What’s the Difference Between a Rhythm and a Beat?

difference between a rhythm and a beat

Do you know the difference between a rhythm and a beat? Don’t feel bad if you don’t.  As simple as it should seem, the truth is that not everyone knows the difference.

Music across the globe and in different cultures might label their songs differently, but one thing that remains the same: beats and rhythms are the foundation.

A Beat

Think of the beat as the music’s skeleton.

A beat is best described as the pace, tempo or the timing that it takes to play a particular piece of music. Think of the metronome on the piano going back and forth.  It’s considered part of a rhythm and is the repeating and ongoing pulse in all music. When you tap your foot to a particular song, you do so at a steady pace -you’re tapping to the beat!  (children learn about beats very young by clapping their hands to nursery rhymes.)

A Rhythm

Rhythm can be thought of as how you inhabit the beat. It’s what happens when you combine different notes of different durations.  Many times, people confuse the two because the beat is also part of the rhythm – what separates the two is that rhythm is a series of notes in a musical piece – a pattern.  When rhythm is combined with pitch, a melody is created.  It’s is also created when a piece’s notes are emphasized more than others which is called accenting.

In essence, a music piece’s beat is its unchanging tempo, while the rhythm is a pattern in which a piece’s notes flow.

Steve Benedetto is an author/drummer and owner of Respectful Beats - an interactive drumming business serving senior communities throughout New England. A drummer since the age of 10, Steve enjoys creating customized drumming programs for retirement homes and taking the mission online to extend his audience. He has also started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for drums for the elderly and currently resides outside of Boston.


Is the beat provided by drums & bass guitar? (for ex.) Rhythm provided by, one example, rhythm guitar?

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