Talk:Time signature

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3/4 compound and complex just like 6[edit]

Sorry but all the online resources and wikipedia are kinda wrong because 3/4 isn't necessarily simple always. As this article mentioned there "In compound meter, subdivisions (which are what the upper number represents in these meters) of the beat are in three equal parts, so that a dotted note (half again longer than a regular note) becomes the beat." and it also says that "3 4 is a simple signature that represents three quarter notes (crotchets). It has a basic feel of (Bold denotes a stressed beat):

ONE two three (as in a waltz)" therefore according to that 3/4 can be a compound time signature, in the case of Waltz for instance. Because subdivisions are in three equal parts since the stressed is on every THREE notes therefore the "DOTTED NOTE BECOMES THE BEAT". And no, a measure with one beat isn't necessarily simple or not doable, take waltz as an example the main beat is on every 3 quarter notes. To say 3/4 is the simple version of 6/8 is extremely ignorant. What if the stress is on dotted half notes, every three notes in 3/4? It depends on the score and what the pulse is in that score. So I'm going to delete the word simple in "3 4 is a simple signature that represents". 6/4 for instance can be either compound or complex. If the beat is 6 quarter notes then it's simple if the beat is 2 dotted half notes it's s coumpound time signature. As simple as that. 3/4 isn't a device to make your time signature simple 6/8 doesn't automatically make your music complex either. What if I wanted to count that as a 6 beat measure. It's up to the piece and the composer.

Can someone clarify whether a time signature is complex or compound depends on the piece? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:22, 9 October 2017 (UTC)

Ambiguous or misleading[edit]

The text currently first uses "common time" (a phrase which is a re-direct to this site) in the following: "(such as or 3 4) (read 'common time' and 'three four time', respectively)." This can easily be incorrectly understood to mean that common time is three four time. Please re-write this. Kdammers (talk) 11:30, 6 December 2012 (UTC)


I know music is sort of axiomatic, but couldn't there be some way of making the lede clearer? The use of the word measure, while probably necessary, is, as currently used, opaque. It is a linked word, but the text of the link pretty much goes back to the first part of the article's sentence. What makes a measure a measure?Kdammers (talk) 11:41, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

I'm not sure I understand your complaint. The linked word goes to an explanation: "a segment of time defined by a given number of beats, each of which are assigned a particular note value". This only "goes back to the first part of the article's sentence" in the sense that it says a time signature "specif[ies] how many" beats there are and "which note value constitutes one beat". This seems to be the very pinnacle of simplicity and clarity. What part do you find difficult to follow? Does it need to say that "measure" and "bar" (the actual title of the article linked from the word "measure") are synonymous?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:41, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
  • The lead undeniably needs work. I get what it is saying, but to non-musicians or even aspiring musicians who have not had any formal training it think it would be rather difficult to understand. I am also somewhat surprised that the article takes quite some time to getting around to mentioning that 4/4 is by far the most common, as indicated by the fact that is also called common time. To a general audience think this is a very basic fact that could significantly contribute to their understanding of what a time signature is and why they so often hear musicians counting to four or clicking the drumsticks four times. Beeblebrox (talk) 21:31, 17 December 2012 (UTC)
The text is written for musicians as far as I can tell. My problem seems to be that it is like talking to me in Chinese when I don't know that language or telling me about colors if I'm blind. Saying that a measure is a bar does not tell me what a measure is.Kdammers (talk) 03:34, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

reference needed or not for time signatures ?[edit]

Why do we need a reference when the value of the time signature of a piece of music is mentioned ? Wikipedia does rely on the competence of their contributors or not ? It is not difficult for a musician to know that Radiohead's 15 step is in 5/4. It belongs to the category of informations that are neither opinions neither private or "published" in any way by any entity, it is just a scientific reality. If we agree on this, I will contribute by adding a few other examples in popular music. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Laurent S. Vleminckx (talkcontribs) 21:51, 27 January 2013 (UTC)

I think you might want to have a look at Talk:List of musical works in unusual time signatures (and especially the archives of that page) before proceeding to do what you are proposing. Wikipedia emphatically does not (and cannot) rely on the competence of their contributors, especially because there are such things as vandalism and hoaxes.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:26, 27 January 2013 (UTC)
To put it another way, right or wrong you would be violating the principle of no original research. Beeblebrox (talk) 23:40, 27 January 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for your answer. As a new contributor, I will not engage myself in any troubles and respect your point of view, but if we stick to the principles of no original research, I would tell you that the meaning of my first message was precisely that I consider finding the time signature of a piece of music as a "routine calculation" as it is defined in the Wikipedia rules. I would go even further and say that it is not the fact that a score says that a song is n-tempered that makes the song actually be n-tempered : the song itself provides that information, and the source is thus a secondary source. Though, I must admit that it is true for the "n-tempered" thing but not for the time signature : a song can be attributed a few different time signatures but only one "n-tempered" number provided that n is a prime number (well here we are totally on original research :) ). That leads us to the question of the pertinence of the time signature (I would say that the only real important fact about a song would be the n-tempered number with n being a prime number) but I guess Wikipedia is not the place for such a debate. And thank you Beeblebrox for telling me that Wikipedia does not rely on the competence on the editors, I didn't know it, but I find it really sad. First because then editors are reduced to "sources finders". I thought that some editor having some knowledge in some fields could use that knowledge to enhance the community ? Besides, more generally, how can you guarantee that the journalist or whoever wrote the "source" (often citing another source) provides a more accurate information than the one directly computed by a Wikipedia contributor ?

Well, I guess there are other pages on Wikipedia where to talk about the pertinence of its principles and I guess that I should stick to the rules. Right now I have got some scorebooks so I will contribute with the few songs concerned. Laurent S. Vleminckx (talk) 00:52, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

Welcome to the weird and wacky world of Wikipedia. I hope the frustration wears off quickly, and you find the environment congenial. The principle of "no original research" is one of the things that newcomers to Wikipedia have the greatest difficulty getting used to. It is made necessary by the "open" editing used, which requires no credentials at all of editors. Regarding some of the other questions you raise, you should have a look at the introductory paragraphs for the List of musical works in unusual time signatures and the articles Quintuple meter and Septuple meter for discussions of the "pertinence of time signatures" and their possible problematic relationship to the actual meter of any given piece of music. Keep in mind that the subject of the present article is the former rather than the latter, though their inter-relationship is of course part of the discussion.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:34, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

Musical parameters in infobox[edit]

Musical parameters in infobox I'm not sure of the best place to ask this, but I've started a discussion over at Template_talk:Infobox_song, which essentially asks whether tempo and key should have their own parameters. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:35, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

Stress and meter[edit]

There's an odd signature and timestamp in that section.-- (talk) 18:42, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

The result of vandalism, or an extremely clumsy edit. I have reverted it. Thanks for pointing this out.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 19:00, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

"Irrational" time signatures[edit]

I am going to insist on restoring my previous edits in the section on "irrational" meters. I added a link to dyadic rationals, which is an article about the type of fractions that are most commonly used for time signatures. I also pointed out that so-called "irrational" time signatures are in fact precisely those which are not dyadic rationals, so that "non-dyadic" would be the mathematically proper way to refer to these fractions (rather than "irrational", which is exactly contrary to the mathematical usage of this term). Note that I did not attempt to rename the section, remove the "irrational" terminology, or otherwise conceal the fact that "irrational" is commonly used in this mathematically incorrect sense. My edits were entirely relevant, appropriate, and in the spirit of Wikipedia, and I object in the strongest possible terms to their reversion, especially given the presumptuous, spurious grounds cited by the user responsible ("mathematical details not helpful" -- as if that user's lack of interest in mathematics were a legitimate reason for deleting a pertinent cross-reference!). (talk) 10:51, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

This is an article about music. Whether the terminology used in music corresponds to similar terminology in other fields isn't really relevant (rational is also used in fields like psychology and economics as well, as you can see from the disambiguation page, and the page called irrational isn't even about math), and anyway dyadic rationals include numbers like 3475/65536, which isn't much help in understanding time signatures. I just don't see how including a link to this mathematical topic could assist readers in understanding even this obscure subtopic of musical time signatures. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:59, 24 May 2013 (UTC)
Instead of assuming that you are in a position to know why every reader of this article is reading it, why not defer to other editors who did, in fact, happen to come upon the article as readers? There are plenty of people who are interested in the mathematics of music, and they may appreciate the link simply for the background information it provides -- not necessarily because it "helps them understand" the meaning of a particular time signature. This is an encyclopedia, not a pedagogical text. (Though, frankly, I would have appreciated the terminological note even in a pedagogical text.)
(It should also be obvious that the use of "irrational" in this context -- where it directly conflicts with the mathematical usage -- is much more problematic than the uses of this term in fields like psychology, where the meaning is simply unrelated. A note calling attention to the conflict serves to prevent confusion and is entirely appropriate.) (talk) 04:58, 25 May 2013 (UTC)
I agree. Unless there is solid evidence for good quality sources that the term 'irrational' is in general use in music we should not use terminology that conflicts with that used in mathematics. Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:10, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
I take it that you have not actually read the section of this article that deals with this subject. Whether or not the term is in "general use" may be debated but, as far as I am aware, there is no alternative term that may be substituted for this type of time signature. One thing that has not been pointed out here is that this use of the word "irrational" is consistent with the common musical term "irrational rhythm" which, as you will discover if you follow the link to the pertinent section of that article, uses the word in a sense borrowed from ancient Greek prosody, rather than the quite different one from mathematics. You will also find that some of the alternative terms for these rhythms (ordinarily expressed by whole-number ratios) are also in conflict with mathematics, from which they are borrowed, but with misunderstandings and other distortions, piled on top of some etymological confusions perpetrated by mathematicians. Nevertheless, just as 5 + 5 = 9 in music, so has "irrational" come to signify "relationships expressed as numeric ratios".—Jerome Kohl (talk) 20:13, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
Agree with Jerome, as usual, but I find it amusing that your definition of "irrational" in music is exactly what mathematicians would call "rational" — the exact opposite. Still, the less said about this topic the better. It's beyond obscure. I bet 99.9% of musicians have never encountered a non-dyadic time signature. —Wahoofive (talk) 18:25, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
Not my definition! Not my definition!! I wash my hands of this whole sorry business. The expression has been around a lot longer than I have, and of course there is that irony. What is interesting, though, when you check the senses in the OED (which lists them in historical order) is that the prosodic sense predates the mathematical one, though in poetic analysis there is not the definition of numeric proportions—this only gets added in by the mathematically inept musicians when they borrowed the non-mathematical sense of the term. (We should keep in mind that music is an art, not a science, despite the best efforts of musicology to make it one.)—Jerome Kohl (talk) 19:02, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Alla Breve, cut time[edit]

The second example in the table mentions '2/2' on the left and in the text, but the rightmost column still shows a '4/4' example? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Sejtam (talkcontribs) 23:25, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

East versus West[edit]

I'm just some person when talking music, a complete layman, but I recently found myself in a forum where Time Signatures became relevant, yet we were still left with some unresolved issues.

The question arose when talking about the soundtrack to the film Akira. It's posted in its entirety on a youtube channel, and aroused one of the better discussions there. Almost. Some may recall the original film, but most will remember the re-dub, which came with an extensive commentary. In it, most seem to have memory of the composer interviewing about his motivation to use time signatures based on those found in ancient Japanese culture, and of those who saw it, some say this was something like 10/16 or 11/16. Does that... exist?

I noticed no mention of it, specifically, or anything regionally specific, but am wondering if the article in its current state may simply be referring to Western and/or contemporary music, or does it include such a wide description as to cover all musical possibilities?

I suppose the former would mean revision and addition, while the latter would mean... they were wrong!

WillJonassen (talk) 09:40, 29 August 2013 (UTC)

Certainly meter signatures (such as 10/16 and 11/16) are specific to the European notation system, and therefore would have been unknown in Japan until modern times (say, the early 17th century). However, it is entirely possible that decuple or undecuple meters may have existed, or perhaps aksak rhythms whose unequal beats can be transcribed into Western notation using meters like 10/16 or 11/16. Notated examples of Japanese music date back as far as the 13th century, though to what extent rhythmic information can be reliably extracted from this notation I do not know. According to the Music of Japan article, rhythms of traditional music are "based on the intervals of human breathing rather than mathematical timing", which suggests that so specific a transcription as 11/16 would have to be very speculative. I am not very well-informed about Japanese traditional music, though, and other editors may have better information to offer.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 15:31, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
It's still an incredible volume of information and knowledge which you've presented, and amazing how much such a response warrants continued learning. This is always great. I did some further research on my own, too, and though I lack the musical vocabulary necessary to carry on a full dialogue, the composition in question centered on the use of the Taiko drum ensemble juxtaposed with the human voice. The Taiko drum, of course, goes naturally with some serious energy. If it follows the breathing of anything, really, it would have to be a herd of stampeding horses, but that's just a side observation. Your mention of "human breathing" intervals does make a certain sort of sense in this context, in fact, as the goal of the film score had been to fully utilize the human vocal chord as an instrument unto itself. Check it out sometime, by the way - it's pure magic with or without the film. To your historical notes, though, those still remain interesting dates, as even the 17th century's point of development would place a new form's popular and cultural usage within a feudal state. A traditionally minded state. It could be a simple matter of untranslatable context, as well, being communicated to an English speaking audience which then led to a confusion. To finalize my own point and original question, still, relating to the aforementioned, it's good to know that there is a specific link to extra-cultural references of this sort. Music of Japan is exactly what I'll check out next - and in the future, I'll have a better grip on where to search for a starting point without assuming any one single article is all-inclusive, thanks to your example.
I appreciate the sincere effort, sincerely.

WillJonassen (talk) 16:55, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

You are very welcome. Just one cautionary note: the Taiko drum ensemble only first came into existence in 1951. While it does draw on some aspects of traditional Japanese music, what they play is a modern interpretation, and the movement has also been "globalized", which means that elements from other cultural streams have influenced performances by such groups.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:06, 3 September 2013 (UTC)
Well, that's just hilarious. I can only assume, then, that the speaker (Musical Director Shoji Yamashiro), who conducted the interview in truncated English, had only made a misstep in his attempt to describe what was a massive project with a very wide and original scope. I suppose that's why no such information could be found... Oh, life. You so and so...

WillJonassen (talk) 17:13, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

"Note values don't match with actual values"[edit]

In a request for clarification, User: states that "note values don't match with actual values" in this passage:

For instance, 2
means two quarter-note (crotchet) beats per bar—3
means three eighth-note (quaver) beats per bar.

This request needs some clarification, I think. In what way does the /4 not match a quarter note (crotchet), and /8 not match an eighth note (quaver)? Or am I missing something here? Is "actual value" some sort of specialized technical term I don't understand?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:33, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Perhaps the reference is to compound meters. —Wahoofive (talk) 00:03, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
That's what I thought at first, but if this is the case, the flag is placed in the wrong section: it is here, in the section on simple time signatures.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:02, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
Conversely, maybe it's a challenge to the concept of beat, which doesn't always line up with the time-signature value. There's plenty of music in 4/4 which is experienced as two beats to the bar, and plenty of 3/4 (or 3/8) music which is one beat to the bar, etc. —Wahoofive (talk) 23:19, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
Possibly, though neither "note values" nor "actual values" seem directly to signify the lower numeral in a time signature. I do wish User: would chime in here and explain what the problem is. Failing clarification, I think the flag ought to be simply removed.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:11, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
In other words, you want to flag the clarification flag for clarification :-) —Wahoofive (talk) 16:50, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
LOL! Yes, I guess that is exactly what I want to do!—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:40, 17 January 2014 (UTC)

West Side Story[edit]

At long last, I have finally replaced the contrived example of "America" from West Side Story, which showed both 6/8 and 3/4 signatures at the beginning, with an example from Tchaikovsky. In fact, "America" is written just in 6/8. I've been meaning to fix this for years. —Wahoofive (talk) 19:28, 2 June 2014 (UTC)

Meter/time signature[edit]

Is this and WP:Engvar thing. In the UK, the numbers at the start of a line of music are generally called the 'time signature'. 'Meter' is used though. Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:05, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

Removal of (clarification needed) tag[edit]

Without reading this talk page first, I have removed the (clarification needed) tag from the section "Simple time signatures" because there is a perfect (in terms of function) explanation just two lines below. Jerome Kohl was on the right track by suggesting that the tag be removed. The editor who placed the tag in the first instance appears to be failing to understand the subject. We are advised to "Be Bold" and ... er .. I was. Any editor who wishes to revert my edit needs to come up with a very good rationale. In other words: Don't waste our time! CaesarsPalaceDude (talk) 02:58, 27 September 2014 (UTC)

Bless you, my son.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 05:40, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
I won't change it back, but the article, especially the lede, is still pretty much opaque to all but initiates. Maybe you musicians should sit down with a nonmusical person and have them try to understand the article. I think you'll find out how confusing it is.Kdammers (talk) 14:08, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
Finally, someone who actually does not find this sentence perfectly clear has chimed in! Thank you for stepping forward. Please explain to the rest of us what is opaque about the words "numeral", "note value", or "beat", so that we can rewrite this sentence in a way that you can understand it. There are already links to the articles Note value and Beat (music), where explanations of those terms are given. Surely "numeral" cannot be unfamiliar. Does "lower numeral" not clearly indicate the number at the bottom of the signature? If w cannot get past this sentence, then there is no chance at all of dealing with the lede, which I admit looks cluttered and confusing, but mainly because of the many badly formatted time-signature examples in its last paragraph. Here again there are many links to terms that beginners might find unfamiliar, but very little that I can identify as "opaque to all but initiates". Could you please be more specific?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:24, 27 September 2014 (UTC)
I don't want to go on and on on this, but I'll try to make clear what isn't clear. beat and bar/measure are unclear ( a beat is something measured by measures, which measure beats - except when they don't because 2/2 time is or is not the same as 4/4 time) and C [probably totally unknown to anyt nonmusicians including those who took two or three years of piano) and 3/4 are still left sounding like they may the the same thing. We exchanged comments on this a couple of years ago, but you don't see that the links don't help, and I don't see how they help. I think the best way to handle this is as I mentioned before: have one of the editors who understand this sit get together in real time with a nonmusician or two and see where they struggle. (Trying to do this long-distance is at least as frustrating as for non-computer people trying to get help from geeks over the Internet.) And, yes, the visual impact dramatically raises the affective filter of a non-insider. Kdammers (talk) 00:47, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
If this muddled account is what it says in the article "Beat (music)" (and I admit I have not checked to verify this), then that article is sorely in need of correction. A beat is not "measured by measures". A beat is simply a periodic pulse, like the ticking of a clock. I admit this is proving difficult for a musician to discuss with a non-musician, especially when I cannot tap on the table-top between us to demonstrate the difference between a regular (periodic) pulse and a series of taps with different intervals of time between them. Does the "Beat (music)" article really make such a shambles of explaining this? I shall have to go and see but, if it does, the problem clearly must be there and not here. All that is at issue here is what symbol is assigned to this counting value (called a "beat"). It is not the purpose of this article to make an elaborate explanation of this basic element of musical rhythm.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 02:25, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
I have just checked the "Beat (music)" article, and indeed it is even worse than you suggested. It is one of the most badly written ledes I have seen on any subject. Although everything in it is perfectly true, it unnecessarily introduces at the outset a whole collection of abstruse terms that appear to serve no purpose other than to prevent readers from progressing any further. I think the most helpful thing we could do here is to remove the link to this infected and confusing article, until such time as it has been hospitalised and successfully treated. The concept of "beat" is one of the simplest and easiest-to-understand aspects in all of music theory. Only a gang of Wikipedia editors could succeed in making it incomprehensible.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 03:00, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
This article is about as clear as mud. Try writing it more clearly. (talk) 04:45, 16 August 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for your constructive criticism. Given that there are nine major section, could we start at the beginning? The first sentence reads: "The time signature (also known as meter signature,[1] metre signature,[2] or measure signature[3]) is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats (pulses) are to be contained in each bar and which note value is to be given one beat." What do you find unclear about this (admittendly rather long) sentence?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 04:59, 16 August 2016 (UTC)

Yet another undefined term: hypermeter[edit]

The word hypermeter is used without explanation or link. (talk) 22:53, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

Right you are. I have added a link.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:04, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

Progressive rock[edit]

Probably 21/8 in Wakeman's Anne of Cleves is also worth mentioning. Fedorkov Dmitry (talk) 17:43, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

See List of musical works in unusual time signatures. But you'd need documentation. —Wahoofive (talk) 23:32, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

Order of explantion[edit]

In an edit note, Jerome Kohl says "(changed order of presentation for clarity (explain first what it is we are going to count before explaining the counting itself)--the editorial note already refers to this)"

Could someone please indicate where it explains how the counting will go? I'm not seeing it. What I see see is someone explaining the lower number before the upper number. This isn't how we read this, and it isn't how we say it. 7/8 time isn't called "eight under seven time", it's "seven eight". — Preceding unsigned comment added by HacksawPC (talkcontribs) 07:56, 6 April 2015 (UTC)

If you were explaining to someone what a "grove of trees" was, would you insist on explaining the word "grove" first because it comes first in the phrase? If someone wasn't clear what a "tree" was, that would be difficult. —Wahoofive (talk) 18:17, 6 April 2015 (UTC)


Maybe this is article not the appropriate place to answer this question, but I would think it would be clear to someone reading it (but it isn't to me). What if any difference is there between 2/2 and 4/4 (or 3/4 and 6/8 etc.) is there? (talk) 03:27, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Do not confuse time signatures with mathematics. If the differences between these pairs of meters is not made clear by the article, then the article needs improvement. Can you please re-read the relevant sections, and then point out what parts are unclear?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 04:45, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
I'd agree that the difference between 6/8 and 3/4 is made explicit in the text, but not so for 2/2 and 4/4; in fact, the example shown in the table for 2/2 time is notated with a 4/4 time signature, a situation certain to confuse readers. Are they interchangeable or not? (Hint: sometimes). I'd say most musicians are pretty hazy on the distinction between 2/2 and 4/4 in practice, although they could cite the textbook difference. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:29, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
I'll have to take a closer look, I guess, but I thought the text was fairly plain that the upper numeral indicates the number of beats in the bar, and 2 ≠ 4. In practice, I find that the main areas of ambiguity are not with these specific time signatures (at least, not in "classical" music), but rather with whether the symbols common time and cut time should really be interpreted as 4/4 and 2/2, respectively. This is particularly ambiguous in the case of eighteenth-century music, of course. Is it appropriate, though, to go into such detail here, or is the "textbook definition" really sufficient?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:06, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
Closer look taken, and I see what you mean about the 4/4 example illustrating the 2/2 block in the table. It is clearly a misplaced example, and should be moved to the 4/4 section. It looks like it may have been put there in confusion over the use of "duple" as a category encompassing all "even" meters, in opposition to "triple" for "odd" meters.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:11, 7 April 2015 (UTC)
Yes, this is the right article to address ambiguities in C and C-slash, although it could be relegated to a lower-down section. Even Brahms used C-slash to mean 4/2 sometimes, so it's not exclusively an early-music thing. As for the difference between 2/2 and 4/4, I guess the textbook difference will have to suffice, but it begs the question of why one would choose one rather than the other: what's the practical difference between them? The upper number doesn't necessarily indicate the number of beats in a bar, e.g. 6/8 frequently only has two beats, and it's not that hard to find pieces notated in 4/4 which are really two beats to the bar, but the determination of what is a beat is a slippery slope. —Wahoofive (talk) 20:53, 8 April 2015 (UTC)
Brahms Requiem Excerpt.png
A salutary example, thanks for that. It reminds me that on occasion Brahms could be an historist composer (like Bruckner). The notation obviously refers back to the 16th century sources of aspects of that particular Brahms work. Should we also bring in Brahms's liking for dotting notes across barlines?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:20, 9 April 2015 (UTC)
" and it's not that hard to find pieces notated in 4/4 which are really two beats to the bar," -- I have no idea what all this means. I thought that a beat is a stressed note, so 2/2 would be Stress, unstress {by the way, can it be unstress, Stress??} versus 4/4, which would be Stress, unstress, unstress, unstress; but the text I just quoted seems to contradict that idea. {Does stress simply mean louder?} (talk) 04:49, 16 August 2016 (UTC)
A beat is regarded as stressed in comparison to parts of the bar that are not on a beat. On the other hand, some beats may be stressed more than others. Stress does not necessarily mean louder, but that can be am important component. In 4/4 time, beat one is the primary stress, but beat three has secondary stress. Beats two and four are regarded as unstressed. Under some circumstances (a faster tempo, for example) the unstressed second and fourth beats can diminish in importance until they feel less like beats and more like fractions of beats, leaving just the first and third quarter notes of the bar seeming like "beats". There will still be the relative sense of strength: a stronger first beat, and a weaker, but still stressed, second beat. Clear now?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 05:11, 16 August 2016 (UTC)

Irrational meters[edit]

Since there was no example previously, I have added a theoretical one. It may not be ideal in its notation. Double sharp (talk) 15:04, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

No TS?[edit]

Does Western music always have a time signature? I can't hear a repeating stress pattern in a lot of music. Is that because there is no set time signature, or is that a problem in my hearing? (talk) 04:53, 16 August 2016 (UTC)

The short answer is "No." There are pieces of music and even whole genres that are notated without a time signature, and are not meant to have a regular metrical structure ()see "free rhythm" Metre_(music)#Metric_structure here. That said, this is not very common in Western music, so it is also possible that you are somehow not observing a recurring pattern that is actually present.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 05:21, 16 August 2016 (UTC)
Also, technically speaking, a time signature is a notational device, so it is sometimes omitted even when there is a regular meter, for example in church hymnals or lead sheets for pop music. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:05, 27 December 2016 (UTC)

timey-wimey nonlinear history[edit]

The first deliberate quintuple meter pieces were apparently published in Spain between 1516 and 1520, though other authorities reckon that the Delphic Hymns to Apollo (one by Athenaeus is entirely in quintuple meter, the other by Limenius predominantly so), carved on the exterior walls of the Athenian Treasury at Delphi in 128 BC, are probably earlier.

It does not surprise me that some authorities reckon that something written in 128 BC is probably older than something published in AD 1516. What is this sentence trying to say? That the Delphic examples were long not recognized as quintuple? That not everyone agrees that they are quintuple? —Tamfang (talk) 00:53, 26 February 2017 (UTC)

OK, I hold my hands up on this one. What you have left out is the "reliable source" quoted in footnote number 8 immediately following the year 1520: "Tim Emmons, Odd Meter Bass: Playing Odd Time Signatures Made Easy (Van Nuys: Alfred Publishing, 2008): 4." This source declares outright that quintuple meter only first appears in Spain in the 16th century. This citation is an incontrovertible "fact", and I could not resist pointing out the slightly earlier examples (also with a reliable source: Documents of Ancient Greek Music: The Extant Melodies and Fragments, edited and transcribed with commentary by Egert Pöhlmann and Martin L. West [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001]: 70–71 and 85) that make this claim seem rather foolish. This, by the way, is one example of why I personally dislike tucking away source citations in footnotes: they are too easy to overlook and, under Wikipedia's verifiability, not truth policy, such "reliable sources" should be made as visible as possible (without, of course, disrupting readability). Parenthetical referencing serves this purpose much better than footnotes.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:46, 26 February 2017 (UTC)
All very amusing, but it seems legitimate to say that these Spanish items are the first published examples and suggest at least a local practice of these irregular meters, whereas ancient inscriptions don't meet most people's definition of "publishing" and tell us little about musical practice in the ancient world. The question of inline citations is a red herring.
This sentence could easily be edited to reflect this, in part by removing "probably" near the end, removing "deliberately" near the beginning (were there accidental ones?), and removing "other authorities reckon that" from the middle. —Wahoofive (talk) 23:52, 27 February 2017 (UTC)
The question of what constitutes "published" is relevant here because, although the cited source (Emmons) does not actually say so, the 16th-century collection is the Cancionero de Palacio, which is a manuscript, not a printed book. As such, engraving musical compositions on the wall of a public place (in the case of the Delphic Hymns, a temple to Apollo) would just as plausibly constitute "publication" in the ancient world as the copying of a manucript in the 16th century. Keep in mind that, at the time the Cancionero was initially copied, music printing did not yet exist. I would suggest it makes better sense to strike everying from the Emmons source, on grounds of unreliability, and accept the Pöhlmann and West citation as authoritative.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 03:50, 28 February 2017 (UTC)
I think it's safe to say that both the Delphi and the Spanish examples are anomalous uses, as far as we know. I'd vote to keep the reference. I've rewritten the sentence to remove the word "first", although that whole paragraph is a list of everybody's favorite examples thrown together higgledy-piggledy. I was under the impression that "publishing" meant something different from "printing," but now that I look under Publishing in Harvard Dictionary, I see they're essentially synonymous. —Wahoofive (talk) 21:22, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Just for fun, here's an example from Handel's opera Orlando, published in 1733:

Handel Orlando excerpt.png

Wahoofive (talk) 21:53, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Yes, this example is discussed in the article Quintuple meter. I gree that the Spanish examples may be anomalous (though, again, see the discussion of Spanish traditional music in the Quintuple meter article). The Delphic examples certainly are not anomalous, since the Cretic meter in which they are composed is reasonably common in ancient Greek poetry, and specifically in paeans (which both hymns are).—Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:53, 1 March 2017 (UTC)

Move discussion in progress[edit]

There is a move discussion in progress on Talk:Commontime (album) which affects this page. Please participate on that page and not in this talk page section. Thank you. —RMCD bot 21:33, 30 December 2017 (UTC)


This article is listed as being at mid-important. Clicking on the links, I couldn't find a definition of high/mid etc., but intuitively, I don't understand why this article, if I understand what it is about (the basic way the rhythm of music is shown in Western notation?), is not listed as being of high importance. Kdammers (talk) 09:05, 10 March 2018 (UTC)