Christian Songwriting: Rhythmic Devices

Rhythm, of course, is one of the major components of contemporary music, and sometimes the single most prominent feature. (For instance, M. C. Hammer's "Don't Touch This".) Without it, a great deal of contemporary music would collapse in a heap, most notably, rap music.

A well-used chord progression can be totally revitalised by just altering the rhythmic patterns. For instance, songs with a I-vi-ii-V pattern (and its variation I-vi-IV-V) abound, and are as rhythmically varied as "Stand By Me" (by King, Leiber and Stoller), Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (the "Mama...." bit), Decore's shampoo ad song, and "A Teenager In Love" (by Pomus and Shuman).

Rhythmic experimentation can make a big difference to your progressions and ultimately to your songwriting. A 12/8 time signature will make the feel of a song quite different from a straight 4/4, even though both have four beats in a bar. (Technically, 12/8 has twelve pulses, not beats, in a bar.)

Don't forget, too, that even though most Western music is based on two, three and four-beat patterns, you won't be jailed if you depart from the norm. Paul Desmond's "Take Five" (with a 5/4 time signature), and Pink Floyd's "Money" (mostly in 7/4, but with plenty of other time signatures thrown in just to confuse you) are two good examples. Dream Theater are experts in timing variations. The main difficulty with out-of-the-ordinary time signatures is that some musicians and singers won't be able to handle something outside the normal pattern. I've even met drummers who find it difficult to cope with anything other than 4/4!

The transforming power of rhythmic experimentation is illustrated by a recording I have with twenty-two different versions of the Jimmy Page/Robert Plant song, "Stairway To Heaven." Although the chord progressions were often changed, it was clear that one of the most important tools in producing a variety of styles in all of the versions was the rhythm. Varying the rhythm can transform a gentle ballad into a jazz number, and from there into a rock and roll song.

Lyric Writing - Rhyme | Lyric Writing - Lyrical Hooks | Song Content - Song Plan | Song Structure | Musical Elements | Rhythmic Devices | Melody Writing | Writer's Block