Example of a regular beat
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The pulse is a regular beat. The tempo corresponds to the speed of the pulse.
The pulse is a regular beat, i.e. occuring at regular intervals of time, such as the ticking of a watch. Since this is a beat, we will use the expression "to beat the pulse" .
Example of a regular beat
Example of an irregular beat (this is not a pulse)
In order to facilitate the rhythmic learning of a piece, it may be wise to graphically represent the beats on the staff. This helps to identify where beats "fall". For this, write the pulse using a vertical line under the staff. Notes that are vertically aligned with a pulse line indicate that you must play the note on the beat.
Audio of figure 1 with pulse
On figure 1, all notes are on a beat, except the second eighth of the second measure which is between to beats (between the first and the second beat of the measure). Note also that we are in a 4-beat measure ( meter) so there are 4 pulses per measure.
Audio of figure 2 with pulse
In this second example, the rhythms used are more complex and varied. The usefulness of beat notation is clearly apparent here. Notice that notes are not necessarily beamed by beat: the 4 eighths of the second measure form a group of notes, but last 2 beats. The vertical lines make easier to be aware of the beat positions.
Audio of figure 3 with pulse
Pulse notation also makes sense when there are rests or long notes in a song. Notice that the second beat of the first measure and the first beat of the second measure are written under rests. However, nothing is harder for a beginner than to wait for the right duration during a rest! The materialization of the beats on the score helps to take this problem into account.
Finally, the pulses allow to correctly execute the long values (whose duration exceeds one quarter). Observe the fourth beat of the first measure. It represents the second pulse of the half note, and thus allows not to shorten its duration.
The speed of the pulse is called the tempo . When the pulse is fast, we say that the tempo is fast, when the pulse is slow, we say that the tempo is slow.
Example of slow pulse (56 beats per minute)
Example of moderate pulse (96 beats per minute)
Example of fast pulse (140 beats per minute)
Whatever the style, each piece of music has its own tempo, its own speed of execution. In order to specify the tempo of a work, the composer writes down the tempo indication at the beginning of the piece, just above the first measure.
This tempo indication can take several forms: either an movement indication, written out in words, in the language of the composer or in Italian (particularly true in classical music), or a metronomic indication, or both together.
Until the early XIXth century, the metronome does not exist, the composers indicated the movement by Italian expressions commonly used such as Largo, Adagio, Allegro, Presto, etc. Sometimes, for more precision, some composers prefer to note the movement in their native language. Since the invention of the metronome, movement indication is often supported by metronomic movement, but not systematically. It is therefore important to know the most frequently used movement indications in order to easily know the tempo of a work.
|Large, very slow
|A bit slow but moving
|Very fast, in a hurry
The metronome is a tool that produces a stable pulse at the desired speed. Thanks to the metronome, the speed of execution is determined with great precision and it remains the same in all conditions. Originally a pendulum (see photo below), the metronome now exists in electronic format and is very often integrated with digital instruments (such as digital pianos for example).
The metronomic movement is defined as the number of beats per minute (bpm). For example, a tempo of 60 bpm corresponds to the speed of the second (because there are 60 seconds in a minute). The higher the number, the faster the tempo. For example, 160 bpm corresponds to a very fast tempo (equivalent of a Presto).
On a score, the metronomic movement is indicated in relation to a note value: rhythm value = x.
= 60 indicates a 60 bpm tempo, beats corresponding to quarters.
= 120 indicates a 120 bpm tempo, beats corresponding to quarters.
= 80 indicates a tempo of 80 bpm and beats corresponding to half notes. In this last case it will be necessary to multiply the metronomic indication by 2 to obtain the quarter value: = 80 is equivalent to = 160.
Sometimes composers will instead give an interval between two values, as in = 88 ~ 96. This means it will be necessary to interpret this piece at a tempo between 88 and 96 bpm.
Last update on 2021/05/07
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