Impact figure

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A beat figure or clock figure is a movement pattern that is used by conductors to indicate the different beats of a measure by tacting . He uses up, down and sideways movements. Basically, the first, stressed beat of a bar is struck vertically , further, smaller accentuations (mostly on the half of the bar) within the bar are indicated by changing the horizontal direction of movement.

Below are a few schematic representations of the most common percussion figures from the conductor's perspective for the right hand. Although these are not binding and certainly do not reflect the way of tacting, they are so generally recognized that they can be seen as a standardized starting point. Green dots indicate the main counting times, red the secondary counting times. If two hands are used, the conductor moves his hands in mirror symmetry. However, advanced conductors often use the left hand regardless of the flapping movements of the right hand to give her clues to the musical arrangement or inserts view of musicians.

The one-piece clock

All measures in which only the beginning of the measure is marked are only displayed by moving up and down. A distinction can be made between “even” (two eighths, two quarters, etc.) and “odd” (three eighths, three quarters) bars. The latter can be provided with a rounding, so to speak "in a circle".

Impact figure1.PNG Schlagfigur1rund.PNG

The two-part clock

This includes all time signatures that have two "felt" main times, for example:

  • two quarters (roughly from Adagio to Allegretto )
  • two halves ( alla breve )
  • two eighths (at a slow pace)
  • six eighths (twice three eighths, Allegretto to Presto )
Impact figure2-4.PNG

The three-part clock

All three-part bars whose beats are so far apart that they should be marked individually.

Impact figure3-4.PNG

The four-part measure

For example:

  • four quarters (roughly from Adagio to Allegretto)
  • four halves
  • twelve eighths (four times three eighths)
Impact figure4-4.PNG

Under-emphasis on the bar half (3) indicated by a change of direction.

The five-part clock

Since these time signatures are asymmetrical, two different figures must be used depending on the case. Which of the two applies must be decided from the context or from the score.

"3 + 2"

This measure has the longer “half” at the beginning. The sub-emphasis is on the fourth beat, which is why the direction of movement is changed here, analogous to the six-part clock:

Impact figure5-4 32nd PNG

"2 + 3"

This measure has the shorter “half” at the beginning. Its under-emphasis is on the third beat, so the direction of movement changes here as well:

Impact figure5-4 23.PNG

Often one encounters five-part bars in literature that are played so quickly that a division into five individual beats does not make sense. Since the resulting bar is in two parts, the corresponding beat pattern is used, with one beat being longer than the other.

The six-part bar

For example:

Impact figure6-8.PNG

Under-emphasis on the bar half (4) indicated by a change of direction.

A three-quarter time that is played so slowly that a division into eighth notes is necessary is not executed in this scheme, because the accentuation within the measure does not match. Instead, you keep the image of the threesome and subdivide the individual strokes.

Other time signatures

These bars do not have their own beat figures. Rather, they are derived from the above figures, which are subdivided as required. The advantages are unlimited expandability and clarity within the cycle through sensible grouping.

  • Seven-part measures - In most cases, these measures can be divided into three subgroups (2 + 2 + 3, 2 + 3 + 2, 3 + 2 + 2), which are based on the three-part measure. Here, too, the form is revealed from the context and the score.
  • Eight-part measures - If it is not the "square" special case 2 + 2 + 2 + 2, which is of course executed as a four-part beat, the three-part beat is also used here. Possible groupings are 2 + 3 + 3, 3 + 2 + 3, 3 + 3 + 2.
  • Nine-part measures - the normal case here is 3 + 3 + 3, i.e. three-part. Four-part possibilities are 2 + 2 + 2 + 3, 2 + 2 + 3 + 2, 2 + 3 + 2 + 2, 3 + 2 + 2 + 2. A further possibility is for a 9 / 8 ¯ clock instead of a shock figure with the figure of the nine tips 3 / 4 to use -Taktes, wherein a blow includes three eighths.

This system can be expanded indefinitely. See also time signature .


  • Wolfgang Unger: Ways to Conducting - The Basics of Conducting Technique , Edition Merseburger 2001, ISBN 3-87537-301-4 .
  • Brock McElheran, Lukas Foss: Conducting Technique , Oxford University Press 2005, ISBN 0-19-386854-7 .
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , p. 44 f. ( The tactics ).