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Simple and Compound Meter

Greetings and salutations – this is Mr. G and in this short blog post I want to address a little topic that you’re going to find in almost any music theory curriculum in a college or a high school academic institution. It’s the concept of simple meter or compound meter.

You need to know that I’ve been a professional musician for 40 years close to 50
years and outside of academic institutions I’ve never heard meter being referred
to with these names – compound or simple meter. But perhaps we SHOULD think
in these terms as they describe, very concisely, the two basic types of meter we will come across as players. Let’s see if I can give you something fairly simple to get you through this concept of SIMPLE and COMPOUND meter.

Here is a quick summary of SIMPLE vs COMPOUND meter. Simple meter is if the top number of the time signature is 2, 3, or 4 and the bottom number is 4 – as in 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4. Compound meter will be present if the top numbers will be 6, 9, or 12 and the bottom number is 8 as in 6/8, 9/8, or 12/8.

Simple Meter:
2/4 becomes SIMPLE Duple, 3/4 becomes SIMPLE Triple. And 4/4 becomes SIMPL Quadruple.

Compound Meter:
6/8 becomes COMPOUND Duple…………multiply the 2 in 2/4 by 3 … 6/8 9/8 becomes COMPOUND Triple…………multiply the 3 in 3/4 by 3 … 9/8 12/8 becomes COMPOUND Quadruple… multiply the 4 in 4/4 by 3… 12/8

Here is a graphic that will hopefully allow you to see what I am talking about:

Well there you have it. If you are reading this, the odds are you will be seeing this in future music theory classes. In the world of performance, I have NEVER heard the terms simple and quadruple meter used. It’s understood. It is one of those concepts you learn in school, use forever, and never talk about. Kinda weird. But if you want a good grade in music theory – this is one of those things ya gotta know.

I hope I have cleared this up –If I have only muddied the waters for you, please feel free to vent your frustrations to me at paige@emergingcomposer.com. Mr G out!

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Written By:

Paige Garwood

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