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Beat (music)
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Beat (music)

See also the beat disambiguation page.


A beat is a pulse on the beat level, the metric level at which pulses are heard as the basic unit. Thus a beat is the basic time unit of a piece; when you tap your foot to music, each tap is a beat. Depending on the context, beat may denote either

There is no formal definition that defines the correct beat level in all pieces of music. If two people tap their feet to the same music but one taps twice as fast as the other, neither is wrong; one may simply be considered on a higher or lower level than the beat level.

Much music is characterised by a sequence of stressed and unstressed beats (often called "strong" and "weak") organised into a meter and partially indicated by a time signature, the speed of which is determined by a tempo. In the context of a time signature, the term "beat" most often refers to the bottom number — so in 3/4, most people would consider the beat to be the 4; that is, a quarter-note, or crotchet. Musicians typically find that mentally counting a regular series of beats enables them to keep synchronised even if the music is not characterised by regular rhythm.

Metric levels faster than the beat level are division levels, and slower levels are multiple levels.

See also: Break (music), metronome.