Time & Rhythm: Pulse & Meter

Time-And-Rhythm-Pulse-And-Meter-Featured-Photo-by-Michael-Walk-on-Unsplash Photo by Michael Walk on Unsplash

The concept and experience of a steady, repeating Pulse… akin to your heartbeat, might be considered the most basic dimension of musical time…

The next dimension, Meter, is the concept and experience of organizing pulses into a larger hierarchical order where each pulse is different from the others.  

First, listen to a steady drumbeat of undifferentiated pulses (Let’s call this ONE-ness)…

Now let’s differentiate the pulses from each other by emphasizing one over the others in various groupingsā€¦

TWO-ness…

THREE-ness…

FOUR-ness…

FIVE-ness…

SIX-ness…

and notice how the difference in emphasis organizes our sense place in the music and establishes certain expectations.

By the way, we can continue with SEVEN-ness and EIGHT-ness and NINE-ness and so on.

We could also combine these “nesses” by nesting them inside each other. For example, we could play a THREE-ness inside a TWO-ness to make a more complex SIX-ness, characteristic of a Tarantella…

We can also combine these “nesses” by linking them together. For example, we could link a THREE-ness with a TWO-ness to make a more complex FIVE-ness., as in this famous example…

The Big Lesson here is this: Meter is the concept and experience of sequences of pulses that are organized in a way that creates a more complex framework upon which sounds can be placed in time.

It is appropriate to think of each kind of meter as a kind of dance.

learn more… Downbeats & Upbeats

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