Exploring the Rhythmic Palette

In our palette of potential compositional "colors," we have many different choices on how to create a feel.  Today, I wanted to explore just how varying rhythms can change the feel of a piece, and to do this I have take a familiar song and added harmonies to it with varying rhythms to show how varying the underlying harmonic rhythms can change the color and feel of a piece.

First, let's look at a simple harmony underneath with slow rhythms:
Pretty simple harmony, and it ends up sounding more simple and laid back and kind of sweet and good natured:





So, what happens if we change the underlying rhythms?  Here's an eighth note version:



If you'll notice the harmonies in the left-hand, they are the same.  Even the same notes are used as from the previous example, but because the 8th notes contrast with the melody and are quick moving, it adds a much more up-beat feel to this simple melody.



What if we try a homophonic rhythmic texture?


Notice the different feeling with this example?  It seems to move a little more than the first example, and yet is more calm than the 2nd.



How about 16ths instead of 8ths?

Again, same notes in the left-hand, but it creates such a quick moving feel to this piece, and makes it sound exciting even though the melody is exactly the same.




One more example:  syncopation.


This feels agitated, maybe even more so than the 16ths.  Yet, it also isn't as grandiose as the 16th note example.  It feels fun, but in a different way than either the 8th or sixteenth note examples.


These are just a few examples of how we can vary the feel of a piece by changing only the rhythms of the accompaniment.  Some other ways:  dotted 8ths and 16th figures, triplet 8ths, or a combination of rhythms.

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