8.Classifying Meter

Simple Meter 

When a meter has two pulses per measure it is called duple meter. An example would be 2/4 time.  

When a meter has three pulses per measure it is called triple meter. An example would be 3/4 time. 

When a meter has four pulses per measure it is called quadruple meter. An example would be 4/4 time.  

All of these meters are called simple because each pulse can be divided by “two”. For example: 

Because each pulse (quarter note) in the preceding diagram can be divided by two, the meter is classified as simple. There are 4 pulses in each measure, which mean that the meter is classified as quadruple. 4/4 time is therefore called simple quadruple meter. 

There are 3 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as triple. ¾ time is therefore called simple triple meter.

There are 2 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as duple. 2/4 time is therefore called simple duple meter.

Compound Meter 

In a compound meter each pulse can be divided by “three”. For example: 

(Pulses)

(Beats)

In the preceding example, even though there are 6 beats in each measure (each eighth note is one beat) the rhythmic pulse falls every 3 beats. The strong pulse is on beat 1 and the second strongest pulse is on beat 4. This gives it the feel that there are 2 “beats” in each measure rather than 6.  

Because each pulse (dotted quarter note) in the preceding diagram can be divided by three, the meter is classified as compound. There are 2 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as duple. 6/8 time is therefore called compound duple meter.  

(Pulses)

(Beats)

There are 3 pulses in each measure, the meter is classified as triple. 9/8 time is therefore called compound triple meter. (There are 9 eighth note beats in each measure, but we feel 3 pulses per measure.)

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