Every genre of music has its own rhythm, but I never understood the rock one. Theoretically, it's: one, TWO, three, FOUR but it's never this sequence. It's something like: three weak beats on one, a heavy beat on TWO, three weak beats on three and a heavy beat on FOUR.

  • The basic rock beat is in 4/4 with heavy emphasis on the "back-beat," i.e. 3. As answerers have pointed out, there are a lot of variations on this. OTOH, what qualifies as "rock", as opposed to thunderous country two-step or rockabilly or crossover blues-rock, is open to some debate :-) Sep 17, 2013 at 11:52

2 Answers 2


Artists can do whatever they like with rhythm, and genre assignments are pretty subjective.

With that said, I think you're confusing sub-beats or notes with primary beats. Beats are all of equal length, so you can't say that "three weak beats" take the same time as "a heavy beat". You can split up any beat into multiple notes if you wish, but you're dividing the time amongst them. Nothing about a beat pattern dictates that notes can only fall on the beat — in fact, it doesn't even dictate that there always has to be a note on the beat. Rhythm is about emphasis and how the music feels more than anything else.

Listen to the intro to this cover of Take on Me. The drum pattern could roughly be described as:


(Or "one TWO threeand FOURand")

The first, second, third, and fifth notes fall on the beat. You can remove either of the two "extra" x's and the beat will feel the same, just with less "detail". If you remove any of the notes on the beat, it will feel syncopated or incomplete. The beat is the essential part.


Sounds to me like we're talking about 12/8 time. This involves 4 main beats, each split into 3 smaller bits - triplets.It can sound like a slow(ish) 4 beats in each bar, but on more careful listening you can discern 12 beats. Each and every beat of a rhythm doesn't and often isn't played, but they can still be 'felt'.This hopefully sums up your 'weak beats' on 1 and 3, with 2 and 4 missing the 2nd and 3rd triplet on each. I wouldn't mind betting that the hi-hat or cymbal is putting them in, subtly, though.

  • It's just 4/4 time, but like Matthew said above, a beat may have multiple notes (the "three weak beats"). Sep 17, 2013 at 0:32
  • 12/8 is often written as 4/4, with a note that it may be swung or a crotchet and quaver with a triplet mark over.My sound is having problems - it's like pixilation,only sonically, so it's not easy to discern the rhythm.
    – Tim
    Sep 17, 2013 at 8:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.