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Duple MeterA pattern of alternating strong (stressed) and weak (unstressed) beats creates duple meter. We can see this pattern in an example of a line of quarter notes in which strong pulses—marked withan accent(>)—occur every other note.Click to play a duple meter.In duple meter, pulses are heard in pairs, with the stress or accent placed on the first pulse of each pair, and the weak or unstressed on the second. Each pair of pulses constitutes one measure.Tap the pulse of this excerpt and count.Count out loud 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 as you listen. This is duple meter. Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068: AirJ. S. Bach Triple MeterA pattern in which a strong beat is followed by two weak beats creates triple meter. We can see this pattern in an example of a line of quarter notes in which each strong pulse—marked with an accent(>)—is followed by two weak pulses.Click to play a triple meter.
In triple meter, pulses are grouped in threes with the stress placed on the first pulse in each group. Each group of three pulses constitutes one measure. Tap and count to this example in triple meter.Count out loud 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 as you listen. Water Music: Suite No. 2 in D major, HWV 349 - II: Alla HornpipeG. F. Handel Although they are two distinctly different components of music and are independent of one another, some novice listeners confuse tempo and meter. A piece may be in duple meter and haveeither slow or fast tempo:Suite No. 3 in D Major, HWV 349: Air(slow duple meter) J.S. Bach The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba(fast duple meter) G. F. Handel Waltz in C-Sharp Minor(fast triple meter) F. Chopin PulseThe pulses in much of the music we hear are grouped in duple or triple meter, but sometimes composers decide to use other groupings, which are heard as mixed or changing meter. For example, if a composer chooses to group pulses in fives, it may be heard as a group of three followed by a group of two, then another group of three and group of two. The following is an example of mixed meter. There is a strong pulse and frequent accents but no recurring pattern to create a clear duple or triple meter.Igor Stravinsky The Rite of Spring
SyncopationComposers often use the element of surprise to hold our interest in music, giving us something unexpected. We have heard how composers establish a steady pulse and consistent tempo, create a meter by grouping pulses, and create rhythmic patterns using combinations of long and short tones. We generally expect rhythmic patterns, pulses, and tempos to work together in a consistentmanner, with stressed tones occurring at predictable points in the music based on their relative length or because they fall on a stressed beat.Sometimes, however, composers decide to go off the beaten path (no pun intended) and place stressed tones in unexpected places. This is called syncopation. You are probably familiar with syncopation as an integral component of musical styles such as ragtime, jazz, funk, reggae, hip hop, progressive rock, progressive metal, groove metal, bossa nova, and samba among many others.