The pulse is one of the core concepts of rhythm. Often overlooked for its simplicity, the power of the pulse cannot be overstated. Below we outline some basic facts about this intangible yet remarkable indicator of time.

The pulse’s key role is to serve as a guide into the world of rhythm. A pulse is a note sounded at equal time intervals. A time interval is the duration between two specific points in time.

The pulse emphasizes the first beat commonly known as the ‘one’. The series of cyclical repetitions of the ‘one’ are known as the main beats or primary beats.

Each pulsation of the main beat within a piece of music serves as a time marker. These time markers help to outline the overall song structure. All other notes that don’t fall on the main beat (i.e. any sounded notes that don’t fall on the one), are known as secondary beats. These secondary beats follow the main beat and are always sounded or played relative to the main beat.

One of its mysteries is that the pulse can be felt by listeners without actually being sounded. When listening to music, our instinct is to follow the beat. We can subconsciously sense the pulse of the tune.

The pulse is a persistent character. Whether or not it is heard, it continues to tick away, much like a clock fading from the foreground to the background.

The pulse, by its nature, is omnipresent in music and life. Every song with a time signature contains a pulse. It lies at the heart and core of every song or tune.

Without the pulse, the notes within music would be freer, but could also be interpreted by some listeners as unintelligible; random, infrequent and chaotic all at once.

The pulse is represented in different ways depending on the style of music. In dance music, it typically can be heard in the form of the four four (4/4) dance beat whereas in jazz, it can usually be found in the ride cymbal.

Perhaps the most obvious example of the pulse is the human heartbeat which beats at a regular pace or tempo for an entire lifetime. Tempo is a rate of the speed of sound measured in beats per minute.

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