The Components of Music: Part One

Morning Musicians: LadyDpiano

Good morning, musicians!

I'm back to giving piano lessons to children and adults this year. I have some amazing students who really enjoy playing songs from Disney movies. Then there are music games to be enjoyed within the half an hour lesson. Lots of theory is covered in a 45-minute lesson as well.

I thought I would cover a great subject today, like music components in three parts. Here we go!

The Components Of Music


What is it that causes you to tap your feet or sway as you listen to some kinds of music? All music has rhythm. The rhythms of music consist of sounds and silences of various lengths. One component of rhythm is a strong pulse or regular accent.

The strong pulse of music helps people move together. For example, the LEFT-right, LEFT-right feeling of a march is created by a regular accent.

Sight Reading & Rhythm Every day
  • Meter in Music
Meter is the pattern of beats by which a piece of music is measured. The meter signature is merely a way of showing this pattern. 2/4 meter signature is an example of a duple meter (2 beats to a measure with the quarter note receiving 1 beat).

Strong pulse in music divides beats into groups of 2's and 3's, and combinations of such groups. This grouping of beats is called meter. In written music, a bar line is placed before normally strong beats. Bar lines group beats into measures. A meter signature shows what the grouping in each measure will be.

2/4 = 2 beats per measure. A quarter note gets 1 count.
3/4 = 3 beats per measure. A quarter note gets 1 count.
4/4 = 4 beats per measure. A quarter note gets 1 count.

2/4 is an example of duple meter. If the meter signature were 3/8 it would be a triple meter (3 beats per measure with the eighth note receiving 1 count). In the case of 5/4, it would be an irregular meter (5 beats to a measure). In order to mark off these metric groupings, bar lines are used.

LadyDpiano: Changing the Meter

  • Changing Meter
A changing meter can make a melody seem to have more freedom. 

  • Irregular Meter
Most of the music you hear has a regular meter throughout the whole piece.
4/4     2/2    3/4
But sometimes music has an irregular meter. Irregular meter adds interest to music.

One of the most familiar meters in music is 3/4, or triple meter. This means that there are three metric beats in each measure. This meter is often referred to as "waltz time," because the waltz step is danced in triple meter.

LadyDpiano: Syncopated Rhythm

  • Syncopated Rhythm
Some music has a syncopated rhythm. This means that accents in the music fall on notes that are not normally accented. Syncopation helps to make music more exciting. Syncopation is usually not identified by accent marks. The music is arranged so that the accents will fall in unusual places.

When the normal pulse of meter and rhythm is deliberately changed, syncopation occurs. Syncopation can be created in a number of ways: by shifting the accent to what are normally weak beats of a measure; by holding on over strong beats; by using rests on strong beats. In normal usage, syncopation occurs in one part only while the other parts stress the normal pulse of the meter. So, ties, short-long note patterns, and rests are ways of creating syncopation.

  • Triplets
The small 3 above a group of notes tells that the three notes are played in the same amount of time that two of the same notes normally receive. These groups of three notes are called triplets.

  • Music without Meter
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is an example of early church music. This was the most important type of music during the early Middle Ages (600 - 1000 A.D.). At that time, the written music contained a little indication of rhythm. It is a thought that the melodies took their rhythm from the rhythm of the words. In this kind of music, there is no metric beat.

Piano teachers and homeschool moms may want to purchase Music for Little Mozarts--Rhythm Speller. It's a fun book for beginners at the piano. For more intermediate to advanced players, you may want to look at Easy Latin Standards.

It feels so good to be back writing and sharing with you. May you be encouraged to share your musical, creative gifts right where you are.


-- LadyD

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

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