Wikis > Glossary > Hemiola

Hemiola refers to a rhythmic pulse pattern that utilizes a duple meter and a triple meter playing at the same time against and on top of one another. For example, a bar of piano music in 6/8 time that has two dotted quarter notes (a triple division) in the right hand and three quarter notes (a duple division) in the left would be considered hemiola.

Hemiola has a profound effect on pulse perception, because it is introducing a new pulse in the music without letting the old one go. The listener is then confronted with the choice of whether to accept the new pulse as the primary one or stick to the old one, confusing some listeners yet engaging others.

(Tim Gladding)