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Rhythm section

From Academic Kids

Rhythm section refers to the musicians whose primary jobs in a jazz or popular music band or ensemble is to establish the rhythm of a song or musical piece, often repeated riffs or ostinatos. It may also refer to the instruments of those musicians.

A non-musician would call the rhythm section 'background music'. However, their importance is much greater then that.

In theory, any instrument or instruments can provide a steady rhythm (see Jimmy Giuffre's clarinet-valve trombone-guitar trio of the late 1950s, for example), and "rhythm" instruments often take featured solos, especially in jazz.

Most commonly, however, drum set and bass guitar or sometimes double bass are the critical instruments in a rhythm section. Chordal instruments such as rhythm guitar are commonly featured. A piano or other keyboard instrument, vibraphone, auxiliary percussion and/or other instruments are other examples of chordal instruments occassionally used.

In some rare cases, the lower octaves of a piano, organ, or electronic keyboard may substitute for bass guitar. One of the best known examples of this was keyboardist Ray Manzarek of The Doors. In the absence of a bassist, a keyboardist can also use a keyboard bass, or bass pedals that can be played with their feet.

Some jazz bands use tuba or other low-pitched instruments in place of the more common double bass. These methods may be used if a bass player is not available since they dont make the same effects as a double bass or bass guitar. Alternatively, the tuba may replace string bass or bass guitar as a means of evoking brass band sounds referring to early jazz styles such as New Orleans Swing.

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