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Rhythm: The Essential Element of Music

Analyzing music, people recognize seven basic elements: harmony, timbre, melody, dynamics, texture, form, and rhythm. Music is often described as an art, science, unity, or continuity, as a complex entity consisting of numerous components working to create a balanced whole. However, I suppose that we could distinguish the most important element of music – rhythm as it builds the structure that organizes a range of chaotic sounds into a harmonious composition. Consequently, music should include at least a certain rhythm to be recognized as music.

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First, rhythm is the crucial element of world music. Presumably, a drum used for ancient rituals and ceremonies might be the first musical instrument. People could also create rhythmical sounds by clapping, stomping, or hitting something with a stick. That is enough to produce music as it is the “art of arranging sounds in time,” the result of the production of a unified and continuous composition (“Music,” n.d., Definition 1). Rhythm creates the pattern of musical sound with the repetition of elements, and its primal role in music could be seen in the culture of modern tribes or in early children’s attempts to create something coherent with the sounds.

In addition, scientists consider that rhythm predates the development of other basic elements of music in frames of evolution. According to Toussaint (2020), rhythm and melody create the primary dimensions of music – the horizontal and vertical directions, which could be encoded in a human brain in a combined manner or independently. However, melody lacks its shape without rhythm, while rhythm could exist without it. Toussaint (2020) emphasizes that psychological experiments on music studies proved the dominant role of the rhythmic dimension. Hence, the leading position of rhythm was demonstrated from the scientific perspective.

Music as an intricate concept includes a variety of aspects, producing vivid and evocative images and sensations. Still, music could consist only of rhythm, generating its structure. According to history, psychology, and music study data, rhythm is vital in music: it is an autonomous and indispensable element creating the essence of compositions.


Music (n.d.). In The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Web.

Toussaint, G. T. (2020). The geometry of musical rhythm: What makes a “good” rhythm good? (2nd ed.). CRC Press.

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