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Introduction to Rhythm Concepts

Rhythm exists on 3 fundamental levels:

  • Macrobeats
  • Microbeats
  • Rhythm Patterns (Melodic Rhythm)

These levels interact with each other in musical space to form the rhythmic foundation of music. 


The macrobeat, or, the big beat, is the pulse of music. It is what you would likely tap your foot to, or the beat you would move to, if you were dancing. The macrobeat defines the tempo of the music. 


We can take that macrobeat and divide it into either two or three parts. These parts are called microbeats. These are the little beats in music. The microbeat defines the meter of the music. 

If we divide each macrobeat into two microbeats, the music is in duple meter. If we divide each macrobeat into three microbeats, the music is in triple meter. There are, of course, more meters than just duple and triple. But rhythm, at a very fundamental level, is really just twos and threes, and any combination you wish to imagine.  

Macrobeats and microbeats form the foundation for rhythm, and should be constantly swirling around in your audiation as you make music. On top of those two layers is the melodic rhythm of the song. The melodic rhythm is comprised of combinations of rhythm patterns, or rhythmic words. 

We will learn rhythm by learning rhythm cells (which can be thought of as rhythmic words), and combining them with other rhythm cells to make longer rhythm patterns (which can be thought of as rhythmic sentences). 

Rhythm and Movement

Rhythm and movement go hand in hand. Rhythm requires coordination. In order to have a true sense of rhythm, one must be able to move their body to macrobeats and microbeats and the space in between. The amount of space between the macrobeats will determine how fast or slow the tempo is. Moving not to the beat is just as important as moving to the beat. 

If you haven't watched the Duple Acculturation and Triple Acculturation videos yet, do so now! Explore the movement combinations presented in the videos: 

  • Continuous Flowing Movement
  • Moving to Microbeats
  • Moving to Macrobeats
  • Moving to Macrobeats and Microbeats

Duple Acculturation Chant

Triple Acculturation Chant

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