Rhythm & Pulse

Interrelated Dimensions of Music: Rhythm & Pulse


Rhythm is the pattern of long and short sounds which can be either regular, or irregular.

The rhythm is what we’re left with when you take the pitch away from a melody.

For example, here is the melody for the Star Wars Theme:

Now let’s take the pitch away and we’re left with this:

Can you hear how the pattern of long & short sounds is still there, even though we haven’t got pitches anymore? This is the rhythm of Star Wars.


The pulse is the regular and consistent beat of a piece of music.

When we tap our foot or clap along with a song, it is the pulse that we are tapping.

Let’s take the Star Wars theme again. This time we’re going to listen to it with the pulse. The pulse is being marked by the drum, which is on the lower stave in the video:

What To Remember:

The key difference to remember is that pulse is regular & consistent, while rhythm can be irregular and changing.

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