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#061: Masterclass: Making Sense of Meter Signature Changes

music and meaning Jul 18, 2022

Has this ever happened to you? You’re sailing along, playing through a new piece. You’re feeling pretty good because the piece is actually flowing along. You can tell you’ve been making progress because a year or so ago, this piece would have felt difficult.   

Just about the time you’re ready to pat yourself on the back and imagine yourself tackling that piece you’ve always thought was too hard, your playing comes to a screeching halt. There’s a new meter signature, or time signature, in front of you. Your easy piece in 4/4 time suddenly has a measure of ⅞. What the heck is this about??

On today’s show, we’re going to find out exactly what meter changes like that imaginary one are all about. While we often associate them with contemporary music, changing meters have been a part of music since music began. If you play traditional folk music, you encounter meter changes all the time. In fact, the meter signature is a relatively recent invention.

This is a masterclass-style podcast, not that there will be other students playing today, but meaning that I will go into some depth on this topic. In today’s masterclass you will learn:

  • What the meter signature can tell you, if you’re paying attention.
  • Why meters may change in the middle of a piece.
  • How to count your way easily through any meter change you encounter.

You may want to push pause right here and download the PDF that is linked in the show notes so that you can follow along with me. If you’re driving or on the exercise bike, no worries - you can listen now and download the PDF later.

One other note before we start: You may not have noticed but all of our podcasts are categorized. We put them in one of three categories: Technique and Musicianship, Practice and Performing and Music and Meaning. I have put this podcast in the “Music and Meaning” category because as you will find out in a minute, changing meters isn’t just about learning how to negotiate them. Meter changes are directly related to the music itself, its energy, flow and message. That’s why it’s so important for us all to feel comfortable and confident with them.

So if you’re ready, we’ll begin our masterclass.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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