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Meter, Phrase Displacement, Accent Displacement, Polyrhythm

Meter: What is it?

The basic recurrent rhythmical pattern of note values, accents, and beats per measure in music.

When you listen to a piece of music, how do you decide what the meter is?

You listen to the piece to hear repetition and count how many pulses before the pattern repeats.

If you have a series of 1/8th notes (or any other type of note duration value as long as they are all equal) all playing the same note, How do you decide what the meter is?
You listen for the accents.

In example 1 every second beat is accented so this is duple meter.

Listen (I used drum sound for these examples, because it gets the accents across better.)

In example 2 every third beat is accented so this is triple meter.


In example 3 every 4th beat is accented so this is (double) duple.


In example 4 every fifth beat is accented so this is duple and triple or triple and duple or quintuple. Strictly speaking, it is a (linear) combination of duple and triple. In this case one triple and one duple.


If you don't have anything else to go on except this line of constant value notes.
How would you know the difference between whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, triplet, quintuplet?

You wouldn't, becase you have no reference.
If you heard example 2 at 120 bpm and example 5 at 80 bpm you would not be able to tell the difference.

Example 5


It is the accents that make the meter apparent.
Note values are just a means of dividing up units of time, but meter is determined by how the notes are accented.

Phrase and Accent Displacement >>