A couple of years ago I did an online music theory course. The discussion in the course forum was great fun and very informative.

One thing that came up was the recognition of common rhythms in music, for example a jig is in 6/8 time, which means there are 6 1/8 notes in each bar, and it has a sort of "jiggety jiggety jiggety jiggety" rhythm to it. A slip jig is in 9/8 time (e.g. 'The Butterfly' sounds like "buy the band a beer, buy the band a cadillac"). In a beginning recorder book which I consulted it gave the difference between 6/8 time and eight notes played in 3/4 time (mathematically 6/8 = 3/4) is like "strawberry, strawberry" vs. "in-the month-of ap-ril". This is the kind of pattern recognition aid I am referring to.

Anyway these were being referred to (on the forum) as "mnemonics", but someone pointed out that mnemonic means memory aid (I believe the French term aide memoire is used, even in English), and these phrases were not aimed at helping us remember how a jig goes, but rather to recognise a jig when we hear it. I thought it was splitting hairs (at the time), but now I would like to know if there is a correct term for this sort of thing.

Example sentence: That [----] was very helpful as it helped me to recognise the strathspey when I heard it later at the céilidh.

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    Calling the jiggety phrase a mnemonic for the concept of 6/8 time sounds fine to me, though rhythm pattern might also work.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 25, 2017 at 15:31
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    It's more focused on "poetic metre" than "musical rhythm", but in Wikipedia's article on Old English metre I found ...each have their own metrical pattern. Daniel Paul O'Donnell reproduces a very handy traditional mnemonic for helping remember the basic line-types. Any such "stress pattern reminder" can only work if it sticks to words for which all native speakers agree which syllables carry stress, and which don't. Jun 25, 2017 at 15:39
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    The rhythm-recognizing words honestly really do seem to be mnemonic devices.
    – Chemus
    Jun 25, 2017 at 20:16
  • FumbleFingers, thank you for pointing out that the users of such a device would need to be in agreement about syllabic stress patterns; Chemus & Lawrence, the primary purpose of the phrases is recognition, which is indeed "a subcategory of declarative memory" (Wikipedia), so mnemonic meaning "memory aid" does fit in a way, but recognising a tune to be a hornpipe seems like a different sort of cognitive task (at least to me) to other memory tasks, such as remembering how to spell words, or remembering trigonometric formulae.
    – d-mac
    Jun 26, 2017 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


By definition, perhaps you could call it a Metronomic aid. This is the adjective form of the noun Metronome.

Metronome [me-truh-nohm] noun

  1. a mechanical or electrical instrument that makes repeated clicking sounds at an adjustable pace, used for marking rhythm, especially in practicing music.
  • Of all the responses I like this one the best. Metronomic Aid fits the bill I think. Etymology: metron: measure/metre, nomos:rule/law/regulation. Nice one PV22! Can you explain why you think it should be "aide" instead of "aid"?
    – d-mac
    Jun 26, 2017 at 11:12
  • @d-mac sorry, aide was a typo. Thanks for pointing it out. Jun 26, 2017 at 11:21

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