97. From the standpoint of the eye, a measure is that portion of the
staff found between two bars, (in certain cases this space may be less
than a measure, as e.g., at the beginning and end of a movement); but
from the standpoint of the ear a single, isolated measure is not
possible, and the term must therefore be defined in the plural form.
Measures are similarly accented groups of evenly-spaced beats, each
group having at least one accented and one non-accented beat. The
strongest accent falls normally on the first beat in the measure.
Two essential characteristics are involved in the ordinary musical
(1) A group of even beats (or pulses), always felt, though not always
actually sounded, one or more of these beats being stronger than the
(2) Certain rhythmic figures ([Illustration], etc.) which form the
actual musical content of these groups.
The student will note the essential difference between rhythm
and measure. Rhythm is the regular recurrence of accent in a
series of beats (or pulses), while measure is the grouping of
these beats according to some specified system. In listening
to a piece of music, two hearers A and B may feel the rhythm
equally strongly, but A may subjectively group the beats
into--one, two one, two --etc., while B feels the
groups as--one, two, three, four one, two, three,
four --etc. Rhythm is thus seen to be a fundamental thing,
inherent in the music itself, while measure is to a certain
extent at least an arbitrary grouping which musicians have
adopted for practical purposes.
98. In syncopation the normal system of accenting is temporarily
suspended and the accented tone falls on the regularly unaccented part
of the measure. Syncopation may therefore be defined as the temporary
interruption of a normal series of accents, i.e., accenting a beat
that is usually not accented. Thus e.g., in Fig. 56, measure one has
the regular system of accents normally found in four-quarter-measure,
(strong accent on one, secondary accent on three); but measure three
has only one accent, and it falls on the second beat.
99. Measures are usually classified as simple and compound. A
simple measure is one which has but a single accent, i.e., the
measure cannot be divided into smaller constituent groups. There are two
main classes of simple measures, two-beat measure, and three-beat
measure. A compound measure is (as its name implies) one made up by
combining two or more simple measures, or by the elaboration of a single
measure (in slow tempo) into several constituent groups. The principal
compound measures are four-beat and six-beat, both being referred to as
compound-duple measures. Five-beat, seven-beat, nine-beat, and
twelve-beat measures are also classified as compound measures.
An English writer classifies measures as duple, triple, or
quadruple, specifying that a simple measure is one in which
each beat is represented by a note whose value can be divided
into halves ([Illustration] etc.) and that a compound measure
is one in which each beat is represented by a dotted-note,
whose value can be divided into three parts, ([Illustration]).
There is thus seen to be considerable difference of opinion as
to the meaning of the words simple and compound when
applied in this connection, the principal question at issue
being whether four-beat measure is an individual variety, or
whether it is a variety compounded out of two-beat measures,
either by placing two of these in a group or by the
elaboration of a single measure into a larger number of beats,
as is often necessary in slow tempi. Perhaps the easiest way
out of the difficulty is to admit that both may be true--but
in different compositions. That is, it is frequently
impossible to tell whether a composition that is being
listened to is in two-beat, or in four-beat measure; and yet
it is sometimes possible so to discriminate. Since, however,
one cannot in the majority of cases distinguish between
two-beat and four-beat measures, it will probably be best to
leave the original classification intact and regard four-beat
measure as a compound variety.
[Footnote 23: Pearse--Rudiments of Musical Knowledge, p. 37.]
100. The commonest varieties of measure are:
1. Duple (sometimes called even measure, or even time), in
which there are two beats, the first one being accented.
Examples of duple measure are 2/4, 2/8, 2/2, two-quarter,
two-eighth, and two-half measure, respectively.
[Footnote 24: For explanation of terminology, see p. 48, Sec.
2. Triple, (the old perfect measure), in which there are
three beats, the first one being accented, the second and
third unaccented. Examples are 3/8, 3/4, 3/2, three-eighth,
three-quarter, and three-half measure, respectively.
3. Quadruple, in which there are four beats, the first and
third being accented (primary accent on one, secondary
accent on three), the second and fourth unaccented. (See
note above, under Sec. 99.)
4. Sextuple, in which there are six beats, the first and
fourth being accented, the others not. In rapid tempi this is
always taken as compound duple measure, a dotted quarter note
having a beat. It will be noted that the two measures
[Illustration] are identical in effect with [Illustration].
101. Other varieties of measure sometimes found are 9/8 and 12/8, but
these are practically always taken as three-beat and four-beat measures
respectively, being equivalent to these if each group of three tones is
thought of as a triplet. [Illustration] is identical in effect with
102. Quintuple (five-beat) and septuple (seven-beat) measures are
occasionally met with, but these are rare and will always be sporadic.
The five-beat measure is taken as a combination of three and two, or of
two and three (sometimes a mixture of both in the same composition),
while the seven-beat measure is taken in groups of four and three, or
of three and four.
103. The sign [common-time symbol] is usually understood to mean
four-quarter measure, and the sign [cut-time symbol], two-half measure,
but usage varies somewhat, and the second sign is sometimes used to
indicate four-half measure. It may safely be said however that the sign
[cut-time symbol] always indicates that a half-note has a beat. [Double
cut-time symbol] may occasionally be found indicating four-half measure
but this is rare.
The student will note that the sign [common-time symbol] is
not a letter C, but an incomplete circle, differentiating
two-beat (imperfect) measure from three-beat (perfect)
measure. See Appendix A, p. 106. [Transcriber's Note: page
number missing in original.]