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Phil Adams

Does everyone erm ....know their time signatures?

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With acknowledgment to the scales thread.
Obviously some are easy, 4/4, 3/3 etc.
Or do we just follow the sticksman and hope he's right?

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I'd never thought about that, I guess it's just ingrained in you and with me it's mostly 4/4 as that's what I grew up with

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I feel that I know my time signatures. However, the other day I was trying to program 8/8 time signatures into a drum machine, and everything I did sounded like a funky 4/4 beat to me. In that if I just counted naturally along with the beat, it would be 4/4. However, I find it easier to come up with basslines that are 8/8 rather than 4/4, as with arpeggios it's easier to distinguish the (typically for me) three beats of an 8/8 bar.

Coming up with basslines that sound natural, not forced, for even simple time signatures such as 5/4 and 7/4 is quite a challenge though. I seem to end up with something that sounds like it's naturally 4/4 but is either missing a beat, or has an additional spurious beat. But, I'm happy to at least be aware of what I'm not able to do so that I can work on it.

I frequently ask quite skilled musicians if they can tell me the difference between 4/4 and 8/8. It's very surprising how few can. Even though simple introductions to music theory (such as 8notes.com) cover it.

Edited by Annoying Twit

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What is there to know? top number is how many per bar, bottom number indicates what it is you are counting. Some time sigs conventionally have a particular feel i.e 12/8 is usually 4 sets of 3 quavers, but not always. 5/4 is usually played as a group of 3 crotchets then 2 crotchets, occasionally 2 crotchets then 3 crotchets and sometimes 2 crotchets, 2 crotchets and 1 crotchet to finish the bar. The point is that the rhythmic feel of the music is not indicated or dictated by the time signature, that is in the phrasing of the notes.

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[quote name='Annoying Twit' timestamp='1396859313' post='2417911']
Coming up with basslines that sound natural, not forced, for even simple time signatures such as 5/4 and 7/4 is quite a challenge though. I seem to end up with something that sounds like it's naturally 4/4 but is either missing a beat, or has an additional spurious beat. But, I'm happy to at least be aware of what I'm not able to do so that I can work on it.
[/quote]

Yeah, it's always fun, that. I play double bass with a guitarist who's addicted to odd meters. I've given up trying to count all of them and just try and feel where the pulse is, as it feels more natural that way. It keeps me on my toes though; there's one tune where I'm playing with the bow in 5/4 and singing a harmony at the same time...

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Well, my reading was limited to a brief period in the 80s/ 90s when I played to earn my crust but as one who my band mates tell me is notoriously picky about tempos, feel and the precise placement of notes, I'm seeing some things here which I've never come across before.

[quote name='Phil Adams' timestamp='1396858569' post='2417901']
With acknowledgment to the scales thread.
Obviously some are easy, 4/4, 3/3 etc.
Or do we just follow the sticksman and hope he's right?
[/quote]

What is 3/3? There isn't such a thing as a "third" note - is there? Breives, Semi-Breives, Crotchets, Quavers, Semi- Quavers or in modern speak whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes - does the whole system not depend on each note being divisible by two to give the next smallest interval?

And as for 8/8 - what is the reason that that wouldn't be written as 4/4? Any parts I ever had to play which involved a lot of 8th notes would be written in 4/4. Unless of course it was an unusual bar length like 7/8 or 5/4 etc.

Quench my thirst for knowledge - I'm interested!

Cheers

Ed

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[quote name='SteveO' timestamp='1396860069' post='2417924']
What is there to know? top number is how many per bar, bottom number indicates what it is you are counting. Some time sigs conventionally have a particular feel i.e 12/8 is usually 4 sets of 3 quavers, but not always. 5/4 is usually played as a group of 3 crotchets then 2 crotchets, occasionally 2 crotchets then 3 crotchets and sometimes 2 crotchets, 2 crotchets and 1 crotchet to finish the bar. The point is that the rhythmic feel of the music is not indicated or dictated by the time signature, that is in the phrasing of the notes.
[/quote]

It's useful to know the difference between simple, compound, and odd time signatures IMHO. E.g. 4/4 = simple, 12/8 = compound, and 8/8 = odd.

For Ed: A simple time signature is one where the beats are divided into two. E.g.

4/4 = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
3/4 = 1 and 2 and 3 and
7/4 = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and

Compound time signatures have beats divided into three. E.g.

6/8 = 1 and a 2 and a
9/8 = 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a

Odd time signatures have beats that are divided into different numbers of divisions. E..g

8/8 = 1 and a 2 and a 3 and
8/8 (another one) = 1 and 2 and a 3 and a

12/16 (I hope one example of) = 1 and a 2 and a 3 and 4 and 5 and

The reason the two 8/8 rhythms aren't 4/4 is that they are odd time signatures, and we have already used 4/4 for the simple time signature given above, so we have to use 8/8.

Try counting a 4/4 beat by reading out what I've written (but loop it). Emphasise the numbers and de-emphasise 'and's and 'a's. Then try the 8/8 examples. You should find that both the 8/8 examples are quite different rhythms than the 4/4. Similarly for 3/4 versus 6/8. Music written in 4/4 should sound different from 8/8, but admittedly I'm having trouble writing something for drum machines that I don't naturally count as 4/4 when I listen to it.

Edited by Annoying Twit

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Good Morning Good Morning on The Beatles Sgt Pepper album has 5/4 and 4/4 in the verses. I had never noticed that until I sat down and counted along to the song.
Lennon had a knack of odd time signatures.

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[quote name='EMG456' timestamp='1396862598' post='2417963']
Well, my reading was limited to a brief period in the 80s/ 90s when I played to earn my crust but as one who my band mates tell me is notoriously picky about tempos, feel and the precise placement of notes, I'm seeing some things here which I've never come across before.



What is 3/3? There isn't such a thing as a "third" note - is there? Breives, Semi-Breives, Crotchets, Quavers, Semi- Quavers or in modern speak whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes - does the whole system not depend on each note being divisible by two to give the next smallest interval?

And as for 8/8 - what is the reason that that wouldn't be written as 4/4? Any parts I ever had to play which involved a lot of 8th notes would be written in 4/4. Unless of course it was an unusual bar length like 7/8 or 5/4 etc.

Quench my thirst for knowledge - I'm interested!

Cheers

Ed
[/quote]

I thought 3/3 was waltz time. See, I never said I know my time signatures.

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[quote name='Phil Adams' timestamp='1396865510' post='2418017']
I thought 3/3 was waltz time. See, I never said I know my time signatures.
[/quote]

3/4 is waltz time. [u][b]One[/b][/u] 23, [u][b]Two [/b][/u]23 etc. :happy:

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[quote name='Phil Adams' timestamp='1396865510' post='2418017']
I thought 3/3 was waltz time. See, I never said I know my time signatures.
[/quote]

Unless someone comes along and corrects me (which I would be grateful for), as far as I know what I've written above is pretty much what anyone not super-adventurous in music needs to know about time signatures. Apart from songs with sections in different time signatures (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) and songs that drop in an occasional bar in a different time signature (Crowded House's "Kare Kare") and songs that have a complicated time signature which is alternating bars of different time signatures. E.g. one bar of 3/4 followed by a bar of 4/4 and repeat. That's different from 7/4 as the 1st and 4th beat of the two bar group would have equal emphasis. Oh and people like Zappa deciding that they're going to write music on the synclavier which is one bar with 32 divisions, one bar with 31 divisions, then one with 30 divisions, and so on until the end of the song 32 bars later.

There's not really a lot to learn in terms of time signatures. Then the theory based player can get on with using the theory.

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We managed to bury one on our last album: https://cherrywhite.bandcamp.com/track/the-white-whale

The chap with the sticks was actually quite good at "hiding" the odd-meter bars on this one. And it does shift back to occasional 4/4. I'd be interested to see who can spot the main time signature!

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[quote name='Annoying Twit' timestamp='1396864812' post='2418004']
It's useful to know the difference between simple, compound, and odd time signatures IMHO....
[/quote]

absolutely, but your 2 examples of 8/8 demonstrate my point that the time sig does not dictate the feel or rhythm, it just indicates the convention being used to chop the tune up into bars. Perhaps I am being too literal with the op question "does everyone know their time signatures"

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[quote name='Annoying Twit' timestamp='1396864812' post='2418004']

For Ed: A simple time signature is one where the beats are divided into two. E.g.

4/4 = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
3/4 = 1 and 2 and 3 and
7/4 = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and
.[/quote]

I know f*** all about theory but, as far as I know, these are wrong. they certainly don't feel right counting them off the way you've written them.
You don't count a waltz as "1 and 2 and 3 and", you count it [size=5]1[/size]23 [size=5]1[/size]23 [size=5]1[/size]23 etc. The same goes for the others you've put unnecessary "ands" in.

I'm sure somebody will tell me otherwise. :)

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It's just 3 or 4. Anything like 5 or 7 I write in 4.

You can make nearly anything beyond 3 make sense in 4 apart from 6 which is the same as 3.

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If I had 2 bars in a sequence (one of 4 and one 3) I'd create a bar of 7 beats. It doesn't necessarily need to go into a 7/4 time signature. If you're writing in a sequencer I would keep the signature in 4/4.

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[quote name='RhysP' timestamp='1396866838' post='2418053']
I know f*** all about theory but, as far as I know, these are wrong. they certainly don't feel right counting them off the way you've written them.
You don't count a waltz as "1 and 2 and 3 and", you count it [size=5]1[/size]23 [size=5]1[/size]23 [size=5]1[/size]23 etc. The same goes for the others you've put unnecessary "ands" in.

I'm sure somebody will tell me otherwise. :)
[/quote]

Waltz 3/4 you would count 1, 2, 3, there are 3 beats per bar, what you're counting is a compound 12/8 where the subdivision of each beat is felt as a 3.

The guy is counting the off beat, useful I guess if it's a slow tempo.

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I'm in a tech metal band and there are loads of odd time in the songs, some of which I understand, but mostly I just learn the parts without knowing what timing they are in, kind of difficult to improvise though this way!

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[quote name='Annoying Twit' timestamp='1396864812' post='2418004']
It's useful to know the difference between simple, compound, and odd time signatures IMHO. E.g. 4/4 = simple, 12/8 = compound, and 8/8 = odd.

For Ed: A simple time signature is one where the beats are divided into two. E.g.



Odd time signatures have beats that are divided into different numbers of divisions. E..g

8/8 = 1 and a 2 and a 3 and
8/8 (another one) = 1 and 2 and a 3 and a

12/16 (I hope one example of) = 1 and a 2 and a 3 and 4 and 5 and

The reason the two 8/8 rhythms aren't 4/4 is that they are odd time signatures, and we have already used 4/4 for the simple time signature given above, so we have to use 8/8.

Try counting a 4/4 beat by reading out what I've written (but loop it). Emphasise the numbers and de-emphasise 'and's and 'a's. Then try the 8/8 examples. You should find that both the 8/8 examples are quite different rhythms than the 4/4. Similarly for 3/4 versus 6/8. Music written in 4/4 should sound different from 8/8, but admittedly I'm having trouble writing something for drum machines that I don't naturally count as 4/4 when I listen to it.
[/quote]

Very succinct - thanks for that.

So are we saying that we are influencing the *accents* by writing in a different signature - according to how you suggest that you might count it out loud? If not, then for say 8/8, there is no reason whatsoever for not writing it in 4/4 as all of the note timings and lengths would be exactly the same.

And if we are saying we *should* give it the feel it has when counting it out loud, how would I be able to differentiate between for example the two 8/8 examples you gave from just looking at the dots?

This is interesting to me as one of the problems of standard notation and its application to pop/ rock/ whatever types of music has always been that the notes and timings were captured but the "feel" was not but I still don't see how you could tell the difference between two alternative types of 8/8.

The drum machine thing is as old as... well drum machines but again, it's all to do with the accents.

[quote name='Phil Adams' timestamp='1396865510' post='2418017']
I thought 3/3 was waltz time. See, I never said I know my time signatures.
[/quote]

No worries mate - I think you and me both are learning something new here!

Cheers

Ed

Edited by EMG456

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[quote name='Phil Adams' timestamp='1396858569' post='2417901']
With acknowledgment to the scales thread.
Obviously some are easy, 4/4, 3/3 etc.
Or do we just follow the sticksman and hope he's right?
[/quote]

Never found i actually need to know time signatures. Im playing covers so just learn the song by ear. Could be anything for all i know.

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[quote name='ambient' timestamp='1396869834' post='2418104']
Waltz 3/4 you would count 1, 2, 3, there are 3 beats per bar, what you're counting is a compound 12/8 where the subdivision of each beat is felt as a 3.

The guy is counting the off beat, useful I guess if it's a slow tempo.
[/quote]

I meant just the [size=5]1[/size]23 bit, the fact that I put it in a group of three was just coincidental, it was to illustrate where the emphasis is, hence the larger 1.

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[quote name='SteveO' timestamp='1396866688' post='2418051']
absolutely, but your 2 examples of 8/8 demonstrate my point that the time sig does not dictate the feel or rhythm, it just indicates the convention being used to chop the tune up into bars. Perhaps I am being too literal with the op question "does everyone know their time signatures"
[/quote]

That's not quite right, as the beats are emphasised, but the divisions aren't. Hence, the 4/4 and 8/8 examples have the beats in different positions, which makes the rhythms quite different. It's not just a matter of counting, but a matter of distinguishing beats from divisions. Hence the 4/4 and 8/8 examples I give have very different feels/rhythms. Count them out, emphasising the beats, and de-emphasising the rhythms, and you'll see what I mean.

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[quote name='Spoombung' timestamp='1396867535' post='2418063']
It's just 3 or 4. Anything like 5 or 7 I write in 4.

You can make nearly anything beyond 3 make sense in 4 apart from 6 which is the same as 3.
[/quote]

This is how I work it, and I manage to play drums in some pretty weird timings. One of our riffs is 13/4 apparently. It just feels like a bit of a weird 4 for me. My right hand is keeping "half time" but my snare and kick are doing 6, then 7. Every time my right hand has done 13 half time hits it's back round to the start. Makes sense right?!

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[quote name='EMG456' timestamp='1396873054' post='2418163']
Very succinct - thanks for that.

So are we saying that we are influencing the *accents* by writing in a different signature - according to how you suggest that you might count it out loud? If not, then for say 8/8, there is no reason whatsoever for not writing it in 4/4 as all of the note timings and lengths would be exactly the same.

And if we are saying we *should* give it the feel it has when counting it out loud, how would I be able to differentiate between for example the two 8/8 examples you gave from just looking at the dots?

This is interesting to me as one of the problems of standard notation and its application to pop/ rock/ whatever types of music has always been that the notes and timings were captured but the "feel" was not but I still don't see how you could tell the difference between two alternative types of 8/8.

The drum machine thing is as old as... well drum machines but again, it's all to do with the accents.
[/quote]

The two 8/8 examples I gave sound very different to me. I just made a drum machine track to demonstrate. [url="https://soundcloud.com/annoyingtwit/four-versus-eight"]https://soundcloud.c...ur-versus-eight[/url] There are twelve bars. First four bars of 4/4, then four bars of 8/8, then four bars of another 8/8 time signature. It sounds a bit more like 8/8 if a bassline is added, but I had to keep it mega-simple or I'd play 4/4 by default. https://soundcloud.com/annoyingtwit/eightplusbass

However, I will admit that it's easy to count 4/4 time against all of these examples, even though the 8/8 patterns were designed to be as 8/8 as I could make them (bass drum and snare on the beats, three beats per bar). I think this is something to do with my/our familiarity with 4/4, particularly syncopated, time signatures and relative unfamiliarity with 8/8 time signatures.

It's easier to make something more obviously 8/8 with a pitched instrument such as a bass, or fingerstyle other guitars. We don't seem to have so much problem distinguishing 3/4 from 6/8, as both of those time signatures are commonly used.

If we say that music is in 8/8 we are telling musicians that it isn't 4/4, but unlike (say) 12/8, we aren't telling them where the accents are. This could be shown by accents in musical notation. Or, it could be up the musician to guess where the strong beats are based on the time signature and the actual notes in the music.

Edited by Annoying Twit

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