Eli5 – Why does music come in bars of four instead of 5/10?

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Recently I’ve been attending a lot of gym classes and the counts are always 4, 8, 16 etc. It made me wonder why music is set out this way and not in 5’s and 10’s like I would expect. Or am I missing something obvious?

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57 Answers

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Anonymous 0 Comments

i don’t know for real but i suspect biology. heart beats are closely related to music beats and tend to have 2 main parts to them. walking is the other one, left, right, left, right.

so the base is two, two sets of two seems to be about the base.

but other things work too, 3 count is very common with 3/4 6/8 being very common. 5/4 does exist, but it’s less common.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Well it is far from universal. But music based off rhythm is most likely to come off our bipedal nature. We don’t count off fingers and toes but rather tend to dance to music and odd counts using two feet and two hands would be less natural (although lots of folk dances/songs are also in odd meter).

It is rather natural to go left-right, left-right etc which sort of naturally leads to 2 or 4 beats per measure and then multiply from there.

It would seem a bit unnatural (at first), if a dance count went left right left right left as the next step would not be a left (therefore starting the count) but a right step instead.

Even rhythmic clapping would be open clap open clap which again tends to favor even counts. Doing something like shouting “go go go” is usually “go, go, go” followed by a pause which gets back to a 4 count measure before it restarts.

It also could be conditioning.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Quarter rhythm just comes naturally. Listen to 5/4 music, you can probably find some on youtube. [Here’s one](https://youtu.be/P45jlDNTf5Q). At 6:56 you can count to 10, and at 2:55 you can count to 5. They’re odd rhythms. Literally, lol.

There’s also the fact that 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 are easily divisible in so many ways, which is good when it comes to rhythms where you typically divide the rhythm with different sounds.

Anonymous 0 Comments

i don’t know for real but i suspect biology. heart beats are closely related to music beats and tend to have 2 main parts to them. walking is the other one, left, right, left, right.

so the base is two, two sets of two seems to be about the base.

but other things work too, 3 count is very common with 3/4 6/8 being very common. 5/4 does exist, but it’s less common.

Anonymous 0 Comments

i don’t know for real but i suspect biology. heart beats are closely related to music beats and tend to have 2 main parts to them. walking is the other one, left, right, left, right.

so the base is two, two sets of two seems to be about the base.

but other things work too, 3 count is very common with 3/4 6/8 being very common. 5/4 does exist, but it’s less common.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Well it is far from universal. But music based off rhythm is most likely to come off our bipedal nature. We don’t count off fingers and toes but rather tend to dance to music and odd counts using two feet and two hands would be less natural (although lots of folk dances/songs are also in odd meter).

It is rather natural to go left-right, left-right etc which sort of naturally leads to 2 or 4 beats per measure and then multiply from there.

It would seem a bit unnatural (at first), if a dance count went left right left right left as the next step would not be a left (therefore starting the count) but a right step instead.

Even rhythmic clapping would be open clap open clap which again tends to favor even counts. Doing something like shouting “go go go” is usually “go, go, go” followed by a pause which gets back to a 4 count measure before it restarts.

It also could be conditioning.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Well it is far from universal. But music based off rhythm is most likely to come off our bipedal nature. We don’t count off fingers and toes but rather tend to dance to music and odd counts using two feet and two hands would be less natural (although lots of folk dances/songs are also in odd meter).

It is rather natural to go left-right, left-right etc which sort of naturally leads to 2 or 4 beats per measure and then multiply from there.

It would seem a bit unnatural (at first), if a dance count went left right left right left as the next step would not be a left (therefore starting the count) but a right step instead.

Even rhythmic clapping would be open clap open clap which again tends to favor even counts. Doing something like shouting “go go go” is usually “go, go, go” followed by a pause which gets back to a 4 count measure before it restarts.

It also could be conditioning.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Quarter rhythm just comes naturally. Listen to 5/4 music, you can probably find some on youtube. [Here’s one](https://youtu.be/P45jlDNTf5Q). At 6:56 you can count to 10, and at 2:55 you can count to 5. They’re odd rhythms. Literally, lol.

There’s also the fact that 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 are easily divisible in so many ways, which is good when it comes to rhythms where you typically divide the rhythm with different sounds.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Quarter rhythm just comes naturally. Listen to 5/4 music, you can probably find some on youtube. [Here’s one](https://youtu.be/P45jlDNTf5Q). At 6:56 you can count to 10, and at 2:55 you can count to 5. They’re odd rhythms. Literally, lol.

There’s also the fact that 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 are easily divisible in so many ways, which is good when it comes to rhythms where you typically divide the rhythm with different sounds.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Really, you can count the pulse or beat of music however you want. Time signatures like 3 beats to a measure, or 4 beats to a measure, are constructs that are specific to different styles of music and cultures. These subdivisions can help musicians and dancers by emphasizing the repeating patterns in the music – so like, a certain piece might have a repeating pulse every 3 beats, so you might represent that piece as “in 3” and count three beats to a measure – but that isn’t really integral to the music, you can count it however you want. Music outside the western notational tradition can group pulses very differently. Indian music uses a tala that is much longer than a western measure and has subdivisions, but not necessarily the same length. So they might be counting in 14 (4+3+4+3) or 7 (3+2+2). Other systems have asymmetric pulses – for example some Balkan dances have a quick-quick-slow-quick-quick repeating meter: five repeating beats but the middle one is longer.

Probably the reason the counts are usually in 4 at your gym classes though, is that a lot of western music is in 4

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