I was writing a riff and I'm having some trouble trying to find the time signature. I need to use one extra bar to start the riff, otherwise all the accents start to fall on the upbeat (using 4/4) and both ways I have to use a 9/8 bar to make everything fit well.

I'm not good with theory and when it comes to time signatures it gets even worse. I could write everything using the extra bar, I feel comfortable with it this way, I'm only asking because I want to know what's going on.
Last edited by mp8andrade at Mar 11, 2015,
Sorry, I added a MIDI file with stick sounds serving as a metronome so you can better understand how I wrote everything.
The riff starts an 8th note before the first bar (it starts on the upbeat). That's very common. You do also have an 9/8 bar there, that's not a mistake. You can change time signatures - a riff doesn't need to be in a single time signature. If you listen to prog bands like Dream Theater, they change time signatures all the time.

Just listen to the Verse riff of Master of Puppets. It has three 4/4 bars and one 5/8 bar in it.

I actually think time signature changes that happen without needing to think about it are best. They have a good flow because the riff is not written in a time signature - the time signature change just happens. If you decide to write in an odd time signature/with a time signature change, it usually has a bit weird sound to it. It easily sounds forced and not natural. But you clearly weren't aware of the time signature change which makes it sound more natural. I would say don't change it to fit a single time signature (if this is the way you want it to sound like).
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Alternate bars of 9/8, 8/8 are not uncommon (17/8 is another way to think about it.) You've got an extra beat, which is great! It's a matter of managing it in the notation, so you might refer to this for some ideas:


Timing really comes down to 2's and 3's, and all the time signature does it make it easier to notate on paper. In "real life," or at least practical applications it's more of a "one-two-one-two-one-two-three-one-two..." kind of a thing.

Odd signatures need not trip you up. I applaud you for attempting it!