Introduction to Chapter 3: Dividing the Beat

Songs are more than just a steady tempo. Usually, different rhythms are played on top of the underlying tempo. The tempo is not usually played explicitly, just like when you sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you usually don’t tap out each beat. In any given song, there could be many distinct rhythms being played at the same time, but all of them are related to the tempo in some way. Together, the rhythms imply the tempo without explicitly playing it. You can (and should) experiment with this by setting the metronome to any tempo, and improvising rhythms that fit with it. Try to imagine what you want your rhythms to sound like before you play them.

Most of the rhythms covered in this book will be easy for you to play once you listen to them. People tend to be good at this because of their natural sense of rhythm. But usually this natural sense of rhythm is limited, so it is useful to build an intellectual understanding of rhythm. At first, your natural sense of rhythm will be much more advanced than your intellectual understanding. But once your intellectual understanding of rhythm catches up to your natural sense, it can be used to expand and develop your natural sense of rhythm. With an intellectual understanding, you can create rhythms that you wouldn’t otherwise come up with. When you learn these new rhythms, your sense of rhythm grows.