I have a question about time signature.

Sometimes it seems like a beat can be in 4/4 but when you break it up into small bits, the same songs that are both in 4/4 can be different.

Let me give you an example. I chose the beatles because its easy and everyone knows their songs.
On the song maxwell silver hammer (off abbey road)

The song seems in 4/4 but for each beat there are 3 counts.

1 2 3 4
123 123 123 123

This creates a 'swing' like effect.

Compare this to to the song help by the beatles it is in traditional 4/4 and broken into smaller beats its

1 2 3 4
12 34 12 34

My question is are they both considered 4/4 but one just has more swing? Or is there some kind of different name for the first one?
Well the first pattern with the 3 counts per beat do remind me of triplets. Ever seen the symbol for swing feel playing? That is build up with an eighth and a sixteenth played ass a triplet.

So I think it indeed comes down to swing feel.

Any time signature that can be broken down into 3's is called compound time.

It's really down to choice, that song could be 4 quaver triplets in one bar, or be 12/8, so 12 quavers to a bar

If that makes sense?
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The first example you gave was just playing triplets on the down beat, meaning playing the 1 on the 1,2,3,4 rapidly in thirds as opposed to a single strum. It's technically 12/4 time becuase, with the triplets you're playing, it creates 12 tones in the 4 bar span. The second is subdividing the beat in half, then using a double and creating a 1-2 type swing on each pair of 2 beats of all four. You can really subdivide pretty much any signature, just depends on what sound you're going for. Example - you can do a 3/4 waltz

1 23, 1 23, 1 23, 1 23
or you can do it straight 3/4

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3

Like said before, it all depends on the groove you want.
Last edited by strat0blaster at Feb 29, 2008,
Hmm. These signatures dont sound right. It sounds more correct if I put it in 3/4 at 410bpm when the normal (larger) beats sound more like 4/4 125bpm

Maybe I'm just confused.
Is the Snare drum on beats 2 & 4?
If so you're looking at 4/4

If not, (and to what i can see from that) it's 12/8

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Hmm. These signatures dont sound right. It sounds more correct if I put it in 3/4 at 410bpm when the normal (larger) beats sound more like 4/4 125bpm

Maybe I'm just confused.

I was gonna say, usually counting in 3's means you are in 3/4 time. I havn't been able to listen to the songs though so I'm just speculating.
Snare and drum beats are on 4/4 but if you were to hit the high hat on 8th beats it would sound way wrong. How ever if you hit the high hat in 3/4 it would sound correct for example hitting either the snare or kick on 1 in

Here is an example http://www.seeqpod.com/search/?plid=891339b75a
123 snare 23 is 3/4 isn't it? Like all the 50's songs used to be in. (With C - Am - F - G sorta thing)

but ok I will read up on compound meters
3/4 isnt compound time, its simple, you would use it for a waltz type melody, for example "the blue Danube", by stressing the first beat and lifting on the second and third. Else you could use it for anything.
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