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Accent, Barline, Beat, Beam

The beat is what you clap your hands to. It is something you feel.

On paper the beat is beamed. There are three beats in this example.

During a waltz you may turn to 123 - 123. In a waltz there are three beats to each natural accent. The natural accent is on 1. A march is counted 1234 - 1234. The natural accent falls every four beats on 1. Most music has a natural accent every 2, 3 or 4 beats.

On paper the natural accent is drawn as a barline. A barline is a lone vertical line cutting through the stave at regular intervals.

What happens between each barline is called a bar or measure. We number each bar, the bar number or a measure number.

Time signature

How many notes do we write in each measure? Look to the time signature. Together with the beam, the time signature tells us the quantity and quality of beats to the measure. In feel, that is the quality of beat and regularity of natural accent.

The time signature is usually drawn as one note above another. It goes between the key signature and first note of music.

Here are some examples. [ Roll your mouse over the stave for interactivity. ]

Example 1

MIDIThe top number is 2. The bottom number is 4. There are two quarter notes to the measure. A quarter note is a crotchet. From the beams you can see there are two crotchet beats to the measure. There is a natural accent every two beats.

Example 2

MIDIThe top number is 3. The bottom number is 4. There are three quarter notes to the measure. There is a natural accent every 3 crotchet beats.

Example 3

MIDIThe top number is 4. The bottom number is 4. There are four quarter notes to the measure. The natural accent falls every 4 crotchet beats.

Example 4

MIDIThis time there are no numbers to the time signature. The time signature is C. C is short for Common Time. It is a fancy way of saying 4 crotchet beats to the bar. It is identical to 4 - 4.

Example 5

MIDIC with a stroke through it is Cut Common time. Cut common time is four crotchets, two beats to the bar. You will learn more about cut common time later.

Example 6

MIDIThe top number is 6. The bottom number is 8. There are six quavers (eighth notes) to the bar. Each beat is three quavers (one and a half crotchets). There are two beats to the measure. There is a natural accent every two beats.

Example 7

MIDIThe top number is 12. The bottom number is 8. There are twelve quavers (eighth notes) to the bar. Each beat is three quavers (one and a half crotchets). There are four beats to the measure. There is a natural accent every four beats.


Music Theory


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