If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Lesson 3: Meters in double and triple time, upbeats

Created by All Star Orchestra.

Want to join the conversation?

• I'm a little confused with the timings I guess. What would be the difference between a song say in 3/4 the whole notes counting as 1 beat and a song that says 3/2 and just switching the whole notes to half notes, so they still count as 1 beat? Wouldn't that still be the same song?
• Both 3/4 and 3/2 are the same time signatures. This is shown that in 3/4, there are three quarter notes per measure, and in 3/2 there are three half notes per measure. Both time signatures are the exact same only if the quarter note in 3/4 gets the beat, and the half note gets the beat in 3/2. This results in each time signature having equally three beats per measure. It is unnecessary to alter a song between 3/4 and 3/2 because the counting system is already matched. But if you want the songs to be at equal length, you have the double the value of every note such as making quarter notes half notes and making eighth notes quarter notes.
3/4 and 3/2 are similar time signatures because 3/2 is defined as a compound meter of 3/4. Similar compound meters of 3/4 also include 6/8 and 9/8, dealing with three beats per measure. Switching the composition from 3/4 to 3/2 is usually meant for the composer or conductor, to make his/her conduction more efficient, not excessive. A similar example of this is shown in the conversion of common time (4/4) to cut time (2/2). Due to the conductors decision and because the piece was fast enough, the conductor cannot handle conducting each of the four beats, but instead conducts twice a measure representing the half notes to be much easier and more effective. The reduction of the fraction from 4/4 to 2/2 shows the counting system is matched, thus the reduction of 3/4 to 3/2 has a matched counting system, but might be twice as slow.
• I'm italian and I always wondered why the music notation is in italian : I mean - forte, piano, pizzicato, crescendo etc
• What we today consider 'classical' music had its origins in Italy during the Renaissance. Italian and Sicilian composers were beginning to compose music in a new way, and performances began to take on a revived an expanded meaning and social function. Also, notation -- the notes and articulations that allow musicians to read music -- was developed during this time period in Southern Europe, and thus the Italian markings used in the printed material was distributed throughout all of the Europe, and influenced future composers to use Italian as a sort of common written language. Only since the early-1900s has this practice started to fall out of style, with the development of distinct musico-national identities.
• when you demonstrate with music could you use simpler music so that people who are completley new to music can understand?
• Some of the most simple music in modern history is the most iconic and very subtle. One single note in 3/2 timing in one bar can be considered harder to play than 16 quarter notes in 4 bars 4/4 timing. The simpler it gets the harder it is :)
• I still don't understand what a upbeat is.
• Two answers: In the video, an upbeat is a note that leads into the next measure; see Meow's comment. I've known these primarily as "pickups," as they lead forward into a new phrase; I'm actually not sure I've heard "upbeat" used in this way before. In my experience, an "upbeat" is a note that falls exactly halfway between two beats (between two "downbeats," that is --- what the conductor is showing).

So, for example, say you have a quarter note divided into two eighth notes. The first eighth note comes on the "downbeat," which is just what we might think of as the beat; the second eighth note comes on the "upbeat," exactly halfway between two beats. Typically, a section of upbeats will consist of an alternating pattern of eighth rests and eighth notes (or something similar) with the rests falling on each downbeat, so the musician is playing off the beat. Listen to the horn section in a Sousa march and you'll hear what I mean ( https://youtu.be/a-7XWhyvIpE?t=1m32s ). The link goes to "The Stars and Stripes Forever", and in the B section the horns are playing constant upbeats under the melody.

Also, at roughly in this Khan Academy video, the lower strings have a nice example of what I would call "upbeats" (check out the score on the right-hand side).
• What is an upbeat music?
• Upbeat music is different from an upbeat. Upbeat music refers to music with a bright, quick, or cheerful sound. An upbeat is also called a pickup beat and is the beat that leads into the next measure.
• Is there anywhere on the internet where you can actually apply some of this stuff? These videos are just ripping through an overview and I can't retain anything.
• Well, once you start to get into music more and play it, this will be so much more helpful as both a reminder and a learning tool. This series is just trying to get all the facts in without spending too many lessons to cover them...
• why do composers decide to put 6/8 and other fancy time signatures when they can just put it over 4? is it bc of the swing and the feel? ...
• Different time signatures have different feelings; composers pick a time signature that fits the mood they are trying to communicate through the music. Take 6/8 vs. 3/4, for example: a 6/8 measure is typically subdivided into two groups of three eighth notes each, whereas 3/4 typically consists of three quarter notes (three groups of two eighth notes each). Based on these subdivisions, the two time signatures should be played with different beats as the "strong" and "weak" beats, and 6/8 will have a triplet feel (it sounds like triplets) while 3/4 will have an eighth note feel. Also, some meters can't be put over 4; for example, 7/8 can't be simplified into a meter over 4 (think about it this way: if the time signature were a fraction and you tried to divide it by 2/2, you would get 3.5/4, which makes little sense as a time signature).
• I can already read music, but i'm in need of a refresher. But does anyone else notice the lag in the red lines in the music? Or is my speaker off on timing?
• It could be that the video is loading before the audio, or vice versa. It may be the encoding.
• In these orchestral pieces, are the instruments listed on the left of the music always listed in that order so that each instrument always knows where to look no matter who wrote it or when it was written? Violin 1 before Violin 2 and both before viola, etc?