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Have you ever clapped your hands or stomped your foot in time to music? You were feeling the rhythm! In this lesson, learn the basics about rhythm and meter.

Definitions of Rhythm

Do you enjoy listening to music? Ever wonder why you tap your finger or stomp your foot along with it? It might have something to do with rhythm. Rhythm is how a musician or composer places a series of sounds in a composition, creating a pattern that organizes and arranges sounds as they move through time. Think about it this way: music is organized sound.

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It might be coming from a piano, a singer, or a brass instrument, but in the end, music is about sound that’s coordinated in a certain way. Now let’s look at the tools a composer uses to organize these sounds.

Definition of Meter

Rhythm is closely related to something called meter. Meter is the way the rhythm is repeated, usually written down as a time signature. Music is divided into segments of time called measures (they’re divided by vertical lines on written music), and the basic unit of division in the measure is a beat. For example, two commonly used meters or time signatures are 4/4 time or 6/8 time.

A time signature is always written with two numbers, one over the other: the top number is how many beats in the measure and the bottom is the kind of beat. In 4/4 time, the rhythm is based on four quarter note beats in the measure.

Example of one measure of basic four/four time
Example of one measure written in six/eight time
Time signature, you’ll see that it’s made up
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