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#1
Well, I read this thing in a magazine about this band that uses odd time signatures and I have a few questions.

1) How can you tell what time signature a song is written in?

2) Why would it matter? Couldn't a song be written in 4/4 and in 6/8 and still be the exact same song?

Thanks.

-Kirby
#2
1. You count the beats in a measure. A measure with 7 beats with the quarter note receiving the beat is in 7/4 and a measure with 5 beats with a quarter note receiving the beat is in 5/4.

2. Technically yes, but the measure lines and everything would get screwy. So for practical applications, no.


I can write some stuff out in powertab if you need further clarification.
Last edited by bangoodcharlote at Jun 13, 2006,
#3
To expand on bangoodcharlote's second statement, a piece in 4/4 would have a very different feel than a piece in 6/8. 4/4 is a 1, 2, 3, 4 whereas 6/8 is more of a 1-2-3, 4-5-6. While they are, when broken down to the very core beat, the same, they each have their own individual feel.
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#4
Quote by bangoodcharlote
1. You count the beats in a measure. A measure with 7 beats is in 7/4 and a measure with 5 beats is in 5/4.

This'll sound stupid, but how do you know how long a measure lasts when you are listening to a song?
#5
Quote by gogita21
To expand on bangoodcharlote's second statement, a piece in 4/4 would have a very different feel than a piece in 6/8. 4/4 is a 1, 2, 3, 4 whereas 6/8 is more of a 1-2-3, 4-5-6. While they are, when broken down to the very core beat, the same, they each have their own individual feel.
That's true, but not really what I meant. I'll write out some powertabs and show ou what I mean.

Quote by kirbyrocknroll
This'll sound stupid, but how do you know how long a measure lasts when you are listening to a song?
That doesn't sound stupid at all. It's actually a very important question.

You make an educated guess based on the drums and the feel.
Attachments:
Time Signature Lesson.zip
Last edited by bangoodcharlote at Jun 12, 2006,
#6
one simple example of why you would use something like 4/4 instead of 6/8 is this: lets say you have two consecutive half notes. well, that fits perfectly into a measure of 4/4, but is impossible to fit into one measure of 6/8. that means you are going to have to use some ties to cross the bar line, which can get messy. sure its ok once in a while, but if you do it a lot it looks bad (and means you arent emphasizing the right beats most likely.

the difference that you will start to notice between time signatures is where the emphasized notes are in each bar. so think of bold as strong beats, underlined as semi strong stressed, and regular font as normal stress. these are some examples of what you would expect for different time signatures:
4/4 - 1 2 3 4
3/4 - 1 2 3 (waltz time)
5/4 - 1 2 3 4 5 OR 1 2 3 4 5
6/8 - 1 2 3 4 5 6
12/8 - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
thats basicly it, except thats not exactly how you count beats in compound time (thats when the top number > 3 and divisible by 3). you should get the idea though, and i can explain complex time if you want.

the main thing is to listen for the stresses and emphasized beats, and this should give you an idea of the time signature. the strong beats are where you kinda tap your foot a bit harder when listening to a good song, or nod your head a bit harder if you arent around people wholl think you are crazy. once you start to pick up on it in the song, it gets easier to hear.

EDIT: compound time, not complex
Last edited by jof1029 at Jun 13, 2006,
#7
Thanks a lot everyone! That's all helpful

jof1029, if you don't mind, please continue with the whole complex time thing.
#8
^ dont mind at all.

basicly, there are two times of time, simple and compound. compound is when the top number is greater than three and also divisible by three. that means things like 6/8 or 12/8, but not 3/4. basicly the difference is that while in simple time the number on the bottom is a beat, ie. in 4/4 the quarter note gets the beat, that is not so in compound time. instead what you are going to do is divide the top number by three to get the number of beats. lets look at an example of this. lets say we have something in 6/8, that means we are going to divide the 6 by 3 to get the number of beats. 6 divided by 3 is two, so we have two beats. if you look at my example above, you see i have two stressed numbers (1 and 4) so these are where your beats start.

now, if you want a little algorithm for how long each beat is, i suggest you look at the time signatures as a fraction. lets look at 6/8 again for this. a good way to look at this is six times one eighth. this makes sense because you look at that thinking you have enough room for six eighth notes, or 6 * 1/8 = 6/8. now when you divide the top number by three to find the number of beats, i would then multiply the bottom number by 3 to get the beat length. so i get 6 / 3 = 2 for the top, and 1/8 * 3 = 3/8 for the bottom. if you look at my previous post you can clearly see that there are three eighth notes per each beat in 6/8.

one cool thing about compound time is it gives off a triplet feel, but you dont have to use triplet notation which can get messy. i hope some of that made sense, im not the best at explaining all these thing. if something doesnt make sense, needs clarification, or you just have more questions, feel free to ask.

EDIT: compound time, not complex
Last edited by jof1029 at Jun 13, 2006,
#9
Quote by jof1029
^ dont mind at all. Basicly, there are two times of time, simple and complex. complex is when the top number is greater than three and also divisible by three. that means things like 6/8 or 12/8, but not 3/4. basicly the difference is that while in simple time the number on the bottom is a beat, ie. in 4/4 the quarter note gets the beat, that is not so in complex time. instead what you are going to do is divide the top number by three to get the number of beats. lets look at an example of this. lets say we have something in 6/8, that means we are going to divide the 6 by 3 to get the number of beats. 6 divided by 3 is two, so we have two beats. if you look at my example above, you see i have two stressed numbers (1 and 4) so these are where your beats start.

now, if you want a little algorithm for how long each beat is, i suggest you look at the time signatures as a fraction. lets look at 6/8 again for this. a good way to look at this is six times one eighth. this makes sense because you look at that thinking you have enough room for six eighth notes, or 6 * 1/8 = 6/8. now when you divide the top number by three to find the number of beats, i would then multiply the bottom number by 3 to get the beat length. so i get 6 / 3 = 2 for the top, and 1/8 * 3 = 3/8 for the bottom. if you look at my previous post you can clearly see that there are three eighth notes per each beat in 6/8.

one cool thing about complex time is it gives off a triplet feel, but you dont have to use triplet notation which can get messy. i hope some of that made sense, im not the best at explaining all these thing. if something doesnt make sense, needs clarification, or you just have more questions, feel free to ask.
This explanation of compound time is as accurate, clean and straightforward as any I've ever read. Well done!
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#10
^ thanks

though now i feel like an idiot cause i used the wrong name. eh, thats what i get for posting when exhausted. ill edit the name.
#11
Quote by bangoodcharlote
1. You count the beats in a measure. A measure with 7 beats is in 7/4 and a measure with 5 beats is in 5/4.




that's wrong. it's true the other way around, as in, that 5/4 is a measure with 5 beats,

but there are more time signatures with 7 beats than 7/4
#12
Quote by scheck006
that's wrong. it's true the other way around, as in, that 5/4 is a measure with 5 beats,

but there are more time signatures with 7 beats than 7/4
Yes, well that deals with compound meters and that was more complex than I wanted to explain at the time.


Yes, you can create compound meters with odd time signatures as well. Want a triplet riff in 7/4? Use 21/8! Want a triplet riff in 5/4? Use 15/8!
#13
^ That's not what he meant, 7/8 is distinctly different from 7/4, and is also seen. Just because it's irregular doesn't mean that the basic unit is the quarter note. Generally it doesn't matter musically, the unit division is a musical tool, and not something you hear (If you really want to question that, ask yourself how long a quarter note is).
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#15
Quote by Corwinoid
^ That's not what he meant, 7/8 is distinctly different from 7/4, and is also seen. Just because it's irregular doesn't mean that the basic unit is the quarter note. Generally it doesn't matter musically, the unit division is a musical tool, and not something you hear
Yeah, so I forgot about 7/8 time. So what?!?

Edit made. No harm, no foul.

Quote by Corwinoid

(If you really want to question that, ask yourself how long a quarter note is).
Yeah, that makes sense. You could easily write a 7/4 riff in as 2 measures of 7/8 or a measure of 5/8 and another measure of 9/8.

Not that you would, but you could.
#16
^ Not how I meant it... What's the difference between the same measure written in 7/8, and all of the note values doubled written in 7/4? Nothing, except the way it's written. Point is that in this sense 'quarter note' and 'eighth note' and etc. are just scoring conventions, the note values don't have a strict length, so there's very little difference between them in an irregular time signature... other than one being an 8th note and one being a quarter on paper.

In other words, you can write the 7/4 riff in one measure of 7/8. All of the notes are just half their scored value in the latter, and the tempo is halved.

(There is a conventional difference... generally you would use 7/8 for a slower piece, and 7/4 for a faster one, but other than that... whatever).
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#17
Quote by Corwinoid
^ Not how I meant it... What's the difference between the same measure written in 7/8, and all of the note values doubled written in 7/4? Nothing, except the way it's written. Point is that in this sense 'quarter note' and 'eighth note' and etc. are just scoring conventions, the note values don't have a strict length, so there's very little difference between them in an irregular time signature... other than one being an 8th note and one being a quarter on paper.

In other words, you can write the 7/4 riff in one measure of 7/8. All of the notes are just half their scored value in the latter, and the tempo is halved.

(There is a conventional difference... generally you would use 7/8 for a slower piece, and 7/4 for a faster one, but other than that... whatever).


Ahh, that makes sense too.

Whooooo!
#18
Quote by bangoodcharlote

Yeah, that makes sense. You could easily write a 7/4 riff in as 2 measures of 7/8 or a measure of 5/8 and another measure of 9/8.

Not that you would, but you could.


if you have a 7/4 riff that goes like:

half, whole, quarter,

then writing that in 2 measures of 7/8 would be reallly bothersome, and would have the wrong accents.

In differentiating between lets say: 4/4 and 12/8 (normal not shuffle feel LOL *from other thread*)

you could say "well technically theyre the same". yeah sure, BUT, i'd like tothink of it this way:

if the piece consists of primarily UNDOTTED notes, and VERY FEW TRIPLETS, chances are it'll be 4/4.

If its 40%+ triplets/dotted notes, it gets much easier writign it in 12/8, and gives a different feel.

when it comes down to it, time signatures are based on 1) Feel 2) Writing (how easy to write it in which signature)
#19
Maybe its time for a few examples. Some common songs that switch time or have compound time are Money-Pink Floyd,Question!-System of a Down, and Four Sticks-Led Zeppelin. A good example of 11/8 is Eleven-Primus.
#20
Quote by corwinoid
(There is a conventional difference... generally you would use 7/8 for a slower piece, and 7/4 for a faster one, but other than that... whatever).


did you mean that the other way around?

because 7/4 would be more beneficial for a slower song so you have more subdivisions to break down to.

I'd much rather see 16th notes in 7/4 than 32nds in 7/8
Last edited by scheck006 at Jun 13, 2006,
#21
Scheck, look at this powertab. A is a 7/4 riff at a quick tempo. B is that same riff at half speed, but still written in 7/4. C sounds the same as B, but it is written in 7/8 instead of 7/4.

I think that's what Cor means.
Attachments:
Meter Thing 1.zip
#22
times sigs can be really weird
take blue rondo a la turk
its in 9/8
but its counted in 2 2 2 3
4/4 isn't the same as 6/8
4/4 is four quater notes in a measure
6/8 is 6 8th notes
any 8th time signatures also have more
of a triplet feel to them
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#23
Quote by Angusman60
any 8th time signatures also have more
of a triplet feel to them
7/8 doesn't have a triplet feel, not do the ones where the top number is a multiple of three.

Yes, I'm still in school so I remember those words. It SUCKS!
#24
Quote by bangoodcharlote
Scheck, look at this powertab. A is a 7/4 riff at a quick tempo. B is that same riff at half speed, but still written in 7/4. C sounds the same as B, but it is written in 7/8 instead of 7/4.

I think that's what Cor means.


that pt didn't work.

but we'll wait for him to come back
#25
i think this was asked and answered, but, i just want to expand on the topic some, im capable of figuring out beats per measure, but how do u figure out, what gets 1 beat in the measure, (the bottom half of the time sig), is it a matter of preference and how clean it will look, like lets say there were 32nd notes in a 4/4 time signitures, would it instead be 4/8 to make them 16ths so it looks cleaner
#26
Quote by khalil1220
i think this was asked and answered, but, i just want to expand on the topic some, im capable of figuring out beats per measure, but how do u figure out, what gets 1 beat in the measure, (the bottom half of the time sig), is it a matter of preference and how clean it will look, like lets say there were 32nd notes in a 4/4 time signitures, would it instead be 4/8 to make them 16ths so it looks cleaner
You would write it in 4/4 with the tempo doubled.
#27
Quote by scheck006
did you mean that the other way around?

because 7/4 would be more beneficial for a slower song so you have more subdivisions to break down to.

I'd much rather see 16th notes in 7/4 than 32nds in 7/8

No, I really meant what I said. It does seem pretty odd at first (I remember thinking for years that it was ass backwards, and then one day it hit me and really made sense), and I'm pretty sure it's just something that's "always been done that way." Then again, on some levels it makes sense; 8th notes are easier to read, so you can use the larger subdivision for faster pieces, and still write in 8ths. Playability and writability are probably two reasons for it, playable in the above sense, writable in the sense that it was easier on a gutenburg to wedge out a single beam (though not simple) without running.

Realize that when I said slow piece, I really meant slow. I didn't mean "A slow beat with a really fast melody over it." There's a lot of music out there that doesn't subdivide the beat at all, or does it very sparingly.

Quote by bangoodcharlote
You would write it in 4/4 with the tempo doubled.

A good example of what I meant -- you could also keep the tempo, especially if it's over 140, and write it in cut time, or 4/2.
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Last edited by Corwinoid at Jun 14, 2006,
#28
Quote by Corwinoid

A good example of what I meant -- you could also keep the tempo, especially if it's over 140, and write it in cut time, or 4/2.



i find anything /2 to be hard to work with, if its 4/2, i'd rather put it in 4/4 cut, because then i can still put in whole notes.
#29
^ You can use whole notes in /2... and "4/4 cut" makes no sense, cut time is 2/2.
Quote by les_kris
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#30
Quote by Corwinoid
^ You can use whole notes in /2... and "4/4 cut" makes no sense, cut time is 2/2.


umm is it just me or doesnt /2 mean it only fits a half note in each bar?

yeah you can tie two half notes, but you still cant technically use a whole note.

and hold on, i was pretty sure it went like this with cut time:

4/4 at quarter note=120

whereas

4/4 cut is HALF note = 120
#31
^ 2/2 sure seams like two half notes to me... 4/2 seems a lot like four. 1/2 + 1/2 tends to be a whole note... hey. Check that out, that means you can fit 2 whole notes in 4/2. THREE in 6/2!

And no, you're mistaken. Cut time is 2/2 (which looks almost exactly like 4/4), and the half note gets the beat.
Quote by les_kris
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#32
Quote by Corwinoid
^ 2/2 sure seams like two half notes to me... 4/2 seems a lot like four. 1/2 + 1/2 tends to be a whole note... hey. Check that out, that means you can fit 2 whole notes in 4/2. THREE in 6/2!

And no, you're mistaken. Cut time is 2/2 (which looks almost exactly like 4/4), and the half note gets the beat.


im going to go for a walk in the park, come back in 3 hours, and hopefully by then the majority of my confusion will settle down
#33
A good practical way to distinguish whether something should be in 4/4 or a subdivision is to listen to the drums if there are any (eg a common thing is the crash cymbal on the 4rth beat). Also bear in mind the majority of modern music is in 4/4 so see if that fits first (unless obviously in odd time).

Mike Portnoys video Progressive Drum Concepts is an amazing explanation of time signatures (considering Dream Theater use many in each song he knows what is is talking about).
#34
woah, years and years of piano lessons taught me that cut time is 2/4. oh wait, thats the same as 2/2. wait, no its not, im pretty sure the quarter note gets the beat in cut time.
#35
nope.

cut time is 2/2. and the half note gets the beat. It's twice as fast as 4/4, hence....."cut" time
#36
Quote by scheck006
nope.

cut time is 2/2. and the half note gets the beat. It's twice as fast as 4/4, hence....."cut" time
It's only twice as fast if the tempo number remains the same ie quarter note equals 94 is half as fast as half note equals 94.
#38
Quote by kirbyrocknroll
Well, I read this thing in a magazine about this band that uses odd time signatures and I have a few questions.

1) How can you tell what time signature a song is written in?

2) Why would it matter? Couldn't a song be written in 4/4 and in 6/8 and still be the exact same song?

Thanks.

-Kirby


To answer: (1) The song will have the time signature right after the opening double bar as 4/4 (being the most common time signature) or any other signature and (2) The time signature can change a song completely. If you Have a 4/4 signature (four beats in a measure; quarter note gets the beat) and you change the entire song's signature to 6/8 (six beats in a measure; eighth note gets the beat) [a] it changes the way that the song is counted in and it technically cuts the tempo in half. So, in 4/4 each note would be played as such; |- - - -|- - - -|- - - -|- - - -|; but in 6/8 the same measures would be played like; |------|------|------|------|...... Make sense?
#40
Quote by spoonfulofshred
It's more of a drunken swing, I guess. Like if it was a dance, it'd be Step-2-3-step-2-3-stumble Step-2-3-step-2-3-stumble


stumble is 2 syllables

in your explanation, its just 4/4 or 8/8, in a 3+3+2 feel
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