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The Basics of Rhythm
By Alex Beamer
3/7/2018 9:39:00 AM

The Basics of Rhythm!

middle schooler learning rhythmYou might have heard that with rhythm, you either have it or you don't. Not only is that not true, rhythm is fundamental for beginner musicians to learn so that they can progress with their music. In this article, we cover the basics of rhythm and the best ways to practice it.

What is Rhythm?

Rhythm is the arrangement of sound patterns in music. Rhythm consists of two basic parts: 

The beat is the pulse of the music and tempo is how fast that pulse is moving. Written music is organized into measures that contain a determined number of beats, generally 2 to 4 beats per measure.  In each measure, you will hear strong beats and weak beats. These patterns of strong and weak give music a certain type of feel depending on where they are placed. 

The rhythm in a piece of music is also determined by the length of notes used within each measure. Notes can sound long or short, which helps create slow and fast rhythms. The basics building blocks of note lengths or note values are whole notes (4 beats), half notes (2 beats), quarter notes (1 beat) and eighth notes (1/2 of a beat).

The time signature tells us how many beats are each measure and what note gets one beat. Time signatures look like fractions. For example, with the time signature 2/4 the top number shows us 2 beats are in each measure and the bottom number (4) shows us the quarter note gets one beat.

Most popular music has a time signature of 4/4 which is 4 quarter notes per measure. The next time your favorite song comes on the radio, see if you can count along! 1, 2, 3, 4!

notes and rests

Practicing Rhythm

One of the most important things a young musician can do to learn rhythm is to practice with a metronome - a device that produces an audible beat at steady, regular intervals. Practicing with a metronome can be challenging at first, however, it’s essential that your practice is guided by an accurate timekeeper and that you make it part of your daily routine. Practicing scales and rudiments with a metronome will train you to move in time and create an internal clock.


Make sure you know your note values! One way is to practice with flashcards. Students can use notecards for solo studying, or parents can quiz their children and make it into a game. West Music carries note cards perfect for this type of musical exercise.

Hal Leonard's All-Purpose Music Flashcards

Related Articles

Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our music education experts a call at 800-373-2000. 


Tags: rhythm, basic, beginner, alex beamer
Categories: Band & Orchestra
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