The Magic of RHYTHM in Music

  • What is rhythm and what is the role it plays in our musical world. What does rhythm do?

The tick tock, tick tock of the clock, or the swish swash of your car wiper, rhythms play an extremely important part in our lives. We do not realise as it is in the background. Rhythm is basically movement. Movement of all kinds, types, and when synchronised with sounds, then it becomes to be called beats.


The bus engine, or the railway tracks, crossing of the tracks with joints, give the wonder beats, on which many a song and beautiful melody has been written and enjoyed.


If we watch a person having his soup, you will find the same rhythm, synchronised with his hands that hold the spoon and the intervals of it reaching his mouth. So, a familiar pattern of movement with sounds can be therefore established.


Yet when we start to play music with rhythm, why does this feeling of constraints and uncomfortableness come? It’s as if someone is imposing discipline into our lives? Rhythm intrinsic is already inbuilt within us. It’s the extrinsic Rhythm that upsets us! This is simply because we do not take pains to understand and learn its importance in our lives. If we study the enormous entity of what Rhythm does, we will gladly incorporate it into music as well.


So, what is this rhythm, and what is the role it plays in our musical world. Let us try to understand a bit. What does rhythm do?


Rhythm organises our perception of movement/beats into a group, which is easy to comprehend and enjoy. It is just like a language, a phrase, a sentence, with all its punctuations in between including the full stop, followed by the new sentence with the Capital Alphabet! It’s just like we make a sentence, my name is John. I live in India. Etc. etc.


Rhythm creates within us an ability to understand the bigger phrases, smaller groups, or periods of silence between sounds/beats. Therefore, it’s the consciousness, not the objective. This is an important element when the music student is first introduced to rhythm, the stern discipline overrides and upsets his notes, the quality of his music gets challenged with speed, yet music or notes with no beats is like a directionless horse, and therefore not at all understood or enjoyable to any degree.


Rhythm makes it easy for us to reduce the anxiety of ups and downs. It helps us anticipate how big the units are, thus adjusting the effort, to grasp the unit, and then relax the mind for a moment as well between periods. Human attention is cyclical periodic and so is rhythmic cycle.

It goes hand in hand and gives us the perfect balance for enjoying the music. So, once we feel more relaxed, we can understand big or small, up or down, sharp or dull musical notes giving distinct identity to our bits, and measures


In short, rhythm defines and puts a form to the music we hear. Imagine if there were no rhythm, then each time we played or heard the music would be different, and millions of permutations and combinations would perplex the human mind.


Rhythm brings symmetry to music, and thereby simplifies our understanding as we listen to on its own and its study is an object of art itself, along with the musical notes that have the moods and beauty in its forms. It gives a solid support to our brain in understanding music.


Rhythm or rhythmic patterns bring familiarity to musical compositions and binds it with strong association. It works as a rote to memory exercise of a young student who recites multiplication tables for example, loudly swinging his head to and fro as he recites.


Rhythm gives us mastery and advancement with minute details for more improvements and finer details. This greatly improves our perception and anticipation of adding greater beauty to music itself.


Rhythm fulfils the inner craving for movement in human beings to experience the joy of music, by giving the element of motion in whatever we do with it.


Rhythm gives us a sense of freedom. It gives us an opportunity to give a nice design to the music we hear or play.


Rhythm gives us power. It is a tool that can give us control on the speed of our creation. Fast, Slow, Very Fast, or silence, only to return to a known beat sequence!


Rhythm and beats, appeal to our left side of the brain or the arithmetical part, be it whole numbers, fractions, halves, quarters or more complex calculations can be done easily with beats. It’s the fun crossword puzzle in our brains with beats! The marching song with drums gets the large platoon of a hundred soldiers in absolute order rank and file in a few minutes.


Rhythm as well also brings a form of mental laziness, and one forgets the metre (oh! Where was I?) So, rhythm keeps us on our toes. It does it allow our mind into an auto pilot mode, always keeps us mentally alert for new anticipations, in the music or in the world in general.


Rhythm helps in finding out the entire sequence of actions, from start to end. It is like the book   binder that binds a story from beginning to the end with its milestones by its presence or even absence in between.


Rhythm plays an important role in promoting social bonding. In religious ceremonies, churches, temples, etc., clapping hands with others even if the song or melody is not known to individuals, gets a feeling of oneness to all, for example even a clap after a speaker has finished, or when a performer is finished, bonds the audience in a definitive way.


Rhythm as a therapy. Since oscillatory rhythms are pivotal for speech and language, it is commonly used for speech disorders treatments to ease communication anxiety.


Rhythm strengthens the bonds of music and all communication that is shared between us, just as in language and speech articulations.


Rhythm keeps our world going, and makes our lives easy, ordered and happy!



Author is a Toronto based BANSURI musician,teacher,speaker, maker of flutes of various worlds, a published author. His writings rely on his experiences of learning music, as he continues on that beautiful never ending journey. His thoughts emanate from the discipline and study of music spans over decades. He is deeply influenced by the Indian Music Traditional guru-shishya parampara; his guruji Late Pandit Malhar Rao Kulkarni bansuri musician, Swami Parmananda of Kangra Valley Ashram where he spent learning ancient Vidhis of India, principally Chanakya Neeti. The priceless subject that strengthens thought processing abilities.A  subject forgotten as Chanakya did not write any of his teachings down as a matter of his principle. The views and ideas expressed are his own, the objective being to invoke the person to think differently, on simple issues that surround all of us in day to day life. Site is

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