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"Meter Change in 'Toxicity' by System of a Down"
Hi, and welcome to the Spotter Spots vlog. Today we’re going to take a quick look at the meter changes in the song “Toxicity” by System of a Down.
Meter-wise, or, meter-iogically speaking, we start out in 6/8 time, which some people call a compound meter. So what’s that? Well, people use the phrase ‘compound meter’ when they’re talking about a rhythm that has two or more groupings of notes. So like here you can see that 6/8 is made up of 2 groups (or beats) of 3 pulses, or, beats.
And now that they’re grouped like this, or, I guess you could say, “compounded” like this, you can count it in two different ways.
The First way, is you can count all the individual pulses in the groups, like this: “123456.”
The Second way to do it is based on the groupings: and that sounds something like this: “1-&-a-2-&-a”, or “1st group-ing, 2nd grouping”
Alright, but then wait--why don’t we just go “123123” or “1&a1&a”? I mean, why?
By the way, that’d be called 3/8 time, for all you rhythm nerds out there keeping track.
But yeah, here’s why: because the first and second groupings of pulses--eighth notes in this case--have different accents! It’s all in the accents. See, the first triplet starts with a medium articulation, and the next one, gets an accent. And that’s why you have 2, to differentiate.
Alright, before we move on to the next meter, let’s talk speed. During the first minute of the song, the tempo fluctuates from 75-82 bpms, so yeah, these guys are not using a click track. But that’s OK cause it’s more expressive this way, that’s what I think. And, 7 bpms might seem like an above average fluctuation, but, you should consider that it’s not like it’s doing it all at once; it’s got a lot of time to push and pull the tempo in a artistic way—I mean the next meter change doesn’t even show up until 2:40, when the music switches from 6-8 compound meter, to these kind of “double time,” 12-8 compound meter phrases.
So yeah, here we are: 12/8 time. And yeah, some might call this ‘double time’, but some might not. I dunno, it’s not worth arguing over right now.
But yeah, again, first way to count it would be to count all 12 pulses individually, like this: “12345678910blblblblbl”… yeah, I can’t say the end of that, it’s too hard to say “11-12” that fast.
But that’s okay because the second way is easier, counting it in its groups, like this: “1-&-a-2-&-a-3-&-a-4-&-a.”
Okay, but just like before, why don’t we count it in triplets: like “Triplet-triplet-triplet-triplet, like 3/8. And heck, why don’t we count it in 6/8?
Well, just like the 6/8—you guessed it—it’s because of the accents. So, not only is the first triplet beat different from the 2nd, but the 2nd is also different from the 4th. So like, beat four is more accented, or at least accented in a different way.
You know it’s like 1 louder, making the phrase itself, fit into this “4 triplet groups” time signature box, or measure.
Moving on, this section lasts until 3:05, when it goes back to its 6/8 ideas.
Then, at 3:27, it goes back to the 12/8 motifs under a Five second long primal scream.
Then, at 3:32, something else happens. The feel of the drums’ boom-chick switches from 4 triplets, to 2 sextuplets of compound meter, meterness.
Don’t believe me? That’s okay, I mean, you’d be perfectly fine still counting this in 12/8. But, IMHO, you could also give it a 12/16 time signature. And that would be counted like this: “I’m a sextuplet-I’m a sextuplet”, or like, maybe you could use vowels like in “3&a4&a”, but you could use all 5 vowels so no one’s left out like: “1-a-e-i-o-u-2-a-e-i-o-u.” Anyways…At the end of the day, it’s how it feels, and it just feels to me like a compound 2 beats with 6 pulses, so 12/16.
Okay, that’s it for now. Thanks for watching, if you liked what you saw, stick around for another video, here at tonaltrends.com music theory and songwriting vlogs!