Happy Spring, Time for music

Music is Easy (2) Rhythms (simple)

by Robert McNally January 05, 2017

Music is Easy (2) Rhythms (simple)

Unravelling the mysteries of Rhythm: Music is Easy #2
We have a lot of great written instructions, videos, and audio clips to help you learn to play the Strumstick. This blog series is more about learning how Music works, than instructions per se. For Strumstick instructions, see our Instructions Page, and our Video-Audio Page.

Rhythm is nothing more than how musical stuff is spaced in time.
The two things you need are some musical events (some notes, hand claps, strumming strings, whatever) and some time in between them. Thats it. 

Most "Rhythms" involve a repeating pattern in time, that is actually what 'Rhythms" means.
Quick examples: Count out loud 1 2 3 4 several times in a steady, evenly spaced way. You just created a special rhythm called a "steady beat".
If you like, emphasize the "1" beat slightly more (louder) like 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 etc. That emphasis is called an "accent" and accenting the "1" beat makes the repeating pattern more noticeable. Do this ( outloud) a few times, and really listen, and sink in to what it feels like... it is a simple thing, yet you are dancing with time and sound.

Now count 1+2+3+4+ several times. That looks complicated, but all you are doing is saying "and" in between each number (so you are really making sounds twice as fast). Skip the accenting for now.
1  2  3  4 etc
1+2+3+4+  etc    What does this feel like? 

This is called adding the "off beat".  The "and" happens exactly halfway in-between each beat number. Here is a audio clip demonstrating the Steady Beat and Off Beat. (First minute or two).

Now we get to do some creative fun:

Count (out loud )
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4,

and then add just one "and" anywhere you choose. I'll try: 
1+2 3 4 1+2 3 4 1+2 3 4  repeat that several times

It helps to count out loud, so you are thinking, speaking, hearing...Multimedia!

How about
1 2 3+4 1 2 3+4 etc
or 1 2 3 4+1 2 3 4+ etc

And you could add more than one "and"
1 2+3+4 1 2+3+4   or

1+2+3 4+1+2+3 4+  etc
For an idea of how these sound, listen to the audio Demo Steady Beat and Off Beat from the 2 minute point on. When you count any of these ( and I hope you will!) count outloud, not just in your head, and listen to what is happening, almost like a meditation. 

The point of all of this is that you can easily create many different rhythms with just two building blocks, a Beat and an Offbeat. Each rhythm has a different sound, and a different feel to it. The more offbeats you add, the "busier" or more lively it sounds. Fewer (or no) offbeats makes a more spacious feeling. The Audio clip uses not just counting but also down-strums (beat) and up-strums (offbeat) on the Strumstick to make different rhythms. You can see a video of this Here

We have been using a 4 beat pattern, repeated. but you could use two different 4 beat patterns to make an 8 beat pattern. 1 2 3 4+1+2 3 4

You could also count in groups of 3:    

1  2  3  etc

1+2+3+ etc

1  2+3   etc

The next post will look at creating larger spaces by leaving out beats (without getting lost!).


Robert McNally
Robert McNally


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