I was given this shirt by my church choir for Christmas of 2019. While it’s funny and ironic, it actually was quite prescient, because in March of 2020, the times did really get difficult.
If you’re not a musician, the top number tells you how many counts are in each measure. Normally that is 2, 3, 4, sometimes 6. Easy and straightforward to count, and (in the case of six) easy to subdivide and feel as smaller counts. The bottom number tells you what not gets counted as the beat. 4 on the bottom is the quarter note, 8 on the bottom is the eighth note, 2 on the bottom is the half note. 4/4 is called common time, because it’s the time that is commonly used in music!
But these difficult times…well, 6/4 isn’t too difficult. You can count it in 6 or 2 big beats of 3. 9/8 means that there’s 9 beats per measure, an eighth note gets the beat. You can count to 9, or 3 big beats of 3. 11/16…..well that’s just silly. A sixteenth note gets the beat (so that’s fast!) and 11? That’s not fun at all.
In my handbell choir this past week, we actually played a rhythm that was in 10/8 time. That was fun. We counted in 4 beats because the eighth note needed to be steady. So it was 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1 &, 2 &. It was a fun challenge!
This is the fun of learning music theory. If you don’t know it, this shirt probably doesn’t make much sense. If you do know it, it’s a hilarious inside joke. I love learning music theory and challenging myself to grow as a musician, even after all of my years of making music and studying music. There’s always something that you can learn!