Is there a musical term for the "and" positions in a bar?

• Jul 28, 2020 - 13:04

In 4/4 time counting a bar like this "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and", playing notes "on the beat" is clearly understood. Are the "and" positions referred to as "off the beat" or could such a term mean any position that is not "on the beat"? Is there a musical term for the "and" positions?


As I use the terms (that may not be universal though), "off the beat" would mean "any where that is not on the beat" as you suggest. I would refer to the "and" as "the off-beat", or possibly "the half-beat". If necessary I might extend this last usage and hope that others would understand what I mean if a I refer to "the one-third-of-a-beat" or "the two-third-of-a-beat" or "the three-third-of-a-beat" when I want to identify which part of a divided compound beat I was referring to. But I don't often want to do that.

If the context is music with mostly eighth notes as the shortest value, "the off beats" is clear enough. If there are also sixteenth, then "the 'ands'" works, even if it probably doesn't translate to other language well.

In reply to by yonah_ag

"and" is usually used for the second half of the beat. There is no other "and" usage here
for example, in Quarter-note based count: "and" is always the second eighth note of a(ny) beat. 1, &; 2, &; 3, &; 4, &

Different vowels are used to show the first and second parts of sixteenth notes.
For example: 1, e, &, a; 2, e, &, a; 3, e, &, a; 4, e, &, a;

To describe in written:
Terms like "half of the beat", "quarter of the beat" mix with other note values.
Instead: Terms such as "first sixteenth note of the second beat", "second eighth note of the third beat" can be used.

In reply to by yonah_ag

Here's is something totally unimportant, but has been in the back of my mind since this question was asked. The question was about a musical term for "and." I've been wondering what the expected answer would be. I wonder if the OP was hoping for some Latin or Italian word. My guess is that if there is such a term, that it would be some word meaning "and", or "off", or "plus". I'm not surprised there doesn't appear to be such a term. How, for one thing, would it apply to compound meter? To my rather simple mind such terms were used when I was learning to read music and not used later. yonah_ag, I think you may be right. People able to play this piece can probably figure it out. Just thinking out loud.

In reply to by bobjp

Yes, I was wondering whether there was a precise musical term. I'm still learning musical terms and "compound meter" is another new one for me to look up.

It is a simple piece with a pretty standard fingerpicking style so I'm sure you are right about figuring it out. In any case the score has audio!

If you please, Greek also provides the [arsis/thesis] pair, but people have apparently been known to have used these terms at variance throughout the centuries with "lifting" and "setting down" respectively. For instance, Fux derived his usage of thesis for downbeat and arsis for upbeat from the raising and lowering of the arm rather than other theorists using thesis for upbeat and arsis for downbeat of the voice, but that was a long time ago, I presume.

In reply to by yonah_ag

If you are really interested in the subject, you might also take a look at "The Shaping of Musical Elements" by Armand Russell and Allen Trubitt (Shirmer, 1992). The first volume deals (among other things) with the analysis of melody in terms of the interaction of dynamic, agogic and metric accents, where dynamic accents are the result of instructions in notation to increase volume, agogic accents are the result of arsis and thesis based on note durations and metric accents are the result of patterns of expectation developed as a result of regularities in dynamic and agogic accents.

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