Meter provides an underlying gravitational force in music: a living, dynamic time/energy “grid” that, depending on how the other musical elements align with it, will produce a varied range of sensations, including (though not limited to) confidence, agitation, whimsy, or repose.

To understand the source of musical meter, we must trace it back to its physiological and psychological roots. Think of the regular rhythmic patterns of walking feet, chewing jaws, inhaling and exhaling, or a beating heart. Musical meter not only emulates human motion and locomotion, it captures its energy and gives it back as we listen.

In musical meter, these human artifacts translate into “stronger and weaker beats.” By “stronger” and “weaker,” we mean that certain beats naturally feel “more grounded,” or “heavier” than the other beats, which feel like they “bounce up and away from” or “pull down toward” the stronger beats.

Rather than counting beats in an uninterrupted series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … 17, 18, 19, … 215, 216), we “meter out” or “measure” these heavier and lighter beats into groups we call “measures,” almost always based on units of 2, 3, or 4.

Going further, the first of any measure feels the heaviest, like the “starting point” or “foundation” for the beats that follow. We refer to it as the “downbeat.” And we refer to the very last upbeat in any measure as the “upbeat,” because it feels especially light, even “edgy” in its need to “land.” In measures with more than two beats, any beats between the first and last possess varying degrees of upbeat or downbeat gravitational properties.

A melody gets much of its expressive power by the precise ways it aligns its gestures to begin and end on upbeats and downbeats.

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
meter (noun)
a) systematically arranged and measured rhythm in verse
(1) rhythm that continuously repeats a single basic pattern - iambic meter
(2) rhythm characterized by regular recurrence of a systematic arrangement of basic patterns in larger figures - ballad meter
b) a measure or unit of metrical verse - usually used in combination pentameter compare foot 4
c) a fixed metrical pattern verse form
the basic recurrent rhythmical pattern of note values, accents, and beats per measure in music
meter (noun)
one that measures , especially an official measurer of commodities
meter (noun)
the base unit of length in the International System of Units that is equal to the distance traveled by light in a vacuum in second or to about 39.37 inches - 1/299,792 see metric system table
meter (noun)
an instrument for measuring and sometimes recording the time or amount of something - a parking meter a gas meter
- postage meter , also a marking printed by a postage meter
meter (verb)
transitive verb
to measure by means of a meter
to supply in a measured or regulated amount
to print postal indicia on by means of a postage meter
Merriam-Webster Online Thesaurus
meter (noun)
the recurrent pattern formed by a series of sounds having a regular rise and fall in intensity
beat, cadence, measure, meter
accent, accentuation, emphasis, stress; backbeat; drum, throb; lilt, movement, sway, swing; hexameter, pentameter, tetrameter, trimeter
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