Disclaimer: The information presented in this section is to get a general appreciation of the concepts. They are by no means complete or accurate.
This section is not meant to be a musicology type explanation, but simplified to appreciate rhythms that are used in film music so that one can appreciate Raja’s rhythms.
Timing is everything in music, more so with rhythms. Rhythms are expressed as time signatures and it typically is written like a fraction – example 3/4, 4/4 or 6/8.
What does this fraction mean?
The numerator shows you the number of beats in each measure.
The denominator tells you which note gets one beat.
Now, what is a measure? A measure (sometimes called a bar) is any segment of written music.
So, what does 6/8 mean? In a measure (or bar), you can count 6 beats. That explains the numerator. What about the denominator? It means that one eight of a note gets one beat.
Similarly, in a 3/4 rhythm, you can count 3 beats in a bar. One fourth of a note gets one beat. Obviously, the 6/8 rhythm is faster than the 3/4 rhythm. In other words, the greater the denominator, the faster is the rhythm.
Time signatures such as 3/4 or 3/8, 4/4, 2/4 are considered simple time signatures.
4/4 is the Western time signature for Aadhi Thaalam.
3/4 in Western music is called the Waltz rhythm (we briefly covered some examples in the section Thaalagathi vendum). This is called theesram in Carnatic music.
2/4 is typically a March rhythm.
Time signatures such as 6/8, 9/8, 12/8 are considered compound time signatures. Note that the numerator is always divisible by 3 in these cases.
6/8 rhythm is the roopaka thaalam in Carnatic music.
9/8 rhythm is called Sangeernam in Carnatic music.
6/8 in the Western world is used in fast waltzes, 12/8 in 12-bar blues and doo-wop music.
The third type of time signature is called Asymmetric or complex or irregular time signatures and these include signatures such as 5/4, 5/8, 5/16.
There is a whole genre of western rock music called math rock that tries to use complex time signatures such as 7/8, 11/8, 13/8 and so on.
5/8 is widely used in Carnatic music (kanda chapu) and so is 7/8 (misra chapu) are considered complex by the Western world.
Also, another great resource on odd time signature that carries a great tutorial…
Odd Time Signatures
I am sure some of you are sweating with this heavy lifting music theory stuff. Rest assured, we will stay clear of such heavy topics for some time!