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Summary Article: metre
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In music, refers to the number and value of the beats in a bar of music. It is also known as time. Metre is different from rhythm in that it is regular (although the number can change as in the additive metres of African music and the works of Olivier Messiaen), whereas rhythm is irregular.

The metre or time of the music may be: duple, two beats to a bar; triple, three beats to a bar; quadruple, four beats to a bar; or indeed any other number such as eleven in Bulgarian folk music.

Time may also be simple or compound. In simple time each beat is a whole note (not dotted) that can be divided by two. For example, in 4/4 (simple quadruple time) there are four crotchet beats to a bar and each beat can be divided into two quavers. In compound time each beat is a dotted note that can be divided by three. For example, in 6/8 (compound duple time) there are two dotted crotchet beats to a bar, each beat can be divided into three quavers.

In music, the numerical sign for time is known as a time signature. This is always found at the beginning of the music and consists of two numbers shown as a fraction of a semibreve. The upper number is the number of beats in a bar and the lower number the type of beat. For example, 2/2 means two minim (half-note) beats to the bar; 3/4 means three crotchet (quarter-note) beats to the bar; and 6/8 means two beats each of three quavers (eighth notes).


Mozart, Wolfgang Piano Sonata K. 570, First Movement

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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