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What is the difference between 2/4 and 4/4 when it comes the accented beats? I have been taught that 2/4 is popular in faster music like polka. I also see some hymns written in both 4/4 and 2/4. 4/4 is strong-weak-less strong-weak. 2/4 would probably strong-weak or a bar divided into eight notes with strong-weak-less strong-weak. What do you experts say about this?

  • Close, if not duplicate: this question. – guidot Aug 3 at 20:47
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    IMO this is entirely down to stylistic convention and there's no absolute reason any time signature has to be accented differently than any other - if the composer wanted, a piece could be written in any meter but directed to be played identically. There are conventions in different styles to accent different parts in different meters, but from a theoretical standpoint they can all be rendered mathematically equivalent. You can see different online forums where people debate the meter of popular songs by ear, and this is purely an exercise in futility. – Darren Ringer Aug 4 at 1:22
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2/4 would probably strong-weak or a bar divided into eight notes with strong-weak-less strong-weak.

It’s the first one, never the second. That’s the difference. Four beats in 4/4 is strong-weak-medium-weak, and four beats in 2/4 is strong-weak-strong-weak.

One way to think of 2/4 is as a march. As in feet going left-right-left-right. So there’s a simple two beat alternating feel.

  • Would a hymn played in 2/4 sound different from the tune played in 4/4? – Hank Aug 3 at 16:41
  • @Hank - it will also depend on how it's written out. 4/4 using crotchets should sound about the same as 2/4 using quavers. It also depends who is doing the playing! – Tim Aug 4 at 10:33

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