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Triple metre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Triple metre (or triple meter, also known as triple time) is a musical metre characterised by a primary division of 3 beats to the bar, usually indicated by 3 (simple) or 9 (compound) in the upper figure of the time signature, with 3/4 and 9/8 being the most common examples. The upper figure being divisible by three does not of itself indicate triple metre; for example, a time signature of 6/8 usually indicates compound duple metre, and the 12/8 sections of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis are compound double with a primary division of four to the bar.

It is reasonably common in ballads and classical music but much less so in genres such as rock & roll and jazz. Although jazz writing has become more adventurous since Dave Brubeck's seminal Time Out, the majority of jazz and jazz standards are still in straight four time.

Triple time is common in formal dance styles, for example the waltz, the minuet and the mazurka.

Movements in triple time characterised the more adventurous approach of 17th and 18th Century music, for example the Sarabande, which originated in Latin America and appeared in Spain early in the 16th Century, became a standard movement in the suite during the baroque period. The baroque sarabande is commonly a slow triple rather than the much faster Spanish original, consistent with the courtly European interpretations of many Latin dances. The sarabande form was revived in the 20th Century by composers such as Debussy, Satie and, in a different style, Vaughan Williams (in Job) and Benjamin Britten (in Simple Symphony)

Tunes in triple metre tend to be more lyrical and less martial than those in double. For example, the British national anthem, God Save the Queen, is in triple metre - this is highly unusual for a national anthem, almost all are in march time.

In Mozart's Requiem triple time is used in the Recordare, Hostias and Agnus Dei as a counterpoint to the more robust two- and four-in-a-bar of the rest of the work, giving these movements a more reflective feel.

Triple metre in song

There are many classical songs in triple metre. Bist du bei Mir, from Bach's Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach (but probably originally by Stölzel) is in triple metre; Bach's Jesu, joy of man's desiring is an interesting composite with the melody marked in a compound triple 9/8 and the underlying harmony in 3/4.

Franz Schubert composed several lieder in triple time, including, from his 1824 set Die Schöne Müllerin, the songs Am Feierabend, Der Müller und der Bach, Des Müllers Blumen, Halt!, Morgengruss, Tränenregen and Ungeduld.

In contemporary genres triple metre is much less common, notable examples being "She's Leaving Home" and the verses (but not the chorus) of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" from The Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Notice that both these examples are essentially ballads.

In hymns and other religious works it is still common, with tunes such as Dave Bilborough's Abba, Father following from more traditional melodies such as Slane (adapted form a traditional Irish melody) and Cloisters (written in the 16th Century)

Triple metre continues to be used in modern pop music.

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