I know in the 6/8 compound meter, the first beat gets strong downbeat and the second beat gets the weak upbeat. But I am trying to analyze syncopation in a piece, so I want to know how each of the three subdivisions of each beat assigned as strong/weak ?

1 Answer 1

6 | V ^ ^ v ^ ^ |
8 | 1 2 3 4 5 6 |

6/8 compound time can be thought of as duple meter consisting of two beats to the measure, where the dotted quarter note gets the beat. 6/8 is just a notational simplification -- if Carl Orff's time signatures had caught on we might call this time signature 2/q. (a two on top of a dotted quarter note).

I consider an upbeat to be a subdivision that does not occur on a foot tap. So, according to the diagram above, there are two downbeats (1 and 4 of the subdivision) and four upbeats. The downbeat at the beginning of the measure, obviously, is the stronger one.

Of the upbeats, 3 and 6 are stronger than 2 and 5 because they lead into the next downbeat. If someone mentions "the upbeat on beat 1" for example, they are talking about subdivision 3. While 2 is still technically an upbeat, the "default" mode would be the 3 and 6. If you compare the following two rhythms, you'll find one feels much more natural than the other:

6 |: q   e q   e :|: e q   e q   :|
8 |: 1 2 3 4 5 6 :|: 1 2 3 4 5 6 :|
  • Did you mean to write that the downbeats are 1 and 4 ? So, the pattern would essentially be : Strong Weak Weak Strong Weak Weak ? Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 23:07
  • Exactly! Thanks for pointing out the typo -- and another one. My fingers wanted to count by twos!
    – NReilingh
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 23:07

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