Insight 2: Rhythm

In our last Insight video we talked about 3 fundamental elements of music:  rhythm, harmony, and melody.  Today we go a little more in depth into the first of these, rhythm.  Let's explain some foundational concepts and give you an exercise to help develop and strengthen your sense of rhythm.

Remember, when music is playing there is a natural pulse or beat that occurs and how we create rhythm on the ukulele is by playing a pattern of strums or sounds against that pulse.  The strum pattern that you hear me play is a certain ordering of down and up strums, this is the pattern:

D, D, U, U, D, U

But more specifically this pattern occurs in relation to that natural pulse in the music. When I play the first down strum my hand needs to travel back up to the top of the strings in order to play the next down strum.  The same thing happens when I play the next set of 2 up strums but in the opposite direction.  When you watch my hand play the strum my hand will be moving in a constant down and up motion and only playing the strums when they occur in the pattern, IN RELATION TO the natural pulse of the music.

So our foundation with our strum below it looks like this:


D     D U    U D U

So this strum pattern is created from an alternating pattern of down and up strums played in 1/8th notes,  so what are 1/8th notes?

That natural pulse in music usually occurs in cycles of four.  There are four beats then it repeats.  These four beats are called 1/4 notes because there are four of them in one cycle or measure.  Now if we divide each one of the these beats into two parts we end with 8 parts per measure or 1/8th notes.  So we can count it like this:

1/4 notes:     1  2  3  4

1/8th notes: 1+2+3+4+

So we connect it to our foundational pattern and our strum pattern it looks like this:


1  + 2  + 3  + 4  +

D    D  U    U D U

If we want the opportunity for more complexity in our strum patterns then we can divide each quarter note into four different parts to get 1/16th notes that we can count like this:


Learning how these different notes sound and how they feel to play is really important because they are the foundation for creating different strum patterns.  Try out this exercise of alternating between playing 1/4, 1/8th, and 1/16th notes.

D     U     D      U

1      2      3      4


1  +  2  + 3  + 4  +

D U D U   D U D U  D U D U  D U D U

1  e  +  a  2  e  +  a  3  e  +  a  4  e  +  a

Remember the pulse remains constant just how you divide it changes ;)

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