2. Rhythm & Tempo

Do we need Melody & Harmony?

So far, we've learned that melody is the "catchy" part of a tune, and harmony is the notes that support the melody. But do we really need them?


A drumline is a group of percussionists in a marching band

Watch this video of the Illinois University drumline before a football game. Listen carefully; do you hear a melody or harmony?

Does this count as music?

2011 Illini Drumline - Cadence Series (111211).mp4
Philip Glass - Glassworks - 01. Opening.mp3


Rhythm and tempo are two things we do need in music.

Rhythm is the pattern of sound and beats in music. It doesn't just mean what the drums are playing. The pattern of any notes in music is the rhythm. Listen to "Glassworks" by Phillip Glass. Even though it doesn't have any drums, there is still a rhythm being played by the instruments. Can you hear it?

What element of music is this song missing?

Stressed Out

Some songs don't have a melody at all. Most rap songs are an example of this. The rapper will speak the words in a rhythm, but there is no catchy sequence of notes. Instead, the rhythm takes over as the most important musical layer. Listen to Stressed Out by 21 Pilots. Notice how there's no melody when the singer is rapping, but the melody comes in for the chorus of the song.

twenty one pilots Stressed Out [OFFICIAL VIDEO].mp4


Tempo is the speed of the music. If the pulse or beat of a song is fast, you would say the song has a fast tempo. If a song is slow, you would say the song has a slow tempo.

The key to finding the tempo of a song is to identify the beat. The beat is the pulse of the music. Try to find the beat in these two examples, and then think about whether it's fast or slow.

Best Drummer Ever [HD].mp4
The Beatles - Come Together.mp4

All the Elements

Listen to the beginning of the Beatles' "Come Together" one more time. Do you hear melody, harmony, rhythm and tempo? If so - great! Those are some of the elements of music. We're going to continue to learn more of them and identify them in songs next week.

Rhythm & Tempo worksheet 6th grade.docx


Fill out the rhythm and tempo crossword puzzle and word search. Print out the PDF if you need another copy.