01 – 01 Measures Meter and Time

Measures:

A measure is a segment of time, broken down into a specific number of beats or pulses. These beats and pulses are described on the page, and conducted from the podium. But you already know that!

Meter:

Meter is the recurring pattern of stresses or accents that provide the pulse or beat of music. It is defined by the Time Signature.

Simple meter: meter where each beat can be subdivided by 2.

Ex: Simple duple (2/2 or 2/4), Simple Triple (3/8 or 3/4), Simple quadruple (4/4)

Compound meter: each beat can be subdivided by 3.

ex: Compound duple (6/16), compound triple (9/4), or compound quadruple (12/8)

Complex meter: doesn’t fit into the standard simple duple, simple triple or simple quadruple or is odd meter:

Ex: 5/8, 7/4 as in Money from Pink Floyd, or 5/4, such as in the jazz classic “Take 5”.


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Time Signature:

Time signature shows the meter and thus helps the musician understand the pulse of the music.

Ex: 4/4 time = the top number means 4 beats or pulses to a measure AND the bottom number tells us which note value gets the pulse.

Say the description out loud: “This is 4/4 Time where there are 4 beats to a measure and the quarter note(1/4) gets one beat.”

and sing the numbered beats out loud. When you sing these out loud, emphasize the bold number.

ONE two THREE four – or – ONE two three, TWO two three.

Say this out loud: “4/4 time = 4 beats to the measure. 1/4 (quarter) note gets one beat.”

“The beats are named repeatedly for each measure and sound as follows: “| 1 2 3 4 | 1 2 3 4 |”.

The quarter note forms the beat and the emphasis is on “1”, but the measure may include pulses which further subdivide the beat, such as beat “3”.

 

Say a few more of these out load to get the idea:

Say this out loud: 2/4 time = 2 beats to the measure. 1/4 (quarter) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure:  | 1 2 | 1 2 |

Say this out loud: 3/4 time = 3 beats to the measure. 1/4 (quarter) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure:  | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 |

Say this out loud: 5/4 time = 5 beats to the measure. 1/4 (quarter) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure:  | 1 2 3 4 5 | 1 2 3 4 5 | with 5 quarter notes.

This complex meter has an emphasis on “1”, and maybe a slight emphasis on beat “3” or beat “4”, like a 123-12 pattern or a 12-123 pattern.

 

These have an emphasis on one pulse, with a possible slight emphasis on another.

Say this out loud: 3/8 time = 3 beats to the measure. 1/8th (eighth) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure: | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 |.

Did you emphasize the “1” over the 2 and 3? You should.

Say this out loud: 2/2 time = 2 beats to the measure. 1/2 (half) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure:  | 1 2 | 1 2 |.

 

So far, pretty easy. 

 

Say this out loud: 6/8 time = 6 beats to the measure. 1/8 (eighth) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure: | 1 2 3 4 5 6 | 1 2 3 4 5 6|

Notice that the “1” and the “4” beat are bolded?

This is to suggest that this is a rhythm which is felt, if not conducted in 2: | 1 2 3 2 2 3 | 1 2 3 2 2 3 |.

Look carefully. ONE two three TWO two three instead of ONE two three FOUR five six.

In fact, the conductor can choose which way to conduct 6/8; as “in 6” or “in 2”, with the musician filling in mentally the less emphasized beats of 2,3,5,6.

 

Say this out loud: 9/8 time = 9 beats to the measure. 1/8 (eighth) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure: | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9| 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9|

In fact, the conductor can choose which way to conduct 6/8; as “in 9” or “in 3” where the 1, 4, 7 pulse are subdividing the measure into 3 sets of triplets or 3’s. 

 

Say this out loud: 12/8 time = 12 beats to the measure. 1/8 (eighth) note gets one beat. The beats are named repeatedly for each measure: | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 |1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 | with eighth notes displayed. In fact, the conductor can choose which way to conduct 12/8; as “in 12” or “in 4” where the 1, 4, 7 and 10 pulse are subdividing the measure into 4 sets of triplets or 3’s. 

 

When you look over music and begin to first sight read it, you’ll want to take special note of what the meter is, and then examine the rhythms which look challenging. Then you’ll get to the pitch (notes) and tempos. But start with the meter and rhythm to begin to understand what the black ink means.