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Old 05-26-2010, 01:11 PM   #1
squirell nutkin
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Question for Dwellar musicians

Here's something I just don't get and I wonder if the collective dwellar brain can 'splain me:

In music people talk about things being 3/4 time or 4/4 time etc.

I've looked at wikipedia and had people tell me it's the number of beats per measure.

Great, but the word time throws me off as does measure. Is there a set length of time, i.e. seconds that a measure lasts? if so, why not say it is 4 beats per second? or can 4/4 time be played fast or slow? How can it help you if 4/4 time can be fast or slow, then it would be sort of meaningless, I imagine to have a time signature at all.

from wiki: "In musical notation, a bar (or measure) is a segment of time defined as a given number of beats of a given duration"

OK, so what is the duration? how can a beat be drawn out? I think of a beat as being the musical equivalent of a point in space only slightly chubbier.

I understand that 8/4 time is faster than 3/4 time but I don't get where the actual time is.
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Old 05-26-2010, 01:13 PM   #2
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they should go metric, too many fractions
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Old 05-26-2010, 01:33 PM   #3
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The "time" has nothing to do with the tempo. Sure, that may make it a dumb word to use, but it is what it is.

8/4 time isn't necessarily faster than 3/4 time. It just says there are 8 beats before the composer is going to put another little vertical line on the staff. Measures really only exist as a reference to help musicians play together with each other, kind of like page numbers. You can transcribe music into a different time scale if you want to, just like you can transcribe into a different clef. Some time scales inherently suggest an accented beat, like 3/4 time is expected to have that familiar "DUN dun dun" waltz sound, but you could write that same waltz in 4/4 if you really wanted to, and just put egregious accent marks on every third note as necessary.
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Old 05-26-2010, 02:01 PM   #4
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OK, still have no idea. in 8/4 time or 4/4 time how fast are those beats?
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Old 05-26-2010, 02:06 PM   #5
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Try counting. (My ex tried to teach me this same stuff.)

I remember most songs being one...two...three...four...
one...two...three...four...
one...two...three...four...
(4/4 time?)

but some were one..two..three..four..five
one..two..three..four..five
one..two..three..four..five
(5/4 time?)

Yeah, probably no help either.
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Old 05-26-2010, 02:16 PM   #6
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I should know this stuff. We covered it in "clapping for credit" in college. Fundamentals of Music. 101

ta ta ti ti ti ti ta ta

Can't remember it at all, but I remember it made sense and had logic at the time.
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Old 05-26-2010, 02:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squirell nutkin View Post
OK, still have no idea. in 8/4 time or 4/4 time how fast are those beats?
It is not a measurement of the passage of chronological time between beats, it is a measurement of what fraction of one "measure" or "bar" each beat occupies. The measurement of the passage of chronological time would be the tempo.

I think what I have said is accurate, but let me reflect and give a better answer at a later time (busy now). Search for the thread "Stuff I Don't Know" by BigV, where I explain what syncopation is and I think therein lies an explanation of what time signatures mean.
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Last edited by Flint; 05-26-2010 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 05-26-2010, 02:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squirrel nutkin
OK, still have no idea. in 8/4 time or 4/4 time how fast are those beats?
As fast as you want them to be. If you play it at a tempo of 60 beats/minute, then the beats will come at 1 beat per second, which means if your music is written down in 8/4 time then each measure will be 8 seconds long. Or if it's written in 4/4 time, you'll have twice as many measures. If your tempo is 120 beats/minute, then the beats will come every half second, regardless of how it's written.

What you're asking is kind of like: if I translate Don Quixote into English, will it be faster or slower than the Spanish version? You can read either language as fast or as slow as you want, and you can write a book in whatever language you want. They are independent variables.
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Old 05-26-2010, 03:14 PM   #9
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So can a measure be empty of notes?

Wait, let's say we're singing "do re mi fa so la ti do" That's eight notes.

How many measures is that? or Bars?

So, if in 4/4 time, there'd be 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 and in those four beats how many of the notes get sung?

And in 8/4 time there'd be 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and the same number of notes get sung as in 4/4 time, just more beats?
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Old 05-26-2010, 03:33 PM   #10
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Measures = bars.

If each of the do, re, me... was a quarter note ( a one beat note) in 4/4 it would be two measures. In 8/4 it would be one measure.

It would be the same number of notes and the same number of beats just divided differently.



One can have empty space in music they are known as rests, periods of silence.
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Old 05-26-2010, 03:37 PM   #11
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Like Mendelsshon's Song Without Notes.

i slay me
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Old 05-26-2010, 03:59 PM   #12
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SN - you're looking at only one half of the information which defines "time" in written music. The time signature (3/4, for example) tells you how many beats there are in a bar. 3/4 is a waltz time so you'd count, giving each beat an equal length in time, but stressing the first beat
ONE two three ONE two three ONE two three ONE two three ...
The "tempo mark" for this waltz example would be shown as the symbol for a quarter-note = 180. This means that there are 180 quarter-notes in a minute, or (coincidentally) one bar is one second long.
You could play the music much more slowly, but then it would be difficult to dance to . It might become a lovely lyrical tune, instead ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by squirell nutkin View Post
So can a measure be empty of notes?
Yes. This would represent a set period of time (defined by the time signature and the tempo mark) in which that voice or instrument does not make a noise.
Quote:
Originally Posted by squirell nutkin View Post
Wait, let's say we're singing "do re mi fa so la ti do" That's eight notes.
How many measures is that? or Bars?
The eight notes you have named are the names of note pitches, how high or low they sound. They do not in your example given above have any rhythm or time value assigned to them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by squirell nutkin View Post
So, if in 4/4 time, there'd be 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 and in those four beats how many of the notes get sung?
And in 8/4 time there'd be 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and the same number of notes get sung as in 4/4 time, just more beats?
The emphasis would be slightly (ever so slightly) different in the two examples you have given
1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4
vs
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
I've taken the spaces out as the beats are regularly spaced in time. The time signature shows where the emphasis should fall.
I have no idea if this is helpful at all ...
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Old 05-26-2010, 04:07 PM   #13
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Perhaps it may be easier for you to understand if you ask someone who knows music and explain it to you in person. Or if you have a music sheet in question, show it to us and perhaps the answer may be better exemplified.
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Old 05-26-2010, 06:50 PM   #14
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In broad terms, the accents for 4/4 time are loud soft medium soft (or so my piano teacher had me believe), then there's 3/4 which is loud soft soft, and if you want to get really tricky and confuse the issue further, you could look at 6/8 time which usually comes out like a fast waltz time beat because you're changing the base note (4) to an 8th note which of course in musical terms it a shorter beat (in comparison to a 4th note).

eta: I hope I've got that right. It's been a while since I played much classical music and had to think about the time. I'm sure limey can correct me if I'm wrong.
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Old 05-26-2010, 09:01 PM   #15
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Subdivisions (such as quarter, eighth, or sixteenth notes) are the numerator in the fraction which states the time signature. It is incorrect to think of subdivisions as occuring faster or slower. Literally (chronologically) this is accurate, but this is not compatible with the system of how music is constructed. There is no value system to measure the faster or slower rate of different subdivisions--except as fraction values of a measure which moves forward at a BPM (beats-per-minute) tempo (the beats in a measure being the denominator of the fraction which states the time signature).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flint View Post
...

[QUARTER NOTES...four in a measure]
Most popular music (rock, pop, rap, etc.) operates in 4/4 time, that is to say each measure (or bar) has 4 notes that occupy one-fourth of the measure. Nice and clean, it’s divided into equally spaced parts, called quarter notes. The basic "thump/whack" beat (think AC/DC) has the bass drum hitting the 1 and the 3 (the first and third quarter note), the snare hitting the 2 and the 4 (known as the backbeat).

...

[EIGHTH NOTES...eight in a meaure]
In the basic "rock" beat (think Ringo Starr or Creedence Clearwater Revival), the high-hat taps out 8th notes; that is to say notes that occur twice as often as quarter notes.

...

[SIXTEENTH NOTES...sixteen in a measure]
Now consider 16th notes, which occur twice as often as 8th notes. 16th notes are the tom part from "Wipeout" or the high-hat part from the "Shaft" theme. The tempo isn’t necessarily faster, the drummer is just playing smaller subdivisions.

...

[THE ILLUSION OF SPEEDING UP AND SLOWING DOWN...known as Metric Modulation]
Neil Peart plays tom fills that alternate between 16th notes and 24th notes (8th note triplets). That is to say, on the highest tom, he plays four 16th notes, on the next tom, he plays six notes that exactly occupy the space of those four 16th notes. As he goes down the toms, it sounds as though his fill is speeding up and slowing down (it’s not).

...
Incidentally, there have been statements made regarding certain kinds of accents occuring in various time signatures. It would be more accurate to state that these accents are commonly used in those situations. Accents are not defined in time signatures (3/4 doesn't have to be a Waltz).
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expression. ... I found, like Joseph Campbell said, if you just follow whatever
gives you a little joy or excitement or awe, then you're on the right track.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Terry Bozzio

Last edited by Flint; 05-26-2010 at 10:01 PM.
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