Rhythm is arguably the most important part of music. It’s what drives the music, keeps it going, and keeps musicians playing together like musicians. Without rhythm, there is no music. You may say that notes are required to make music music, but this is not true. All you need is a rhythm and something to make sound with.


The most basic forms of music have no tune at all, just a rhythm. Take Native American drumming as a good example. Frequently all they have is those drums, and yet the make music just the same. It’s just a basic rhythm, and it is enough to get your foot tapping.

The rhythm of a piece of music (sheet music that is) is made up of two things. The meter signature (more commonly known as the time signature) and the tempo. Both can be seen in the above image. The 3/4 indicates two things, how many beats in a measure, and which type of note gets one beat. The top number indicates the beats per measure (3) and the bottom number indicates which note gets a beat (4, which is a quarter note, 8 would be 8th note 2 would be half note etc).

Also in this image you can see “Allegro” followed by an image of a quarter note and “= 126.” “Allegro” is an Italian word (as are many words you will find in music) meaning “fast, quickly and bright.” And typically means to play at a speed of 120-139 BPM (beats per minute). The exact amount is show next to it: 126 quarter notes per minute. So, if there are 3 beats to the measure, and a quarter note get’s one beat, and there are 126 quarter notes in a minute, we can expect one measure of the piece to take about 1.4 seconds. The whole piece (which is 50 measure long) should take about 1 minute and 10 seconds.

The most common rhythm instrument you would see would be a drum or drum set. You see them all the time, and you can recognize one instantly. And, if you are given say, a hand drum, you can probably keep a beat on it. But rhythm can be kept in many other ways. Take a solo pianist or violinist as an example. They have no drums to help them out, yet they have to keep the beat going properly. This takes time to acquire, but is very important.

So, case and point, the rhythm is quite possibly the most important element of music.

I’m not sure what part 4 will be about. We’ll see.

Blog to you later!

This is part three of my series: What Music is. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Categories: Music Basics