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  • by Mary Barton

Rhythm, Beat & Tempo: What's the Difference? Part 3

Updated: Dec 26, 2019


Now that we have unpacked the first two components of rhythm – stress on a beat in a repeating pattern, and varied note lengths within or notes held longer than a beat – we can put it all together in the final component: patterns of short and long notes within a piece of music.

What makes “Mary Had a Little Lamb” a song? For example, if we were to sing each syllable as one beat, as in even “boom’s” throughout the whole song, stressing the correct syllables, would we still have a song?

Ma - ry had a

BOOM boom boom boom

lit - tle lamb,

BOOM boom boom

lit - tle lamb,

BOOM boom boom

lit - tle lamb,

BOOM boom boom

Ma - ry had a

BOOM boom boom boom

lit - tle lamb, its

BOOM boom boom boom

fleece was white as

BOOM boom boom boom

snow.

BOOM

Well, sort of, but it’s rather unpleasant and monotonous! What’s missing? The patterns of short and long notes. Because the song really goes like this:

Ma - ry had a

BOOM boom boom boom

lit - tle lamb,

BOOM boom booooooooom

lit - tle lamb,

BOOM boom booooooooom

lit - tle lamb,

BOOM boom booooooooom

Ma - ry had a

BOOM boom boom boom

lit - tle lamb, its

BOOM boom boom boom

fleece was white as

BOOM boom boom boom

snow.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM

Note the three different patterns of notes highlighted:

Short short short short

Short short long

and

very long!

These patterns incorporate the first two components of rhythm we have already studied: stress on a beat in a repeating pattern and/or notes held longer than a beat.

And by stringing these patterns together in a unique way, we form other rhythmic patterns called phrases (like musical sentences), which create musical flow, places of rest and a sense of completion at the end. Note how this song puts them together:

Phrase or musical sentence 1:

Pattern 1

Pattern 2, 3 times

Phrase or musical sentence 2:

Pattern 1, 3 times

Pattern 3

And, we can repeat the whole overall pattern again in a second verse:

Everywhere that Mary went …

You get the idea!

Again, the possibilities are endless!

So now that you have discovered the difference between rhythm, beat and tempo, AND how to create rhythms, why not try creating a few of your own? Who knows where the rhythm might take you?

#MusicalPhrases #Rhythm

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