What Actually is Rhythm? | Musical Play

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

The rhythm of life – is it everywhere! But, what actually is it?

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What Actually is Rhythm? | Musical Play

Rhythm is everywhere. Our whole universe consists of rhythmically paced function. From the time of conception, we are surrounded by rhythm.

But, what is rhythm?

Rhythm is the pulse/steady beat that underpins everything we do. Beat is the time keeper supporting our reading, moving and playing with others – for example, walking, running, skipping, galloping, speeding up, and slowing down. Pulse drives rhythmic pattern.

Rhythmic Pattern provides interest to the steady beat. Rhythmic patterns tease the strictness of steady beat, and keep our brains alert and interested. This is a level of engagement we endeavour to see in Musical Play therapy and in all our classes.

If we think of word patterns: for example, “Hickory Dickory Dock” or “Humpty Dumpty,” we can sing, say, move and play these distinctive patterns.

Rhythmic pattern drives and causes anticipation of the next beat. Rhythmic pattern is one of the most important elements in pacing the learning of spoken language. For the brain, information paced by rhythmic pulse and pattern is non-threatening.

In every language, the presence of pattern is very evident. We hear rhythmic patterns in poetry and in books, like “Hairy Maclary”.

Repetition of rhythm alerts the brain, forcing the brain to take notice and move to the beat. The brain is interested in the repetitive nature of the pulse interacting with the rhythmic patterns.

Tempo is the speed of the pulse/beat. We can match children’s energy levels by matching their speed and either arousing if they need warming up, or gradually slowing down.

In our Musical Play classes, we are using beat, rhythm and all the elements of music to calm and regulate everyone in the group.

Parents who gently pat, sing, or rock their babies, as well as young children who sing, sway, move and play with other children, are regulating themselves and others.

Teachers can use steady beat and rhythmic patterning with their students through echo games, rhythmic stories, poetry, folk dance, dramatic play, drawing and painting to calming music.

When we are calm and regulated it helps us to listen and learn, which can completely change the dynamics in a classroom.