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2/4 vs. 4/4

2/4 vs. 4/4 is a fine point.
Both are used simply to mean "Not in 3/4, please".
2/4 is choppier:
One-two-One-two, One-two-One-two.
4/4 is "normal":
One-two-three-four, One-two-three-four.
For ballet class, the bigger difference is in 2/2.


2/2, or Cut Time, is what musicians mean when they say "in Two".
Each measure has two Half-notes instead of four Quarter-notes. The same music can be counted in 4/4, but the feeling is slightly different.
Four beats of 2/2 are counted
Four beats of 4/4 are counted
Is there a difference?
Yes, because in 4/4 there is an implied "and" after each numbered beat. But in 2/2, the "ands" ARE the second and fourth beats. Therefore:
Eight eighths in a 2/2 are counted :
1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a.
Eight eighths in a 4/4 are counted :
1-& 2-& 3-& 4-&.

4/4 vs. 12/8

If you tap your foot at a comfortable speed, every four of those taps can be grouped into
a MEASURE of 4/4.
A measure of 4/4 has four Beats, or Counts, or Quarter-notes, or Pulses, or Walking Bass notes. But what does it have in between those beats? Each beat is SUBDIVIDED into two, three, or four parts.
An oom-pah has
two subdivisions (or "straight eighths").
A swinging beat has
three subdivisions
(or "swing eighths") and can still be a 4/4, but with a "12/8 feel".
A "sixteenth feel"
(four subdivisions) allows
syncopation within each beat, and more compelling rhythms, but no swing.
By the way, an easy way to change the flavor of the movement without changing the movement is to:
Change the Subdivisions! You don't even need to tell the dancers. The counts and timing stay the same, but everything is altered, as though the choreography is no different, but now you're dancing in the forest, or on a boat, or on Mars.

Public Domain

Except for my tunes, which you may use, everything on this site is in the public domain. So you can use anything here for any purpose, including a non-free performance or a broadcast production. You don't even have to ask my permission.
Tunes by Dalby are copyright 2010 and 2011.

interchangeable Threes

Accompaniments for Plie, Tendu, Rond de Jambe, Moderate Waltz, and Adagio are often interchangeable. However, Rond de Jambe uses less weight and momentum than Waltz or Plie, and feels more like a slow or moderate 6/8 (counted: One-and-a, Two-and-a) than a Waltz (2 measures are counted:
ONE-and-Two-and-Three-and, TWO-and-Two-and-Three-and).

counting 3/4

Since each measure has three beats, 3/4 CAN be counted "One-two-three, Two-two-three" (if the music is slow).
But usually there is only one count per measure ("One-and-a, Two-and-a").
People usually count several different ways at the same time.

Adagio vs. Waltz

"Adagio" does not mean Slow, although it usually is.
It means a Sustained approach to the marking of time: instead of emphasizing or "marking" the pulses ("Marcato"), time is allowed to pass more smoothly through the measure, without really acknowledging the pulses encountered along the way. Even "One" is often de-emphasized.
A 3/4 Adagio supports controlled movement (such movement is also said to be "sustained"), but a Waltz (even of the same tempo) is more supportive of physical momentum and the use of weight.

counting 6/8

6/8 meter is counted "One-and-a, Two-and-a" (or "One, Two").
A 6/8 is a form of 2/4, but it is a special form:
its 2 beats (the One and the Two) are each SUBDIVIDED into Three eighth-notes, instead of the more simple (or "straight") Two eighth-notes.
These three eighth notes are Triplet Eighth Notes, and each one is a bit shorter than a Straight Eighth Note, because three of them must fit in the space of one Quarter Note.

2/4 = 6/8 ?

How does 2/4 = 6/8 ?
6/8 can equal 2/4, and three eighths can equal one quarter. These are TRIPLET EIGHTH NOTES, and they are a bit shorter: Three fit into the time taken normally by Two. This is the basic concept of the Triplet in music, and it is not related to the Modern Dance "Triplet".
The same music can be written as 2/4 (with "triplet" symbols above every 3 eighth-notes) or as 6/8.

Mazurka and Polonaise

Mazurka and Polonaise each have 3 beats, like Waltz. But Waltz (ONE-and, Two-and, Three-and) has only 2 subdivisions per beat, like the two halves of a heartbeat.
Mazurka usually has 3 subdivisions per beat (ONE-and-a, TWO-and-a, three-and-a). In addition to ONE, which is always strong, TWO is also a strong beat.
Polonaise usually has
4 subdivisions per beat (ONE-e-and-a, two-e-and-a, THREE-e-and-a) and is usually slower.
ONE is strong, as always, even if it is barely audible. THREE is also a strong beat.
Since the "weak" beats of Mazurka and Polonaise (beats Two & Three) have more than 2 subdivisions, these beats become little events in their own right, and are almost as strong as the "strong" beat (beat "One"). Instead of gliding down the stairs of the measure with Waltzing fluidity, Mazurka and Polonaise put their weight on each stairstep, almost stopping for a moment on every beat.

to find Longer Versions or Different Tempos

On a page of results, click on TITLE to alphabetize all the titles for that result.
Compare their Tempos to select a faster or slower version.
Compare Bars or Length for shorter or longer versions.
Or, different arrangements:
Ode To Joy as a Samba or as a Boogie-Woogie, perhaps.
Click on LENGTH to group all the results that last a certain length.

All ballet class rhythms are here.

Every piece here can be used for many different things.
A Moderato Waltz or a Slow 6/8 can support:
Plie, Tendu, any Rond de Jambe (earth or air), Stretching, Adagio, Pirouette, Leaps across the Floor, Reverence, and much more.
Every piece here can be used for many different things!
"Little Jumps", for example, simply means Quick 2/4, and works very well for Degage and others.
And there may not be a button that says JETE on it, but the accompaniment is here (probably in Coda or Big Waltz).

tempo vs. meter vs. rhythm

These terms are often used interchangeably by dance teachers. But Tempos and Meters have NUMBERS, because they can be quantified scientifically. Rhythms are musical, artistic things, and have NAMES.
A Tempo can be analyzed using a machine: how many pulses occur within a minute? (60 BPM means sixty beats per minute.)
A Meter can be determined by counting how many pulses are grouped together in a measure, or between one "One" and the next "One". (These "Ones" are also called "Downbeats".)
But a Rhythm has a personality and a mood. Also, it is in a specific Meter and Subdivision, and at a general Tempo. But at its heart is its pattern for how Accented and Unaccented pulses and subdivisions are distributed within a measure.

"Can you play me a Tango in three, please?" Well, sort of. I'll play in three, but I'll give it a Tango flavor, possibly by simply chopping off the fourth beat of a real Tango.

accents: dancers vs. musicians

The word "accent" is used completely differently by dancers and musicians. For musicians, any particular beat, or subdivision, or note, is "accented" if it is louder than those around it.
When dancers say "The accent is up" they mean that the dancer is up on "One". This makes sense because One is a Strong beat, and its accent is felt strongly even if the music is soft (or silent) on One.

ethics: changing the music of Bach

I don't know anyone who thinks it's okay to "correct" the music of our favorite composers. I certainly don't approve of the practice. But I do it anyway, because I am a dance accompanist. If we were purists, there is a lot of music we could never use in class. Also, we would have to use real clouds and trees onstage instead of painting them on a backdrop.
Almost everything on this website is edited, in one or more ways. I even confess to the (truly) egregious crime of chopping three measures out of the middle of a Bach Partita. And my Satie will sound horribly convoluted to anybody who knows the piece well. But this allows us to use these pieces in class. And perhaps glimpse what Chopin or Brahms might have written when they were very tired, or not feeling well. Enjoy!