Universal Rhythms


Universal Rhythms

Apply your rhythm skills to identify, notate, and practice popular global rhythms including Rock, Pop, Jazz, and Latin beats.

After completing this module: you will be able to play and notate popular rhythms from around the world.

Broaden your musical horizons and discover music from around the globe from swing and jazz to popular Brazilian dance rhythms and Afro-Latin music. A musical journey around the world.

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  1. Introduction
  2. Meet the Drum Kit
  3. Rock on with Popular Rhythms
  4. If It Ain’t Got that Swing
  5. Dance Rhythms
  6. Listen to Latin Syncopation
  7. Afro-Latin Rhythms in Cuban Music
  8. Rhythms of Brazilian Music

“What’s a swung beat?

The basic rules of rhythm say that a sequence of the same kind of note (e.g. quarter, eighth, crotchet, quaver) will each have the same duration, creating a steady beat. For a march, the quarter notes are used to coincide with footsteps, so it’s essential they stay regular!

Here’s an example of this normal, steady beat, using eighth notes:



Handy for marching, but the early jazz musicians decided that the regular beat was just too straight, and they livened it up by ‘swinging’ it: pairing up notes, and ‘stealing’ some time from the second note to add to the first, creating a ‘long/short, long/short, long/short…’ rhythm:




Often you will just find that simple text instruction, to ‘swing’ the beat: “Swung”, “With a slight swing”, “Slow swing”, “Medium swing”. It’s up to you and your ear to know how to change the rhythm accordingly!

If a composer wants to be more precise about it, they could actually spell out the rhythm they wanted. Here are a couple of examples:




The first example is a slight swing using triplets, the second quite a heavy swing using ‘dotted’ notes. It’s important to understand that these are the kind of rhythms which actually underlie the instinctive ‘swing’ beat. This lets you connect what you hear with the theory, and traditional music notation.

You will soon start noticing that mainstream music often follows the same rhythmic patterns, with minimal changes like adding in extra beats, omitting beats, or incorporating syncopation.


Member Success

“This is a really cool module. It was fun to check out the components of the drum kit and their characteristic sounds. Now I focus more into the mix of rhythms playing on the radio and can recognize some of the percussion sounds. Another opening to an exciting aspect of music!”

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