Rhythm: The Most Important Element of Music!

Piano Lessons / music theory / Rhythm: The Most Important Element of Music!

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about the most important element of music: rhythm. Is rhythm really the most important aspect of music? What about the notes? Well, think of it this way: Let’s say there’s a party and you know where the party is. You know it’s a birthday party for your friend. You know whether you’re supposed to bring presents or not, and what the activities are going to be. But if you don’t know when the party is, guess what? No party!

You need to know the when!

Imagine hearing a piece of music with no rhythm, all the notes played equally. Would you even be able to identify the piece? it would sound drastically different without the rhythmic component. But hearing the same exact notes with a rhythmic context sounds completely different. Rhythm is so intrinsically important! Of course there are many elements that are important, but without rhythm, what do you have? You really have nothing unless you put it in some context of time. It’s human nature because our entire experience is based upon the element of time. We go through life in a linear fashion, after all. It’s the way we relate to everything! You could play all the notes of a piece, but it’s meaningless if you don’t have a rhythmic context. That’s why it’s so vitally important in your practice to count out your rhythm.

Composers weren’t haphazard about rhythmic notation.

Things were written precisely for a reason. Because without the rhythm, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony doesn’t sound like much of anything. This is true of all music. I encourage all of you to count in your practice, to measure your rhythm with a metronome, and double and triple check note values as well as rests. That’s what brings music alive and gives it meaning. This is such an important topic. I’m curious how all of you feel about this! Let me know in the comments. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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7 thoughts on “Rhythm: The Most Important Element of Music!”

    1. Try setting the metronome more slowly. You will gain tremendous security in your playing with a metronome since none of us possess a perfect internal clock.

  1. Hi Robert,
    After many years (my maths has never been good), I still find counting difficult bars a massive problem for me. When I sus out a bar that makes sense, another bar doesn’t seem to add up to the time signature, although I work it out from similar note values from the previous bar, but what is left over doesn’t amount to the time signature! I get so frustrated with this and it has always hindered me but manage because I know the rhythm well by the time of a concert. Is this a kind of poetic licence??? Please can you help me how to conquer this terrible problem.

    Kind regards and I love listening to you.

    1. Getting in the habit of counting each hand separately, a phrase at a time, while clapping the rhythm is incredibly helpful for understanding rhythm. For complex rhythms, drawing in lines where the beats (or beats with ands) fall can clarify things for you.

  2. In his book on Music Theory, Arnold Schoenberg provides only one chapter on rhythm–only 2-1/2 pages, and says rhythm is the least important of the elements of music…

    1. There is a mathematical perfection to 12-tone music. In the later 12-tone music of Webern and others, rhythm too became serialized, meaning that note values (not just pitches) are systematically randomized.

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