Persona Digital

Music Studio Technology

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Rhythm

Everyone knows what rhythm is but is not easy to define or describe in simple terms. Rhythm is about marking time with movement and sounds. Music is about journeying through time, brief excursions with time markers as guides. Rhythms in nature are repeating movements with both regular and irregular timing. You can hear rhythm in insect and bird songs, with dripping water, and waves rolling onto a beach. We walk and talk rhythmically. Humans tap with fingers and move restless legs rhythmically. Some children can't sit still and fidget with built in rhythms.

There are deep sources of rhythm such as the heartbeat that all of us hear for several months in the maternal womb. A healthy heartbeat at rest is 60 BPM. Bass and kick drums playing half notes with a tempo of 120 BPM simulate the heart rhythm. If you listen to the heart with a stethoscope, you will hear two sounds per beat. Heart sounds occur when heart valves close; the rhythm is asynchronous... lub dub pause, lub dub pause... You often hear this rhythm in popular songs. The kick (bass) drum leads. With excitement and exertion the heart beats more rapidly and the pause between the heart sounds becomes shorter.

Ancient humans made wood and stones tools, hitting objects against each other, creating rhythmic sounds. Some tools were intended as weapons, but tool making and rhythmic sound making came together and evolved into early music. Sticks, logs and animal skins came together as percussion instruments. Early music consisted of drumming, singing and dancing. Nothing much has changed. Jazz emerged from dance music with an emphasis on rhythms which emerged from African traditions of ritual and celebration. The intellectual complexity of jazz came later and was built on top of rhythm.

The term, prosody, refers to the musical aspects of speech, including intonation, rhythm, pitch changes and non-linguistic sounds. Conversations are a mix of real language and non-linguistic sounds and gestures. Much of the sound-emitting behavior observed in human conversations is old primate behavior. Chimpanzees could trade places with humans and feel quite at home. See Prosody and Intonation

Music terms that refer to rhythm are time signature, tempo, meter, duration.
Tempo
describes that pace of note playing. One beat is assigned a note value and phrases ( bars) are assigned a number of notes. The most common time signature is 4/4, one quarter note= one beat and each bar has 4 beats. A metronome is any mechanical or electronic device that can be set to a specific tempo and makes a sound at every beat.

Duration A standard popular song is 3 to 4 minutes in length with a range of tempos from 80 to 130 BPM. A piece in 4/4 time at 120 BPM with 12X 8 bar sections or 96 measures will last 3.2 minutes.

Groove and Style Popular songs have a groove created by a drummer, a bass player and a rhythm guitar or keyboard. The groove is the essential determinant of popular styles, followed by instrumentation, and song structure. Rock and Roll, for example, features electric guitars and standard drumming, usually in 4/4 time. In live performances, the rock groove dominates and keeps large audiences pulsing with the rhythm, synched to strobe lights.

Percussion instruments are the most obvious rhythm makers. To percuss is to tap or hit. Sticks can hit almost any object to make sounds. Hollow objects make louder sounds. Skin covered logs, wood or metal cylinders make louder sounds. The modern drummer with a kit sits surrounded by a number of drums, symbols and other objects that he hits with sticks, sometimes in a fenzy of motion that can produce loud noise.

Meaningful rhythm pulses and informs about meter and passage of time without becoming noise.

More about Percussion Instruments
  • Topics presented at Persona Digital Studio are from the book,
    The Sound of Music
    by Stephen Gislason.
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    Persona Digital Studio is located on the Sunshine Coast, Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada.

    Persona Music Recordings: Our Music Catalogue includes recorded performances under the names P2500 Band, Em4U, and the Persona Classical Consort. Some music online is offered to illustrate music history, advance music education and appreciation. The recordings presented online demonstrate Persona Studio's arranging, recording and mastering techniques. All the recordings are completed in house by Stephen Gislason.

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