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Difference between Melody, Rhythm, Tempo and Beat

" Just as a musician in an orchestra uses his instrument to play a tango, 
we dancers can play the tango with the instrument that is our body"
(Joaquin Amenabar)


If you have learnt to play a musical instrument the following explanation of musical terms will be obvious and there is no need to read any further. But some people who take up tango lessons have never been exposed to musical terminology, or their understanding is patchy or at the worst faulty. This creates confusion when learning about musicality for tango dancing. If you are one of those people you may find this useful.


Melody', 'Rhythm', 'Tempo', and 'Beat' are not the same things. 

Melody
The melody is what we hum or sing to when we hear a song. It's a linear series of notes, or a grouping of notes that repeats within a song giving the song it's theme, colour, or tone. Melody is also referred to as the musical idea or the tune of the music, and it is what makes that song distinctly different from any other song

Beat
The basic measurement of time. Think of beat as an agreement between the musicians that every (1st, 2nd, 4th, etc...) note they're agreeing to be together on that note. They can do whatever else they want between those Xth notes, but they're agreeing to be together for the Xth note within a bar of notes. 

Phrase
A short section of music with a clear start and end quality, with a consistent or complementary musical character. Generally, the character is different from what comes after or precedes it, anywhere from subtly to very obvious.

Rhythm
Rhythm is a regularly occurring pattern of strong (or weak) notes.
Think of a the rhythm that the musicians have agreed that there's a series of notes (strong and weak) and pauses that will repeat within a particular song. 

Tempo
Tempo is the speed or pace at which a series of notes occurs.  It's the agreement among the musicians to play those notes  at a particular pace.