Your Favorite Time Signature?

January 2, 2019, 10:11 AM · I Like 9/8 or 3/2. Something about those big threes.


Has anyone seen 6/4 or 8/4? anything strange?

Replies (11)

January 2, 2019, 11:38 AM · Close race between 7/4 and 15/3. You're right about those big threes, but I still can't quite decide.
Edited: January 2, 2019, 11:56 AM · so if in 15/8 the eighth note gets the beat, and in 15/4 the quarter note gets the beat, then for 15/3, how long would a third note be?

I like 6/8 - it's a friendly, round tempo. I think pretty much every pop song I've liked in the past few years has been in 12/8, for some reason.

January 2, 2019, 11:53 AM · Try something Balkan or Andean if you want strange.
January 2, 2019, 11:59 AM · Nearly every measure on the first page of Fratres is a different time signature.
January 2, 2019, 12:25 PM · There is a lot of metric variety in folk fiddle traditions. The Irish slip jig is in 9/8 and it can be hard to hear beat one. The swedish polska can start in 3/4, then confuse us by slipping into 3/2 at the end of a phrase. A lot of Latin music is written 4/4, but sounds (3+3+2). The Balkan countries, especially Bulgaria, use the non-symetrical time signatures. Mozart, in the minuet of the Gmin symphony, brought back the older rhythm of 3/2 + 3/4. Tchaikovsky has that 5/4 waltz in his 6th symphony, which sounds like a 10-beat sequence (3+2+2+3). The 1st movement of Tchaikovsky 4th symphony is written in 9/8, but the main melody sounds like an off-set, syncopated, (2+2+2+3). Over in the jazz world, Dave Brubeck did some famous experiments. The Don Ellis big band specialized in those unusual time signatures. I remember seeing a lot of 7/8, 11/8, even 33/16.
Edited: January 3, 2019, 5:30 AM · The Balkan non-symmetrical time signatures (7/8, 11/8 etc) are usually a consequence of the dance steps. My limited experience is that any difficulty disappears when you have the dancers doing their stuff in front of you.

One unusual suspect in the Irish folk fiddle tradition is the 2/4 polka, particularly in the south-west of the country. The strong beat of the measure is in fact the second beat. This is why these apparently simple lively tunes are difficult to teach to beginners, are invariably taught far too slowly, and in my view should not be looked at until the beginners are no longer beginners and are reasonably fluent and up to speed in 4/4 reels.

Edited: January 2, 2019, 2:57 PM · I like compound meters in general. And I love what I think of as "compound minus one" meters such as 5/8, or "4/4" measures that are grouped 3+3+2/8. (BTW, Carlos Chavez was a little more academic about it in Sinfonia India and wrote it as 8/8.)

I recall playing a fun passage in Respighi's Vetrate di Chiesa in 18/8 time... a compound-compound meter. I did something similar in one of my own compositions years ago, but just used 16th-note triplets in 6/8 time.

January 2, 2019, 3:36 PM · If in 15/8 the eighth gets the beat, and in 15/4 the quarter, then, of course, the third gets the beat in 15/3. You have to subdivide the whole note into three equal portions.
January 2, 2019, 10:32 PM · Most jazz standards are in 4/4 time, so I guess I'll have to say that. However I do like 6/8 time because that one puts me in the mood to sway gaily like a minstrel of yore.
Edited: January 3, 2019, 3:57 AM · In e.g. Leo Brouwer, time sigs like 6/8+3/4 can be interesting, especially when they are slowed down from dance speed to lyrical speed. He was Cuban, and apart from the Carribean music, he also did stuff where the bars alternated randomly between 4/4+3/4 and 3/4+4/4. Apart from more purely experimental/random metres.
January 3, 2019, 3:21 PM · Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel is written in 6/4 - it's full of dotted whole notes. The turnaround in Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat (from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats) is in 13/8 (3-3-3-2-2). And let's not forget Paul Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, which is in 9/8.

A band commissioned to play a wedding gig lost their lead guitarist due to illness at the last minute. One of the members knew a Greek fellow who he said was very good, so they got him to fill in. "Yes, I think I can do it," said the replacement, "but I'm not really familiar with the Chicken Dance, so be sure to give me a good strong beat on the 7 and the 13."

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