Encyclopedia > Rhythm

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Rhythm is the measure of a movement by regular recurring accents. When governed by rule, it is called metre. It is a major aspect of music, dance, and most poetry. See meter in poetry and in music. The study of rhythm, stress, and pitch in speech is called prosody; it is a topic in linguistics.

In music, rhythms are usually arranged with respect to the time signature. Beats which are emphasized by the time signature are called on beats; others are called off beats. In popular music, one rhythm, called the beat or backbeat, usually repeats in the background, behind the melody.

Some genres of music make more use of rhythm than others. African music makes heavy use of polyrhythms, and Indian music uses complex meters such as 7 and 13. A lot of western classical music is rhythmically fairly simple; it stays in a simple meter such as 4/4 or 3/4 and makes little use of syncopation. In the 20th century, composers like Igor Stravinsky, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich wrote more rhythmically complex music.

Instrumentalists who deal mainly with rhythm are called drummers or percussionists.

See also: riddim, musical notation

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