5.2 Measure and time signature


Category: Elementary music theory | Tags: Measure and time signature

In this chapter, you’ll learn about the two-two meter. Further, you’ll have aan excercise to learn how to recognize rhythms.

1. Alla breve: two-two meter


allabreve alla breve two-two meter; 2 beats per measure, a half note gets one beat.


The term breve comes from brevis, a note value from medieval musical notation. It originated together with the longa. A longa was relatively long, a brevis relatively short. Alla breve means "in the manner of brevis". In the centuries that followed, the note values changed. Today we have the whole note and the half note.


two-two meter
Example of alla breve or two-two meter, Clementi - Prelude in d minor.

This is how the two-two meter in the example sound.

2. What is the difference between a four-four meter and two-two meter?

In an alla breve or two-two meter, the half note is the beat unit. This, in contrast to the four-four meter, where the quarter note is the beat unit. In both time signatures, you can notate four quarter notes. As the half note is the beat unit in the two-two meter, this means in practice that the two-two meter must be played twice as fast as the four-four meter.

3. Ear training

The exercise recognizing rhythm is a preparatory exercise for Chapter 5.23 Rhythmic dictation.

The purpose of this exercise is to learn to hear the difference between two differently notated rhythms. The difference between these two rhythms concerns only one note.



Ear Training exercise 5d: the played rhythm is notated twice. Choose the right rhythm.

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Example question

The next rhythm is being played:

Choose which rhythm you hear.

Choise 1: No image!

Choise 2: No image!


Practical steps

The rhythm is notated in a four-four meter. The difference between the first and second rhythm is the second beat:

  1. in the first rhythm, an eight note and two sixteenth notes are being played.
  2. in the second rhythm, four sixteenth notes are being played.

Clap or tap the two notated rhythms to train your inner hearing abilties. Then play the rhythm and try to hear whether in the second beat

  1. an eight note and two sixteenth notes are being played (choise 1) or
  2. four sixteenth notes are being played (choise 2).

Answer: choice 1.