In solfeggio, the measure identifies a kind of rhythmic structure organized as a succession of time (one, two, three ...) is repeated in a cyclical manner, and including the first of each series is stronger than the following. We therefore generally defines the measure as a period with "a downbeat" (always the first) followed by X time low.

It is essential to consider the measure as a combination of time, the same way that time must be considered as consolidation in time. Hierarchically, in the area of hours, time is the central unit, the proportion of time is less than unity, the measurement is rounded up.

Characteristics of measures

The main characteristics of these measures is the identification of the downbeat, the unit of time, the structure of time and number of measuring time. These last three characteristics are indicated in the figures of the measure.


The traditional terms "downbeat" and "upbeat" should not be taken literally. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that this is just the first beat - that is to say, attack the first time - which is more pronounced than others, and that gives way to measure , as the pulsation of tempo creates time, or, as the sub-pulse raises the proportion of time.

  • The adjectives high and low - on time, or better, the different pulses - are rightly challenged by many theorists. Indeed, some instruments such as organ, are unable to produce a difference of intensity in some time. However, such instruments allow us to feel the downbeats of this or that piece. So, if not intensity, what is it about ? It seems that first of all, the listener perceives the overall structure of musical phrases and their sequences, which typically obey the rules of phrasing and the middle part. The middle part shows the listener the various interlocking periodic movements in others, and triggers in him a sense of alternation of time differently accented. We can therefore say that the downbeat of a measure is not necessarily produced by the interpreter - a suitable musical gesture - but rather it is experienced by the listener receptive to the organization of musical discourse. Add to conclude this point, the melodics and harmonics parameters are also involved in this perception. Anyway, for lack of more appropriate terminology, we will keep in this article the traditional names of downbeat and upbeat.
  • It may happen also that the opposition downbeat / upbeat does not match the theory. For example, the rhythm of a recitative is relatively free: he must indeed follow that of language, therefore, its measure (traditionally recorded in 4/4), exists only on paper, evidenced by the bars which are involved in a fireworks graphic clarity of the score.
  • The measure bars on the score materialize the various measures, help to identify the downbeat: it is indeed the immediate right of each bar, that is to say at the beginning of each measure.
  • A measured pace does not necessarily begin on a downbeat, therefore, on the first beat of a measure: it may indeed begin on a weak beat, or on a part time: in this case we speak of upbeat .

Structure of measuring time

The measures which times are binary (that is, represented by a single value) are called simple measures, measures which times are ternary (that is, represented by a dotted value, or again, a compound) are called measures composed.

It would be fairer to say simple measures in time or time to binary measures, and timely action compounds or ternary measures in time, but usage has consecrated these two expressions "simple measures" and "compound meters.

Number of beats in the measure

Depending on the number of beats in the measure, one can distinguish the following types.

Measure at one beat

The measure with one beat is a measure that contains a strong beat.

  • Is the measure at one beat really a measure ? We know that the essence of the measure is the alternation of downbeat and weak beat. However, the measure at one beat ignores this since it contains only alternating equal time (in his case, the time coincides with the degree!). We can therefore say that the measure at one beat is a measure on the score because of the presence of bar lines, but at the same time, it is not one's point of view of rhythm perception . It is therefore in fact most often a simple graphic benchmark.

Measure at two beats

The two-beats measure is a measure that contains a downbeat followed by a weak beat.

Three-beat measure

The three-beat measure, which contains a downbeat followed by two weak beats.

Measure at four-beats

The four-beats measure is in principle a measure that contains a downbeat followed by three weak beats.

The consequence of this principle is that the downbeat of a four-beats measure is repeated virtually every four beats ( high /low/low/low). But in practice, it is repeated every two beats, as if they were two consecutive measures at two beats. There is a contradiction between the theory ( high /low/low/low) and practice ( high/low/ high/low): in other words, is the third beat in a four-beats measure strong or low ? There is no absolute answer, but musicians generally agree that the third beat is medium strong, so between theory and practice.

Similarly, measures to five beats or more, are in fact in practice that combinations of measures to two or three beats. For example, the five beats can be understood as a measure 3+2 or 2+3, the extent to six beats as a measure 2+2+2 or 3+3, seven beats to the measure, as a measure 2+2+3, or 2+3+2, or 3+2+2, etc...

Five-beats measure

The five-beats measure is in principle a measure that contains a downbeat followed by four weak beats, etc..

Asymetric measures

We call asymmetric measure any measure which can be described as binary or ternary. This is true of measures to five or seven beats (which are common in Balkan music for example), or alternatively consist of measures of time incomplete, measures three and a half (three black and one eighth), of four and a half times (four and one eighth black), etc..

Practical realization of measures

In practice, achieving a measure is making its beat time, mark it with a mean arm movement, order and length of beat a given piece.

  • Whatever the number of beats of the measure, the beat follows the same principles: first, to the bottom - along a vertical plane - the last beat up - along a vertical plane - laps - the second of a triple meter, the 2nd and 3rd of a four-time measurement, etc.. - on the side - in a horizontal plane.
  • However, most of the instruments seeking both hands, and thus can not keep time during the execution of a piece. Indeed, only the conductor, singer or musician in the process of reading, have in the ability to keep time.
  • The practical realization of the measure should be implemented in two phases: first, it must be effectively fought to support the decoding of the musical text, then it belongs in the execution through the motor imagery of the musician without the latter needing to materialize so far by a gesture other than his musical gesture. This realization raises some practical difficulties and calls for the occasional special comments.

Aggregation and decomposition of the measure

The theory concerning encryption traditional measure does not always coincide with the musical practice. If the tempo too fast or too slow, in fact, it is often preferable to count the measures differently.

  • If the tempo is very fast, it becomes difficult to count the beats of the measure. To better control the reading, a common practice is grouping the beats by periods of two or three. Thus a two-beat measure can be regarded as a dual beat, a triple beat, as measured by a triple beat, a four-beat measure, as a measure with two-beat binary etc...
A special case is that measures an odd number of binary beat (5, 7 ...), which, when the tempo is fast becoming irregular measures. Thus, a measure to 5/4 (3+2) will be played as a measure irregular in two (a ternary beat followed by a binary beat). Thus, in The Wizard of Love Manuel de Falla , there is a three-beat measure irregular form of a 7/8 (3+2+2). There are all sorts of irregular measure - 5/4, 5/8, 7/4, 7/8, 8/8, 9/8 (there is also a ternary 9/8), 10/8, 11/8... There are even value-added measures - for example, a 2½/4, which corresponds to a measure at two beats to which we add a quaver.
  • On the contrary, when the tempo is very slow attack sounds may lose its accuracy. In this case, the common practice is to perform the reverse operation, that is to say, break down each beat. Thus, the binary beats may be regarded as two-beat measures, and the ternary beats, as three-beat measures.
For example, a measure to 3/4 decomposed is viewed as a six-beat measure (2+2+2). If the transition has not been directly written in the form of three measures at two beats, is simply to indicate a reduction in performance. Thus in this example, the 3/4 to be played six beats to ensure accuracy, but "in spirit" of a three-beat measure, not to burden the operation - should be therefore increase, not the first beat all three measures at two beats, but only the first beat of the first of these three measures.

Syncope and off the beats

A syncope is a note contested on weak beat and prolonged on the following downbeat. An off of beat is also a note contested on a weak beat, but is followed by a downbeat in silence. Syncope and off of beats can also be built, not on a weak beat followed by a downbeat, but on a small portion of beat followed by a strong party.

  • Example syncope and off of beats :
Syncopes et contretemps
  • Syncope and off of beat imposed by the listener as a shift in emphasis rhythmic expected. They can be considered as rhythmic elements in conflict with the measure. Therefore a change of measure causes a similar effect. The two pieces following for example, are substantially the same manner perceived by the listener :
Syncopes et changements de mesure

Measure and sung text

In the field of vocal music, the natural accents or pulse, usually coincide with the tonic accents of the sung text. But this is not always the case. There is sometimes a contradiction between the effect of prosody and rhythm of the musical text.

  • Take for example the initial reason for the song "Passing through Lorraine. We note first that this song evokes a traditional walking pace : we can assume that it requires a notation as to two (or four) beats. However, the text of the reason we are interested consists of three tonic accents, respectively placed on the syllable sant, rai and bots : it would be desirable that these three syllables coincide with the downbeats of the choosen measure.
  • However, we note in the three examples below only the beginning of this song may be written in different ways depending it gives priority to the identity of the measure, or the exact placement of the tonic accents at the downbeats :
En passant pas la Lorraine
  • Example A, crousic nature, places on the downbeat tonic syllable bots. Example B, upbeat nature of it, up on the downbeats and the only syllables sant and rai; it also shows on the syllable syncope bot. Example C, place on downbeats the all tonic syllables of the musical phrase (thus, from this point of view, the best of these three ratings), but has the disadvantage of revealing changes of measures and therefore, is incompatible with the idea of walking.
  • Note that these three examples of rating concern only the reader/performer : if the song is sung a cappella (that is, without instrumental accompaniment), and if the emphasis of the downbeats is performed without exaggeration, listener, he, no discernible difference between these three possibilities.

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Creation date : 16/03/2009 16:22
Last update : 04/04/2009 19:43
Category : - Solfeggio
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A cappella

A cappella (or more rarely a capella, a capella and sometimes went cappella) is an expression of vocal music indicating that a song or part of a song, to one or more votes, is performed without instrumental accompaniment.

Binary time

A binary time is a time divided into two equal parts - so, in two halves time. A binary time will be represented by a single value - that is to say, not pointed - because, for example, a round consists of two white, one white, two black, etc.. The natural division of a binary time produced the following values: half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, etc...

Harmonics of a sound

A sound wave is characterized physically by its frequency of vibration and it is measured in Hertz (number of vibrations per second). For example, the "A3" has a frequency of 440 Hz higher the frequency, the higher the sound is high. At heights (and thus frequencies) identical sounds emitted by two different instruments (eg violin and flute) do not resonate in the same way. Each is characterized by its so-called stamp that identifies it, that no translation of his nature is really simple: it follows from the combination of its primary or basic, which sets the frequency perceived by the ear and a large number of harmonics whose relative weights determine precisely its timbre.

Manuel de Falla

Manuel de Falla, born on November 23rd, 1876 in Cadix and died on November 14th, 1946 to Alta Gracia (Argentina), is a Spanish compositor. It was Levantine by his father native to Valence, Catalan by his mother.


The phrasing in music

In western music, the phrasing indicates how to perform different musical phrases. Silences writings often separate successive sentences, and sometimes the various reasons for every sentence, but this is not always the case. Furthermore, the various notes of the same motif can be performed "with or without suspended them."

Just as the discourse must be regarded not as a mere sequence of words, but rather as a sequence of phrases - the proposals, the phrases ... - Each member in turn is composed of a succession of words in the field of musical performance, a song must be regarded not as a mere sequence of notes, but rather as "a sequence of musical phrases" Each phrase is in turn composed of several grounds - or melodic patterns - each of them consisting of a succession of melodic intervals.

The musical phrases are often organized as follows: durations equivalent, they are number divisible by two, or preferably by four. This distribution pattern is called periodic build, by reference to the four equal sides of a square, opposing pairs.

The rythm

The rhythm is in music, which determines the duration of notes to each other. The rhythm, melody, tempo and nuance are the four main facts to characterize a given musical phrase.


In western music, solfeggio (or music theory) is the study of elements to read, write, play or sing a score. The ultimate goal of reading music is to hear a musical work, its orchestration and its interpretation, no other medium that its interior hearing.

Time ternary

A ternary music (Jazz, Swing, New Orleans Boogie triple) is composed of ternary time. A triple is a long time divided into three equal parts. In a ternary music, we usually play two notes by time, the first note is two-thirds of time and the second note takes third time. This imbalance of time between the notes of the same time gives a peculiar sensation, the sensation of bouncing.

In almost every boogie time is divided into two grades in the report 2/3-1/3 as mentioned above which gives a feeling of bouncing tonic.

In swing is almost a time of 2 is broken down in the 2/3-1/3 ratio which gives a feeling of bouncing nonchalant.