Music jargon

Sometimes I see the instruction “in 2” at the start of a piece or phrase of sheet music. What does “in 2” mean in this context?

It’s a tempo/feel indication - the piece is written out with a 4/4 or a C in the time signature, but the tempo needs to be fast enough that it feels and sounds like there are two strong beats in a bar rather than four.

I dig the explanation above. I never really thought about 2-feel being a “slowed-down” common time, though. Maybe I’m wrong.

Sure, you get a funk tune where your toes would fall off if you tapped on every beat rather than just cutting it down. But IMHO and IMHE it means something a little bit more than that. It could mean a little medium New Orleans rumba thing in 2 or it could be some Tower of Power just felt in two (you certainly aren’t going to feel that or some Herbie Headhunter thing in 16, right?). Or it could be a 4/4 jazz hard bop thing just with a 2 feel.

I still don’t know how exactly to communicate with drummers (sticks? grunting?) but it seems to get the job done. I’d like to know if there’s any other thoughts. TBH I never thought about it – just kind of makes sense, I guess – but it’s a good question.

Tempo is not necessarily the only thing that make a piece feel like it has two strong beats, though. Accents are also important, for example.

I thought he covered it with the bit about “feel,” but to expand on this: A normal bar of 4/4 has a primary accent on the 1 (the downbeat), and a secondary stress on 3. When you’re playing “in 2” you just have that strong primary stress, so instead of counting ONE-two-three-four, it’s more like ONE-two-ONE-two. It generally has a more march-like feel to it, with the heavy downbeats.

Pulkyamell: Rock has the strong backbeat - on 2 and 4. So, the drummer plays bass drum on 1 and 3, and the snare on 2 and 4.

How does that play “in 2”. The same, or does it move to 1 and 3 (bass and snare)?

I would play it with a march-like, or oom-pah/polka type of feel.