Practice Duple and Triple Meter in One Song: “My Horse!”
Did you know that horses trot in duple meter and canter in triple meter?
The song “My Horse” from The Bunny Collection is super cool because the rhythm of the song actually changes with the rhythm of a horse’s gate. The fast part of the song, “So fast so fast my horse can go…” is written in triple meter, which mimics how a horse canters in a 3-beat pattern. The slow part, “And when he needs a little rest, we find that trotting is the best…” is in a duple meter or a 2-beat pattern, just like a horse’s trot!
(For a more thorough explanation of duple and triple meters, check out the Go Mommy post.)
Horses and dogs (and actually all other 4-legged creatures) have different gates that are distinguishable by how fast the animal is moving and when their legs hit the ground at different times.
When a horse trots, 1 front leg and 1 back leg hit the ground at the same time. This produces a bouncy 2-beat pattern as they move. See how the rider below is bouncing up and down? This horse is demonstrating duple meter excellently for us. Great job, friend! So, in the song “My Horse,” we sing about trotting in duple meter. Logical!
When a horse canters, it speeds up from a trot and strikes the ground in a 3-beat pattern. It pushes off the ground with one hind leg, then strikes the ground with the other hind leg and the diagonal front leg together, and then the last front leg hits. Then there’s a period where the horse is suspended in the air and all 4 legs are off the ground. (This sounds confusing, but if you watch the gif and count “1-2-3, 1-2-3” in your head it helps.) So we sing about going fast on a horse in triple meter, which mimics the canter! Woohoo! So cool!
What does a horse's gate have to do with early childhood music education? It's just a really fun and creative way to practice feeling the difference between duple and triple meter! We intentionally included both meters in one song to experience them back to back. (Does this count as a horse-BACK-riding pun? 😂🤦🏻♀️) One of the easiest ways to understand any concept is to compare and contrast. For example, if we're teaching our child what the color red is, we might use a bunch of different colored blocks. By comparing the red block to other colored blocks, our child can start to understand that red looks different than blue, green, or purple. If we only had the red block without the other colors, our child might logically assume "red" means any kind of color or even that "red" means block-shaped! In the same way, it's easier to understand what duple meter is and is not, if we hear and feel it next to triple meter. It's easier to understand what triple meter is and is not if we hear and feel it next to duple meter.
When you're singing this song at home, practice moving in different ways to the different beats! For older kids, encourage them to try cantering and trotting on their own. For the little ones, pick them up so they can feel you bouncing around to the different beats. Enjoy!