Today we will learn about rhythm patterns. Although it seems complicated, the idea of rhythm patterns is simple and is easily recognizable in any piece of music. But, what is a rhythm pattern?
To better understand the concept, let’s consider that a song is a combination of melody, harmony, and rhythm. Melody is what most people identify first: it is what the singer is singing, or what a solo instrument is playing. Harmony is the combination of chord sequences, along with key changes. Rhythm is what makes us identify a music genre, such as waltz, mambo, rock, slow pop, jazz, samba, blues, bossa-nova, and more. It is deeply related to how we play the harmony and melody.
So, the pattern is the rhythm cell that, when played, makes us directly recognize whether a song is a waltz and not a rock song, for example. Or it is what makes us say “this is not samba, it’s jazz”. It’s not only about song arrangement – you can recognize a music genre even if it is been played by only one instrument, such as a piano.
We will practice rhythm patterns by applying them to some chord sequences. You will notice that the same chord sequence can be played using different patterns and it will seem a totally different song.
For this lesson, let’s consider that the right hand will play the chords, while the left hand will play the bass. Observe the following pattern:
The upper staff is for the right hand, and the lower staff is for the left hand. Notice that there’s no indication of which note or chord we need to play. The quarter notes in the upper bar indicate how many times we will repeat the chord, and for how long. So, if we need to play a C chord, for example, we will play it 4 times, each time lasting 1 beat. The half notes in the lower staff shows that the bass will be played 2 times, and we will hold each note for 2 beats.
The following image shows the pattern in a C chord:
When playing bass lines, we must specify the chord degree that will be played. So, ‘T’ is the short for tonic (the chord root), meaning that we will play just the C note in the bass.
Also, notice that we don’t specify whether the chord is in root position or any inversion. You can choose anyone.
Here’s how it would sound:
So, notice how the rhythm pattern is important for any song; when you change it, you’ll probably change the whole song.
Let’s now play the same C major chord using a variation of the previous rhythm pattern:
Notice that although the right hand didn’t change, the bass line changed. The number ‘5’ in the bass line means that we need to play the 5th degree of the chord. So, you play C in the first half note and G in the second. Here’s how it will sound:
You can practice those examples using other chords as well.
Now let’s apply the rhythm pattern in a chord sequence:
All you need to do is to apply one of the previous patterns to the chord sequence.
Here’s how it would sound:
That’s it! Now that you know how to read rhythm patterns, keep practicing and soon you will be able to improve your rhythm skills.