Create Musical Energy with Rhythmic Patterns

Create Musical Energy with Rhythmic Patterns

This is Music Corner: your source for nerdy
thoughts on music. I’m David Kulma. One of the coolest things about the piano
is that you can create complex music all by yourself. But since the piano is a big box with strings
hit by hammers activated by keys, it has no built-in mechanism to increase a note’s
volume once you’ve already played it. The beginning of a note (the attack) is the
loudest it will ever be. This means that music for piano requires extra
care to create forward motion and energy. And the primary technique to handle this musical
energy is rhythm. And more specifically attack points, where
and how often they occur in time. So let’s take this chord progression I wrote:
D minor, A minor over E, F major, and C major. Now if I play this progression in time, using
a standard meter, tempo, and harmonic rhythm (that is 4/4, about 67 beats per minute, and
with each chord lasting a full measure: four beats, whole notes), I’ll get this sound. Do you notice how each chord slowly dies away
and then the next chord arrives with a sudden jolt? There isn’t a lot of energy in music this
rhythmically bare. Well, what if I repeat each chord in my right
hand on the empty beats, so we get four attack points per measure (quarter notes) instead
of one? There is clearly more energy here, but we
can still add more. How about I use a standard pattern in my right
hand that has two attack points per beat (eighth notes)? I’ll play the upper two notes together and
then alternate with the lowest note in my thumb. This music is really gaining energy, and now
sounds like an actual song accompaniment. But let’s go a step further, that is faster,
and that means sixteenth notes (four attack points per beat). And let’s us an arpeggio, where I play the
notes in my right hand in a row rather than together. Here’s the pattern I’ll use: high note,
middle note, low note, middle note. (If you watch closely, you’ll see me make
one note change in the third chord.) Does that sound familiar? Well, it’s got all the ingredients from
Adele’s “Someone Like You”, but I’ve changed the chord progression, the key, and
the direction of the arpeggio to create my own music. Maybe I should write a parody called “No
One Likes Me.” I borrowed this texture, because I think “Someone
Like You” is a good example of how to create and sustain energy through rhythm at the piano. It successfully undergirds the expansive sweep
needed for this song of loss, heartbreak, resignation, and looking forward. Now go make some rhythmically active music
with a piano. Thanks for watching Music Corner. If you liked this video, please give it a
thumbs up, share it with your friends, and subscribe. And now please also support Music Corner on
Patreon to help me make more videos more regularly. If you have any questions, please leave them
in the comments. Until next time, “we don’t serve fine wine
in half pints, Buddy.”


  1. Do you have any videos on beat, pulse, rhythm and simple and compound meter? I have watched so many youtube videos now on those topics and they all give me a headache because they contradict each other or just don't explain it very well. Most likely because they are unaware of the distinctions between those words. Any book you could recommend on theory?

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