The ternary beat division
Ternary rhythm covers all what the binary has left aside, or about 4% of music.
Humans seem to be fundamentally binary beings.
The ternary division is misunderstood. Very often, it is written as binary.
Ternary bars are unfortunately called "compound time signatures", confusing everyone.
Ternary music is found in close to a quarter of classical music and the vast majority of jazz and blues.
Part of the incomprehension surrounding ternary rhythms comes from triplets.
Triplets are occasional ternary beats encountered in binary music.
Triplets are only found in binary music
Triplets are grouped with brackets and crowned with a 3.
It is important to understand that triplets are exceptional beats in binary music.
A whole piece of music cannot be in triplet rhythm; that would be badly identifying ternary music.
Reading and writing ternary rhythms
The rhythm notation system is based on a binary relation between the figures.
One whole note equals two half notes, one half note equals two quarter notes, ...
Binary organization of rhythm figures
This system was adapted for ternary music;
•Three eighth notes are used to represent a ternary beat.
Each eighth note lasts 1/3 of a beat.
•Dotted figures are used for durations of one beat and more.
Rhythmic values adapted for ternary music
Waltzes are representative of the confusion around ternary music.
All waltzes are ternary.
In fact, most of them have four beats per bar.
The popular saying goes that waltzes have three beats and it is wrong.
When people count 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, ..., they are doing the ternary division since they place their foot on each 1.
The mix-up comes from the fact that waltzes have always been badly notated.
Waltzes are accelerated 3/4 time "minuets", so that each bar becomes one beat.
Waltzes are written in 3/4 time with the mention "Tempo di valse" placed at the top of the sheet music. This tells the musicians to consider each bar as a single ternary beat.
Waltzes don't have 3 beats; they are ternary.
How to perform
the ternary division
•A: Count 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, aloud, making sure you space the numbers equally, be curt and precise.
•B: Beat your foot on number 1 only.
•C: Say Ta, Ta, Ta, instead of 1, 2, 3.
Tempo 80 bpm
Tempo 110 bpm
Tempo 140 bpm