Simple and compound meter


Audio: simple and compound meter (0:06)

Simple and compound meter
Figure: simple and compound meter

simple and compound meter plays simple and compound rhythms on a room drum kit. The simple and compound meter figure shows the score. The first meter is compound duple meter in 6/8 time and the second is simple triple meter in 3/4 time.

Simple and compound are the secondary divisions of meter, whereas duple and triple are the primary divisions.

Simple meter indicates that a single beat can be broken down further into two beats. Compound meter indicates that a single beat can be broken down further into three beats.

Duple and triple meter determine the number of beats in a bar, simple and compound meter determine how each beat is subdivided into smaller beats.

The classification of meter into simple and compound, duple and triple, can cause confusion, as simple and compound meter demonstrates. The first rhythm is interpreted as (3+3)/8, two beats subdivided into groups of three, and classed as compound duple meter. However, 6/8 could be thought of as (2+2+2)/8, three beats subdivided into groups of two. However, this is written as simple triple meter, 3/4, on the basis that (2+2+2)/8 is the same as (1+1+1)/4 even though they are clearly different rhythms.

Meter classification is simple in principle but complex in practice because of the terminology. It is much easier to use a time signature instead.