I am aware of the basic classification of metre i.e.:

-4/4 strong weak strong weak -3/4 S W W - 6/8 S W W S(at least in comparison) W W

However, I am not quite sure what happens with this division if we use other rhythmic subdivisions like:

quarter note|quarter note|eight eight|quarter note (in 4/4)

If we replace the third quarter note with two eights, are they both on the strong beat (or only the first one)? Does the rhythmic subdivision in a given metre has any affect on the strong / weak breakdown?


3 Answers 3


As a sort of basic premise, using your example, 1st crotchet strongest, 1st quaver (of beat 3) next strongest.

However, it depends also on the phrasing, for example, when there's a one beat anacrucis, that makes the last beat in the bar stronger. If that anacrucis starts on the second quaver of 3, then that is strong - even though the 'basic premise' says it won't be.

So, no hard and fast rules, it is extremely subjective - and may well be the case that the same piece will be played with different emphases by two different players - and both will sound good.


Simple meters (those with 2, 3, or 4 "on the top") are divided at one level: SW, SWW, and SWMW for duple, triple, and quadruple time.

Compound meters (those with 6, 9, or 12 on the top) are divided at a second level: They are derived from simple meters, typically on a three-for-two basis. That is to say, 6/8 time derives from 2/4, but with three eighth notes per group rather than two. Within each group, the pattern is sww. So we have

compound duple: S(sww)W(sww)

compound triple: S(sww)W(sww)W(sww)

compound quadruple: S(sww)W(sww)M(sww)W(sww)

This may not be important depending on your application, however. One place it comes in is notation: Depending on how austere you want to be, how you notate your notes and rests depends on where it sits in this beat strength hierarchy. In 3/4 time, for instance, one can half a half rest followed by a quarter note on beat three, but a quarter note on beat one is followed by two quarter rests, because "you don't combine a weak beat and a weak beat in a rest". (As I say, it depends on how austere you want to be.)


Newer performers can often encounter difficulties with ¾ and sometimes they make it sound like 4/4. I get my beginning students to make the 'one' in ¾ even more pronounced than in 4/4 to goose them into feeling the correct emphasis.

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