In each hymn, there is a numerical outline, also known as the meter of the text. This refers to how many syllables there are in a given phrase. Though this helps to identify which hymn is being sung, sometimes it is very difficult to decipher what exactly the little letters next to the "Meter" tab actually mean. This post is all about identifying which meter is which. First and foremost, hymns like to have a general Iambic outline, which makes it very easy to break down. Often times anything written in Iambic Meter will have either one, two, three or four Iambic feet (at least in the world of Hymns). Each Iambic foot consists of two syllables which in tern means that most meters will have either two, for, six, or eight syllables in a phrase. The common labeling of the meters is as follows:
CM (Common Metering):
Common Metering is as it sounds, the most common form of metering used in hymns. The meter consists of four Iambic feet in lines one and three of the verse, and three Iambic feet in lines two and four. This can be written as 86. 86. On occasion with Common Metering, the author of the text may wish to double the phrase. This can be labeled as 18.104.22.168. When the meter is simply doubled, it is labeled as CMD (Common Metering Double).
LM (Long Metering):
Long metering is said to be used to give the author more room to create a meaningful text. The metering consists of four lines of text, each consisting of four Iambic feet. This is labeled as 22.214.171.124. Because Long Metering has more syllables than Common Metering, it not only allows the author to expand their meanings, but it also allows them to use bigger words. As it is with Common Metering, Long Metering can be doubled, which is simply adding a line of text with four Iambic feet to the ends of each phrase. This is Labeled as 126.96.36.199 and titled LMD (Long Metering Double).
SM (Short Metering):
Short metering is the most difficult metering and is in tern the least common. The numeric outline is 66.86 which leaves the author only 12 syllables to states the point of the verse, and only 14 syllables to resolve the verse, leaving the author with an extraordinary challenge. Though the metering was originally used as a two line metering, in modern day hymns it is used in a four line metering. Again as with Common Metering and Long Metering, an author can double the Shot Metering labeled as 188.8.131.52 entitled SMD (Short Metering Double).
HM (Hallelujah Metering):
This metering offers the author a short and sweet opening four lines, but gives them a long ending to give a big finale to the verse. The numerical outline is labeled as 66.66.88 or 66.66.86. Unlike the Common Metering, Long Metering, and Short Metering, Hallelujah Metering cannot be doubled, but can be put into a different form of metering which is labeled 886.886, and is entitled CHM (Common Meter Hallelujah).
PM (Particular Metering):
This metering is used to describe texts that may require "Particular," tunes to go along with them. Using any combination of two, three, or four Iambic feet, the meter does not have a set pattern, making it very flexible with the text, but not so flexible with the tunes that it will have to be set to.
Now that the labels for meters have been cleared up some, I hope that it is easier for you to open up a hymnal and understand what you can expect in terms of the phrases in the hymns.