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Tuplets

This article is about the note groupings. For mathematical grouping, see tuple.

Irrational rhythm triplet above second beat features three rather than the usual two equal divisions of the beat, while the four sixteenth notes (semiquavers) above the third beat are
rational, four being a multiple of two

In music a tuplet (also irrational rhythm or groupings, artificial division or groupings, abnormal divisions,irregular rhythm, gruppetto, extrametric groupings, or, rarely, contrametric rhythm) is "any rhythm that involves dividing the beat into a different number of equal subdivisions from that
usually permitted by the time-signature (e.g., triplets, duplets, etc.)" (Humphries 2002, 266). This is indicated by a number (or sometimes two), indicating
the fraction involved. The notes involved are also often grouped with a bracket or (in older notation) a slur. The most common type is the "triplet".

Terminology

Sextuplet)), or six notes. As the extra brackets show: six notes in the time of four = three notes in the time of two X 2

The modern term 'tuplet' comes from a mistaken splitting of the suffixes of words like quintu(s)-(u)plet and sextu(s)-(u)plet, and from related mathematical
terms such as "tuple", "-uplet" and "-plet", which are used to form terms denoting multiplets (Oxford English Dictionary, entries "multiplet", "-plet, comb.
form", "-let, suffix", and "et, suffix1"). An alternative modern term, "irrational rhythm", was originally borrowed from Greek prosody where it referred to "a
syllable having a metrical value not corresponding to its actual time-value, or ... a metrical foot containing such a syllable" (Oxford English Dictionary,
entry "irrational"). The term would be incorrect if used in the mathematical sense (because the note-values are rational fractions) or in the more general
sense of "unreasonable, utterly illogical, absurd".

"True sextuplet": in order to contrast with the above "false sextuplet", the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a sextuplet must be stressed rather than the 1st and 4th (Baker, Slonimsky, and
Kuhn 1995, 208).

Alternative terms found occasionally are "artificial division" (Jones 1974, 19), "abnormal divisions" (Donato 1963, 34), "irregular rhythm" (Read 1964,
181), and "irregular rhythmic groupings" (Kennedy 1994). The term "polyrhythm" (or "polymeter"), sometimes incorrectly used of "tuplets", actually refers
to the simultaneous use of opposing time signatures (Read 1964, 167).
Besides "triplet", the terms "duplet", "quadruplet", "quintuplet", "sextuplet", "septuplet", and "octuplet" are used frequently. The terms "nonuplet",
"decuplet", "undecuplet", "dodecuplet", and "tredecuplet" had been suggested but up until 1925 had not caught on (Dunstan 1925,[page needed]). By 1964 the
terms "nonuplet" and "decuplet" were usual, while subdivisions by greater numbers were more commonly described as "group of eleven notes", "group of
twelve notes", and so on (Read 1964, 189).

Triplets
The most common tuplet (Schonbrun 2007, 8) is the triplet (Ger. Triole, Fr. triolet, It. terzina or tripletta, Sp. tresillo), shown at right.

Tuplet: a standard triplet; a triplet denoted without a bracket; a tuplet denoted as a ratio

Whereas normally two quarter notes (crotchets) are the same duration as a half note (minim), three triplet quarter notes total that same duration, so the
duration of a triplet quarter note is 2/3 the duration of a standard quarter note. Similarly, three triplet eighth notes (quavers) are equal in duration to one
quarter note. If several note values appear under the triplet bracket, they are all affected the same way, reduced to 2/3 their original duration. The triplet
indication may also apply to notes of different values, for example a quarter note followed by one eighth note, in which case the quarter note may be
regarded as two triplet eighths tied together (Gherkens 1921, 19).

Tuplet notation
If the notes of the tuplet are beamed together, the bracket (or slur) may be omitted and the number written next to the beam, as shown in the second
illustration.

Septuplet rhythm: seven against four (more frequent) and seven against eight (sometimes found) (

Play (helpinfo)).

For other tuplets, the number indicates a ratio to the next lower normal value in the prevailing meter. So
a quintuplet(quintolet or pentuplet (Cunningham 2007, 111)) indicated with the numeral 5 means that five of the indicated note value total
the duration normally occupied by four (or, as a division of a dotted note in compound time, three), equivalent to the second higher note value; for
example, five quintuplet eighth notes total the same duration as a half note (or, in 3/8 or compound meters such as 6/8, 9/8, etc. time, a dotted quarter
note). Some numbers are used inconsistently: for example septuplets (septolets or septimoles) usually indicate 7 notes in the duration of 4or in
compound meter 7 for 6but may sometimes be used to mean 7 notes in the duration of 8 (Read 1964, 18384). Thus, a septuplet lasting a whole note
can be written with either quarter notes (7:4) or eighth notes (7:8). To avoid ambiguity, composers sometimes write the ratio explicitly instead of just a
single number, as shown in the third illustration; this is also done for cases like 7:11, where the validity of this practice is established by the complexity of
the figure. A French alternative is to write pour ("for") or de ("of") in place of the colon, or above the bracketed "irregular" number (Read 1964, 21921).
This reflects the French usage of, for example, "six-pour-quatre" as an alternative name for the sextolet (Damour, Burnett, and Elwart 1838, 79; Hubbard
1924, 480).
There are disagreements about the sextuplet (pronounced with stress on the first syllable, according to Baker 1895, 177)which is also
called sestole, sestolet, sextole, orsextolet (Baker 1895, 177; Cooper 1973, 32; Latham 2002; Shedlock 1876, 62, 68, 87, 93; Stainer and Barrett 1876,
395; Taylor 187989; Taylor 2001). This six-part division may be regarded either as a triplet with each note divided in half (2 + 2 + 2)therefore with an
accent on the first, third, and fifth notesor else as an ordinary duple pattern with each note subdivided into triplets (3 + 3) and accented on both the first
and fourth notes. Some authorities treat both groupings as equally valid forms (Damour, Burnett, and Elwart 1838, 80; Khler 1858, 2:5253; Latham
2002; Marx 1853, 114; Read 1964, 215), while others dispute this, holding the first type to be the "true" (or "real") sextuplet, and the second type to be
properly a "double triplet", which should always be written and named as such (Kastner 1838, 94; Riemann 1884, 13435; Taylor 187989, 3:478). Some
go so far as to call the latter, when written with a numeral 6, a "false" sextuplet (Baker 1895, 177; Lobe 1881, 36; Shedlock 1876, 62). Still others, on the
contrary, define the sextuplet precisely and solely as the double triplet (Stainer and Barrett 1876, 395; Sembos 2006, 86), and a few more, while
accepting the distinction, contend that the true sextuplet has no internal subdivisionsonly the first note of the group should be accented (Riemann 1884,
134; Taylor 187989, 3:478; Taylor 2001).

Duplet and quadruplet notated in 6/8

Play (helpinfo). Two duplets or four quadruplets equal three regular eighth notes or a dotted quarter note.

In compound meter, even-numbered tuplets can indicate that a note value is changed in relation to the dotted version of the next higher note value. Thus,
two duplet eighth notes (most often used in 6/8 meter) take the time normally totaled by three eighth notes, equal to a dotted quarter note.
Four quadruplet (or quartole) eighth notes would also equal a dotted quarter note. The duplet eighth note is thus exactly the same duration as a dotted

eighth note, but the duplet notation is far more common in compound meters (Jones 1974, 20). A duplet in compound time is more often written as 2:3 (a
dotted quarter note split into two duplet eighth notes) than 2:1.5 (a dotted quarter note split into two duplet quarter notes), even though the former is
inconsistent with a quadruplet also being written as 4:3 (a dotted quarter note split into two quadruplet eighth notes) (Anon. 19972000).

"Quadruplet" with each note on a different drum in a kit used as a fill (Peckman 2007, 129).

play (helpinfo)

In drumming, "quadruplet" refers to one group of three sixteenth-note triplets "with an extra [non-tuplet eighth] note added on to the end", thus filling one
beat in 4/4 time (Peckman 2007, 12728), with four notes of unequal value.

Usage and purpose


Tuplets can produce rhythms such as the hemiola, or may be used as polyrhythms when played against the regular duration. They
are extrametric rhythmic units.

Sextuplet in quintuple time: six against five (

Play (helpinfo)).

Traditional music notation favors duple divisions of a steady beat or time unit. A whole note (semibreve) divides into two half notes, a half note into two
quarters, etc. and other notes are made by tying these together.
An irrational rhythm (by definition) is one that uses exact time points or durations that lie outside the scope of the duple system.
The n-tuplet notation shows the proportional increase or decrease of tempo needed for the bracketed notes, relative to the prevailing tempo. For example,
a bracket labeled "5:4" (read five in the space of four) could group together durations (notes or rests) with a total of five sixteenth notes. A tempo 5/4
faster than usual then compresses these events into the space of four sixteenth notes.
The actual duration can be found by dividing the notated duration by the indicated tempo increase ((5/16)/(5/4) = 1/4, in this example).
Normally, the total duration of the bracketed notes is chosen to be exactly equal to the duration of one of the duple divisions. For the example of a 5:4
bracket, this is possible if the total bracketed duration has a 5 in its numerator, 5/16 in the example.
Sometimes though that requirement is dropped to create total durations not exactly expressible in the duple system. For example, one might have only
three of the usual five sixteenth notes grouped by a bracket marked "3 of 5:4".

Counting
Tuplets may be counted, most often at extremely slow tempos, using the lowest common multiple (LCM) between the original and tuplet divisions. For
example, with a 3-against-2 tuplet (triplets) the LCM is 6. Since 6/2 = 3 and 6/3 = 2 the quarter notes fall every three counts (overlined) and the triplets
every two (underlined):

This is fairly easily brought up to tempo, and depending on the music may be counted in tempo, while 7-against-4, having an LCM of 28, may be counted
at extremely slow tempos but must be played intuitively ("felt out") at tempo:

10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

25 26 27 28

Four eighth-note triplets = one half-note triplet.

To play a half-note (minim) triplet accurately in a bar of 4/4, count eighth-note triplets and tie them together in groups of four. With a stress on each
target note, one would count:
1-2-3 / 1-2-3 / 1-2-3 / 1-2-3
The same principle can be applied to quintuplets, septuplets, and so on.

Desplazamiento Rtmico
Lick 1: On the Beat
To begin, lets take a classic-sounding jazz lick you can learn starting on beat 1 of the bar, then well start to vary this lick in the next two examples.
In order to make sure you can quickly grasp those variations, make sure you memorize this lick and get it comfortable under your fingers and in your ears
before moving to the next two sections of this lesson.

Lick 2: Anticipated
The first variation well look at is taking the exact same lick, but starting it on the "and" of 4 on the bar before the progression starts.
This creates a sense of anticipation in your line, and gives you a quick and relatively easy variation for the original lick that you can use in your solos
without sounding repetitive or monotonous with the same lick.

Lick 3: Delayed
As well as starting the lick an 8th-note early when playing it over a ii V I progression, you also can start it an 8th note later to add a sense of delayed
resolution to your lines.
Once you have worked this lick out on the "and" of 4, 1 and the "and" of 1, you can move it around to start on any beat in the bar in order to take it further
in the practice room and out on the bandstand.

Now that you have practiced playing the lick starting on three different beats within the bar, you can try moving it around to other beats to see how it
sounds when you start on beat 2, the "and" of 2, 3, etc.
By working a lick around the bar like this, you are learning eight different variations for the same lick, by starting on the eight 8th-notes in the bar,
providing you a ton of improvisational material from just one classic jazz line.
Do you have a question or comment about this lick transposition technique? Share your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below.

Rhythmic displacement
Perhaps the most common method of variation in popular music is rhythmic displacement, where the motif is moved to different beats in a bar, keeping the motifs rhythmic structure
intact.

Example 31

If the motif is moved by a quaver, the accented and unaccented beats will shift, and the motifs rhythmic character will change to the extent that it will be difficult to recognize the
original motif.

Example 32

Now practice rhythmic displacement by singing rhythms with a metronome. First write down a motif and sing it; then sing the same motif shifted forward by a crotchet. Next, sing the
original motif and then the same motif shifted by two crotchets, and so on.

Example 33

Printer-friendly version of the examples on this page

When you get more skilled, produce motifs of your own. Use your imagination. Dont forget to move the original motif to different beats in a bar. You can work with different motifs and
then go back to the first one.

Cross-beat
This article is about music. For horology, see Escapement#Cross-beat escapement. For crossbeat tonguing, see tonguing. For the Christian media organization, see Cross Rhythms.
In music, a cross-beat or cross-rhythm is a specific form of polyrhythm. The term cross
rhythm was introduced in 1934 by the musicologist Arthur Morris Jones (18891980).
Cross-rhythm. A rhythm in which the regular pattern of accents of the prevailing meter is
contradicted by a conflicting pattern and not merely a momentary displacement that leaves the
prevailing meter fundamentally unchallengedNew Harvard Dictionary of Music (1986: 216).
[1]

Contents
[hide]

1 African music

o
o

2.1 3:2
2.2 6:4
2.3 3:4
2.4 1.5:4 (or 3:8)
2.5 4:3

3 Duple-pulse correlative of 3:2


4 Cross-rhythm, not polymeter
5 Adaptive instruments
6 Jazz

o
o
o
o

1.2 An embodiment of the people

2 Cross-rhythmic ratios

o
o
o
o
o

1.1 One main system

6.1 3:2 (or 6:4)


6.2 3:4
6.3 2:3
6.4 Duple-pulse correlative of 3:2

7 Sources

African music
One main system

Niger-Congo linguistic group (yellow and yellow-green).

African cross-rhythm is most prevalent within the greater Niger-Congo linguistic group, which
dominates the continent south of the Sahara Desert. Cross-rhythm was first identified as the
basis of sub-Saharan rhythm by A.M. Jones. Later, the concept was more fully explained in the
lectures of Ewe master drummer and scholar C.K. Ladzekpo, and in the writings of David
Locke. Jones observes that the shared rhythmic principles of Sub-Saharan African music
traditions constitute one main system. Similarly, Ladzekpo affirms the profound
homogeneity of sub-Saharan African rhythmic principles. In Sub-Saharan African music
traditions (and many Diaspora musics) cross-rhythm is the generating principle; the meter is in
a permanent state of contradiction.
[2]

[3]

[4]

[5]

An embodiment of the people


At the center of a core of rhythmic traditions and composition is the technique of cross-rhythm.
The technique of cross-rhythm is a simultaneous use of contrasting rhythmic patterns within
the same scheme of accents or meter. . . By the very nature of the desired resultant rhythm,
the main beat scheme cannot be separated from the secondary beat scheme. It is the interplay
of the two elements that produces the cross-rhythmic textureLadzekpo (1995).
[6]

From the philosophical perspective of the African musician, cross-beats can symbolize the
challenging moments or emotional stress we all encounter. Playing cross-beats while fully
grounded in the main beats, prepares one for maintaining a life-purpose while dealing with
lifes challenges. Many sub-Saharan languages do not have a word for rhythm, or even music.
From the African viewpoint, the rhythms represent the very fabric of life itself; they are an
embodiment of the people, symbolizing interdependence in human relationshipsPealosa
(2009: 21).
[7]

Cross-rhythmic ratios
3:2[edit]
The cross-rhythmic ratio three-over-two (3:2) or vertical hemiola, is the most significant
rhythmic cell found in sub-Saharan rhythms. The following measure is evenly divided by three
beats and two beats. The two cycles do not share equal status though. The two bottom notes
are the primary beats, the ground, the main temporal referent. The three notes above are the
secondary beats. Typically, the dancer's feet mark the primary beats, while the secondary
beats are accented musically.

Polyrhythm 3:2

Three-over-two cross-rhythm.

[Watch: Stepping to the main beats within 3:2 cross-rhythm. Afro-Cuban Obatal dance (Marta
Ruiz).] The example below shows the African 3:2 cross-rhythm within its proper metric
structure.

Three-over-two cross-rhythm.

We have to grasp the fact that if from childhood you are brought up to regard beating 3 against
2 as being just as normal as beating in synchrony, then you develop a two dimensional attitude
to rhythm This bi-podal conception is part of the African's natureJones (1959: 102)
[8]

Novotney observes: "The 3:2 relationship (and [its] permutations) is the foundation of most
typical polyrhythmic textures found in West African musics." 3:2 is the generative ortheoretic
form of sub-Saharan rhythmic principles. Agawu succinctly states: "[The] resultant [3:2] rhythm
holds the key to understanding . . . there is no independence here, because 2 and 3 belong to
a single Gestalt."
[9]

[10]

African Xylophones such as the balafon and gyil play cross-rhythms, which are often the
basis of ostinato melodies. In the following example, a Ghanaian gyil sounds the three-againsttwo cross-rhythm. The left hand (lower notes) sounds the two main beats, while the right hand
(upper notes) sounds the three cross-beats.
[11]

Ghanaian gyil

Ghanaian gyil sounds 3:2 cross-rhythm.

6:4
The primary cycle of four beats

Polyrhythm 6:4

A great deal of African music is built upon a cycle of four main beats. This basic musical
period has a bipartite structure; it is made up of two cells, consisting of two beats each.
Ladzekpo states: "The first most useful measure scheme consists of four main beats with each
main beat measuring off three equal pulsations [12/8] as its distinctive feature . . . The next
most useful measure scheme consists of four main beats with each main beat flavored by
measuring off four equal pulsations [4/4]" (1996: Web). The four-beat cycle is a shorter period
than what is normally heard in European music. This accounts for the stereotype of African
music as "repetitive." A cycle of only two main beats, as in the case of 3:2, does not constitute
a complete primary cycle. Within the primary cycle there are two cells of 3:2, or, a single cycle
of six-against-four (6:4). The six cross-beats are represented below as quarter-notes for visual
emphasis.
[12]

[13]

[14]

Six-against-four cross-rhythm (note that this is identical to the three-over-two cross-rhythm above, played twice).

Interacting the four recurrent triple structure main beat schemes (four beat scheme)
simultaneously with the six recurrent two pulse beat schemes (six beat scheme) produces the
first most useful cross rhythmic texture in the development of Anlo-Ewe dance-drumming
Ladzekpo (1995: web).
[15]

The following notated example is from the kushaura part of the traditional mbira piece "Nhema
Mussasa." The left hand plays the ostinato "bass line," built upon the four main beats, while the
right hand plays the upper melody, consisting of six cross-beats. The composite melody is an
embellishment of the 6:4 cross-rhythm.
[16]

Holding an mbira dzavadzimu.

Kushaura mbira part for "Nhema Mussasa."

Play (helpinfo)

3:4

Polyrhythm 3:4

If every other cross-beat is sounded, the three-against-four (3:4) cross-rhythm is generated.


The "slow" cycle of three beats is more metrically destabilizing and dynamic than the six beats.
The Afro-Cuban rhythm abaku (Havana-style) is based on the 3:4 cross-rhythm. The threebeat cycle is represented as half-notes in the following example for visual emphasis.
[17]

Three-against-four cross-rhythm.

In contrast to the four main beat scheme, the rhythmic motion of the three beat scheme is
slower. A simultaneous interaction of these two beat schemes with contrasting rhythmic
motions produces the next most useful cross rhythmic texture in the development of subSaharan dance-drumming. The composite texture of the three-against-four cross rhythm
produces a motif covering a length of the musical period. The motif begins with the component
beat schemes coinciding and continues with the beat schemes in alternate motions thus
showing a progression from a "static" beginning to a "dynamic" continuationLadzekpo (1995:
web).
[18]

The following pattern is an embellishment of the three-beat cycle, commonly heard in African
music. It consists of three sets of three strokes each.

Embellishment of 3:4 cross-rhythm

1.5:4 (or 3:8)

Polyrhythm 4:1.5

Even more metrically destabilizing and dynamic than 3:4, is the one and a half beat-againstfour (1.5:4) cross-rhythm. Another way to think of it is as three "very slow" cross-beats
spanning two main beat cycles (of four beats each), or three beats over
two periods(measures), a type of macro "hemiola." In terms of the beat scheme comprising the
complete 24-pulse cross-rhythm, the ratio is 3:8. The three cross-beats are shown as whole
notes below for visual emphasis.

1.5:4 or 3:8.

Play (helpinfo)

The 1.5:4 cross-rhythm is the basis for the open tone pattern of the en (large bat drum head)
for the Afro-Cuban rhythm chang (Shango). It is the same pattern as the previous figure, but
the strokes occur at half the rate.
[19]

Drum pattern based on 1.5:4 cross-rhythm.

Ewegankoqui bell

The following bell pattern is used in the Ewe rhythm kadodo. The pattern consists of three
modulestwo pairs of strokes, and a single stroke. The three single stroke are muted. The
pattern is another embellishment of the 1.5:4 cross-rhythm.
[20]

kadodo bell pattern

4:3[edit]
When duple pulses (4/4) are grouped in sets of three, the four-against-three (4:3) cross-rhythm
is generated. The four cross-beats cycle every three main beats. In terms of cross-rhythm only,
this is the same as having duple cross-beats in a triple beat scheme, such as 3/4 or 6/4. The
pulses on the top line are grouped in threes for visual emphasis.

4:3 cross-rhythm in modular form.

However, this 4:3 is within a duple beat scheme, with duple (quadruple) subdivisions of the
beats. Since the musical period is a cycle of four main beats, the 4:3 cross-rhythm significantly
contradicts the period by cycling every three main beats. The complete cross-beat cycle is
shown below in relation to the key pattern known in Afro-Cuban music asclave. The
subdivisions are grouped (beamed) in sets of four to reflect the proper metric structure. The
complete cross-beat cycle is three claves in length. Within the context of the complete crossrhythm, there is a macro 4:3four 4:3 modules-against-three claves. Continuous duple-pulse
cross-beats are often sounded by the quinto, the lead drum in the Cuban
rhythms rumba and conga de comparsa.
[21]

[22][23][24]

Quinto drum

Complete cycle of 4:3 cross-rhythm shown in relation to clave.

While 3:2 pervades ternary music, quaternary music seldom uses tuplets; instead, a set of
dotted notes may temporarily make 2:3 and 4:3 temporal structuresLocke (2011: 56).
[25]

Duple-pulse correlative of 3:2[edit]


In sub-Saharan rhythm the four main beats are typically divided into three or four pulses,
creating a 12-pulse (12/8), or 16-pulse ( 4/4) cycle. Every triple-pulse pattern has its duplepulse correlative; the two pulse structures are two sides of the same coin. Cross-beats are
generated by grouping pulses contrary to their given structure, for example: groups of two or
four in 12/8 or groups of three or six in 4/4. The duple-pulse correlative of the three crossbeats of the hemiola, is a figure known in Afro-Cuban music astresillo. Tresillo is
a Spanish word meaning tripletthree equal notes within the same time span normally
occupied by two notes. As used in Cuban popular music, tresillo refers to the most basic duplepulse rhythmic cell. The pulse names of tresillo and the three cross-beats of the hemiola are
identical: one, one-ah, two-and.
[26]

[27]

[28]

Top: "tresillo" over two; bottom: three-over-two (3:2).

The composite pattern of tresillo and the main beats is commonly known as
the habanera, congo, tango-congo, or tango. The habanera rhythm is the duple-pulse
correlative of the vertical hemiola (above). The three cross-beats of the hemiola are generated
by grouping triple pulses in twos: 6 pulses 2 = 3 cross-beats. Tresillo is generated by
grouping duple pulses in threes: 8 pulses 3 = 2 cross-beats (consisting of three pulses each),
with a remainder of a partial cross-beat (spanning two pulses). In other words, 8 3 = 2, r2.
Tresillo is a cross-rhythmic fragment. It contains the first three cross-beats of 4:3.
[29]

[30]

[31]

[32]

[33]

Tresillo over two Video

Tresillo consists of the first three cross-beats of 4:3.

Cross-rhythm, not polymeter[edit]


Early ethnomusicological analysis often perceived African music as polymetric. Pioneers such
as A.M. Jones and Anthony King identified the prevailing rhythmic emphasis as metrical
accents (main beats), instead of the contrametrical accents (cross-beats) they in fact are.
Some of their music examples are polymetric, with multiple and conflicting main beat cycles,
each requiring its own separate time signature. King shows two Yoruba dundun pressure drum
("talking drum") phrases in relation to the five-stroke standard pattern, or "clave," played on the
kagano dundun (top line). The standard pattern is written in a polymetric 7/8 + 5/8 time
signature. One dundun phrase is based on a grouping of three pulses written in 3/8, and the
other, a grouping of four pulses written in 4/8. Complicating the transcription further, one
polymetric measure is offset from the other two.
[34]

Dundun drum ensemble represented as polymeter.

African music is often characterized as polymetric, because, in contrast to most Western


music, African music cannot be notated without assigning different meters to the different
instruments of an ensembleChernoff (1979: 45).
[35]

More recent writings represent African music as cross-rhythmic, within a single meter.
Of the many reasons why the notion of polymeter must be rejected, I will mention three. First, if
polymeter were a genuine feature of African music, we would expect to find some indication of

its pertinence in the discourses and pedagogical schemes of African musicians, carriers of the
tradition. As far as I know, no such data is avail-ableSecond, because practically all the
ensemble music in which polymeter is said to be operative in dance music, and given the
grounding demanded by choreography, it is more likely that these musics unfold within
polyrhythmic matrices in single meters rather than inmixed metersThird, decisions about
how to represent drum ensemble music founder on the assumption, made most dramatically by
Jones, that accents are metrical rather than phenomenalphenomenal accents play a more
important role in African music than metrical accents. Because meter and grouping are distinct,
postulating a single meter in accordance with the dance allows phenomenal or contrametric
accents to emerge against a steady background. Polymeter fails to convey the true accentual
structure of African music insofar as it creates the essential tension between a firm and stable
background and a fluid foregroundAgawu (2003: 84, 85).
[36]

[The] term polymetric is only applicable to a very special kind of phenomenon. If we take
metre in its primary sense of metrum (the metre being the temporal reference unit),
polymetric would describe the simultaneous un-folding of several parts in a single work at
different tempos so as not to be reducible to a single metrum. This happens in some modern
music, such as some of Charles Ives' works, Elliott Carters Symphony, B.A. Zimmermanns
opera "Die Soldaten," and Pierre Boulezs "Rituel." Being polymetric in the strict sense, these
works can only be performed with several simultaneous conductorsArom (1991: 205).
[37]

When written within a single meter, we see that the dundun in the second line sounds the main
beats, and the subdivision immediately preceding it. The first cell (half measure) of the top line
is a hemiola. The two dunduns shown in the second and third lines sound an embellishment of
the three-over-four (3:4) cross-rhythmexpressed as three pairs of strokes against four pairs
of strokes.
[38]

Dundun drum ensemble represented as cross-rhythm within a single meter.

Adaptive instruments[edit]
Sub-Saharan instruments are constructed in a variety of ways to generate cross-rhythmic
melodies. Some instruments organize the pitches in a uniquely divided alternate array not in
the straight linear bass to treble structure that is so common to many western instruments such
as the piano, harp, marimba, etc...
Lamellophones including mbira, mbila, mbira huru, mbira njari, mbira nyunga, marimba,
karimba, kalimba, likembe, and okeme. These instruments are found in several forms
indigenous to different regions of Africa and most often have equal tonal ranges for right and
left hands. The kalimba is a modern version of these instruments originated by the pioneer

ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in the early 20th century which has over the years gained
world-wide popularity.

Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

Signature SeriesGravikord

Chordophones, such as the West African kora, and Doussn'gouni, part of the harp-lute family
of instruments, also have this African separated double tonal array structure. Another
instrument, the Marovany from Madagascar is a double sided box zither which also employs
this divided tonal structure. The Gravikord is a new American instrument closely related to both
the African kora and the kalimba. It was created to exploit this adaptive principle in a modern
electro-acoustic instrument.
[39]

On these instruments one hand of the musician is not primarily in the bass nor the other
primarily in the treble, but both hands can play freely across the entire tonal range of the
instrument. Also the fingers of each hand can play separate independent rhythmic patterns and
these can easily cross over each other from treble to bass and back, either smoothly or with
varying amounts of syncopation. This can all be done within the same tight tonal range, without
the left and right hand fingers ever physically encountering each other. These simple rhythms
will interact musically to produce complex cross rhythms including repeating on beat/off
beat pattern shifts that would be very difficult to create by any other means. This
characteristically African structure allows often simple playing techniques to combine with each
other and produce cross-rhythmic music of great beauty and complexity.

Jazz[edit]
The New Harvard Dictionary of Music calls swing "an intangible rhythmic momentum in jazz,"
adding that "swing defies analysis; claims to its presence may inspire arguments." The only
specific description offered is the statement that "triplet subdivisions contrast with duple
subdivisions." The argument could be made that by nature of its simultaneous triple and duple
subdivisions, swing is fundamentally a form of polyrhythm. However, the use of true systematic
cross-rhythm in jazz did not occur until the second half of the twentieth century.
[40]

3:2 (or 6:4)[edit]


In 1959 Mongo Santamaria recorded "Afro Blue," the first jazz standard built upon a typical
African 3:2 cross-rhythm. The song begins with the bass repeatedly playing 3 cross-beats per
each measure of 6/8 (3:2), or 6 cross-beats per 12/8 measure (6:4). The following example
shows the original ostinato "Afro Blue" bass line. The slashed noteheads are not bass notes,
but are shown to indicate the main beats, where you would normally tap your foot to "keep
time."
[41]

"Afro Blue" bass line, with main beats indicated by slashed noteheads.

3:4[edit]
On the original "Afro Blue," drummer Willie Bobo played an abaku bell pattern on a snare
drum, using brushes. This cross-rhythmic figure divides the twelve-pulse cycle into three sets
of four pulses. Since the main beats (four sets of three pulses) are present whether sounded or
not, this bell pattern can be considered an embellishment of the three-against-four (3:4) crossrhythm. Bobo used this same pattern and instrumentation on the Herbie Hancock jazzdescarga "Succotash."
[42]

Abaku bell pattern.

2:3[edit]
In 1963 John Coltrane recorded "Afro Blue" with the great jazz drummer Elvin Jones. Jones
inverted the metric hierarchy of Santamaria's composition, performing it instead as duple
cross-beats over a 3/4 "jazz waltz" (2:3). This 2:3 in a swung 3/4 is perhaps the most common
example of overt cross-rhythm in jazz.
[43][44]

[45]

Two-over-three (2:3).

Duple-pulse correlative of 3:2[edit]


The Wayne Shorter composition "Footprints" may have been the first overt expression of the
6:4 cross-rhythm (two cycles of 3:2) used by a straight ahead jazz group. On the version
recorded on Miles Smiles by Miles Davis, the bass switches to 4/4 at 2:20. The 4/4 figure is
known as tresillo in Latin music and is the duple-pulse correlative of the cross-beats in triplepulse. Throughout the piece, the four main beats are maintained. In the example below the
main beats are indicated by slashed noteheads. They are shown here for reference, and do not
indicate bass notes.
[46]

"Footprints" bass lines, with main beats indicated by slashed noteheads.

Meter (music)
(Redirected from Subdivision (meter))

Musical and lyric metre.

See also: Hymn meter and Poetic meter


Meter or metre is the rhythmic structure of music.
The term was inherited from poetry (Scholes 1977 Latham 2002b) where it denotes: the
number of lines in a verse; the number of syllables in each line; and the arrangement of those
syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented (Scholes 1977; Latham 2002b). Likewise, in
music, the term refers to the pattern of accents in the piece of music and to its possible
organization into regularly recurring measures of stressed and unstressed beats.
Contents
[hide]

1 Metric structure
2 Frequently encountered types of meter

2.1 Meters classified by the number of beats per measure

2.2.2 Compound meter

4 Meter in dance music


5 Meter in classical music
5.1 Changing meter

6 Hypermeter
7 Polymeter
8 Examples

o
o
o

2.2.1 Simple meter

3 Meter in song

2.1.2 Triple meter

2.2 Meters classified by the subdivisions of a beat

2.1.1 Duple meter

8.1 Polymetersvideo
8.2 Various meterssound
8.3 Various metersvideo

9 See also
10 Sources
11 External links

Metric structure[edit]
The term is not very precisely defined (Scholes 1977). MacPherson (1930, 3) preferred to
speak of "time" and "rhythmic shape", Imogen Holst (1963, 17) of "measured rhythm".
However, London has written a book about musical metre, which "involves our initial
perception as well as subsequent anticipation of a series of beats that we abstract from the
rhythm surface of the music as it unfolds in time" (London 2004, 4). This "perception" and
"abstraction" of rhythmic measure is the foundation of human instinctive musical participation,
as when we divide a series of identical clock-ticks into "tick-tock-tick-tock" (Scholes 1977).
"Rhythms of recurrence" arise from the interaction of two levels of motion, the faster providing
the pulse and the slower organizing the beats into repetitive groups (Yeston 1976, 5052).
"Once a metric hierarchy has been established, we, as listeners, will maintain that organization
as long as minimal evidence is present" (Lester 1986, 77).

Metric levels: beat level shown in middle with division levels above and multiple levels below.

A definition of musical meter requires the possibility of identifying a repeating pattern of


accented pulses a "pulse-group" which corresponds to the foot in poetry. Frequently a
pulse-group can be identified by taking the accented beat as the first pulse in the group and
counting the pulses until the next accent (MacPherson 1930, 5; Scholes 1977). Frequently
meters can be broken down into a pattern of duples and triples (MacPherson 1930, 5; Scholes
1977).
The level of musical organisation implied by musical meter includes the most elementary levels
of musical form(MacPherson 1930, 3).
Metrical rhythm, measured rhythm, and free rhythm are general classes of rhythm and may
be distinguished in all aspects of temporality (Cooper 1973, 30). Metrical rhythm, by far the
most common class in Western music, is where each time value is a multiple or fraction of a
fixed unit (beat, see paragraph below), and normal accents re-occur regularly, providing
systematic grouping (measures, divisive rhythm). Measured rhythm is where each time value is
a multiple or fraction of a specified time unit but there are not regularly recurring accents
(additive rhythm). Free rhythm is where there is neither (Cooper 1973, 30). Some music,
including chant, has freer rhythm, like the rhythm of prose compared to that of verse (Scholes
1977). Some music, such as some graphically scored works since the 1950s and nonEuropean music such as Honkyoku repertoire for shakuhachi, may be
considered ametric (Karpinski 2000, 19). Senza misura is an Italian musical term for "without
meter", meaning to play without a beat, using time to measure how long it will take to play the
bar (Forney & Machlis 2007,
).
[page needed]

Metric structure includes meter, tempo, and all rhythmic aspects that produce temporal
regularity or structure, against which the foreground details or durational patterns of any piece
of music are projected (Wittlich 1975, chapt. 3). Metric levels may be distinguished: the beat
level is the metric level at which pulses are heard as the basic time unit of the piece. Faster
levels are division levels, and slower levels are multiple levels (Wittlich 1975, chapt. 3).
A rhythmic unit is a durational pattern which occupies a period of time equivalent to a pulse or
pulses on an underlying metric level.

Frequently encountered types of meter[edit]


Meters classified by the number of beats per measure[edit]
[edit]
Main article: Duple meter
Duple meter

Duple meter is a meter in which each measure is divided into two beats, or a multiple thereof
(quadruple meter), for example, in the time signature 2/4, each measure contains two (2)
quarter-note (4) beats, and with the time signature 6/8, each measure contains two dotted-

quarter-note beats. Corresponding quadruple meters are 4/4, with 2 2 = 4 quarter-note beats
per measure, and 12/8, with 2 2 = 4 dotted-quarter-note beats per measure.

[edit]
Main article: Triple metre
Triple meter

Triple meter is a meter in which each measure is divided into three beats, or a multiple thereof.
For example, in the time signature 3/4, each measure contains three (3) quarter-note (4) beats,
and with a time signature of 9/8, each measure contains three dotted-quarter beats.

Meters classified by the subdivisions of a beat [edit]


Simple meter and compound meter are distinguished by the way the beats are subdivided.
Simple meter

[edit]

Simple triple drum pattern: divides each of three beats into two

Play (helpinfo)

Simple meter or simple time is a meter in which each beat of the measure divides naturally
into two (as opposed to three) equal parts.

Simple quadruple drum pattern: divides each of four beats into two

Play (helpinfo)

For example, in the time signature 3/4, each measure contains three crotchet (quarter note)
beats, and each of those beats divides into two quavers (eighth notes), making it a simple
meter. More specifically, it is simple triple because there are three beats in each measure;
simple duple (two beats) or simple quadruple (four) are also common meters.

[edit]

Compound meter

Compound triple drum pattern: divides each of three beats into three

Play (helpinfo)

Compound meter, compound metre, or compound time (chiefly British variation), is a meter
in which each beat of the measure divides naturally into three equal parts. That is,
each beat contains a triple pulse (Latham 2002a).

Compound duple drum pattern: divides each of two beats into three

Play (helpinfo)

Compound meters are written with a time signature that shows the number of divisions of beats
in each measure as opposed to the number of beats. For example, compound duple (two
beats, each divided into three) is written as a time signature with a numerator of six, for
example, 6/8. Contrast this with the time signature 3/4 which also assigns six quavers to each
measure, but by convention connotes a simple triple time: 3 crotchet beats.
Examples of compound meter:

6/8 (compound duple meter) has two beats divided into three equal parts, i.e., a primary
accent on the first quaver, and a subordinate accent on the fourth quaver.
9/8 (compound triple meter) has three beats divided into three parts, i.e., a primary accent
on the first quaver, and subordinate accents on the fourth and seventh quavers.
12/8 (compound quadruple meter) has four beats divided into three equal parts, i.e., a
primary accent on the first quaver, a secondary accent on the seventh quaver, and
subordinate accents on the fourth and tenth quavers.

Although 3/4 and 6/8 are not to be confused, they use measures of the same length, so it is
easy to "slip" between them just by shifting the location of the accents. This interpretational
switch has been exploited, for example, by Leonard Bernstein, in the
song "America" from West Side Story, as can be heard in the prominent motif

Play (helpinfo):
Some works with compound meter:

Jigs are often in 6/8 time, with Irish slip jigs in 9/8 time.

Counter-examples, not in compound meter


Compound meter divided into three parts could theoretically be transcribed into musically
equivalent simple meter using triplets. Likewise, simple meter can be shown in compound
through duples. In practice, however, this is rarely done because it disrupts conducting
patterns when the Tempo changes. When conducting in 6/8, conductors typically provide two
beats per measure. Where the tempo is slow, however, all six beats may be performed.
Compound time is associated with "lilting" and dance-like qualities. Folk dances often use
compound time. Many Baroque dances are often in compound time: some gigues,
thecourante, and sometimes the passepied and the siciliana.

Meter in song[edit]

A German children's song shows a common fourfold multiplication of rhythmic phrases into a complete verse and melody.

Play (helpinfo)

The concept of meter in music derives in large part from the poetic meter of song and includes
not only the basic rhythm of the foot, pulse-group or figure used but also
the rhythmic or formal arrangement of such figures into musical phrases (lines, couplets) and
of such phrases into melodies, passages or sections (stanzas, verses) to give what Holst
(1963, 18) calls "the time pattern of any song" (See also: Form of a musical passage).
Traditional and popular songs may draw heavily upon a limited range of meters, leading to
interchangeability of melodies. Early hymnals commonly did not include musical notation but
simply texts that could be sung to any tune known by the singers that had a matching meter.
For example The Blind Boys of Alabama rendered the hymn Amazing Grace to the setting
of The Animals' version of the folk song The House of the Rising Sun. This is possible because
the texts share a popular basic four-line (quatrain) verse-form called ballad meter or, in
hymnals, common meter, the four lines having a syllable-count of 8:6:8:6 (Hymns Ancient and
Modern Revised), the rhyme-scheme usually following suit: ABAB. There is generally a pause
in the melody in a cadence at the end of the shorter lines so that the underlying musical meter
is 8:8:8:8 beats, the cadences dividing this musically into two symmetrical "normal" phrases of
four measures each (MacPherson 1930, 14).
Two-fold, four-fold and eight-fold division and multiplication of phrases into measures and of
phrases into passages is indeed "common" and "normal"the above arrangement is typical of
the Baroque suite and the Bach choralebut it is far from universal. "God Save the Queen",
for example, has six three-beat measures in its first phrase and eight in the second yet it still
achieves symmetry. A Twelve-bar blues has three lines, not two or four, of four measures
each.
[citation needed]

In some regional music, for example Balkan music (like Bulgarian music, and the
Macedonian 3+2+2+3+2 meter), a wealth of irregular or compound meters are used. Other
terms for this are "additive meter" (London 2001, I.8) and "imperfect time" (Read 1964, 147
).
citation given]

Meter in dance music[edit]

Typical figures of the waltz rhythm (Scruton 1997)

Meter is often essential to any style of dance music, such as the waltz or tango, that has
instantly recognizable patterns of beats built upon a characteristic tempo and measure. The
Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (1983) defines the tango, for example, as to be
danced in 2/4 time at approximately 66 beats per minute.
The basic slow step forwards or backwards, lasting for one beat, is called a "slow", so that a
full "right-left" step is equal to one 2/4 measure.

[not in

But step-figures such as turns, the corte and walks-in also require "quick" steps of half the
duration, each entire figure requiring 3-6 "slow" beats. Such figures may then be
"amalgamated" to create a series of movements that may synchronise to an entire musical
section or piece. This can be thought of as an equivalent of prosody.

Meter in classical music[edit]

A sequence of steps laid against the typical rhythm of the gavotte. Stylised folk-dances from all over Europe lent their characteristic meters to theBaroque suite.

In music of the common practice period (about 16001900), there are four different families of
time signature in common use:

Simple dupletwo or four beats to a bar, each divided by two, the top number being "2" or
"4" (2/4, 2/8, 2/2 4/4, 4/8, 4/2 ). When there are four beats to a bar, it is alternatively
referred to as "quadruple" time.
Simple triple ( 3/4 (helpinfo))three beats to a bar, each divided by two, the top number
being "3" (3/4, 3/8, 3/2 )
Compound dupletwo beats to a bar, each divided by three, the top number being "6"
(6/8, 6/16, 6/4 )
Compound triplethree beats to a bar, each divided by three, the top number being "9"
(9/8, 9/16, 9/4)

Rhythmic analysis of the metric elaboration of one phrase of a gavotte by J.S. Bach. Ebene (German: level).

If the beat is divided into two the meter is simple, if divided into three it iscompound. If each
measure is divided into two it is duple and if into three it istriple. Some people also label
quadruple, while some consider it as two duples. Any other division is considered additively, as
a measure of five beats may be broken into duple+triple (12123) or triple+duple (12312)
depending on accent. However, in some music, especially at faster tempos, it may be treated
as one unit of five.

Changing meter[edit]
In twentieth century concert music, it became more common to switch meterthe end of Igor
Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is an example. A metric modulation is a modulation from one
metric unit or meter to another. The use of asymmetrical rhythms also became more common:
such meters include quintuple as well as more complex additive metersalong the lines of
2+2+3 time, where each bar has two 2-beat units and a 3-beat unit with a stress at the
beginning of each unit. Similar meters are used in various folk music as well as some music
by Philip Glass. Additive meters may be conceived either as long, irregular meters or as
constantly changing short meters.

Hypermeter[edit]

Hypermeter: 4 beat measure, 4 measure hypermeasure, and 4 hypermeasure verses. Hyperbeats in red.

Opening of the third movement of Beethoven's Waldstein sonata. Notice that the melodic lines in bars 1 - 4 and 5 - 8 are (almost) identical. Hence, they must have the same
hypermeter - 4 hyperbeats per hypermeasure. In this case, the "downbeat" of each hypermeasure is the low C, which is struck by the same hand which then plays the melody.

Hypermeter is large-scale meter (as opposed to surface-level meter) created


by hypermeasures which consist ofhyperbeats (Stein 2005, 329). "Hypermeter is meter, with all
its inherent characteristics, at the level where measures act as beats." (Neal, Wolfe, and
Akenson 2000, 115) For example, the four-bar hypermeasure is the prototypical structure
for country music, in and against which country songs work (Neal, Wolfe, and Akenson 2000,
115). In classical music, the four bar hypermeter is a commonly observed practice, constituting
the basis of symmetrical phrasing.
The term was coined by Cone (1968)
while London (2004, 19) asserts that there is no
perceptual distinction between meter and hypermeter. Lee (1985)
and Middleton have
described musical meter in terms of deep structure, using generative concepts to show how
different meters (4/4, 3/4, etc.) generate many different surface rhythms. For example the first
phrase of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night", without the syncopation, may be generated from
its meter of 4/4 (Middleton 1990, 211)
:
[verification needed]

[verification needed]

[verification needed]

4/4

4/4

2/4

2/4

1/4

1/8 1/8 1/8

2/4

2/4

2/4

2/4

1/8

It's been a

hard day's night

The syncopation may then be added, moving "night" forward one eighth note, and the first
phrase is generated ( Play (helpinfo)).

Polymeter[edit]
See also: Polyrhythm
The main distinction is between Polyrhythms and Polymeters. The two are often confused.

[citation

needed]

Polymeter is sometimes referred to as "tactus-preserving polymeter." The measure size


differs, the beat is the same. Since the beat is the same, the various meters eventually agree.
(Four measures of 7/4 = seven measures of 4/4).
Polyrhythm is sometimes referred to as "measure preserving polymeter,". The beat varies and
the measure stays constant. For example, in a 4:3 polyrhythm, one part plays 4/4 while the
other plays 3/4, but the 3/4 beats are stretched so that three beats of 3/4 are played in the
same time as four beats of 4/4.
More generally, sometimes rhythms are combined in a way that is neither tactus nor measure
preserving - the beat differs and the measure size also differs. See Polytempi.

Research into the perception of polymeter shows that listeners often either extract a composite
pattern that is fitted to a metric framework, or focus on one rhythmic stream while treating
others as "noise". This is consistent with the Gestalt psychology tenet that "the figureground dichotomy is fundamental to all perception" (Boring 1942, 253;
London 2004,
4950). In the music, the two meters will meet each other after a specific number of beats. For
example, a 3/4 meter and 4/4 meter will meet after 12 beats.
[verification needed]

In "Toads of the Short Forest" (from the album Weasels Ripped My Flesh), composer Frank
Zappa explains: "At this very moment on stage we have drummer A playing in 7/8, drummer B
playing in 3/4, the bass playing in 3/4, the organ playing in 5/8, the tambourine playing in 3/4,
and the alto sax blowing his nose" (Mothers of Invention 1970). "Touch And Go", a hit
single by The Cars, has polymetric verses, with the drums and bass playing in 5/4, while the
guitar, synthesizer, and vocals are in 4/4 (the choruses are entirely in 4/4) (The Cars 1981, 15).
The Swedish metal band Meshuggah makes frequent use of polymeters, with unconventionally
timed rhythm figures cycling over a 4/4 base (Pieslak 2007).

Beat (music)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Beat (acoustics) and Beat (disambiguation).

Metric levels: beat level shown in middle with division levels above and multiple levels below.

In music and music theory, the beat is the basic unit of time, the pulse (regularly repeating
event), of the mensural level[1] (or beat level).[2] The beat is often defined as the rhythm listeners
would tap their toes to when listening to a piece of music, or the numbers a
musician counts while performing, though in practice this may be technically incorrect (often
the first multiple level). In popular use, beat can refer to a variety of related concepts
including:tempo, meter, specific rhythms, and groove.
Rhythm in music is characterized by a repeating sequence of stressed and unstressed
beats (often called "strong" and "weak") and divided into bars organized by time
signature and tempo indications.
Metric levels faster than the beat level are division levels, and slower levels are multiple levels.
See Meter (music)#Metric structure.
Contents
[hide]

1 Downbeat and upbeat


2 On-beat and off-beat

3 Backbeat
4 Cross beat
5 Hyperbeat
6 Related concepts
7 References
8 Further reading

Downbeat and upbeat[edit]

Beginning of Bach's BWV736, with upbeat (anacrusis) in red.

Play (helpinfo)

The downbeat is the first beat of the bar, i.e. number 1. The upbeat is the last beat in the
previous bar which immediately precedes, and hence anticipates, the downbeat.[3] Both terms
correspond to the direction taken by the hand of a conductor.
An anticipatory note or succession of notes occurring before the first barline of a piece is
sometimes referred to as an upbeat figure, section or phrase. An alternative expression is
"anacrusis" (from Greek. ana: "up towards" and krousis: "to strike"; Fr.anacrouse). This term
was borrowed from poetry where it refers to one or more unstressed extrametrical syllables at
the beginning of a line.[3]

On-beat and off-beat[edit]

Off-beat or backbeat pattern, popular on snare drum [4]

"Skank" guitar rhythm[5]

play (helpinfo)

Play (helpinfo). Often referred to as "upbeats", in parallel with upstrokes.

In music that progresses regularly in 4/4 time, counted as "1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4...", the first beat of
the bar (downbeat) is usually the strongest accent in the melody and the likeliest place for a
chord change, the third is the next strongest: these are "on" beats. The second and fourth are
weaker - the "off-beats". Subdivisions (like eighth notes) that fall between the pulse beats are
even weaker and these, if used frequently in a rhythm, can also make it "off-beat".[6]
The effect can be easily simulated by evenly and repeatedly counting to four. As a background
against which to compare these various rhythms a bass drum strike on the downbeat and a
constant eighth note subdivision on ride cymbal have been added, which would be counted as
follows (bold denotes a stressed beat):

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 -- play eighth notes and bass drum alone (helpinfo)


1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4the stress here on the "on" beat play (helpinfo) But one may syncopate
that pattern and alternately stress the odd and even beats, respectively:
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 -- the stress is on the "unexpected" or syncopated beat play (helpinfo)

So "off-beat" is a musical term commonly applied to syncopation that emphasizes the weak
even beats of a bar, as opposed to the usual on-beat. This is a fundamental technique
of African polyrhythm that transferred to popular western music. According to Groove Music,
the "Offbeat is [often] where the downbeat is replaced by a rest or is tied over from the
preceding bar".[6] The downbeat can never be the off-beat because it is the strongest beat in
4/4 time.[7] Certain genres tend to emphasize the off-beat, where this is a defining characteristic
of rock'n'roll and Ska music.

Backbeat[edit]
"Backbeat" redirects here. For other uses, see Backbeat (disambiguation).

Back beat[8][9]

Play (helpinfo)

It's got a backbeat, you can't lose it - Chuck Berry

A back beat, or backbeat, is a syncopated accentuation on the "off" beat. In a simple 4/4
rhythm these are beats 2 and 4.[10]
"A big part of R&B's attraction had to do with the stompin' backbeats that make it so eminently
danceable."[11] An early record with an emphasised back beat throughout was "Good Rockin'
Tonight" by Wynonie Harris in 1948.[12] Although drummer Earl Palmerclaimed the honor for
"The Fat Man" by Fats Domino in 1949, which he played on, saying he adopted it from the final
"shout" or "out" chorus common in Dixieland jazz, urban contemporary gospel was stressing
the back beat much earlier with hand-clapping and tambourines.[citation needed] There is a handclapping back beat on "Roll 'Em Pete" by Pete Johnson andBig Joe Turner, recorded in
1938.[citation needed] A distinctive back beat can be heard on "Back Beat Boogie" by Harry
James And His Orchestra, recorded in late 1939.[13] Other early recorded examples include the
final verse of "Grand Slam" by Benny Goodman in 1942 and some sections of The Glenn Miller
Orchestra's "(I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo", while amateur direct-to-disc recordings of Charlie
Christianjamming at Minton's Playhouse around the same time have a sustained snare-drum
back-beat on the hottest choruses.[citation needed]
Outside U.S. popular music, there are early recordings of music with a distinctive backbeat,
such as the 1949 recording of Mangaratiba byLuiz Gonzaga in Brazil.[citation needed]

Delayed backbeat (last eighth note in each measure) as in funk music[14]

play (helpinfo)

In his thesis, Garry Neville Tamlyn found slap bass executions on the backbeat in styles of
country western music of the 1930s, and the late 40s early 50s music of Hank Williams
reflected a return to strong backbeat accentuation as part of the honky tonk style of
country.[15] In the mid-1940s "hillbilly" musicians the Delmore Brothers were turning out boogie
tunes with a hard driving back beat, such as the #2 hit "Freight Train Boogie" in 1946, as well
as in other boogie songs they recorded.[citation needed] Similarly Fred Maddox's characteristic
backbeat, a slapping bass style, helped drive a rhythm that came to be known as rockabilly,
one of the early forms of rock and roll.[16] Maddox had used this style as early as 1937.[17]
In today's popular music the snare drum is typically used to play the backbeat
pattern.[4] Early funk music often delayed one of the backbeats so as, "to give a 'kick' to the
[overall] beat".[14]
Some songs, such as The Beatles' "Please Please Me" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand", The
Knack's "Good Girls Don't" and Blondie's cover of The Nerves' "Hanging on the Telephone",
employ a double backbeat pattern.[18] In a double backbeat, one of the off beats is played as
two eighth notes rather than one quarter note.[18]

Cross beat[edit]
Main article: Cross-beat
Cross-rhythm. A rhythm in which the regular pattern of accents of the prevailing meter is
contradicted by a conflicting pattern and not merely a momentary displacement that leaves the
prevailing meter fundamentally unchallengedNew Harvard Dictionary of Music (1986: 216).[19]

Neal, Jocelyn (2000). Neal, Jocelyn; Wolfe, Charles K.; Akenson, James E.,
eds. Songwriter's Signature, Artist's Imprint: The Metric Structure of a Country
Song. Country Music Annual 2000 (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky).
p. 115. ISBN 0-8131-0989-2.

Hyperbeat[edit]

Hypermeter: 4 beat measure, 4 measure hypermeasure, and 4 hypermeasure verses. Hyperbeats in red.

A hyperbeat is one unit of hypermeter, generally a measure. "Hypermeter is meter, with all its
inherent characteristics, at the level where measures act as beats."[20] Further reading:
Rothstein, William (1990). Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music, p. 12-3. Macmillan. ISBN 9780028721910.

Related concepts[edit]

Tatum refers to a subdivision of a beat which represents the "time division that most highly
coincides with note onsets".[21]
Afterbeat refers to a percussion style where a strong accent is sounded on the second,
third and fourth beats of the bar, following the downbeat.[10]
In Reggae music, the term One Drop reflects the complete de-emphasis (to the point of
silence) of the first beat in the cycle.
James Brown's signature funk groove emphasized the downbeat that is, with heavy
emphasis "on the one" (the first beat of every measure) to etch his distinctive sound,
rather than the back beat (familiar to many R&B musicians) which places the emphasis on
the second beat.[22][23][24]

Additive rhythm and divisive rhythm


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Divisive rhythm)

Additive and divisive meters.

In music, additive and divisive are terms used to distinguish two types of
both rhythm and meter.
A divisive (or, more commonly, multiplicative) rhythm is a rhythm in which a larger period of
time is divided into smaller rhythmic units or, conversely, some integer unit is regularly
multiplied into larger, equal units; this can be contrasted with additive rhythm, in which larger
periods of time are constructed by concatenating (joining end to end) a series of units into
larger units of unequal length, such as a 5/8 meter produced by the regular alternation of 2/8
and 3/8 (London 2001, I.8). When applied to meters, the terms "perfect" and "imperfect" are
sometimes used as the equivalents of "divisive" and "additive", respectively (Read 1964,
).
[page needed]

For example, 4 may be evenly divided by 2 (4/2 = 2) or reached through repeatedly adding 2
(2 + 2 = 4), while 5 is only evenly divisible by 5 and 1 (5/2 = 2.5; 5/3 = 1.66) and may be
reached by repeatedly adding 1 or 5 (2 + 2 = 4, 4 + 2 = 6; 3 + 3 = 6); thus 4/8 is divisive while
5/8 is additive.
The terms additive and divisive originate with Curt Sachs's book Rhythm and Tempo (1953)
(Agawu 2003, 86), while the term akshak rhythm was introduced for the former concept at
about the same time by Constantin Briloiu (1951), in agreement with the Turkish
musicologist Ahmed Adnan Saygun (Fracile 2003, 198). The relationship between additive and
divisive rhythms is complex, and the terms are often used in imprecise ways. Justin London
states in his article on rhythm in the second edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and
Musicians that "In discussions of rhythmic notation, practice or style, few terms are as
confusing or used as confusedly as additive and divisive. These confusions stem from two
misapprehensions. The first is a failure to distinguish between systems of notation (which may

have both additive and divisive aspects) and the music notated under such a system. The
second involves a failure to understand the divisive and additive aspects of metre itself"
(London 2001, I.8). Winold recommends that, "metric structure is best described through
detailed analysis of pulse groupings on various levels rather than through attempts to represent
the organization with a single term" (Winold 1975, 217).
Sub-Saharan African music and most European (Western) music is divisive, while Indian and
other Asian musics may be considered as primarily additive. However, many pieces of music
cannot be clearly labeled divisive or additive.
Contents
[hide]

1 Divisive rhythm
2 Additive rhythm
3 Sub-Saharan African rhythm
4 Tresillo: divisive and additive interpretations

o
o

4.1 Additive structure


4.2 Divisive structure

5 See also
6 References

Divisive rhythm[edit]

Divisive rhythm

Play (helpinfo): 1 whole note = 2 half notes = 4 quarter notes = 8 eighth notes = 16 sixteenth notes...

For example: 4/4 consist of one measure (whole note: 1) divided into a stronger first beat and
slightly less strong second beat (half notes: 12), which are in turn divided, by two weaker beats
(quarter notes: 1234), and again divided into still weaker beats (eighth notes: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &).

Additive rhythm[edit]

Additive rhythm

Play (helpinfo): 1 whole note = 8 eighth notes = 3 + 3 + 2.

Additive, as opposed to divisive, rhythm, features nonidentical or irregular durational groups


following one another at two levels, within the bar and between bars or groups of bars (Agawu
2003, 86)|. This type of rhythm is also referred to in musicological literature by the Turkish
word aksak, which means "limping" (Briloiu 1951; Fracile 2003, 198). In the special case
of time signatures in which the upper numeral is not divisible by two or three without a fraction,
the result may alternatively be called irregular, imperfect, or uneven meter, and the
groupings into twos and threes are sometimes called "long beats" and "short beats" (Beck and
Reiser 1998, 18182).
The term additive rhythm is also often used to refer to what are also incorrectly
called asymmetric rhythms and even irregular rhythms
that is, metres which have a
regular pattern of beats of uneven length. For example, the time signature 4/4 indicates
each bar is eight quavers long, and has four beats, each a crotchet (that is, two quavers) long.
The asymmetric time signature 3 + 3 + 2/8, on the other hand, while also having eight quavers
in a bar, divides them into three beats, the first three quavers long, the second three quavers
long, and the last just two quavers long. These kinds of rhythms are used, for example, by Bla
Bartk, who was influenced by similar rhythms in Bulgarian folk music, and in some music
ofPhilip Glass, and other minimalists, most noticeably the "one-two-one-two-three" chorus
parts in Einstein on the Beach. They may also occur in passing in pieces which are on the
whole in conventional metres.
[citation needed]

Sub-Saharan African rhythm[edit]


Main articles: Sub-Saharan African music traditions and Rhythm in Sub-Saharan African music
A divisive form of cross-rhythm is the basis for most Sub-Saharan African music traditions.
Rhythmic patterns are generated by simultaneously dividing a span of musical time by a triplebeat scheme and a duple-beat scheme.
In the development of cross rhythm, there are some selected rhythmic materials or beat
schemes that are customarily used. These beat schemes, in their generic forms, are simple
divisions of the same musical period in equal units, producing varying rhythmic densities or
motions. At the center of a core of rhythmic traditions within which the composer conveys his
ideas is the technique of cross-rhythm. The technique of cross-rhythm is a simultaneous use of
contrasting rhythmic patterns within the same scheme of accents or meter . . . By the very
nature of the desired resultant rhythm, the main beat scheme cannot be separated from the
secondary beat scheme. It is the interplay of the two elements that produces the crossrhythmic texture. (Ladzekpo 1995)
"the entire African rhythmic structure . . . is divisive in nature" Template:Harv=Novotney.
Do African musicians think additively? The evidence so far is that they do not. Writing in 1972
about the Yoruba version of the standard pattern, Kubik stated. There is no evidence that the
musicians themselves think it as additive. I have argued elsewhere that additive thinking is
foreign to many African musicians ways of proceeding. Then, too, there appears to be no
trace of an additive conception in the discourses of musicians, whether directly or indirectly.
It would seem, then, that whereas structural analysis (based on European metalanguage)
endorses an additive conception of the standard pattern, cultural analysis (originating in African
musicians thinking) denies it, no dancer thinks in cycles of 12 when interpreting the
standard pattern. The evidence of the rate at which the dance feet move is that 4, not 12, is the
reckoning that most closely approximates the regulative beat. what can be said for sure is
that the cycle of four beats is felt and thus relied upon. This is cultural knowledge that players
and especially dancers possess; without such knowledge, it is difficult to perform accurately
(Agawu 2003, 94).

The African rhythmic structure which generates the standard pattern is a divisive structure and
not an additive one the standard pattern represents a series of attack points that outline the
onbeat three-against-two / offbeat three-against-two sequence, not a series of durational
values". (Novotney 1998, 158)

Tresillo: divisive and additive interpretations[edit]


Main article: Tresillo (rhythm)
In divisive form, the strokes of tresillo contradict the beats. In additive form, the strokes of
tresillo are the beats. From a metrical perspective then, the two ways of perceiving tresillo
constitute two different rhythms. On the other hand, from the perspective of simply the pattern
of attack-points, tresillo is a shared element of traditional folk music from the northwest tip of
Africa to southeast tip of Asia.

Additive structure[edit]

Tresillo additive form

"Tresillo" is also found within a wide geographic belt stretching from Morocco in North Africa
to Indonesia in South Asia. Use of the pattern in Moroccan music can be traced back to slaves
brought north across the Sahara Desert from present-day Mali. This pattern may have
migrated east from North Africa to Asia through the spread of Islam (Pealosa 2009, 236). In
Middle East and Asian music the figure is generated through additive rhythm.

Divisive structure[edit]
The most basic duple-pulse figure found in the Music of Africa and music of the African
diaspora is a figure the Cubans call tresillo, a Spanish word meaning 'triplet' (three equal beats
in the same time as two main beats). However, in the vernacular of Cuban popular music, the
term refers to the figure shown below.

Tresillo divisive form.

Play (helpinfo)

African-based music has a divisive rhythm structure (Novotney 1998, 100). Tresillo is
generated through cross-rhythm: 8 pulses 3 = 2 cross-beats (consisting of three pulses
each), with a remainder of a partial cross-beat (spanning two pulses). In other
words, 8 3 = 2, r2. Tresillo is a cross-rhythmic fragment.
Because of its irregular pattern of attack-points, "tresillo" in African and African-based musics
has been mistaken for a form of additive rhythm.
Although the difference between the two ways of notating this rhythm may seem small, they
stem from fundamentally different conceptions. Those who wish to convey a sense of the
rhythms background [main beats], and who understand the surface morphology in relation to a
regular subsurface articulation, will prefer the divisive format. Those who imagine the addition
of three, then three, then two sixteenth notes will treat the well-formedness of 3 + 3 + 2 as

fortuitous, a product of grouping rather than of metrical structure. They will be tempted to deny
that African music has a bona fide metrical structure because of its frequent departures from
normative grouping structure. (Agawu 2003, 87)

Time signature

Simple example of a 3
4 time signature: here there are three (3) quarter-notes (4) per measure.

The time signature (also known as meter signature, metre signature, or measure
signature ) is a notational convention used inWestern musical notation to specify how
many beats (pulses) are to be contained in each bar and which note value is to be given one
beat. In a musical score, the time signature appears at the beginning of the piece, as a time
symbol or stacked numerals, such as or 3
4 (readcommon time and three four time, respectively), immediately following the key
signature or immediately following the clef symbol if the key signature is empty. A mid-score
time signature, usually immediately following a barline, indicates a change of meter.
[1]

[2]

[3]

There are various types of time signatures, depending on whether the music follows simple
rhythms or involves unusual shifting tempos, including: simple (such as 3
4 or 4
4), compound (e.g., 9
8 or 12
8), complex (e.g., 5
4 or 7
8), mixed (e.g., 5
8 & 3
8 or 6
8 or 3
4), additive (e.g., 3+2+3
8), fractional(e.g., 2
4), and irrational meters (e.g., 3
10 or 5
24).
Contents
[hide]

1 Simple time signatures

2 Compound time signatures

1.1 Notational variations in simple time

2.1 An example

3 Beat and time

o
o
o

3.1 Actual beat divisions


3.2 Interchangeability, rewriting meters
3.3 Stress and meter

4 Most frequent time signatures

5 Complex time signatures

6 Mixed meters

7 Variants

4.1 Video samples for the most frequent time signatures

5.1 Video samples for complex time signatures

6.1 Video samples for mixed meters

7.1 Additive meters

7.2 Other variants

7.1.1 Video samples for additive meters

8 Irrational meters

9 Early music usage

8.1 Video samples for irrational meters

o
o

9.1 Mensural time signatures


9.2 Proportions

10 See also
11 References
12 External links

Simple time signatures[edit]

Basic time signatures: 4


4, also known as common time (

); 2

2, also known as cut time or cut-common time (

); plus 2

4; 3
4; and 6
8

Simple time signatures consist of two numerals, one stacked above the other:

The lower numeral indicates the note value that represents one beat (the beat unit).
The upper numeral indicates how many such beats there are grouped together in a bar.

For instance, 2
4 means two quarter-note (crotchet) beats per bar3
8 means three eighth-note (quaver) beats per bar.
The most common simple time signatures are 2
4, 3
4, and 4
4.

Notational variations in simple time[edit]


The symbol is sometimes used for 4
4 time, also called common time or imperfect time. The symbol is derived from a broken
circleused in music notation from the 14th through 16th centuries, where a full circle
represented what today would be written in 3
2 or 3
time, and was called tempus perfectum (perfect time). The symbol is also a carry-over
from the notational practice of late-Medieval and Renaissance music, where it signified tempus
imperfectum diminutum (diminished imperfect time)more precisely, a doubling of the speed,
or proportio dupla, in duple meter. In modern notation, it is used in place of 2
2 and is called alla breve or, colloquially,cut time or cut common time.
4

[4]

[5]

Compound time signatures[edit]


Main article: Compound meter (music)
In compound meter, subdivisions of the main beat (the upper number) split into three, not two,
equal parts, so that a dotted note (half again longer than a regular note) becomes the beat unit.
Compound time signatures are named as if they were simple time signatures, in which the onethird part of the beat unit is the beat, so the top number is commonly 6, 9 or 12 (multiples of 3).
The lower number is most commonly an 8 (an eighth-note): as in 9
8 or 12
8.

An example[edit]
3

is a simple signature that represents three quarter notes. It has a basic feel of (Bold denotes
a stressed beat):
one two three (as in a waltz)
4

Each quarter note might comprise two eighth-notes (quavers) giving a total of six such
notes, but it still retains that three-in-a-bar feel:
one and two and three and
6

: Theoretically, this can be thought of as the same as the six-quaver form of 3


above with the only difference being that the eighth note is selected as the one-beat
unit. But whereas the six quavers in 3
4 had been in three groups of two, 6
8 is practically understood to mean that they are in two groups of three, with a two-in-abar feel (Bold denotes a stressed beat):
one and a, two and a
8
4

or
one two three, four five six

Beat and time[edit]


Time signatures indicating two beats per bar (whether it is simple or
compound) are called duple time; those with three beats to the bar are triple
time. To the ear, a bar may seem like one singular beat. For example, a fast
waltz, notated in 3

time, may be described as being one in a bar. Terms such


as quadruple (4), quintuple (5), and so on are also occasionally used.
4

Actual beat divisions[edit]


As mentioned above, though the score indicates a 3
4 time, the actual beat division can be the whole bar, particularly at faster
tempos. Correspondingly, at slow tempos the beat indicated by the time
signature could in actual performance be divided into smaller units.

Interchangeability, rewriting meters[edit]

3
4 equals 3
8 time at a different tempo

Play (helpinfo)

On a formal mathematical level the time signatures of, e.g., 3


4 and 3
8 are interchangeable. In a sense, all simple triple time signatures, such as 3
8, 3
4, 3
2, etc.and all compound duple times, such as 6
8, 6
16 and so on, are equivalent. A piece in 3
4 can be easily rewritten in 3
8, simply by halving the length of the notes. Other time signature rewritings are
possible: most commonly a simple time signature with triplets translates into a
compound meter.

12
8 equals 4
4 time at a different tempo and requires the use oftuplets

Play (helpinfo)

Though formally interchangeable, for a composer or performing musician,


different time signatures often have different connotations. First, a smaller
note value in the beat unit implies a more complex notation, which can affect
ease of performance. Second, beaming affects the choice of actual beat
divisions. It is, for example, more natural to use the quarter note/crotchet as a
beat unit in 6
4 or 2
2 than the eight/quaver in 6

or 2
. Third, time signatures are traditionally associated with different music
stylesit might seem strange to notate a rock tune in 4
8 or 4
2.
8
4

Stress and meter[edit]


For all meters, the first beat (the downbeat, ignoring any anacrusis) is usually
stressed (though not always, for example in reggae where the offbeats are
stressed); in time signatures with four groups in the bar (such as 4
4 and 12
8), the third beat is often also stressed, though to a lesser degree. This gives a
regular pattern of stressed and unstressed beats, though notes on stressed
beats are not necessarily louder or more important.

Most frequent time signatures[edit]


Simple time signatures

Common time: widely used in most forms of Western

4(quadruple popular music. Most common time signature in rock,

blues, country, funk, and pop[6]


Simple quadruple drum pattern: divides each of four beats into two
Play (helpinfo)

2
2 (duple)

Alla breve, cut time: used for marches and fast


orchestral music. Frequently occurs in musical
theater. Sometimes calledin 2, but may be notated in
4
Simple duple drum pattern (notated as 4
4): divides each of two beats into two

Never found in early music (which did not use numeric

2(quadruple time signatures), and rare since 1600, though Brahms

and other composers used it occasionally

Play (helpinfo)

2
4 (duple)

Used for polkas or marches

Simple duple drum pattern: divides each of two beats into two

3
4 (triple)

Used for waltzes, minuets, scherzi, country & western


ballads, R&B, sometimes used in pop

Simple triple drum pattern: divides each of three beats into two
Play (helpinfo)

3
8 (triple)

Also used for the above, but usually suggests higher


tempo or shorter hypermeter

Compound time signatures

6
8 (duple)

Double jigs,
polkas, sega, salegy, tarantella, marches, barcarolles, I
rish jigs, loures, and some rock music

Compound duple drum pattern: divides each of two beats into three
Play (helpinfo)

9
8 (triple)

Compound triple time, used in triple ("slip") jigs,


otherwise occurring rarely (The Ride of the
Valkyries, Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, and the
final movement of the Bach Violin Concerto in A minor
(BWV 1041)[7] are familiar examples.Debussy's Clair de
lune and Prlude l'aprs-midi d'un faune (opening
bars) are in 9
8)

Compound triple drum pattern: divides each of three beats into three
Play (helpinfo)

Also common in slower blues (where it is called


a shuffle) and doo-wop; also used more recently in
rock music. Can also be heard in some jigs like The
8(quadruple
Irish Washerwoman. This is also the time signature of
)
the Movement II By the Brook of
Beethoven's Symphony No 6 (the Pastoral)
12

Compound quadruple drum pattern: divides each of four beats into three
Play (helpinfo)

Video samples for the most frequent time signatures [edit]


For larger versions of the videos, click play, then go to More than About this
file

2/4 at a tempo of 60 bpm

6/8 at tempo of 90 bpm

3/4 at a tempo of 60 bpm

4/4 at a tempo of 60 bpm

9/8 at tempo of 90 bpm

12/8 at tempo of 90 bpm

Complex time signatures[edit]


See also: List of musical works in unusual time signatures, Quintuple
meter and Septuple meter

Signatures that do not fit the usual duple or triple categories are
called complex, asymmetric, irregular, unusual, or oddthough these are
broad terms, and usually a more specific description is appropriate.
The
term odd meter, however, sometimes describes time signatures in which the
upper number is simply odd rather than even, including 3
4 and 9
8. These more complex meters are common in some non-Western music, but
rarely appeared in formal written Western music until the 19th century. The
first deliberate quintuple meter pieces were apparently published in Spain
between 1516 and 1520, though other authorities reckon that the Delphic
Hymns to Apollo (one by Athenaeus is entirely in quintuple meter, the other
by Limenius predominantly so), carved on the exterior walls of the Athenian
Treasury at Delphi in 128 BC, are probably earlier. The third movement
(Larghetto) of Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 1 (1828) is an early, but by no
means the earliest, example of 5
4 time in solo piano music. Reicha's Fugue 20 from his Thirty-six Fugues,
published in 1803, is also for piano and is in 5
8. The waltz-like second movement of Tchaikovsky's Pathtique Symphony,
often described as a limping waltz, is a notable example of 5
4 time in orchestral music. Examples from the 20th century include
Holst's Mars, the Bringer of War and Neptune, the Mystic (both in 5
4) from the orchestral suite The Planets, Paul Hindemith's Fugue Secunda in
G,(5
8) from Ludus Tonalis, the ending of Stravinsky's Firebird (7
4), the fugue from Heitor Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras No. 9 (11
8) and the Mission Impossible theme by Lalo Schifrin (also in 5
4).
[citation needed]

[8]

[8]

[9]

[10]

In the Western popular music tradition, unusual time signatures occur as well,
with progressive rock in particular making frequent use of them. The use of
shifting meters in The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" (1967) and the use
of quintuple meter in their "Within You, Without You" (1967) are well-known
examples, as is Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" (includes 7
8).
[11]

[12]

Paul Desmond's jazz composition Take Five, in 5


4 time, was one of a number of irregular-meter compositions that The Dave
Brubeck Quartet played. They played other compositions in 11
4 (Eleven Four), 7
4 (Unsquare Dance)and 9
8 (Blue Rondo la Turk), expressed as 2+2+2+3
8. This last is an example of a work in a signature that, despite appearing
merely compound triple, is actually more complex.
However, such time signatures are only unusual in most Western music.
Traditional music of the Balkans uses such meters extensively. Bulgarian
dances, for example, include forms with 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 22, 25 and other
numbers of beats per measure. These rhythms are notated as additive
rhythms based on simple units, usually 2, 3 and 4 beats, though the notation
fails to describe the metric "time bending" taking place, or compound meters.
For example, the Bulgarian Sedi Donka consists of 25 beats divided 7+7+11,
where 7 is subdivided 3+2+2 and 11 is subdivided 2+2+3+2+2 or 4+3+4.
See Variants below.
[citation

needed]

Video samples for complex time signatures[edit]

5/4 at 60 bpm

7/4 at 60 bpm

11/4 at 60 bpm

Rhythm of Blue Rondo La Turk - consists of three measures of 2+2+2+3 followed by one measure of 3 + 3 + 3 and the cycle then repeats. Taking
the smallest time unit as eighth notes, the arrows on the tempo dial show the tempi for , , . and the measure beat. Starts slow, speeds up to usual
tempo

Mixed meters[edit]
While time signatures usually express a regular pattern of beat stresses
continuing through a piece (or at least a section), sometimes composers place
a different time signature at the beginning of each bar, resulting in music with
an extremely irregular rhythmic feel. In this case the time signatures are an aid
to the performers, and not necessarily an indication of meter. The Promenade
from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) is a good example:

Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition Promenade

Play (helpinfo)

Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913) is famous for its "savage"
rhythms:

In such cases, a convention that some composers follow (e.g., Olivier


Messiaen, in his La Nativit du Seigneur and Quatuor pour la fin du
temps) is to simply omit the time signature. Charles Ives's Concord
Sonata has measure bars for select passages, but the majority of the
work is unbarred.
Some pieces have no time signature, as there is no discernible meter.
This is commonly known as free time. Sometimes one is provided
(usually 4
4) so that the performer finds the piece easier to read, and simply has
'free time' written as a direction. Sometimes the word FREE is written
downwards on the staff to indicate the piece is in free time. Erik
Satie wrote many compositions that are ostensibly in free time, but
actually follow an unstated and unchanging simple time signature.
Later composers used this device effectively, writing music almost
devoid of a discernibly regular pulse.
If two time signatures alternate repeatedly, sometimes the two
signatures are placed together at the beginning of the piece or
section, as shown below:

Detail of score of Tchaikovsky's string quartet #2 in F major, showing a multiple time signature

Video samples for mixed meters[edit]

Flamenco Buleras with emphasis as [12] 1 2 [3] 4 5 [6] 7 [8] 9 [10]11

Variants[edit]
Additive meters[edit]
To indicate more complex patterns of stresses, such as additive
rhythms, more complex time signatures can be used. Additive
meters have a pattern of beats that subdivide into smaller,
irregular groups. Such meters are sometimes called imperfect, in
contradistinction to perfect meters, in which the bar is first divided
into equal units.
[13]

For example, the signature

which can be written (3+2+3)/8, means that there are 8


quaver beats in the bar, divided as the first of a group of three
eighth notes (quavers) that are stressed, then the first of a
group of two, then first of a group of three again. The stress
pattern is usually counted as one-two-three-one-two-onetwo-three. This kind of time signature is commonly used to
notate folk and non-Western types of music. In classical
music, Bla Bartk and Olivier Messiaen have used such time
signatures in their works. The first movement of Maurice
Ravel's Piano Trio in A Minor is written in 8
8, in which the beats are likewise subdivided into 3 + 2 + 3 to
reflect Basque dance rhythms.
Romanian musicologist Constantin Briloiu had a special
interest in compound time signatures, developed while

studying the traditional music of certain regions in his country.


While investigating the origins of such unusual meters, he
learned that they were even more characteristic of the
traditional music of neighboring peoples (e.g.,
the Bulgarians). He suggested that such timings can be
regarded as compounds of simple two-beat and three-beat
meters, where an accent falls on every first beat, even
though, for example inBulgarian music, beat lengths of 1, 2,
3, 4 are used in the metric description. In addition, when
focused only on stressed beats, simple time signatures can
count as beats in a slower, compound time. However, there
are two different-length beats in this resulting compound time,
a one half-again longer than the short beat (or conversely, the
short beat is / the value of the long). This type of meter is
called aksak (the Turkish word for "limping"), impeded, jolting,
or shaking, and is described as an irregular bichronic rhythm.
A certain amount of confusion for Western musicians is
inevitable, since a measure they would likely regard as 7
16, for example, is a three-beat measure in aksak, with one
long and two short beats (with subdivisions of 2+2+3, 2+3+2,
or 3+2+2).
2

[14]

Folk music may make use of metric time bends, so that the
proportions of the performed metric beat time lengths differ
from the exact proportions indicated by the metric. Depending
on playing style of the same meter, the time bend can vary
from non-existent to considerable; in the latter case, some
musicologists may want to assign a different meter. For
example, the Bulgarian tune Eleno Mome is written as
7=2+2+1+2, 13=4+4+2+3, 12=3+4+2+3, but an actual
performance (e.g., Smithsonian Eleno Mome) may be closer
to 4+4+2+3.5. The Macedonian 3+2+2+3+2 meter is even
more complicated, with heavier time bends, and use of
quadruples on the threes. The metric beat time proportions
may vary with the speed that the tune is played. The
Swedish Boda Polska (Polska from the parish Boda) has a
typical elongated second beat.
In Western classical music, metric time bend is used in the
performance of the Viennese Waltz. Most Western music
uses metric ratios of 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1 (two-, three- or four-beat
time signatures)in other words, integer ratios that make all
beats equal in time length. So, relative to that, 3:2 and 4:3
ratios correspond to very distinctive metric rhythm profiles.
Complex accentuation occurs in Western music, but
as syncopation rather than as part of the metric
accentuation.
[citation needed]

Briloiu borrowed a term from Turkish medieval music


theory: aksak (Turkish for crippled). Such compound time
signatures fall under the "aksak rhythm" category that he
introduced along with a couple more that should describe the
rhythm figures in traditional music. The term Briloiu revived
had moderate success worldwide, but in Eastern Europe it is
still frequently used. However, aksak rhythm figures occur not
[15]

only in a few European countries, but on all continents,


featuring various combinations of the two and three
sequences. The longest are in Bulgaria. The shortest aksak
rhythm figures follow the five-beat timing, comprising a two
and a three (or three and two).
Video samples for additive meters

[edit]

Time Signature 3 + 2 + 3 at 120 bpm

Other variants[edit]
Some composers have used fractional beats: for example,
the time signature 2
4 appears in Carlos Chvez's Piano Sonata No. 3 (1928) IV,
m. 1.

Example of Orff's time signatures

Music educator Carl Orff proposed replacing the lower


number of the time signature with an actual note image, as
shown at right. This system eliminates the need for
compound time signatures (described above), which are
confusing to beginners. While this notation has not been
adopted by music publishers generally (except in Orff's own
compositions), it is used extensively in music education
textbooks. Similarly, American composers George
Crumb and Joseph Schwantner, among others, have used
this system in many of their works.
Another possibility is to extend the barline where a time
change is to take place above the top instrument's line in a
score and to write the time signature there, and there only,
saving the ink and effort that would have been spent writing it
in each instrument's staff. Henryk Grecki's Beatus Vir is an
example of this. Alternatively, music in a large score
sometimes has time signatures written as very long, thin
numbers covering the whole height of the score rather than

replicating it on each staff; this is an aid to the conductor, who


can see signature changes more easily.

Irrational meters[edit]
These are time signatures, used for so-called irrational bar
lengths, that have a denominator that is not a power of two
(1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.) (or, mathematically speaking, is not
a dyadic rational). These are based on beats expressed in
terms of fractions of full beats in the prevailing tempofor
example 3
10 or 5
24.
For example, where 4
4 implies a bar construction of four quarter-parts of a whole
note (i.e., four quarter notes), 4
3 implies a bar construction of four third-parts of it. These
signatures are only of utility when juxtaposed with other
signatures with varying denominators; a piece written entirely
in 4
3, say, could be more legibly written out in 4
4.
[16]

[16]

Metric modulation is "a somewhat distant analogy". It is


arguable whether the use of these signatures makes metric
relationships clearer or more obscure to the musician; it is
always possible to write a passage using non-irrational
signatures by specifying a relationship between some note
length in the previous bar and some other in the succeeding
one. Sometimes, successive metric relationships between
bars are so convoluted that the pure use of irrational
signatures would quickly render the notation extremely hard
to penetrate. Good examples, written entirely in conventional
signatures with the aid of between-bar specified metric
relationships, occur a number of times in John Adams'
operaNixon in China (1987), where the sole use of irrational
signatures would quickly produce massive numerators and
denominators.
[16]

[citation needed]

Historically, this device has been prefigured wherever


composers wrote tuplets. For example, a 2
4 bar of 3 triplet crotchets could arguably be written as a bar
of 3
6.
Henry Cowell's piano piece Fabric (1920) employs
separate divisions of the bar (anything from 1 to 9) for the
three contrapuntal parts, using a scheme of shaped note
heads to visually clarify the differences, but the pioneering of
these signatures is largely due to Brian Ferneyhough, who
says that he "find[s] that such 'irrational' measures serve as a
useful buffer between local changes of event density and
actual changes of base tempo. Thomas Ads has also used
them extensivelyfor example in Traced Overhead(1996),
the second movement of which contains, among more
conventional meters, bars in such signatures as 2
6, 9
[citation needed]

[16]

14
24

and 5
.

A gradual process of diffusion into less rarefied musical


circles seems underway. For example, John Pickard's Eden,
commissioned for the 2005 finals of the National Brass Band
Championships of Great Britain contains bars of 3
10.
[citation needed]

Notationally, rather than using Cowell's elaborate series of


notehead shapes, the same convention has been invoked as
when normal tuplets are written; for example, one beat in4
5 is written as a normal quarter note, four quarter notes
complete the bar, but the whole bar lasts only / of a
reference whole note, and a beat / of one (or / of a normal
quarter note). This is notated in exactly the same way that
one would write if one were writing the first four quarter notes
of five quintuplet quarter notes.
4

This article uses irrational in the music theory sense, not the
mathematical sense, where an irrational number is one
that cannot be written as a ratio of whole numbers. However,
at least one compositionConlon Nancarrow's Studies for
Player Pianouses a time signature that is irrational in the
mathematical sense. The piece contains a canon with a part
augmented in the ratio 42:1 (approximately 6.48:1).

Video samples for irrational meters[edit]


These video samples show two time signatures combined to
make a polymeter, since 4
3, say, in isolation, is identical to 4
4.

Polymeter 4
4 and 4
3 played together Has three beats of 4
3 to four beats of 4

Polymeter 2

Polymeter 2

6 and 3

5 and 2

4 played together

3 played together

Has six beats of 2

Has five beats of 2

6 to four beats of 3

5 to three beats of 2

3. The displayed numbers count the

underlying polyrhythm, which is 5:3

Early music usage[edit]


Mensural time signatures[edit]
In the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period in
which mensural notation was used, four basic mensuration
signs determined the proportion between the two main units
of rhythm. There were no measure or bar lines in music of this
period; these signs, the ancestors of modern time signatures,
indicate the ratio of duration between different note values.
The relation between the breve and the semibreve was
called tempus, and the relation between the semibreve and
the minim was called prolatio. The breve and the semibreve
use roughly the same symbols as our modern double whole
note (breve) and whole note (semibreve), but they were not
limited to the same proportional values as are in use today.
There are complicated rules concerning how a breve is
sometimes three and sometimes two semibreves. Unlike
modern notation, the duration ratios between these different
values was not always 2:1; it could be either 2:1 or 3:1, and
that is what, amongst other things, these mensuration signs
indicated. A ratio of 3:1 was called complete, perhaps a
reference to the Trinity, and a ratio of 2:1 was
called incomplete.
A circle used as a mensuration sign indicated tempus
perfectum (a circle being a symbol of completeness), while an
incomplete circle, resembling a letter C, indicated tempus
imperfectum. Assuming the breve is a beat, this corresponds
to the modern concepts of triple meter and duple meter,
respectively. In either case, a dot in the center
indicatedprolatio perfecta while the absence of such a dot
indicated prolatio imperfecta, corresponding to simple
meter and compound meter.
A rough equivalence of these signs to modern meters would
be:

corresponds to 9
meter;
corresponds to 3
4 meter;
corresponds to 6
8 meter;
corresponds to 2
4 meter.
8

N.B.: in modern compound meters the beat is a dotted note


value, such as a dotted quarter, because the ratios of the
modern note value hierarchy are always 2:1. Dotted notes

were never used in this way in the mensural period; the main
beat unit was always a simple (undotted) note value.

Proportions[edit]
Another set of signs in mensural notation specified the metric
proportions of one section to another, similar to a metric
modulation. A few common signs are shown:
[17]

tempus imperfectum diminutum, 1:2 proportion (twice


as fast);

tempus perfectum diminutum, 1:2 proportion (twice as


fast);

or just
proportio tripla, 1:3 proportion (three times
as fast, similar to triplets).

Often the ratio was expressed as two numbers, one above


the other, looking similar to a modern time signature, though
it could have values such as 4
3, which a conventional time signature could not.
[18]

Some proportional signs were not used consistently from one


place or century to another. In addition, certain composers
delighted in creating "puzzle" compositions that were
intentionally difficult to decipher.
In particular, when the sign
was encountered,
the tactus (beat) changed from the usual semibreve to
the breve, a circumstance called alla breve. This term has
been sustained to the present day, and though now it means
the beat is a minim (half note), in contradiction to the literal
meaning of the phrase, it still indicates that the beat has
changed to a longer note value.

Polyrhythm
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2:3 Polyrhythm (cross rhythm) as bounce inside oval

Polyrhythm: Triplets over duplets in all four beats[1] (

Play (helpinfo))

Polyrhythm is the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms, that are not readily
perceived as deriving from one another, or as simple manifestations of the same meter. The
rhythmic conflict may be the basis of an entire piece of music (cross-rhythm), or a momentary
disruption. Polyrhythms can be distinguished from irrational rhythms, which can occur within
the context of a single part; polyrhythms require at least two rhythms to be played concurrently,
one of which is typically an irrational rhythm.
[2]

[3]

Contents
[hide]

1 In western art music

o
o
o

1.3 Composite hemiola

3 Sub-Saharan African music traditions


3.1 Comparing European and Sub-Saharan African meter
3.2 The generating principle
3.3 Adaptive instruments

4 Jazz

o
o

1.2 Polyrhythm, not polymeter

2 Cross-rhythm

o
o
o

1.1 Hemiola

4.1 3:2 cross-rhythm


4.2 2:3 cross-rhythm

5 In popular music
6 Examples
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links

In western art music[edit]


In some European art music, polyrhythm periodically contradicts the prevailing meter. For
example, polyrhythm is heard in the first few minutes of Beethoven's Third Symphonyand in
the first movement of Brahms's Violin Concerto.
[citation needed]

Hemiola[edit]
Concerning the use of a two-over-three (2:3) hemiola in Beethoven's Sixth String Quartet,
Ernest Walker states, "The vigorously effective Scherzo is in 3/4 time, but with a curiously
persistent cross-rhythm that does its best to persuade us that it is really in 6/8."
[4]

Polyrhythm, not polymeter[edit]


The illusion of simultaneous 3/4 and 6/8, suggests polymeter: triple meter combined
with compound duple meter.

Polymeter

However, the two beat schemes interact within a metric hierarchy (a single meter). The triple
beats are primary and the duple beats are secondary; the duple beats are cross-beats within a
triple beat scheme.

Two-over-three (2:3) written within the proper metric structure.

Composite hemiola[edit]
The four-note ostinato pattern of Mykola Leontovych's "Carol of the Bells" is the composite of
the two-against-three hemiola.

The signature repeating four-note motif is the composite of the 2:3 hemiola.

Play (helpinfo)

Another example of polyrhythm can be found in measures 64 and 65 of the first movement
of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Twelfth Piano Sonata. Three evenly-spaced sets of three
attack-points span two measures.

Mozart piano sonata K332 excerpt.

Cross-rhythm[edit]
Cross-rhythm refers to systemic polyrhythm. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music states that
cross-rhythm is: "A rhythm in which the regular pattern of accents of the prevailing meter is
contradicted by a conflicting pattern and not merely a momentary displacement that leaves the
prevailing meter fundamentally unchallenged" (1986: 216). The physical basis of crossrhythms can be described in terms of interference of different periodicities.
[5]

[6]

A simple example of a cross-rhythm is 3 evenly-spaced notes against 2 (3:2), also known as


a hemiola. Two simple and common ways to express this pattern in standard western musical
notation would be 3 quarter notes over 2 dotted quarter notes within one bar of 6/8 time,
quarter note triplets over 2 quarter notes within one bar of 2/4 time. Other cross-rhythms are
4:3 (with 4 dotted eight notes over 3 quarter notes within a bar of 3/4 time as an example in
standard western musical notation), 5:2, 5:3, 5:4, etc.

Representation of 4 beats parallel to 5 beats

There is a parallel between cross rhythms and musical intervals: in an audible frequency
range, the 2:3 ratio produces the musical interval of a perfect fifth, the 3:4 ratio produces
a perfect fourth, and the 4:5 ratio produces amajor third. All these interval ratios are found in
the harmonic series.

Sub-Saharan African music traditions[edit]


Comparing European and Sub-Saharan African meter[edit]
In traditional European ("Western") rhythms, the most fundamental parts typically emphasize
the primary beats. By contrast, in rhythms of sub-Saharan African origin, the most fundamental
parts typically emphasize the secondary beats. This often causes the uninitiated ear to
misinterpret the secondary beats as the primary beats, and to hear the true primary beats as
cross-beats. In other words, the musical "background" and "foreground" may mistakenly be
heard and felt in reversePealosa (2009: 21).
[7]

The generating principle[edit]


In Sub-Saharan African music traditions, cross-rhythm is the generating principle; the meter is
in a permanent state of contradiction. Cross-rhythm was first explained as the basis of subSaharan rhythm in lectures by C.K. Ladzekpo and the writings of David Locke.
From the philosophical perspective of the African musician, cross-beats can symbolize the
challenging moments or emotional stress we all encounter. Playing cross-beats while fully
grounded in the main beats, prepares one for maintaining a life-purpose while dealing with
life's challenges. Many sub-Saharan languages do not have a word for rhythm, or even music.
From the African viewpoint, the rhythms represent the very fabric of life itself; they are an
embodiment of the people, symbolizing interdependence in human relationshipsPealosa
(2009: 21).
[8]

At the center of a core of rhythmic traditions within which the composer conveys his ideas is
the technique of cross-rhythm. The technique of cross-rhythm is a simultaneous use of
contrasting rhythmic patterns within the same scheme of accents or meter... By the very nature
of the desired resultant rhythm, the main beat scheme cannot be separated from the
secondary beat scheme. It is the interplay of the two elements that produces the crossrhythmic textureLadzekpo (1995).
[9]

Eugene Novotney observes: "The 3:2 relationship (and [its] permutations) is the foundation of
most typical polyrhythmic textures found in West African musics." 3:2 is
thegenerative or theoretic form of sub-Saharan rhythmic principles. Victor Kofi
Agawu succinctly states, "[The] resultant [3:2] rhythm holds the key to understanding... there is
no independence here, because 2 and 3 belong to a single Gestalt."
[10]

[11]

Three-over-two cross-rhythm.

Play (helpinfo)

The two beat schemes interact within the hierarchy of a single meter. The duple beats are
primary and the triple beats are secondary. [Watch: Stepping to the primary beats within 3:2
cross-rhythm. Afro-Cuban Obatal dance (Marta Ruiz).] The example below shows the African
3:2 cross-rhythm within its proper metric structure.

African three-over-two cross-rhythm written within the standard western metric scheme.

The music of African Xylophones such as the balafon and gyil is often based on cross-rhythm.
In the following example, a Ghanaian gyil sounds a 3:2-based ostinato melody. The left hand
(lower notes) sounds the two main beats, while the right hand (upper notes) sounds the three
cross-beats. The cross-beats are written as quarter-notes for visual emphasis.
[12]

Ghanaian gyil sounds 3:2 cross-rhythm.

Play (helpinfo)

The following notated example is from the kushaura part of the traditional mbira piece "Nhema
Mussasa". The mbira is a lamellophone. The left hand plays the ostinato bass line while the
right hand plays the upper melody. The composite melody is an embellishment of the 3:2
cross-rhythm.
[13]

Kushaura mbira part for "Nhema Mussasa".

Play (helpinfo)

Adaptive instruments[edit]
Sub-Saharan instruments are constructed in a variety of ways to generate polyrhythmic
melodies. Some instruments organize the pitches in a uniquely divided alternate array, not in
the straight linear bass to treble structure that is so common to many western instruments such
as the piano, harp, or marimba.

Hugh Tracey Treble Kalimba

Lamellophones including mbira, mbila, mbira huru, mbira njari, mbira nyunga, marimba,
karimba, kalimba, likembe, and okeme. This family of instruments are found in several forms
indigenous to different regions of Africa and most often have equal tonal ranges for right and
left hands. The kalimba is a modern version of these instruments originated by the pioneer
ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in the early 20th century which has over the years gained
world-wide popularity.

Signature SeriesGravikord

Chordophones, such as the West African kora, and Doussn'gouni, part of the harp-lute family
of instruments, also have this African separated double tonal array structure.
Another
instrument, the Marovany from Madagascar is a double sided box zither which also employs
this divided tonal structure.
[clarification needed]

The Gravikord is a new American instrument closely related to both the African kora and the
kalimba was created in the latter 20th century to also exploit this adaptive principle in a modern
electro-acoustic instrument.
[14]

On these instruments, one hand of the musician is not primarily in the bass nor the other
primarily in the treble, but both hands can play freely across the entire tonal range of the
instrument. Also, the fingers of each hand can play separate independent rhythmic patterns,
and these can easily cross over each other from treble to bass and back, either smoothly or
with varying amounts of syncopation. This can all be done within the same tight tonal range,
without the left and right hand fingers ever physically encountering each other. These simple
rhythms will interact musically to produce complex cross rhythms including repeating on
beat/off beat pattern shifts that would be very difficult to create by any other means. This
characteristically African structure allows often simple playing techniques to combine with each
other to produce polyrhythmic music.

Jazz[edit]
3:2 cross-rhythm[edit]
Polyrhythm is a staple of modern jazz. Although not as common, use of systemic crossrhythm is also found in jazz. In 1959, Mongo Santamaria recorded "Afro Blue," the first jazz
standard built upon a typical African 6:4 cross-rhythm (two cycles of 3:2). The song begins
with the bass repeatedly playing 6 cross-beats per each measure of 12/8 (6:4). The following
example shows the original ostinato "Afro Blue" bass line. The slashed noteheads indicate the
main beats, where you would normally tap your foot to "keep time."
[15]

"Afro Blue" bass line, with main beats indicated by slashed noteheads.

2:3 cross-rhythm[edit]
The famous jazz drummer Elvin Jones took the opposite approach, superimposing two crossbeats over every measure of a 3/4 jazz waltz (2:3). This swung 3/4 is perhaps the most

common example of overt cross-rhythm in jazz. In 1963 John Coltrane recorded "Afro Blue"
with Elvin Jones on drums. Coltrane reversed the metric hierarchy of Santamaria's
composition, performing it instead in 3/4 swing (2:3).
[16]

[17][18]

In popular music[edit]
Nigerian percussion master Babatunde Olatunji arrived on the American music scene in 1959
with his album Drums of Passion, which was a collection of traditional Nigerianmusic for
percussion and chanting. The album stayed on the charts for two years and had a profound
impact on jazz and American popular music. Trained in the Yoruba sakarastyle of drumming,
Olatunji would have a major impact on Western popular music. He went on to teach,
collaborate and record with numerous jazz and rock artists, including Airto Moreira, Carlos
Santana and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. Olatunji reached his greatest popularity during
the height of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and '70s.
Afro-Cuban music makes extensive use of polyrhythms. Cuban Rumba uses 3-based and 2based rhythms at the same time, for example, the lead drummer (playing the quinto) might play
in 6/8, while the rest of the ensemble keeps playing 2/2. Afro-Cuban conguero,
or conga player, Mongo Santamara was another percussionist whose polyrhythmic virtuosity
helped transform both jazz and popular music. Santamaria fused Afro-Latin rhythms
with R&B and jazz as a bandleader in the 1950s, and was featured in the 1994 album Buena
Vista Social Club, which was the inspiration for the like-titled documentary released five years
later.
Among the most sophisticated polyrhythmic music in the world is south Indian
classical Carnatic music. A kind of rhythmic solfege called konnakol is used as a tool to
construct highly complex polyrhythms and to divide each beat of a pulse into various
subdivisions, with the emphasised beat shifting from beat cycle to beat cycle.
Common polyrhythms found in jazz are 3:2, which manifests as the quarter-note triplet; 2:3,
usually in the form of dotted-quarter notes against quarter notes; 4:3, played as dotted-eighth
notes against quarter notes (this one demands some technical proficiency to perform
accurately, and was not at all common in jazz before Tony Williams used it when playing
with Miles Davis); and finally 3/4 time against 4/4, which along with 2:3 was used famously
by Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner playing with John Coltrane.
The Beatles used polyrhythm in their 1968 song "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (from the White
Album). The song also changes time signature frequently. The Beatles use polyrhythm again
on Abbey Road's "Mean Mr. Mustard".
[19]

[20]

Jimi Hendrix had the distinct ability to play polyrhythmic melodies on his guitar during live
concerts and jam sessions.
This ability was facilitated by the impressive length and size
of his hands, and his unorthodox fretting method, in which he would maintain rhythm and lead
melodies while using his thumb to fret underlying basslines. Examples are live concerts from
1968 to 1970, in particular a performance of "Killing Floor" live at Winterland 1968, an
Improvisation during Woodstock 1969, a solo guitar jam for his song titled "Valleys of
Neptune", among several other recordings.
[citation needed]

Frank Zappa, especially towards the end of his career, experimented with complex
polyrhythms, such as 11:17, and even nested polyrhythms (see "The Black Page" for an
example). The metal bands Meshuggah, Nothingface, Periphery, Threat Signal, Lamb of
God, Textures and TesseracT also use polyrhythms in their music.
Contemporary progressive metal bands such as Tool, Animals as Leaders, Between the
Buried and Me and Dream Theater also incorporate polyrhythms in their music, and
polyrhythms have also been increasingly heard in technical metal bands such as Ion
Dissonance, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Necrophagist, Candiria, The
[citation

needed]

Contortionist andTextures.
Much minimalist and totalist music makes extensive use of
polyrhythms. Henry Cowell and Conlon Nancarrow created music with yet more complex
polytempo and using irrational numbers like pi:e.
[citation needed]

[citation needed]

King Crimson used polyrhythms extensively in their 1981 album Discipline. Above all Bill
Bruford used polyrhythmic drumming throughout his career.
[citation needed]

The band Queen used polyrhythm in their 1974 song "The March of the Black Queen" with 8/8
and 12/8 time signatures.
[21]

Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor uses polyrhythm frequently. One notable appearance
is in the song "La Mer" from the album The Fragile. The piano holds a 3/4 riff while the drums
and bass back it with a standard 4/4 signature.
Talking Heads' Remain in Light used
dense polyrhythms throughout the album, most notably on the song "The Great Curve".
[citation needed]

[citation needed]

Megadeth frequently tends to use polyrhythm in its drumming, notably from songs such as
"Sleepwalker" or the ending of "My Last Words", which are both played in 2:3.
[citation needed]

Carbon Based Lifeforms have a song named "Polyrytmi", Finnish for "polyrhythm", on their
album Interloper. This song indeed does use polyrhythms in its melody.
[22][citation needed]

Japanese girl group Perfume made use of the technique in their single, appropriately
titled Polyrhythm, included on their second album Game. The bridge of the song incorporates
5/8, 6/8 in the vocals, common time (4/4) and 3/2 in the drums.
[23]

The Britney Spears single "Till the World Ends" (released March 2011) uses a 4:3 crossrhythm in its hook.
[24]

The outro of the song "Animals" from the album The 2nd Law by the band Muse uses 5/4 and
4/4 time signatures for the guitar and drums respectively.
The Aaliyah song "Quit Hatin" uses 9/8 against 4/4 in the chorus.
The Japanese idol group 3776 makes use of polyrhythm in a number of their songs, most
notably on their 2014 mini-album "Love Letter", which features five songs that all include
several rhythmic references to the number 3776. A secret track on the album has the group's
leader, Ide Chiyono, explain some of the uses of polyrhythm to the listener.

Examples[edit]
The following is an example of a 3 against 2 polyrhythm, given in time unit box system (TUBS)
notation; each box represents a fixed unit of time; time progresses from the left of the diagram
to the right. It is in bad form to teach a student to play 3/2 polyrhythms as simply quarter note,
eighth note, eighth note, quarter note. The proper way is to establish sound bases for both the
quarter-notes, and the triplet-quarters, and then to layer them upon each other, forming
multiple rhythms. Beats are indicated with an X; rests are indicated with a blank.
3 against 2 polyrhythm

3-beat rhythm X

2-beat rhythm X

A common memory aid to help with the 3 against 2 polyrhythm is that it has the same rhythm
as the phrase "not difficult"; the simultaneous beats occur on the word "not"; the second and

third of the triple beat land on "dif" and "cult", respectively. The second 2-beat lands on the "fi"
in "difficult." Try saying "not difficult" over and over in time with the sound file above. This will
emphasize the "3 side" of the 3 against 2 feel. Now try saying the phrase "not a problem",
stressing the syllables "not" and "prob-". This will emphasize the "2 side" of the 3 against 2
feel. More phrases with the same rhythm are "cold cup of tea", "four funny frogs", "come, if you
please".

Similar phrases for the 4 against 3 polyrhythm are "pass the golden butter" or "pass the
goddamn butter" and "what atrocious weather"; The 4 against 3 polyrhythm is shown below.
[1]

[25]

4 against 3 polyrhythm

4-beat rhythm X

3-beat rhythm X

A 3 against 4
polyrhythm
Polyrhythm 4/4 with 3/4 simultaneously (cross rhythm) as bounce inside oval
MENU
0:00

Problems playing this file?

See media help.

As can be seen from above, the counting for polyrhythms is determined by the lowest common
multiple, so if one wishes to count 2 against 3, one needs to count a total of 6 beats, as
lcm(2,3) = 6 (123456 and 123456). However this is only useful for very simple polyrhythms, or
for getting a feel for more complex ones, as the total number of beats rises quickly. To count 4
against 5, for example, requires a total of 20 beats, and counting thus slows the tempo
considerably. However some players, such as classical Indian musicians, can intuitively play
high polyrhythms such as 7 against 8.
[citation needed]

Polyrhythms are quite common in late Romantic Music and 20th century classical music.
Works for keyboard often set odd rhythms against one another in separate hands. A good
example is in the soloist's cadenza in Grieg's Concerto in A Minor; the left hand
plays arpeggios of seven notes to a beat; the right hand plays an ostinato of eight notes per
beat while also playing the melody in octaves, which uses whole notes, dotted eighth notes,
and triplets. Other instances occur often in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.
The
piano arpeggios that constitute much of the soloist's material in the first movement often have
anywhere from four to eleven notes per beat. In the last movement, the piano's opening run,
marked 'quasi glissando', fits 52 notes into the space of one measure, making for a glissandolike effect while keeping the mood of the music. Other instances in this movement include a
scale that juxtaposes ten notes in the right hand against four in the left, and one of the main
themes in the piano, which imposes an eighth-note melody on a triplet harmony. Another
example is the fluid 7:3 polyrhythm at the beginning of Charles Griffes' The White Peacock.
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