By definition, rhythm is the pattern of regular or irregular pulses caused in music by the occurrence of strong and weak melodic and harmonic beats.
Sounds complex? No worries, we’ll explain what it is through practical examples. However, if you’d like to know more about how rhythm works, you can watch this brilliant documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_jEkNiYFNc
Simply put, rhythm is that music component that makes us move, or even just tap the foot, when we listen to a song. As the presenter says in the video, “with rhythm music becomes hypnotic and sensuous”.
Listen to a metronome at 60bpm:
It’s static, boring, aseptic.
Now, listen to some African drumming:
It’s exciting, it moves us and even makes us want to dance!
This should make you understand (and feel) the importance of rhythm!
To continue with the same analogy, sound itself is not music. A simple single note doesn’t move us, it’s boring just as the metronome was. We need several notes to be put together in order to make up a song which we can enjoy.
Rhythm is the manifestation of time just as a melody is sound put into practice.
Here’s a selection of songs with great rhythms we can get inspired by:
Joss Stone – You Got The Love
Even just the drums intro gives me energy and makes me tap my foot and move my head on time! Why is it though? It’s the mix of strong and weak accents on different beats, in particular what we call “pushes” (that is, accents on the off-beat). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_(music)#On-beat_and_off-beat
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
Taylor even talks about that “sick beat” at 2:26 minutes into the song!
Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends
It shows how a simple guitar playing a simple rhythmic figure can still catch our attention, but also that drums are the real “champions” in terms of rhythm: listen to the sudden change at min 1:28 when drums start playing!
Jack Johnson – Bubble Toes
The evidence that rhythm does bring songs to life! Check out the difference between the beginning of the song and the more rhythmic part starting at min 0:48 and then at min 1:24 when drums kick in. It’s a massive change! How does it make you feel?