I'm busy with the first symphony of Peter I. Tchaikovsky. In movement 1 the time signature is 2/4. Can someone explain the choice of putting 2/4 instead of 4/4. If it goes with the feel I don't feel 2/4 more then 4/4? Or there are other parameters that made him choose 2/4.

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    Even if it's not 100% clear to all listeners, it is likely that Tchaikovsky intended musicians and conductors to have a march mentality while performing the movement. Whether the movement is so fast that it's very hard to hear the difference may not matter. One thing that helped me understand 2/4 versus 4/4 was learning how clearly 6/8 (compound 2/4) is different from 12/8 (compound 4/4). To me, the differences between the compound time signatures is a lot more audible. – Todd Wilcox Dec 29 '15 at 14:08
  • @Todd with the 6/8 I feel it alright. But I never thought of taking it to 12/8 that's a good idea. – Nachmen Dec 29 '15 at 16:06

In general a (classical) 4/4 signature emphasises the first and third beat, with the first beat being emphasised slightly (but noticeable) more than the third beat.

In a 2/4 signature, the first beat is emphasised in each bar to give it a march feel. Think 1 2 1 2.

If one was to rewrite a 2/4 as a 4/4 then one would lose the equal emphasis on every first beat in the bar, replacing alternate 1's with a slightly less emphasised third beat.

  • I got the gist of what you're saying. But the tempo is so fast it's q=132 I almost don't feel nothing? What I do feel is the musical sentence and that gives me the feeling of 4/4. – Nachmen Dec 28 '15 at 23:59
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    @Nachmen I've just had a quick listen to it and you're right that the march feel is subtle and really only felt when the full string complement enters after about a minute, and even then only intermittently. There is a lot of dynamics layered on top of the underlying string ground which make the march feel, at times, far from evident. The march of winter in a blizzard of sounds. – Nick Dec 29 '15 at 0:16
  • Thank for reaffirming my doubts. It's the don't know feeling. I'm still making sense. – Nachmen Dec 29 '15 at 1:13
  • I took a metronome and sang the tune as best to my ability, you do see a difference. When the metronome is on 2/4 it fits in more naturally. – Nachmen Dec 30 '15 at 9:29

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