Difference Between Beat and Rhythm

By: | Updated: Jul-10, 2022
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Beat and rhythm can be described as “the very fabric” of music, which is at the heart of all music. In fact, without beat and rhythm, there would not be any music whatsoever. But these two elements are not always clearly distinguished in common practice. There are many people who do not really distinguish between beat and rhythm, and confuse them.

Summary Table

Beat Rhythm
Rhythmic pattern Repeated musical pattern
Pulse of the music Feel of the music
Determines the song’s tempo Determines the song’s flow

Difference Between Beat and Rhythm

Definitions

A beat is the tempo (speed) of a piece of music, usually one measure. It’s also called the pulse. The beat is one of the most important parts of music because it determines the tempo, which means how fast or slow a song is played. Beats are divided into two categories — strong beats and weak beats.

Rhythm is the pattern that repeats throughout a piece of music. It can also be called the meter. It is defined by those patterns that are repeated all along the music, and establishing the pulse, the tempo or speed of each measure.

Beat vs Rhythm

Beat and rhythm are usually described as the two sides of the same coin, with rhythm being the wider concept that covers both aspects. However, some people distinguish them more clearly by using phrases such as “rhythm is what makes your music move” or “the beat is the most important thing in music.”

The first thing that should be clarified is that rhythm is not the same as beat. Rhythm is a general term, which means it covers a variety of different aspects of music. On the other hand, beat is a specific term for the actual pulse in music.

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The primary difference between beat and rhythm is the fact that one is a structure, while the other is a motion. Rhythm is the repeated sound of two or more beats, while beat refers to the actual sounds. Beat is also referred to as pulse.

Beat measures out how long periods of time are in between notes of a song. Contrastly, rhythm allows the listener to pick out what key, time signature, and tempo a song is in.

Rhythm is a musical pattern of events that are usually repeated. Rhythm is the basis for all music and dance. Beat is a rhythmic pattern which gives the feel of strength, attitude, and energy to an individual or group.

In other words, rhythm is the “life” of music, while beats are the “heart.” You can have a lot of heart and still wither on the vine without rhythm. But you can not have rhythm without beats.

Beat is the regular pulse of music, determined by the tempo. Rhythm refers to the repetition of basic units (beats) in a musical structure, and can be described as the “feel” of a musical piece.

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