Meter: The Scheme and the Pattern of It
I told you earlier that I had a friend who was a fiddler. He would play
fiddle tunes which would make
you want to dance. In addition, the tunes had just the right feel for
dancing. There was a rhythmic
pattern in the music which allowed and encouraged you to move to it. You
could swing your partner
and do-see-do! We've learned the first part of rhythm, that notes are
long or short. Now, we're going
to learn the next part of rhythm, that notes usually are in rhythmic
patterns called meters, and these meters are indicated by time
Meter is that aspect of rhythm which organizes beats into patterns (or
Types of Meter
There are several types of meter, with simple and compound meter, and
duple and triple being the
most common types.
Simple and Compound Meter
In simple meters, note values are typically divided into groups of two or
multiples of two. In compound meters, these note values are typically
divided into groups of three or multiples of three. We will concentrate
here on simple meters.
Interpreting Time Signatures
In simple meters, we interpret time signatures the following way:
The top number indicates how many beats there are in each measure.
The bottom number indicates what note gets one beat.
I call this the "simple meter time signature rule."
So, let's look at an example.
The top number (3) indicates that there are three beats in each
The bottom number (4) indicates that the quarter note gets one beat.
Example 1: a time signature:
In this example, the two numbers have the following meaning:
What we've done is use the "simple meter time signature rule," and come up
with what we need to know about the meter of a score.
How or why we interpret the bottom number my be confusing. Here's a tip
in figuring out the "simple meter time signature rule." Take the
bottom number and turn it into a fraction with 1 as the numerator and 4
(the bottom number of the time signature) as the denominator. That
gives you a fraction of 1/4 (one quarter). So, the quarter note gets the
beat any time the bottom number of a time signature is 4.
Duple and Triple Meter
Example 1, above is an example of a triple meter, since it indicates three
beats to a measure. Here's an example of a duple meter:
Example 2: another time signature:
Example 2 is a duple meter, since there are four beats to a measure (and
four is a duple number). If we take the time signature of 4/4 seen in
example 2, and apply the "simple meter time signature rule" to it, we come
up with the following info:
there are four beats to each measure.
the quarter note gets the beat.
Measures (Bars) and Lines
What this means to a student who is just learning about how to read music
Example 3: music with a time signature, measures, measure lines, and
Music (at least the music we'll study in this class) consists of measures,
which are divided by lines. Each measure has the same number of beats,
and the number of beats is equal to the top number of the time signature.
Each beat is equal to a rhythmic value which is indicated by the bottom
number of the time signature.
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