Website – Music Theory 101 for Belly Dancers: Rhythm Basics

We’d love to talk a little bit about music theory…wait, wait, wait! Don’t run yet!

We know music theory could be a little daunting, but today we’re just going to get on the fundamentals and ask a few questions about music.

There is a lively and significant relationship between music and belly dance. A few good questions to inquire as amateurs are much do I need to know about music or need? Will knowing affect the way I dance? If so, then how much do I need to study?

The answers are ultimately up to you as an individual, but for those interested in researching the area of music, we’re here to discuss a few practice tips for training your ear, and give you just the fundamentals of the music is put together, and show how you’re able to apply fundamental music theory to your private practice.

Let’s start at the beginning: Music will be the “art of audio in time that communicates feelings and ideas through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color” (dictionary.com). From all over the world we’re subjected to all types of music as belly dancers and we all could innately know the differences and similarities of of the songs we listen to.

The majority of the songs we encounter in our dance has a beat on it, although there are a few exceptions: drum solos definitely have a beat, but an oud or stunt taxim solo may not. We can come across a excellent example of this in Sedona’s choreography, danced to the song   Jemilleh.

The performer, John Bilezikjian, plays with a beautiful taxim, or improvised solo, on the oud to start the song. This taxim does not have any beat. If the drum starts to perform following the taxim has finished and that is when the choreography starts beat is inserted.

(The Oud: Photo by Frank Kovalcheck)

So what is a beat then? A beat is the heartbeat of this music. It’s usually to if we setting a song that which we clap or snap.

If beat is merely the constant, steady pulse of this music, then what is rhythm? Well, rhythm is “an arrangement of sounds and silence played at a routine” (Donald). Let’s think just like a dialog of music and dance. When we are currently speaking to a friend, we don’t just talk nonstop right? We take pauses to breathe, the conversation may be fast or slow, and we might completely change subjects. Dance and music are like this also. The mixture of   sound and silence produces a rhythm.


Let’s check out some real world illustrations of rhythm that we encounter in belly dance constantly: Baladi, Saidi, and Maqsoum. Even in the event that you don’t know how to count these rhythms out for your artist or know their own names, it’s helpful to have the ability to “sing” these rhythms to artists if you are working with them at a live music setting. Check out Henna’s movies on her “” series on a few of these hottest belly dance rhythms and try to sing along with them. Would you listen to and really feel the sounds and silence in each rhythm?

So far we’ve got our fine steady beat moving and we now know that a rhythm is a blueprint of sound and silence that could be played within our defeat. Let’s talk about tempo.

Tempo refers to the rate at. 1 way we could assess speed or the speed of a sheet of music is to count the BPM, or beats per second. Think of a march. Let’s pick an easy one: “Pomp and Circumstance”, a traditional graduation song. Clap along with the song and see whether you’re able to figure out how many beats are in a moment. Here is a fun little tool to assist you  http://www.tempotap.com/

Knowing the tempo of a song can help us out particularly if we’re currently attempting to play finger cymbals! Will be a lot slower than a song that has a rate of 140 BPM. It’s not impossible to play finger cymbals at that tempo, but phew! 140 BPM is a small doozy on your hands if you have not heated up or practiced in a little while!

Is time touch. Now, you’ve followed along just fine up to this point, no use at running away.

Time signatures are written as a percentage, using the top and lowest numbers each representing an element of the music. Let’s start with 4/4. Recall Maqsoum our Baladi, and Saidi rhythms? These all have 4/4 time signatures.

The number on top shows you the number of beats you can count at a step, or in our case the number of beats you can count or clap to if somebody plays our Baladi rhythm one time, like so:

D  D       T   D        T              Here is our Baladi rhythm

1        2                 3                                  =    Here is the place we clap or rely out our steady beat

Today, the number on the bottom of our time touch is a bit trickier. The lowest number shows us exactly what note value counts. This advice is useful when attempting to read notated songs, but for today all we will need to be aware of is that in our 4/4 time signature we’re counting “quarter notes” as we clap to the Baladi (1 Clap, 2 Clap, 3 Clap, 4 Clap = these are our triple notes).

Most tunes you encounter on the radio (pop and classic rock) will most likely be in this 4/4 time touch. However, as you hear a growing number of music world music, you will find that a number of the tunes you are currently clapping along to have to get counted differently. Maybe rather than counting to 4, you are going to count to 9, or 7, or 5, or 10, or 11! (We will save those for a while).

For the time being, just make use of clapping together with a song and seeing in the event that you can imagine your favourite songs’ tempos! Have pleasure!