The MyMusicTheory Guide to Music; Part 3 – The Renaissance


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The MyMusicTheory Guide to Music; Part 3 – The Renaissance — 4 Comments

  1. One of the images in this blog, namely the one at the bottom of the texture section of it labelled Missa Papae Marcell Sanctus – Palestrina, brings a question into my mind:

    According to standard interpretation, what’s the difference between the 4/2 and 8/4 time signatures??

    For 3/2 and 6/4, the grade 4 section of this site clearly says that 3/2 is ONE-and-TWO-and-THREE-and (just like 3/4 only different in that each note duration is replaced by the note twice as long; e.g. any quarter note in 3/4 becomes a half note in 3/2.) In contrast, 6/4 is ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six, meaning that stress is on the first and fourth beats. This means 6/4 is like 2 measures of 3/4.

    However, this site has absolutely no info on the difference between 4/2 and 8/4. Look at and see the score under the Difficult Time Signatures section. The text under it is first asking if it is 8/4, then explaining that the correct answer is 4/2. But this is the ONLY reference to the 8/4 time signature on the entire site. There are no other references to 8/4 even in the grade 5 section. Anyone know the general difference between 4/2 and 8/4??

    • Hi Jimmy – the site has no direct reference to 8/4 because it’s not a time signature which is in general use and is not on the ABRSM syllabus at all. I don’t personally know of any pieces in 8/4 time, although according to there are some in existence. Most time signatures have a basic beat of 2, 3 or 4 beats per bar. Only in modern times have composers been more experimental, and the use of 8/4 would be because there are 8 crotchets in a bar but the actual number of beats or repeated phrase lengths would be something irregular, for example you might want to use a rhythm which is two dotted minims plus a minim, for example. If there were four equal beats in the bar, then 4/2 would be the correct time signature to use.
      The MyMusicTheory site follows the requirements of the ABRSM syllabus to the letter, and this time signature is well beyond what is asked for at grades 2 and 4, even at grade 8 it is unlikely to be seen!

  2. Thanks for the article!
    I dont quite understand what is stated in the last section though. “Diatonic” music is composed whenever you use both half- and whole steps. The opposite would be “chromatic” wich basically no style utilizes except maybe modern experimental ones. So I dont get the claim that it was created in those days and were to be evolved during the baroque.

    • Hi Jocke,
      From the Medieval times through to the end of the Renaissance period the music was modal, not diatonic (and not chromatic either). All music is built from tones and semitones, so it’s not really a useful way of defining diatonic music. The difference is this:

      There were 8 basic modes, which are equivalent to the scales which are produced if you play an octave on the piano starting from each white note (and not playing any black notes). So C-C (which is now called C major) produces the pattern of tones/semitones which is TTSTTTS.
      But if you start on D and play up to D on the white notes, the pattern is TSTTTST. Start on E and you get a different pattern. Each of the modes had a different pattern of tones and semitones.

      In the diatonic system, if you make a scale from D you can choose the major or minor, but the pattern is the same for D major as it is for C major. All the major scales have the same pattern, and all the minor keys share the same pattern.
      Diatonic and chromatic are only “opposite” in the modern sense.

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