Pulse and rhythm

Learn about pulse and rhythm by clapping and using your body.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos to help you understand pulse and rhythm
  • two activities to try at home


Pulse is a steady beat like a ticking clock or your heartbeat.

Rhythm is the pattern of long and short sounds that fit with the pulse as you move through the song.

Watch this video to learn about pulse and rhythm.

You don't need instruments to make music. You can start making music by creating a simple pulse.

A pulse can be made with claps or taps.

Once you have a pulse you can start adding rhythms to make the music more interesting.

Connect It

Anna Meredith is a Scottish composer. She creates music that uses clapping, stamping, shouting and beatboxing.

Her piece Connect It has rhythmic sounds and movements.

The performers pass the sounds on to each other, like a Mexican Wave.

This musical effect is known as a canon.

A canon is where two or more instruments, voices or sounds play the same music, but starting at different times. Find out more about Connect It in the film below.

Listen out for: The repeated rhythmic patterns and sounds made by people using their bodies as instruments.

Dev from Radio 1 meets Anna Meredith to find out about her body percussion music.


Activity 1

Practise making sounds with different parts of your body.

Body percussion activities

Activity 2

Get a steady pulse going by clapping or tapping. Count 1,2,3,4.

Use the phrases from the video and set these to the pulse:

Is this right?
Weirdest day of my life
Chicken and chips and mushy peas
Our song will be epic

If you are working with someone else, see if you can make two or more of these phrases fit the pulse, like they do at the end of the video.

Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about pulse and rhythm.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you develop your musical skills.

Click on the links below to find out more about:

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS2 Music
Ten Pieces at home
KS2 Music
More video and audio
Quizzes and videos