Rhythm section

A rhythm section is the musicians in a popular music band or ensemble who establish the rhythmic pulse of a song or musical piece, and who lay down the chordal structure. The term "rhythm section" may also refer to the instruments in this group. Due in part to the unobtrusive nature of their performance, rhythm sections are typically not as prominent as a singer or soloist; however, as they represent the foundations of a performance, good rhythm sections are widely valued and esteemed by other musicians.

In most cases, the core elements of a rhythm section are a drum set and a bass instrument, usually a double bass or bass guitar. Other low-pitched instruments, like tuba, sometimes replace the bass guitar. The drums and bass both supply a rhythmic pulse for the music, and the bass instrument supplies a harmonic foundation with a bassline. Chordal instruments like guitar, banjo, piano or keyboards can also be part of a rhythm section, as can auxiliary percussion such as claves, bongos, or marracas.

In theory (and sometimes in practice) any instrument or instruments can provide a steady rhythm (listen to Jimmy Giuffre's clarinet, valve trombone, and guitar trio of the late 1950s, in which all instruments switch between lead and supporting roles). "Rhythm" instruments can often take featured solos, particularly in jazz bands.

Organ trios

In organ trios, the lower octaves of a Hammond organ or electronic keyboard are used as a substitute for bass guitar or double bass. Organ trios were a widely used type of jazz ensemble in the 1950s and 1960s. As well, organ trios are sometimes used in rock. The rock group The Doors used keyboardist Ray Manzarek to play the bass role, using a keyboard bass, or bass pedals.

Rock and pop

The rhythm section in rock and pop bands includes the drum set, bass guitar, and chordal instruments such as rhythm guitar, piano or other keyboard instruments, such as the electric piano, Hammond organ, synthesizer, vibraphone or xylophone. Along with these popular rhythm section instruments is an auxiliary percussion section. Rock and pop rhythm sections accompany the lead singer and lead guitarist by playing rhythmic patterns, laying out the chord structure, and performing riffs and ostinati that give each song its identity.

Dixieland bands

Some jazz bands use tuba or other low-pitched instruments in place of the more common double bass. The tuba may be used as a means of evoking brass band sounds reminiscent of early jazz, such as New Orleans or Dixieland Swing.

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