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Rhythm Glossary

Rhythm and music terms sometimes have different meanings.

 

Cycle: One whole repetition of a rhythm.

 

Measure: In rhythm; a drawn abstract representation of a block of time on which notes, etc. are written for reference. The block of time represented may be from 1/4 of the rhythm's cycle to the span of the whole cycle itself.

 

Example: Rhythm of two 8 pulse measures

 

|========== cycle ==============|

|=1st measure  =|=2nd measure  =|

|               | *             | =accent

|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &| =16 pulses (8 per

|B   t   B   t  |B   t O     t  |  measure)

r    l   r   l  |r   l r     l

 

Example: Rhythm of one 12 pulse measure

 

|======== cycle ========|

|======= measure =======|

|*     *     *          | =accents

|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5 6|

|B   O B   O B   O   O  |

 

Pulse: Smallest "regular" temporal division of a measure.

 

Ostinato: The continuos repetition of a cycle.

 

Rhythm: Pattern of notes, usually of one or two or (rarer) more measures, to be played ostinato. May be a single part or be made up of several parts (multilinear).

 

Rhythm Music: (as separate from melodic music) Music produced primarily by altering patterns of notes and/or accents rather than altering pitch. Melody may be non- existent or incidental to the rhythmic pattern.

 

Melodic Music: (as separate from rhythm music) Always has a melody of pitches in a rhythmic pattern. Produced by changes of pitch rather than by changes of pattern.

 

Percussion Instrument: The sound is created by something being struck. It may be melodic as in a piano or xylophone or non melodic as in a drum.

 

Rhythm Instrument: A short scale (non-melodic, few pitches) instrument used in the production of rhythm music.

 

Percussionist: Accompanies melodic music on percussion instruments.

 

Rhythmist: Performs rhythm music with rhythm instruments.

 

Part: One rhythm in a multiple rhythm piece.

 

Multilinear Rhythm: A rhythm consisting of more than one part.

 

Beat: (abstract) In music, a fixed unit of time, marking a regular series of strong and weak accents that is some major fraction of the time of a measure. i.e.: 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 of the measure. Used for conducting and counting.

 

Beat: (real) In rhythm, ostinato series of strong accents produced by rhythm. Used for performing and measuring.

 

Main or Dance Beat: The outstanding series of perceived physiological accents of a rhythm. (Where the unrehearsed dancer would tap or move his/her feet or body.)

 

Subsidiary Beat: All beats other than the main beat.

 

Part Beat: The main beat of a single part.

 

Counter Beat: subsidiary beats occurring exactly between the main beats.

 

Polymetric Beat: Different metrical beat series, usually subsidiary.

 

Tempo: How fast a rhythm is played.

 

Accent: Where a note has greater presence and/or appears to be louder. Three main types are used in rhythm music.

 

1. Dynamic: a louder, harder struck note.

 

2. Tonic: Note stands out because of a sudden change in pitch.

 

3. Agogic:

 

    a. Isolation: there are no notes immediately before it.

    b. Duration: there are no notes immediately after it.

 

Wattage: slang for how intense or effective a rhythm is. High wattage rhythms have great presence and drive. Low wattage rhythms are less danceable.

 

Jim's Notes: A Course in Drumming

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