Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy

Rhythm, Pitch and Your Musical Soul


I was thinking about something someone once told me.

“Pitch is Rhythm.”


When I sing or play a note, it does not sound like a beat.

When I play a beat it does not sound like a note.

But in actuality – they are the same thing.  Let’s take a look at this…

An “A 440”  is simply a very fast rhythm.  Scientifically speaking we are hearing a wave at 440 cycles per second.

When we hear something beating at 440 cycles per second, it sounds like a “pitch”  but it’s just a fast rhythm.  We even refer to it as a “frequency” – think about the word!

Consider a motorcycle or lawn mower engine when it starts.  It sounds like deep clicks, and when it speeds up – it sounds like a pitch.

Here is a video someone made of a metronome starting at 90 beats per minute, which speeds up to 100,000 BPM.

This shows you that rhythm turns into pitch.

So, as you can see – there’s no difference between pitch and rhythm.  It would be like saying ice, water and steam are different.

As rhythms slow down, we have days, weeks, months, years, centuries, millennia, planetary rhythms and who knows what else.  As they speed up and get faster – they become inaudible, and probably turn into magnetism, light and all that quirky stuff.

So when we talk about music – remember that what we can hear as humans is one small “sliver” of the spectrum of all vibration.  We call it upper frequencies, registers, middle, bass, on down to extremely fast tempos, on down to sub frequencies.

What About Human Musical Expression and Soul?

If you were to hear a great singer or instrumentalist, the ever-so-slight bending of pitches is what adds expression and soul.

Imagine your favorite song or instrumental solo…I think of something like Sarah Vaughan singing “Misty”, Bonnie Raitt singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” or Stevie Wonder singing “My Cherie Amour.”

When an accomplished musician expresses melody and music – there is very deep communication happening. There’s all kinds of subconscious mathematics, decision making  and intuition going on.

There is a feeling “love” in this expressiveness when it’s done by an accomplished musician.

I can remember at age 12 – bending a string on the electric guitar and my eyes filing with tears, and my body feeling spiritual energy running through it as I played “the blues”.  That’s soul.  We may express it differently, through different musical styles but we all have it.

However – it must be practiced, just like a basketball player practicing a jump shot.

What About Metronomes and Auto Tune? Do they Convey “Soul”?

If rhythm is pitch, and we agree that a heartfelt musical performance should have this swim in the pitch  to be expressive – then why on earth would we treat rhythm differently.

Rhythm should have the same expressiveness that melodic expressiveness does.

A metronome prevents this expression from happening.  It “stops”  the soul from coming through.

A metronome is as soulless as “auto tune.”    Imagine auto-tuning your favorite vocal performance or guitar solo.  It would take the life right out of it!

Metronomes, sequencers and auto tune in the hands of a musician or producer like Quincy Jones  can be a great tool and add to his expression – but that’s only because he “knows the vibration”  that music should have.

The tools would filter through his musical good sense – and that’s how he would find just the right settings – to light up his listeners souls!

Ever heard a Bach piano piece sequenced on a synthesizer?  It’s downright zombie-esque and creepy IMHO.

In the hands of 99% of today’s so called “producers”  and young musicians – metronomes, auto tune  and sequencers allow many talentless people to “get in the music game”  when they haven’t really dealt with the depth of musical expression themselves on the “source”  level.

Much of today’s music is “technically”  but not “spiritually”  correct.

Just turn on the radio if you don’t know what I am talking about.  Chances are you will hear a song with perfect tuning and perfect rhythm – and you’ll never want to hear it again.

What do Audiences What From You?

Audiences don’t want to hear “perfect time.”  They want to groove after a hard day.

They don’t want to hear computers play 440.  They want to hear notes sung or played – filled with soul.

Why not try this –  allow your rhythm to “swim”.  Throw your metronome away.

Strive for perfect time on your own with no metronome.  That’s like bending a guitar string right to the point that your soul lights up – but do this with your sense of “time.”  Feel your way.

Feeling the time is same expression as bending that guitar string “just right”  and “tasty”.

Why?  Because pitch is rhythm, and rhythm is pitch.

Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

5 thoughts on “Rhythm, Pitch and Your Musical Soul

  1. You are articulating words that my soul tries to speak each day. I play in a band where the guitarist and vocalist have commanded the drummer to ALWAYS play with a metronome because some pro told them it’s a good idea. Ever since then I’ve had a hard time connecting with the music in the band. My heartbeat does not beat at a fixed bpm. This is proof that I’m not a robot and that my soul was not designed to respond be commanded by a digital device.

  2. Great post, but here’s a question for you: I recently purchased Mike Longo’s first DVD. In it he said: “You don’t put feeling into music, you get feeling from music.” Raised eyebrows from me.

    Also I saw a video on YouTube by pianist Hal Galper where he told a student not to get “emotionally involved” with the rhythm section. Not completely sure that he meant the same thing, but a similar statement.

    I’m still trying to decide what those statements really mean and if they jibe with my way of thinking about performing. I used to feel that there was an element of “method acting” to playing music – that I really needed to emotionally embody the feelings I wanted the audience to get from the music. Now I’m wondering if that approach really has any validity.

    Any thoughts on this?

    • John – think of feeling as a flavor. You don’t “put” flavor into food. You have a recipe (knowlegde) and when you utilize the knowledge, people experience a flavor (feeling). Mike’s statement is very deep and very true – to me. You may end up playing intuitively – but knowledge is what’s going to make you be able to replicate what you do.

      Knowledge of counterpoint for example, and techniques allowed Bach to write Fugues over and over, even when he wasn’t “feeling it.”

      Mike’s knowledge of rhythm is insane, innovative and insightful. Most people attribute groove to feelings, visions and even race. He blows it out of the water with his knowledge.

      His mantra at all my lessons when he gave me insights was “there’s feelings, and there’s knowledge. This is knowledge!”

      The rub is this – when you play you also “feel” what you do – like a chef tasting his own creation. Mind you, the feeling comes AFTER you create – not before.

      If you teach a young kid to play blues do you tell him to “feel it” or do you show him a fingering to learn, that he will be able to “feel” after mastering it?

  3. Great reply Adam. THANK YOU! I kind of thought that was what Mike was getting at and it makes total sense. Yes, his words do ring deep and true to me as well. I can already tell that Mike’s ideas are going to be the source of several epiphanies for me.

    Also, I use the recipe analogy all the time with students – so your illustration perfectly fits the way I already approach learning and teaching music!

  4. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you’re talking about! Bookmarked. Please also visit my web site =). We could have a link exchange contract between us!

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