Musical Accent

Accent, which derives from the Latin accentus, is a concept with several uses: it can be the intensity that is applied to a certain syllable in pronunciation or the energy or relief that is used in certain words, themes or interests. Musical, on the other hand, is that which is linked to music (the combination of rhythm, harmony and melody).

The idea of a musical accent, according to Digopaul, is related to the emphasis applied to a chord or a note. The use of the musical accent determines accentuation, one of the issues involved in the way the compositions are expressed.

The musical accent is perceived in the ear as a particular application of energy, made possible by a way of interpreting a musical phrase. This accent is specified in the notation through a sign that indicates to the interpreter the need to apply more intensity in said note, compared to the rest of the notes that are around.

The importance of the musical accent is as great as that of any other element of a composition, including each note of the various melodies that make it up, since if the interpreter ignores the accent then he cannot reproduce the work correctly. It is the key to articulating a performance: the accented notes stand out from the rest and allow a harmonious drawing to be generated in the ear; on the contrary, it could be said that without a musical accent, any melody would be a straight line.

When a musician prepares to learn a work to interpret it with his instrument (this includes the voice), among the steps prior to the first performance is the identification of the rhythm, that is, the way in which the measures are organized; in this information is also the skeleton of accentuation. In a two-quarter measure, for example, we know that the first half must be played more intensely than the second; Of course, subdivisions increase the complexity of the accentuation, since in each half there can be more than one note, irregular groups or rests.

This partly responds to the concept of metric accent, one of the recognized types of accent in music theory. Thanks to this characteristic of rhythmic organization, it is possible to specify the metrics of the compositions, so that each person who reads the same score can perform it in the same way, saving decisions of an interpretive nature.

The accent must always fall on the first beat of a measure; on the other hand, in many cases there is a subaccent that must be reproduced at the beginning of each period. This can be seen very easily in the quaternary measure, that is, in those that are divided into four beats, such as the four-quarter beat. In this case, the third time must be accentuated more than the second and the fourth, but less than the first; in other words, and according to the great theorists, it is a semi- strong time.

The tonic accent, on the other hand, is an emphasis that is applied to a note so that those surrounding it have more intensity. Unlike the metric accent, it is not linked to the basic structure of a composition, so it is not mandatory to use it; on the contrary, it is an interpretation resource, which may or may not be indicated by the composer in the original score. Without this type of musical accent it is very difficult to give life to a work, since it serves to break with the “perfection” to which the tonic accent leads and is ideal for merging music and text.

It should be noted that the musical accent has its opposite: the anti-accent. In this case, common in percussion, the note should be played more gently than the others.

Musical Accent