Musician's Vocabulary

Musician's Vocabulary

                                                             photo credit: throb via photopin (license)

Musician's Vocabulary


1. Meaning

Rhythm means the way sounds and silences relate to each other IN TIME to make a flow of         musical ideas. The sounds can be long and short. The silences can be long and short.

2. How The Word Is Used

"I love that drum solo because its rhythm is so powerful and driving. It makes me want to get up and dance in time with it."

"The rhythm of Chopin's Nocturne is so gentle. It seems to flow along like a lullaby."

3. Rhythm Words

regular            gentle         abrupt
even                flowing      broken
strict                smooth      nervous
metronomic     graceful     uneven
"on the beat"    unbroken  stop-and-start


1. Meaning

Meter means the way beats are grouped.
It is something we feel when we listen to music;
we feel that this Strauss waltz is "in a 3 -beat meter"; we feel that this Joplin rag is "in a 2-beat meter"; we feel that this rock piece is "in a 4-beat meter."

2. How The Word Is Used

Don't confuse "meter" with "measure" or "time signature." METER is something we feel when we play or listen to music; it is a beat feeling. A MEASURE and a TIME SIGNATURE are things we see  when we read a piece of music. They are visual aids for the performer, helping us to understand the music better by dividing notes and rests (rhythms!) into visual groups on the music page.

3. Meter Words

Musicians use different terms to express "meter." They may say that a piece is "in a 2-beat meter" or, more simply, that it is "in 2." We can apply this description to any meter: "in One"... "in 2"... "in 3"... "in 4"... "in 5"... etc., etc.

The adjective for "meter" is "metrical."


So, when we're talking about time classification, patterns of stress are known as METER. Meter is the patterns produced by beats of varying degrees of stress. The pattern which results from beats of varying degrees of stress is called the  meter. The most common meters are four, three, or two beats per measure.

In music, meter is the systematic grouping of beats and their divisions in regularly recurring patterns of pulsations. Meter is described as being duple, triple, or quadruple according to the grouping of beats, and simple or compound according to the division of each beat.

Meter Designations

1. duple simple
2. triple simple
3. quadruple simple
4. duple compound
5. triple compound
6. quadruple compound

Rhythm that you hear are patterns formed by the succession of long and short notes.

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"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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