Rhythm,Tempo, and Dynamics



Rhythm is the repeating of a set of notes or chords in a loop. In modern music songs usually consist of at least two rhythms, a verse rhythm and a chorus rhythm. Below is an example of a twelve bar blues shuffle rhythm that can be repeated as many times as you like. The double bar with dots at the end of the last bar indicates to repeat from the beginning.

12 Bar blues shuffle bars 1 - 3 12 Bar blues shuffle bars 4 - 6 12 Bar blues shuffle bars 7 - 9 12 Bar blues shuffle bars 10 - 12

The bass, rhythm guitar, and drums are considered the rhythm section of modern bands since they provide a repeated background for singers, horns, keyboards, and lead guitars to solo over.


Tempo refers to the speed at which a musical composition is to be played. Tempo can be referred to generally or precisely.

General Tempo is described in the notation of the music using Italian. There are many words describing the precise tempo of a musical piece. Here are the three most common.

  • ANDANTE: A slow easy pace
  • MODERATO: moderate pace
  • ALLEGRO: Lively

Precise Tempo is measured in beats per minute. The tempo is defined by a note being set equal to a number and the beginning of the song. Here are two C major scales, one with a tempo of 60 beats per minute and another whose tempo is twice as fast at 120 beats per minute.

Tempo example Tempo example

Metronomes are used to set the tempo when precision is required.

The tempo of a song or composition does not have to remain constant for the entire piece. A change in tempo is indicated by either a new precise tempo mark or by the following words.

  • RITARDANDO or RITARD (rit): To grow slower
  • ACCELERANDO (acc.): To grow faster


In music dynamics refers to the varying intensity, or loudness, of the musical tones. The five general degrees of musical intensity are listed in the table below along with their standard notation symbols.

Music Dynamics
Name Notation Meaning
Pianissimo Pianissimo symbol Very soft
Piano Piano symbol Soft
Mezzo piano Mezzo piano symbol Medium soft
Mezzo forte Mezzo forte symbol Medium loud
Forte Forte symbol Very loud

As some examples of musical dynamics, if you are attempting to sing a baby to sleep you would sing pianissimo. If you are singing "Happy Birthday" to your friend you would sing forte. Many songs use a combination of dynamics for dramatic effect, for example, playing softly for opening verses and aggressively for the chorus.

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