Clap Your Hands Clap Your Hands Listen To The Music Sense of Meter in Music

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Sense of Meter in Music

Music consists of two main categories: pitch and rhythm. Pitch results in harmony and melody, and rhythm is associated with meter, beat, measure, and tempo. Pitch refers to frequency, but we’re not going to cover that in this article. Rhythm refers to time and its Greek origin means “flow”. There are many ways to describe rhythm, but simply put, it is the flow of music in time or the calculation of durations (note values). Each note, regardless of its pitch, has a certain number.

We have simple and complex time signatures (musical measurements of the number of beats, as well as metric signatures). However, difficult conditions can be simplified to two or three or four strokes. Let’s take a waltz that has three beats. This means that throughout the piece we will be counting “one, two, three” over and over again. One is the strongest hit and then two is the weakest and three is the weakest. One is known as the “downbeat” or hard beat and is the impulse. The follow-up shots are the carryover.

To really understand this sense of meter, try the following movement to embody it: Listen to a waltz like Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube and count along. You will notice that you repeatedly count to three. Stand up and clap on the first beat as you bend your knees, then gradually straighten your body and raise your arms over your head, sort of reaching for the ceiling on the second and third beats. Then bring your hands back down and clap again on the first beat, repeating the same motion. Save until you’ve modeled the entire piece.

Please note that this has nothing to do with the work the metronome does. A metronome helps the player have a steady tempo (speed). However, making this body movement helps the musician find the drop and find the energy there so that the rest of the beats come effortlessly. A similar analogy is driving a car. You first press the accelerator to get into motion, and then the momentum kicks in.

Also, because it emphasizes down (more emphasis), there’s a tendency for musicians to overshoot it, which means they put too much unrefined force on the beat, which isn’t in proper control and which ruins the music. What this exercise does is help with that.

Remember that rhythm is what carries the piece and drives the aspects in the music. Therefore, a sense of meter, by embodying it, means that the piece will be more precise, shapely, coherent and refined.

It’s all part of a philosophy known as “movement education” or “the body in performance,” developed by Dr. Alexandra Pearce, professor emeritus at the University of Redlands, where I studied. Movement education embodies several aspects of music (such as phrasing) in a physical, kinetic form away from the instrument. The results are a much more meaningful performance as the music becomes much more sensational, using the whole of existence and not just one sense of hearing.

By Evelyn Simonian

© 2010. Evelyn Simonian

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