Meter is the pattern of pulses or beats on which the rhythms of a piece are based. The rhythms of a meledy can go faster or slower, but the beat marches on at a steady pace. It is like drawing a picture on a piece of graph paper. Each square on the graph is like a beat. When you count out the beats, you are counting the meter. Most pieces have either 2, 3, or 4 regular beats per measure. When you play a melody, you usually accent the notes which start on the beat. When you play faster notes, they usually divide the beat into either 2 or 3 parts. Fer examp|e, the song "Yankee Doodle" has two beats per measure and the beat divides into 2 parts:
Hickory Dockery Doc also has two beats per measure, but the rhythms divide the beat into three parts:
A time signature is a sign which helps show you what the meter is. The most common time signatures are 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. For these simple time signatures, the top number tells you
how many beats per measure and the bottom number reminds you that a quarter-note (1/4) gets the beat. "Yankee Doodle" would use a time signature of 2/4. Here is an
example of a piece with 3 quarter—notes per measure (3/4 time):
6/8 is another frequent time signature. Unfortunately, it is not simple; it is rather confusing. Many people think that 6/8 means 6 beats per measure with an eighth-note
getting the beat. Not true. 6/8 is used fer pieces where the beat divides into 3 parts, like Hickory Dickory Dock". The time signature fer "Hockery Dockery" is supposed to show 2
beats per measure with a dotted quarter-note getting the beat, like the examp|e below:
Remember, keys don't come from key signatures and meters don't come from time signatures. When you are listening to actual music, you often can imagine counting it out
in different ways (fast and slow). Follow this basic guideline:
Question: How many beats are in a measure?
Answer: As few as possible.
For examp|e, when you see 6/8, trust the music itself (not the sign post) and count it in
two, not six: 1 la li 2 la li (never 1 23 4 56).