What are the elements of rhythm?

Answer

Although the elements of rhythm are complex and varied, most experts agree that they can be summarized and expressed effectively as beat, tempo, meter and accent. Beat and tempo are two interrelated concepts that constitute the overall pulse of music. Accent and meter are also interrelated, and they make up the stresses in music that create interest.

Beat refers to the central pulse of music. It is the simple, regular pattern that listeners tap their feet to. Tempo is simply the speed of progression of the beat. For example, if the tempo of a piece of music is 100 beats per minute, close listeners tapping their foot to the beat of the music would tap their feet 100 times every minute.

Accent refers to the stress among different beats, which is similar to the stress that occurs within a word or within a sentence. For example, notice that the stress of the word "present" occurs in the first or second syllable depending on whether it is used as a noun or a verb, respectively; accent in music is often heard similarly.

Meter is a little more complex than the other three elements of music, but it generally refers to the overall framework for stress within a piece of music. Humans tend to group beats into collections of two or three, so most meters in music reflect that. For example, in 3/4 time, which is used most notably in waltzes, each measure is three beats. Meters like this generally have their strongest accent on the first beat of each measure; exceptions to this rule, wherein the strongest stress occurs on a different beat or even outside of the music's regular pulse, are called syncopated rhythms. These components of music all come together to form music's rhythm.

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