Timing (music)

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Timing in music refers to the ability to "keep time" accurately and to synchronise to an ensemble, [1] as well as to expressive timing subtle adjustment of note or beat duration, or of tempo, for aesthetic effect.

Research in music cognition has shown that time as a subjective structuring of events in music, differs from the concept of time in physics. [2] Listeners to music do not perceive rhythm on a continuous scale, but recognise rhythmic categories that function as a reference relative to which the deviations in timing can be appreciated. [3] [4] Temporal patterns in music combine two different time scalesrhythmic durations such as half and quarter notes on the one hand, and on the other, the continuous timing variations that characterize an expressive musical performance.

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Rhythm generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions". This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds ; to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metre (music)</span> Aspect of music

In music, metre or meter refers to regularly recurring patterns and accents such as bars and beats. Unlike rhythm, metric onsets are not necessarily sounded, but are nevertheless implied by the performer and expected by the listener.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metronome</span> Device that produces a sound at a regular interval

A metronome, from ancient Greek μέτρον and νομός is a device that produces an audible click or other sound at a regular interval that can be set by the user, typically in beats per minute (BPM). Metronomes may include synchronized visual motion. Musicians use the device to practise playing to a regular pulse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gregorian chant</span> Form of song

Gregorian chant or Ara Garen is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song in Latin of the Roman Catholic Church. Gregorian chant developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries, with later additions and redactions. Although popular legend credits Pope Gregory I with inventing Gregorian chant, scholars believe that it arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of the Old Roman chant and Gallican chant.

In music, duration is an amount of time or how long or short a note, phrase, section, or composition lasts. "Duration is the length of time a pitch, or tone, is sounded." A note may last less than a second, while a symphony may last more than an hour. One of the fundamental features of rhythm, or encompassing rhythm, duration is also central to meter and musical form. Release plays an important part in determining the timbre of a musical instrument and is affected by articulation.

In European art music, the common-practice period is the era of the tonal system. Most of its features persisted from the mid-Baroque period through the Classical and Romantic periods, roughly from 1650 to 1900. There was much stylistic evolution during these centuries, with patterns and conventions flourishing and then declining, such as the sonata form. The most prominent, unifying feature throughout the period is a harmonic language to which music theorists can today apply Roman numeral chord analysis.

In music theory, the pulse is a series of uniformly spaced beats—either audible or implied that sets the tempo and is the scaffolding for the rhythm. By contrast, rhythm is always audible and can depart from the pulse. So while the rhythm may become too difficult for an untrained listener to fully match, nearly any listener instinctively matches the pulse by simply tapping uniformly, despite rhythmic variations in timing of sounds atop the pulse.

Isochrony is the postulated rhythmic division of time into equal portions by a language. Rhythm is an aspect of prosody, others being intonation, stress, and tempo of speech.

In Hindustani classical music, the jor is a formal section of composition in the long elaboration (alap) of a raga that forms the beginning of a performance. It comes after alap and precedes jhala, the climax. Jor is the instrumental equivalent of nomtom in the dhrupad vocal style of Indian music. Both have a simple pulse but no well-defined rhythmic cycle.

In linguistics, prosody is concerned with elements of speech that are not individual phonetic segments but are properties of syllables and larger units of speech, including linguistic functions such as intonation, stress, and rhythm. Such elements are known as suprasegmentals.

Tempo rubato is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor. Rubato is an expressive shaping of music that is a part of phrasing.

In music a time point or timepoint is "an instant, analogous to a geometrical point in space". Because it has no duration, it literally cannot be heard, but it may be used to represent "the point of initiation of a single pitch, the repetition of a pitch, or a pitch simultaneity", therefore the beginning of a sound, rather than its duration. It may also designate the release of a note or the point within a note at which something changes. Other terms often used in music theory and analysis are attack point and starting point. Milton Babbitt calls the distance from one time point, attack, or starting point to the next a time-point interval, independent of the durations of the sounding notes which may be either shorter than the time-point interval, or longer. Charles Wuorinen shortens this expression to just time interval. Other writers use the terms attack interval, or, interval of entry, interval of entrance, or starting interval.

A tatum is a feature of music that has been variously defined as: "the smallest time interval between successive notes in a rhythmic phrase", "the shortest durational value [...] in music that [is] still more than incidentally encountered", "the smallest cognitively meaningful subdivision of the main beat", and "the fastest pulse present in a piece of music". "In Western notation, tatums may correspond typically to sixteenth- or twenty-fourth-notes", or thirty-second notes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Expressive timing</span>

Expressive timing refers to the musical phenomenon whereby a performer introduces subtle temporal nuances to an otherwise metronomic interpretation. This is also referred to as microtiming or microrhythm. For instance, a pianist might introduce a slight ritardando at the end of a phrase to convey a structural event. Expressive timing has been shown to operate in different musical styles. In jazz, expressive timing plays an important role in how "swing" notes are timed.

In the study of chronobiology, entrainment occurs when rhythmic physiological or behavioral events match their period to that of an environmental oscillation. It is ultimately the interaction between circadian rhythms and the environment. A central example is the entrainment of circadian rhythms to the daily light–dark cycle, which ultimately is determined by the Earth's rotation. Exposure to certain environmental stimuli will cue a phase shift, and abrupt change in the timing of the rhythm. Entrainment helps organisms maintain an adaptive phase relationship with the environment as well as prevent drifting of a free running rhythm. This stable phase relationship achieved is thought to be the main function of entrainment.

In music, the term swing has two main uses. Colloquially, it is used to describe the propulsive quality or "feel" of a rhythm, especially when the music prompts a visceral response such as foot-tapping or head-nodding. This sense can also be called "groove". It is also known as shuffle.

The neuroscience of music is the scientific study of brain-based mechanisms involved in the cognitive processes underlying music. These behaviours include music listening, performing, composing, reading, writing, and ancillary activities. It also is increasingly concerned with the brain basis for musical aesthetics and musical emotion. Scientists working in this field may have training in cognitive neuroscience, neurology, neuroanatomy, psychology, music theory, computer science, and other relevant fields.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Études (Ligeti)</span> Set of études by György Ligeti

The Hungarian composer György Ligeti composed a cycle of 18 études for solo piano between 1985 and 2001. They are considered one of the major creative achievements of his last decades, and one of the most significant sets of piano studies of the 20th century, combining virtuoso technical problems with expressive content, following in the line of the études of Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy, and Alexander Scriabin but addressing new technical ideas as a compendium of the concepts Ligeti had worked out in his other works since the 1950s. Pianist Jeremy Denk wrote that they "are a crowning achievement of his career and of the piano literature; though still new, they are already classics."

A duration row or duration series is an ordering of a set of durations, in analogy with the tone row or twelve-tone set.

The rhythm dance (RD) is the first segment of an ice dance competition. The International Skating Union (ISU) renamed the short dance to the "rhythm dance" in June 2018, prior to the 2018–2019 season. It became part of international competitions in July 2018. French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron hold the highest RD score of 90.83 points, which they achieved at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.


  1. Petr Janata; Scott T. Grafton. "Swinging in the brain : shared neural substrates for behaviors related to sequencing and music" (PDF). Dbic.dartmouth.edu. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  2. Michon, J.A. & Jackson, J.L. (1985) Time, Mind, and Behavior. Berlin: Springer
  3. Clarke, E. F. (1999) Rhythm and Timing in Music, in: Diana Deutsch (ed.), Psychology of Music, second edition, University of California, San Diego, pp.473-500
  4. Honing, H. (2002) Structure and interpretation of rhythm and timing in Dutch Journal of Music Theory (Tijdschrift voor Muziektheorie). vol 7(3), p. 227-232.pdf