Detecting Meter in Recorded Music

Joseph E. Flannick, Rachel W. Hall and Robert Kelly
Renaissance Banff: Mathematics, Music, Art, Culture (2005)
Pages 195–202


Most pieces of popular dance music feature repeated patterns of rhythmic accents, or beats. We use the Discrete Fourier Transform and the Periodicity Transform (Sethares and Staley, 1999) to identify the primary rhythmic content of a piece of popular music. Before applying the transforms, we reduce the data by filtering out pitch. We use the data reduction method proposed by Scheirer (1998), which separates recorded music into bands of pitches, roughly half an octave each, and extracts the pattern of energy bursts in each band. After applying the DFT and PT, we find that the basic rhythmic structure, or meter, of the piece we analyzed is reflected in the relationship between periodic accents made by low- and high-pitched instruments. We have written MATLAB algorithms that implement these methods. Audio examples are available at˜rhall/Bridges.