Tempo and duration

The tempo of the piece is the speed or frequency of the tactus, a measure of how quickly the beat flows. This is often measured in 'beats per minute' (bpm): 60 bpm means a speed of one beat per second, a frequency of 1 Hz. A rhythmic unit is a durational pattern that has a period equivalent to a pulse or several pulses. [32] The duration of any such unit is inversely related to its tempo.

Musical sound may be analyzed on five different time scales, which Moravscik has arranged in order of increasing duration. [33]

Curtis Roads [37] takes a wider view by distinguishing nine-time scales, this time in order of decreasing duration. The first two, the infinite and the supra musical, encompass natural periodicities of months, years, decades, centuries, and greater, while the last three, the sample and subsample, which take account of digital and electronic rates "too brief to be properly recorded or perceived", measured in millionths of seconds (microseconds), and finally the infinitesimal or infinitely brief, are again in the extra-musical domain. Roads' Macro level, encompassing "overall musical architecture or form" roughly corresponds to Moravcsik's "very long" division while his Meso level, the level of "divisions of form" including movements, sections, phrases taking seconds or minutes, is likewise similar to Moravcsik's "long" category. Roads' Sound object:[ citation needed ] "a basic unit of musical structure" and a generalization of note (Xenakis' mini structural time scale); fraction of a second to several seconds, and his Microsound (see granular synthesis) down to the threshold of audible perception; thousandths to millionths of seconds, are similarly comparable to Moravcsik's "short" and "supershort" levels of duration.

Rhythm–tempo interaction

One difficulty in defining rhythm is the dependence of its perception on tempo, and, conversely, the dependence of tempo perception on rhythm. Furthermore, the rhythm–tempo interaction is context dependent, as explained by Andranik Tangian using an example of the leading rhythm of "Promenade" from Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition :( [38] [39]

Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg
Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg

This rhythm is perceived as it is rather than as the first three events repeated at a double tempo (denoted as R012 = repeat from 0, one time, twice faster):

Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg

However, the motive with this rhythm in the Moussorgsky's piece

Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg
Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg

is rather perceived as a repeat

Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg

This context-dependent perception of rhythm is explained by the principle of correlative perception, according to which data are perceived in the simplest way. From the viewpoint of Kolmogorov's complexity theory, this means such a representation of the data that minimizes the amount of memory.

The example considered suggests two alternative representations of the same rhythm: as it is, and as the rhythm-tempo interaction – a two-level representation in terms of a generative rhythmic pattern and a "tempo curve". Table 1 displays these possibilities both with and without pitch, assuming that one duration requires one byte of information, one byte is needed for the pitch of one tone, and invoking the repeat algorithm with its parameters R012 takes four bytes. As shown in the bottom row of the table, the rhythm without pitch requires fewer bytes if it is "perceived" as it is, without repetitions and tempo leaps. On the contrary, its melodic version requires fewer bytes if the rhythm is "perceived" as being repeated at a double tempo.

Complexity of representation of time events
Rhythm onlyRhythm with pitch
Complete codingCoding as repeatComplete codingCoding as repeat
Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg
Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg
Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg
Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg
Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique croche hampe haut.svg
Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg
Complexity of rhythmic pattern6 bytes3 bytes12 bytes6 bytes
Complexity of its transformation0 bytes4 bytes0 bytes4 bytes
Total complexity6 bytes7 bytes12 bytes10 bytes

Thus, the loop of interdependence of rhythm and tempo is overcome due to the simplicity criterion, which "optimally" distributes the complexity of perception between rhythm and tempo. In the above example, the repetition is recognized because of additional repetition of the melodic contour, which results in a certain redundancy of the musical structure, making the recognition of the rhythmic pattern "robust" under tempo deviations. Generally speaking, the more redundant the "musical support" of a rhythmic pattern, the better its recognizability under augmentations and diminutions, that is, its distortions are perceived as tempo variations rather than rhythmic changes:

By taking into account melodic context, homogeneity of accompaniment, harmonic pulsation, and other cues, the range of admissible tempo deviations can be extended further, yet still not preventing musically normal perception. For example, Skrjabin's own performance of his Poem op. 32 no. 1 transcribed from a piano-roll recording contains tempo deviations within Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg . = 19/119, a span of 5.5 times. [40] Such tempo deviations are strictly prohibited, for example, in Bulgarian or Turkish music based on so-called additive rhythms with complex duration ratios, which can also be explained by the principle of correlativity of perception. If a rhythm is not structurally redundant, then even minor tempo deviations are not perceived as accelerando or ritardando but rather given an impression of a change in rhythm, which implies an inadequate perception of musical meaning. [41]

Metric structure

Notation of a clave rhythm pattern: Each cell of the grid corresponds to a fixed duration of time with a resolution fine enough to capture the timing of the pattern, which may be counted as two bars of four beats in divisive (metrical or symmetrical) rhythm, each beat divided into two cells. The first bar of the pattern may also usefully be counted additively (in measured or asymmetrical rhythm) as 3 + 3 + 2. Claves-detail.gif
Notation of a clave rhythm pattern: Each cell of the grid corresponds to a fixed duration of time with a resolution fine enough to capture the timing of the pattern, which may be counted as two bars of four beats in divisive (metrical or symmetrical) rhythm, each beat divided into two cells. The first bar of the pattern may also usefully be counted additively (in measured or asymmetrical rhythm) as 3 + 3 + 2.

The study of rhythm, stress, and pitch in speech is called prosody (see also: prosody (music)): it is a topic in linguistics and poetics, where it means the number of lines in a verse, the number of syllables in each line and the arrangement of those syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented. Music inherited the term "meter or metre" from the terminology of poetry. [14] [15] [42] )

The metric structure of music includes meter, tempo and all other rhythmic aspects that produce temporal regularity against which the foreground details or durational patterns of the music are projected. [43] The terminology of western music is notoriously imprecise in this area. [14] MacPherson preferred to speak of "time" and "rhythmic shape", [36] Imogen Holst of "measured rhythm". [44]

An early moving picture demonstrates the waltz, a dance in triple metre. Phenakistoscope 3g07690d.gif
An early moving picture demonstrates the waltz, a dance in triple metre.

Dance music has instantly recognizable patterns of beats built upon a characteristic tempo and measure. The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing defines the tango, for example, as to be danced in 2
time at approximately 66 beats per minute. The basic slow step forwards or backwards, lasting for one beat, is called a "slow", so that a full "right–left" step is equal to one 2
measure. [45] (See Rhythm and dance .)

Notation of three measures of a clave pattern preceded by one measure of steady quarter notes. This pattern is noted in double time relative to the one above, in one instead of two four-beat measures.
Four beats followed by three clave patterns Clavepattern.svg
Notation of three measures of a clave pattern preceded by one measure of steady quarter notes. This pattern is noted in double time relative to the one above, in one instead of two four-beat measures.
Four beats followed by three clave patterns

The general classifications of metrical rhythm, measured rhythm, and free rhythm may be distinguished. [46] Metrical or divisive rhythm, by far the most common in Western music calculates each time value as a multiple or fraction of the beat. Normal accents re-occur regularly providing systematical grouping (measures). Measured rhythm (additive rhythm) also calculates each time value as a multiple or fraction of a specified time unit but the accents do not recur regularly within the cycle. Free rhythm is where there is neither, [46] such as in Christian chant, which has a basic pulse but a freer rhythm, like the rhythm of prose compared to that of verse. [15] See Free time (music) .

Finally some music, such as some graphically scored works since the 1950s and non-European music such as Honkyoku repertoire for shakuhachi, may be considered ametric. [47] Senza misura is an Italian musical term for "without meter", meaning to play without a beat, using time to measure how long it will take to play the bar. [48]

Composite rhythm

Bach's Sinfonia in F minor BWV 795, mm. 1-3
With composite Bach, Sinfonia in F minor BWV 795, mm. 1-3a composite rhythm.png
Bach's Sinfonia in F minor BWV 795, mm. 1–3
With composite

A composite rhythm is the durations and patterns (rhythm) produced by amalgamating all sounding parts of a musical texture. In music of the common practice period, the composite rhythm usually confirms the meter, often in metric or even-note patterns identical to the pulse on a specific metric level. White defines composite rhythm as, "the resultant overall rhythmic articulation among all the voices of a contrapuntal texture". [49] This concept was concurrently defined as "attack point rhythm" by Maury Yeston in 1976 as "the extreme rhythmic foreground of a composition – the absolute surface of articulated movement". [50]

African music

A Griot performs at Diffa, Niger, West Africa. The Griot is playing a Ngoni or Xalam. Diffa Niger Griot DSC 0177.jpg
A Griot performs at Diffa, Niger, West Africa. The Griot is playing a Ngoni or Xalam.

In the Griot tradition of Africa everything related to music has been passed on orally. Babatunde Olatunji (1927–2003) developed a simple series of spoken sounds for teaching the rhythms of the hand-drum, using six vocal sounds, "Goon, Doon, Go, Do, Pa, Ta", for three basic sounds on the drum, each played with either the left or the right hand.[ citation needed ] The debate about the appropriateness of staff notation for African music is a subject of particular interest to outsiders while African scholars from Kyagambiddwa to Kongo have, for the most part, accepted the conventions and limitations of staff notation, and produced transcriptions to inform and enable discussion and debate. [51]

John Miller [52] has argued that West African music is based on the tension between rhythms, polyrhythms created by the simultaneous sounding of two or more different rhythms, generally one dominant rhythm interacting with one or more independent competing rhythms. These often oppose or complement each other and the dominant rhythm. Moral values underpin a musical system based on repetition of relatively simple patterns that meet at distant cross-rhythmic intervals and on call-and-response form. Collective utterances such as proverbs or lineages appear either in phrases translated into "drum talk" or in the words of songs. People expect musicians to stimulate participation by reacting to people dancing. Appreciation of musicians is related to the effectiveness of their upholding community values. [53]

Indian music

Indian music has also been passed on orally. Tabla players would learn to speak complex rhythm patterns and phrases before attempting to play them. Sheila Chandra, an English pop singer of Indian descent, made performances based on her singing these patterns. In Indian classical music, the Tala of a composition is the rhythmic pattern over which the whole piece is structured.

Western music

In the 20th century, composers like Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich wrote more rhythmically complex music using odd meters, and techniques such as phasing and additive rhythm. At the same time, modernists such as Olivier Messiaen and his pupils used increased complexity to disrupt the sense of a regular beat, leading eventually to the widespread use of irrational rhythms in New Complexity. This use may be explained by a comment of John Cage's where he notes that regular rhythms cause sounds to be heard as a group rather than individually; the irregular rhythms highlight the rapidly changing pitch relationships that would otherwise be subsumed into irrelevant rhythmic groupings. [54] La Monte Young also wrote music in which the sense of a regular beat is absent because the music consists only of long sustained tones (drones). In the 1930s, Henry Cowell wrote music involving multiple simultaneous periodic rhythms and collaborated with Leon Theremin to invent the rhythmicon, the first electronic rhythm machine, in order to perform them. Similarly, Conlon Nancarrow wrote for the player piano.


In linguistics, rhythm or isochrony is one of the three aspects of prosody, along with stress and intonation. Languages can be categorized according to whether they are syllable-timed, mora-timed, or stress-timed. Speakers of syllable-timed languages such as Spanish and Cantonese put roughly equal time on each syllable; in contrast, speakers of stressed-timed languages such as English and Mandarin Chinese put roughly equal time lags between stressed syllables, with the timing of the unstressed syllables in between them being adjusted to accommodate the stress timing.

Narmour [55] describes three categories of prosodic rules that create rhythmic successions that are additive (same duration repeated), cumulative (short-long), or countercumulative (long-short). Cumulation is associated with closure or relaxation, countercumulation with openness or tension, while additive rhythms are open-ended and repetitive. Richard Middleton points out this method cannot account for syncopation and suggests the concept of transformation. [56]

Related Research Articles

In musical terminology, tempo also known as beats per minute, is the speed or pace of a given composition. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is usually measured in beats per minute (BPM). In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will typically simply be stated in BPM.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metre (music)</span> Aspect of music

In music, metre or meter refers to regularly recurring patterns and accents such as bars and beats. Unlike rhythm, metric onsets are not necessarily sounded, but are nevertheless implied by the performer and expected by the listener.

In music, duration is an amount of time or how long or short a note, phrase, section, or composition lasts. "Duration is the length of time a pitch, or tone, is sounded." A note may last less than a second, while a symphony may last more than an hour. One of the fundamental features of rhythm, or encompassing rhythm, duration is also central to meter and musical form. Release plays an important part in determining the timbre of a musical instrument and is affected by articulation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clave (rhythm)</span> Rhythmic pattern in Cuban music

The clave is a rhythmic pattern used as a tool for temporal organization in Brazilian and Cuban music. In Spanish, clave literally means key, clef, code, or keystone. It is present in a variety of genres such as Abakuá music, rumba, conga, son, mambo, salsa, songo, timba and Afro-Cuban jazz. The five-stroke clave pattern represents the structural core of many Cuban rhythms. The study of rhythmic methodology, especially in the context of Afro-Cuban music, and how it influences the mood of a piece is known as clave theory.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Groove (music)</span> Music term

In music, groove is the sense of an effect ("feel") of changing pattern in a propulsive rhythm or sense of "swing". In jazz, it can be felt as a quality of persistently repeated rhythmic units, created by the interaction of the music played by a band's rhythm section. Groove is a significant feature of popular music, and can be found in many genres, including salsa, rock, soul, funk, and fusion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beat (music)</span> Basic unit of time in music and music theory

In music and music theory, the beat is the basic unit of time, the pulse, of the mensural level. The beat is often defined as the rhythm listeners would tap their toes to when listening to a piece of music, or the numbers a musician counts while performing, though in practice this may be technically incorrect. In popular use, beat can refer to a variety of related concepts, including pulse, tempo, meter, specific rhythms, and groove.

In musical notation, a bar is a segment of music bounded by vertical lines, known as bar lines, usually indicating one of more recurring beats. The length of the bar, measured by the number of note values it contains, is normally indicated by the time signature.

In European art music, the common practice period was the period of about 250 years during which the tonal system was regarded as the only basis for composition. It began when composers' use of the tonal system had clearly superseded earlier systems, and ended when some composers began using significantly modified versions of the tonal system, and began developing other systems as well. Most features of common practice persisted from the mid-Baroque period through the Classical and Romantic periods, roughly from 1650 to 1900. There was much stylistic evolution during these centuries, with patterns and conventions flourishing and then declining, such as the sonata form. The most prominent unifying feature throughout the period is a harmonic language to which music theorists can today apply Roman numeral chord analysis; however, the "common" in common practice does not directly refer to any type of harmony, rather it refers to the fact that for over two hundred years only one system was used.

In music, the terms additive and divisive are used to distinguish two types of both rhythm and meter:

In music theory, the pulse is a series of uniformly spaced beats—either audible or implied—that sets the tempo and is the scaffolding for the rhythm. By contrast, rhythm is always audible and can depart from the pulse. So while the rhythm may become too difficult for an untrained listener to fully match, nearly any listener instinctively matches the pulse by simply tapping uniformly, despite rhythmic variations in timing of sounds alongside the pulse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metric modulation</span> Musical technique

In music, metric modulation is a change in pulse rate (tempo) and/or pulse grouping (subdivision) which is derived from a note value or grouping heard before the change. Examples of metric modulation may include changes in time signature across an unchanging tempo, but the concept applies more specifically to shifts from one time signature/tempo (metre) to another, wherein a note value from the first is made equivalent to a note value in the second, like a pivot or bridge. The term "modulation" invokes the analogous and more familiar term in analyses of tonal harmony, wherein a pitch or pitch interval serves as a bridge between two keys. In both terms, the pivoting value functions differently before and after the change, but sounds the same, and acts as an audible common element between them. Metric modulation was first described by Richard Franko Goldman while reviewing the Cello Sonata of Elliott Carter, who prefers to call it tempo modulation. Another synonymous term is proportional tempi.

A technique in which a rhythmic pattern is superposed on another, heterometrically, and then supersedes it and becomes the basic metre. Usually, such time signatures are mutually prime, e.g., 4
and 3
, and so have no common divisors. Thus the change of the basic metre decisively alters the numerical content of the beat, but the minimal denominator remains constant in duration.

In music, a tuplet is "any rhythm that involves dividing the beat into a different number of equal subdivisions from that usually permitted by the time-signature " This is indicated by a number, or sometimes two indicating the fraction involved. The notes involved are also often grouped with a bracket or a slur.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tala (music)</span> Meter, time cycle measure in Indian music

A tala literally means a 'clap, tapping one's hand on one's arm, a musical measure'. It is the term used in Indian classical music similar to musical meter, that is any rhythmic beat or strike that measures musical time. The measure is typically established by hand clapping, waving, touching fingers on thigh or the other hand, verbally, striking of small cymbals, or a percussion instrument in the Indian subcontinental traditions. Along with raga which forms the fabric of a melodic structure, the tala forms the life cycle and thereby constitutes one of the two foundational elements of Indian music.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Period (music)</span> Musical unit of two interdependent phrases

In music, the term period refers to certain types of recurrence in small-scale formal structure. In twentieth-century music scholarship, the term is usually used as defined by the Oxford Companion to Music: "a period consists of two phrases, antecedent and consequent, each of which begins with the same basic motif." Earlier usage varied somewhat, but usually referred to similar notions of symmetry, recurrence, and closure. The concept of a musical period originates in comparisons between music structure and rhetoric at least as early as the 16th century.

In music, the term swing has two main uses. Colloquially, it is used to describe the propulsive quality or "feel" of a rhythm, especially when the music prompts a visceral response such as foot-tapping or head-nodding. This sense can also be called "groove".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bell pattern</span> Rhythmic pattern of striking a hand-held bell or other instrument

A bell pattern is a rhythmic pattern of striking a hand-held bell or other instrument of the idiophone family, to make it emit a sound at desired intervals. It is often a key pattern, in most cases it is a metal bell, such as an agogô, gankoqui, or cowbell, or a hollowed piece of wood, or wooden claves. In band music, bell patterns are also played on the metal shell of the timbales, and drum kit cymbals.

In music, a cross-beat or cross-rhythm is a specific form of polyrhythm. The term cross rhythm was introduced in 1934 by the musicologist Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980). It refers to a situation where the rhythmic conflict found in polyrhythms is the basis of an entire musical piece.

Dalcroze eurhythmics, also known as the Dalcroze method or simply eurhythmics, is one of several developmental approaches including the Kodály method, Orff Schulwerk and Suzuki Method used to teach music to students. Eurhythmics was developed in the early 20th century by Swiss musician and educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. Dalcroze eurhythmics teaches concepts of rhythm, structure, and musical expression using movement, and is the concept for which Dalcroze is best known. It focuses on allowing the student to gain physical awareness and experience of music through training that takes place through all of the senses, particularly kinesthetic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa</span> Periodicity in music developed by sub-Saharan African peoples

Sub-Saharan African music is characterised by a "strong rhythmic interest" that exhibits common characteristics in all regions of this vast territory, so that Arthur Morris Jones (1889–1980) has described the many local approaches as constituting one main system. C. K. Ladzekpo also affirms the profound homogeneity of approach. West African rhythmic techniques carried over the Atlantic were fundamental ingredients in various musical styles of the Americas: samba, forró, maracatu and coco in Brazil, Afro-Cuban music and Afro-American musical genres such as blues, jazz, rhythm & blues, funk, soul, reggae, hip hop, and rock and roll were thereby of immense importance in 20th century popular music. The drum is renowned throughout Africa.

Tresillo is a rhythmic pattern used in Latin American music. It is a more basic form of the rhythmic figure known as the habanera.


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  2. Anon. 1971, p. 2537.
  3. Cooper & Meyer 1960, p. 6.
  4. Jirousek 1995.
  5. Yeston 1976.
  6. 1 2 Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983.
  7. Hasty 1997.
  8. Toussaint 2005.
  9. Rothstein 1989.
  10. Lester 1986.
  11. Goodall 2006, 0:03:10.
  12. Patel 2014, p. 1.
  13. London 2004, p. 4.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Scholes 1977b.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Scholes 1977c.
  16. Jordania 2011, pp. 99–101.
  17. Pieslak 2009, p. [ page needed ].
  18. Anon. 2009.
  19. Patel 2006, cited in Sacks 2007 , pp. 239–240
  20. Sacks 2007, pp. 239–240.
  21. Mithen 2005, p. [ page needed ].
  22. Cooper & Meyer 1960, p. 2.
  23. Berry 1987, p. 349.
  24. Fitch and Rosenfeld 2007, p. 44.
  25. 1 2 Winold 1975, p. 213.
  26. Handel 1989.
  27. Yeston 1976, p. 50–52.
  28. Lester 1986, p. 77.
  29. Winold 1975, p. 239.
  30. 1 2 MacPherson 1930, p. 5.
  31. Slatkin n.d., at 5:05.
  32. Winold 1975, p. 237.
  33. 1 2 3 Moravcsik 2002, p. 114.
  34. Fraisse 1956 [ page needed ]; Woodrow 1951 [ page needed ], both quoted in Covaciu-Pogorilowski n.d.
  35. MacPherson 1930, p. [ page needed ].
  36. 1 2 MacPherson 1930, p. 3.
  37. Roads 2001.
  38. Tanguiane 1993.
  39. Tanguiane 1994, pp. 465–502.
  40. Skrjabin 1960.
  41. Tanguiane 1994, p. 480.
  42. Latham 2002.
  43. Winold 1975, pp. 209–210.
  44. Holst 1963, p. 17.
  45. Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing 1977, p. [ page needed ].
  46. 1 2 Cooper 1973, p. 30.
  47. Karpinski 2000, p. 19.
  48. Forney and Machlis 2007, p. [ page needed ].
  49. White 1976, p. 136.
  50. Yeston 1976, pp. 41–42.
  51. Agawu 2003, p. 52.
  52. Chernoff 1979.
  53. Chernoff 1979, p. [ page needed ].
  54. Sandow 2004, p. 257.
  55. Narmour 1977, cited in Winold 1975 , p. [ page needed ]
  56. Middleton 1990, p. [ page needed ].


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Further reading