Become a member
Become a member

or
Continue with Google
Log in
Log in

or
Log in using a Google account
learning
Comment

Harmonic Rhythm

Harmony Basics - Part 10
Share this article

Today, we will discuss one of the most important aspects in music, namely rhythm.

View other articles in this series...

You might be surprised to see this concept addressed in a series dedicated to harmony. Would you be surprised if I told you that absolutely everything is intertwined when it comes to music, that melody, harmony and rhythm are inseparable from one another? As we’ve discussed previously, each cadence produces a different effect. For a cadence to work, the chords that make it up must be ordered in a certain way. What is rhythm if not the arrangement of a song in the time dimension?

Time divisions

Before moving on, let’s take a moment to recall how time is divided in music, namely into “beats.” A beat is a subdivision that repeats at regular time intervals, as long as the tempo of the song doesn’t vary. It’s not unusual for tempo to be confused with rhythm, though, despite them being obviously not the same: A single song can have a fixed tempo but different rhythms.

But let’s go back to the “beat, ” whose main function is to serve as the basic unit of measurement for all notes and silences. Below you can see a table that summarizes this. 

All Audiofanzine Categories : Duration table

You are probably asking yourself what does the “code” on the image correspond to. First of all, it’s important to know that beats are grouped into “measures” (or bars), which are represented as the space between two vertical bar lines in a score. These measures are commonly divided into 2, 3 or 4 beats (but there are many more exotic possibilities!).

There are two basic rhythmic forms: binary and ternary. In the first case, the time unit is the quarter note, in the second, the dotted quarter note. Put simply, the ternary form implies a rhythm in constant movement; just think of a waltz or the swing of jazz music. The binary form is mainly used for rock and most other current popular music. In classical music both forms are used.

The “code” on the table represents the four-beat fraction that corresponds to the notes. This codification is used to define the size of the measure. So, for instance, a measure with three beats would be codified like this:

All Audiofanzine Categories : Three beats

Where “4” represents the quarter note (a quarter of a group of four notes), and “3” the number of times the quarter note is to be included within the bars. So, given that the value of a quarter note is one beat, this codification corresponds to a measure with three beats.

The quarter note is usually chosen to represent a binary form. And, since the dotted quarter note doesn’t have a code of its own, the ternary form is also based on the quarter note, with three quarter notes per beat. In the following example there are two measures. One with six quarter notes, the other one with two dotted quarter notes. In both cases, we have two beats in ternary mode.

All Audiofanzine Categories : Ternary

You are probably thinking that we have strayed quite a bit from our original topic ─ harmony ─ when discussing these rhythm issues.
However, as I wrote above, everything is linked in music. Because cadence is, among other things, the placement of chords in time.

Stressed and unstressed beats

To understand what I mean you first need to comprehend what a stressed and an unstressed beat are. To put it simply, a stressed beat is one that is emphasized, be it percussively or with harmony. This means that you should try to stick to stable chords (see previous article) on such beats.
By contrast, an unstressed beat is not emphasized. Unstressed beats are usually coupled to unstable chords. Below is a table that sums this all up.

All Audiofanzine Categories : Stressed Unstressed Beats

It’s important to note that, depending on the song, the patterns described here can extend across not only one but several measures.
For example, the “stressed beat – unstressed beat – unstressed beat – unstressed beat” progression of a four beat measure can be applied to a group of measures, like this: “stressed measure – unstressed measure – unstressed measure – unstressed measure.”

← Previous article in this series:
Stable and Unstable Chords
Next article in this series:
Leading the Way →

Would you like to comment this article?

Log in
Become a member
cookies
We are using cookies!

Yes, Audiofanzine is using cookies. Since the last thing that we want is disturbing your diet with too much fat or too much sugar, you'll be glad to learn that we made them ourselves with fresh, organic and fair ingredients, and with a perfect nutritional balance. What this means is that the data we store in them is used to enhance your use of our website as well as improve your user experience on our pages and show you personalised ads (learn more). To configure your cookie preferences, click here.

We did not wait for a law to make us respect our members and visitors' privacy. The cookies that we use are only meant to improve your experience on our website.

Our cookies
Cookies not subject to consent
These are cookies that guarantee the proper functioning of Audiofanzine and allow its optimization. The website cannot function properly without these cookies. Example: cookies that help you stay logged in from page to page or that help customizing your usage of the website (dark mode or filters).
Google Analytics
We are using Google Analytics in order to better understand the use that our visitors make of our website in an attempt to improve it.
Advertising
This information allows us to show you personalized advertisements thanks to which Audiofanzine is financed. By unchecking this box you will still have advertisements but they may be less interesting :) We are using Google Ad Manager to display part of our ads, or tools integrated to our own CMS for the rest. We are likely to display advertisements from our own platform, from Google Advertising Products or from Adform.

We did not wait for a law to make us respect our members and visitors' privacy. The cookies that we use are only meant to improve your experience on our website.

Our cookies
Cookies not subject to consent

These are cookies that guarantee the proper functioning of Audiofanzine. The website cannot function properly without these cookies. Examples: cookies that help you stay logged in from page to page or that help customizing your usage of the website (dark mode or filters).

Google Analytics

We are using Google Analytics in order to better understand the use that our visitors make of our website in an attempt to improve it. When this parameter is activated, no personal information is sent to Google and the IP addresses are anonymized.

Advertising

This information allows us to show you personalized advertisements thanks to which Audiofanzine is financed. By unchecking this box you will still have advertisements but they may be less interesting :) We are using Google Ad Manager to display part of our ads, or tools integrated to our own CMS for the rest. We are likely to display advertisements from our own platform, from Google Advertising Products or from Adform.


You can find more details on data protection in our privacy policy.
You can also find information about how Google uses personal data by following this link.