Musical time is organized around individual beats which are organized into various meters that underlie the rhythm of a composition. Let us explore what this definition means more carefully. When you listen to music and tap your foot, clap your hands, or snap your fingers, you are marking off pulses. Pulses are infinitesimally small points in time that are always equidistant from one another. The distance between each pulse is called a beat, and this beat is assigned to a particular note value, most often the half note, quarter note, or eighth note, although other values are possible. The number of beats in a complete musical unit--called a measure and set off by barlines--varies from two to four.
Therefore, there are two variables regarding the beat:
1) What note value is equal to the beat, and
2) How many beats are there in each measure
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