Time Signatures: "blanket rules" regarding meter + related question (in CAPS at bottom)

JimmyM

Platinum Member
I would really suggest before doing that, you should considering broadening your viewpoint - and look at much folk music, most all pop music before 1960, classical music, marches, polkas, cumbias, sambas, jazz, country music....

I think you'll discover that our common usage of 16th's in 4/4 to describe 16th note feels wasn't common till way into the 70's. "Funky" 16th note music was nearly universally referred to a 2/2 in a halftime feel. Literally all of our modern popular music grew out of previous popular musics that would just as often as not would be written in 2.

Modern drummers really need to suss this out. For example, I constantly hear guys referring to "train beats" as being in 16ths - 16th's in 4/4. But 99% of the time, they aren't. They are in 2/2 with 1/8ths. And thinking of them in 4/4 leads one to the wrong feel.

To explain.... in 2/2 from a jazz/pop/rock perspective, the half equals the big "stomp or feet in 2" feel, but the 1/4 retains it's "walking bass" up-tempo feel. And we have to feel that, even if were not actually going to lunch into 4.... it is still there.... an under-current. And it effects how we play the fast notes. Are they 4 notes per beat? Or are they 2? Historically - they are 2 8th notes to that fast 4 undercurrent. Which is going to feel different than 4 1/16th's over one beat.

So much of what we play today as 16th's - is based on music that was originally felt in 2 - as a fat two beat, with a undertone surface fast 1/4 with 1/8th's against that.

I really can't stress how important this concept is. When it comes to really grasping groove in 4/4 - being totally versed in the feels and history of 2/2 or cut-time is absolutely essential.
I’m actually surprised that with the marching Xx does that he doesn’t see cut time all the time.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
I would really suggest before doing that, you should considering broadening your viewpoint - and look at much folk music, most all pop music before 1960, classical music, marches, polkas, cumbias, sambas, jazz, country music....

oh yeah. I know all of that, and have played (on drums and also bass) and taught much of those styles of music over the past 30 years as a middle/high school band director

I think you'll discover that our common usage of 16th's in 4/4 to describe 16th note feels wasn't common till way into the 70's. "Funky" 16th note music was nearly universally referred to a 2/2 in a halftime feel. Literally all of our modern popular music grew out of previous popular musics that would just as often as not would be written in 2.

agreed, but that doesn't make it more correct. It just means that it was the popular choice of the day/time. Just like an artist being popular does not automatically make them a good musician...it makes them lucky, and possibly business smart...there are tons of popular musicians who are not good musicians

Modern drummers really need to suss this out. For example, I constantly hear guys referring to "train beats" as being in 16ths - 16th's in 4/4. But 99% of the time, they aren't. They are in 2/2 with 1/8ths. And thinking of them in 4/4 leads one to the wrong feel.

except that 100% of the time, I count my train beats as 16th notes...and that is b/c I almost always put my bass drum as 1 and 3 in my head, and snare as 2 and 4. I base all of my drum set division on that concept. And the audience never knows, which I think is the most important thing. If the train beat is moving the audience, it doesn't matter whether it is in 2 or 4

To explain.... in 2/2 from a jazz/pop/rock perspective, the half equals the big "stomp or feet in 2" feel, but the 1/4 retains it's "walking bass" up-tempo feel. And we have to feel that, even if were not actually going to lunch into 4.... it is still there.... an under-current. And it effects how we play the fast notes. Are they 4 notes per beat? Or are they 2? Historically - they are 2 8th notes to that fast 4 undercurrent. Which is going to feel different than 4 1/16th's over one beat.

So much of what we play today as 16th's - is based on music that was originally felt in 2 - as a fat two beat, with a undertone surface fast 1/4 with 1/8th's against that.

I really can't stress how important this concept is. When it comes to really grasping groove in 4/4 - being totally versed in the feels and history of 2/2 or cut-time is absolutely essential.

and I am not refuting anything you are saying, other than it has to be strictly written out in 2/2.

as a small history, I cut my teeth reading music in marching band stuff, and most of what I was reading was 16th note stuff in 4/4. That is probably why it is so ingrained in me to count that way. Over the years, when I get a song in 2/2, I have trained my self to convert it to 2/4 right away.

Again, it is just a personal thing...like my disdain for social media, and my refusal to participate in it in any way. I will never win the "war on cut time"...it is me just being a bit of a baby really :cool:
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
I’m actually surprised that with the marching Xx does that he doesn’t see cut time all the time.

nah....most of the marching/corps style music is 4's in the bottom, if not 8's and 16's. Especially - as @dcrigger mentioned - when it was written after the 70's. I definitely grew up playing the old school cut time Wilcoxin, Schinstine, Firth, Haskell Harr and other stuff in 2/2, being a child of the 70's.
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
oh yeah. I know all of that, and have played (on drums and also bass) and taught much of those styles of music over the past 30 years as a middle/high school band director



agreed, but that doesn't make it more correct. It just means that it was the popular choice of the day/time. Just like an artist being popular does not automatically make them a good musician...it makes them lucky, and possibly business smart...there are tons of popular musicians who are not good musicians



except that 100% of the time, I count my train beats as 16th notes...and that is b/c I almost always put my bass drum as 1 and 3 in my head, and snare as 2 and 4. I base all of my drum set division on that concept. And the audience never knows, which I think is the most important thing. If the train beat is moving the audience, it doesn't matter whether it is in 2 or 4



and I am not refuting anything you are saying, other than it has to be strictly written out in 2/2.

as a small history, I cut my teeth reading music in marching band stuff, and most of what I was reading was 16th note stuff in 4/4. That is probably why it is so ingrained in me to count that way. Over the years, when I get a song in 2/2, I have trained my self to convert it to 2/4 right away.

Again, it is just a personal thing...like my disdain for social media, and my refusal to participate in it in any way. I will never win the "war on cut time"...it is me just being a bit of a baby really :cool:
You do realize DW is social media, right? ;)
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
You do realize DW is social media, right? ;)

yeah, but it is not "phone based" social media...like the stuff that is encouraging kids to shoot at each other, beat up teachers and steal cars....

again, my own personal pity party
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
A lot of music written in the mid-twentieth century and earlier was written in 2/2, 3/2, 4/2, ect. Most choir music, church hymnals, and Souza marches are written that way. It seems some of you are making a big deal about how it affects the feel, but the real reason is simpler than that. The limitations of the printing press. If you are going to print music with words for a choir or congregation, the size of the font has to be big enough for people to read as they are holding the music at arms length or have it on a music stand in front of them. On top of that the measures had to have enough space to fit those words above the notes on the staff. Back in the day they couldn’t just change the font size of the words or notes with the click of a mouse. They had physical type sets. Maybe the printers had a few different sizes, but not many. In order to make the measures bigger and have more space above the notes for words, they used physically bigger type. They used half’s and quarters instead of quarters and eights. That literally made the measures wider and made more space between notes. I’m sure publishers pressured arrangers to write this way to make it easier to print the music. People got used to reading rhythms written that way and it stuck around for a long time. Composers wrote that way because that’s what they were used to. Back when I was in school music programs we saw 2/2 in choir and cut time in band all the time. I don’t know if “modern” arrangers have rewritten all that music in 4/4 or not. Now that they use computers to write and print music, adjusting the size and spacing is much easier. Now we can sit around on the internet and argue about the best way to write sounds.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Because then nobody knows what 6/8 is-- see any of the contentious threads about it on this forum.
I can't believe how many interviews I see with name musicians who will say something like "yeah, we went with a 3/4 feel on that song" when the song in question is 12/8 (or 4/4 in triplets).

Like dude, you're a rock star, and yet you don't know how to count.....
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
I can't believe how many interviews I see with name musicians who will say something like "yeah, we went with a 3/4 feel on that song" when the song in question is 12/8 (or 4/4 in triplets).

Like dude, you're a rock star, and yet you don't know how to count.....

again, just because you are popular/famous doesn't mean you are good, or knowledgable in the minutea of your activity....
 

skinslapper27

Junior Member
Cut Time certainly serves its purpose; to convey a sense of emphasis on beats 1 and 3, rather than on all four segments.
This is my understanding anyway. It's the same as 4/4, but rather than emphasising all four downbeats, only the first and third are emphasised.
Cut Time reinforces this notion, rather than the reader having to rely solely on Time Values to convey the feel the artist is intending.
I would really suggest before doing that, you should considering broadening your viewpoint - and look at much folk music, most all pop music before 1960, classical music, marches, polkas, cumbias, sambas, jazz, country music....

I think you'll discover that our common usage of 16th's in 4/4 to describe 16th note feels wasn't common till way into the 70's. "Funky" 16th note music was nearly universally referred to a 2/2 in a halftime feel. Literally all of our modern popular music grew out of previous popular musics that would just as often as not would be written in 2.

Modern drummers really need to suss this out. For example, I constantly hear guys referring to "train beats" as being in 16ths - 16th's in 4/4. But 99% of the time, they aren't. They are in 2/2 with 1/8ths. And thinking of them in 4/4 leads one to the wrong feel.

To explain.... in 2/2 from a jazz/pop/rock perspective, the half equals the big "stomp or feet in 2" feel, but the 1/4 retains it's "walking bass" up-tempo feel. And we have to feel that, even if were not actually going to lunch into 4.... it is still there.... an under-current. And it effects how we play the fast notes. Are they 4 notes per beat? Or are they 2? Historically - they are 2 8th notes to that fast 4 undercurrent. Which is going to feel different than 4 1/16th's over one beat.

So much of what we play today as 16th's - is based on music that was originally felt in 2 - as a fat two beat, with a undertone surface fast 1/4 with 1/8th's against that.

I really can't stress how important this concept is. When it comes to really grasping groove in 4/4 - being totally versed in the feels and history of 2/2 or cut-time is absolutely essential.
 

Alain Rieder

Silver Member
Some people do describe it as a fraction of a whole note, which I guess it is.
The names of the notes in English are fractions of a whole note, that's what it is actually.

It is in 2-- the theory description of it is "compound duple", which means "triplet feel, counted/conducted in 2." And that's the way it's most often played.
6/8 is in 2, that's right.

I also sometimes say duple to mean straight 8ths, and have heard other people use it that way.
In French we say "binary" (binaire) for straight eighth.
We say "ternary" or compound (mesure ternaire, mesure composée) for 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8.
We say "ternary phrasing" (phrasé ternaire) for swung or "jazz" phrasing.
The translation of the words binary and ternary is what is taught in most countries of Europe I think, but also in Brasil. For example I remember hearing Benny Greb using those words.
I wonder why these words aren't taught in the States, as it seems.
Every chart I've seen for it is in 6/8, played in 6-- simple sextuple with a swing feel-- since we're using those terms. But it's just a jazz waltz.
I agree that All Blue is actually a jazz waltz, but I've always thought that the 6/8 time signature used in the real book may have been a way to make the melody 12-bar long, as it would be 24-bar long if it was written in the usual 3/4 jazz waltz style.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
By leaning on "I've never seen it", you may be falling down the same rabbit hole as I've seen so many music theorists fall. IMO where theorists tend to mess this up is in their attempt to categorize everything... they tend to skip over the sheer elegance of the system in its simplicity.

All of this codifying of this "type" of meter vs. that type of meter belies the fact that there are only two rules defining time signatures and their usage.

1. The top number describes how many beats are in a measure

Except it doesn't. The first time I ever saw 6/8 was playing Liberty Bell in junior high school band-- if I looking for the band director to conduct six beats per measure, I would have been screwed.

2. The bottom number describes which rhythmic value is assigned a beat (a notational best, not necessarily a foot tap beat).

The foot tap beat = the beat. For me that's the only useful definition of it. Defining beat to include pulses that may be the foot tap beat in 4/4 and a subdivision in 6/8... that's of no use to me. Or I already have a word for that: "pulse." Which I hardly use because I rarely need to refer to that category of rhythm-- I refer to the "foot tap" beat all the time. It's the foundation of everything we do with rhythm and meter.

If beat now just means any old referenced pulse, I need a word for the foot tap, marching, dancing, conducting, referred-to-in-the-tempo-marking beat.

And there are literally always choices as to how a writer or notator applies those rules to a given section of music. Guided by their knowledge and experience as to commonality, but also making the musical intent clear in their particular situation.

9/2 as a compound triple (odd to write that - as outside of academic discussion, with years of playing shows, film music, with a lot of emphasis on odd meter playing - no one has ever uttered these academic definitions.... ever.

Nor would they disagree with them, though, right? It is a helpful idea for people trying to understand time signatures: that there is the number you count to, and the type of subdivision, and that's it. It's real simple 99% of the time.

In this case, it would be called 9/2 "in 3". "Compound duple" is a term used to categorize music by academics, maybe used in the classical world - but again I've never heard it uttered on any podium.

So a practical application for 9/2 "in 3" - we have a piece of music say a rousingly fast samba notated in 2/2 - so our beat os half notes. But this piece also has section in a slow shuffle feel 3 - if written in 3/4, it would be in triplets - hats on each triplet, BD on 1, SD on 2 & 3.

Now the desired tempo of those slow triplets are the same as the samba half notes - and the writer not wanting to enter into creating confusing "half time" "double time" descriptions - which can be particularly confusing in a case like this (as this actually feels slower than "half time" - can just keep the rhythmic values consistent "1/2 note equals 1/2 note" and just notate the drum part like this...

Man I cannot look at your reading nightmare, lol. Whatever works in context. Weird things can exist.

My point is I think it is important to not let these catagorizing definitions overshadow the amazing flexibility of our notation system

They can't be overshadowing the flexibility of the system if nobody knows what they are.

It is a very flexible notation system, but just saying "anything can happen, everything can be anything" is not education. It's not helpful for understanding 99% of music.

as the ease to which it can be understood. Particularly considering how generally superfluous they are.... I mean, really? A meter with a 2 is a double meter, a 3 is a triple, a 4 is a quadruple?.... I mean, how much more redundant can something be?

That's the entire point of it, to clarify how you count compound meters, because it's not clear from looking at the numbers-- that 6/8 is counted in 2, 9/8 in 3, 12/8 in 4. They needed a definition that says "hey you count the one with the 12 in 4."

All these definitions IMO is set a scenario where music that doesn't easily fit into these little defined boxes is made even more confusing by trying to fit it into those boxes.

I don't feel more confused by unusual music understanding meter the way I do. Understanding how 12/8 is used 99+% of the time is a foundation for understanding when someone does something weird with it.

I'm not sure what your complaint is-- you would prefer that */8 meters not have a clear definition based on their common usage? You're not disputing 4/4's box-- four quarter note beats per measure counted in 4. It seems like with 12/8, eg, you don't want to say it has four dotted-quarter beats per measure because there's that number 12 there. We have to leave that undefined.

I don't get it.

Again IMO it's all in the TWO rules - if it fits with those rules - it is right and allowed. Tempered only by the writer's judgment as to what will be the clearest way to getting a good performance.

Though I agree with you 100% - that the quotes you bring up from that book are just atrocious. :)

From a web site-- but yep.
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
Lol, I have spilled more ink on the subject of time signatures. It's not supposed to be this hard.
No it’s not and it isn’t. But it does take some explaining, and that can be tricky and gives us lots of opportunities to nitpick and take stuff way too far on tangents.
 

jda

Gold Member
No it’s not and it isn’t. But it does take some explaining, and that can be tricky and gives us lots of opportunities to nitpick and take stuff way too far on tangents.
Jimmy, "It ain't over till the Bass Player sings.."
; )
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
The foot tap beat = the beat. For me that's the only useful definition of it. Defining beat to include pulses that may be the foot tap beat in 4/4 and a subdivision in 6/8... that's of no use to me. Or I already have a word for that: "pulse." Which I hardly use because I rarely need to refer to that category of rhythm-- I refer to the "foot tap" beat all the time. It's the foundation of everything we do with rhythm and meter.
Todd - we can agree to disagree on a lot of this - but are you saying that you are really unaware that the bottom number represents the "notational beat" not the "foot tap beat" and that the top number represents the number of those "notational beats". Whether you consider that definition useful or not is really neither here nor there... because it is THE definition.... the one that has been in place for a few hundred years. The rule that allows to understand what Bach wrote and what Zappa write.

You and anyone else can use the word "beat" however you want - but where it comes to time signatures, it has long been defined as I outlined. It is literally how we can have fast 6/8!!!

And you do understand - that with any meter, the players and/or the conductor can "foot tap" on something other than the written beat. We often tap a medium to fast 6/8 in 2... we also will tap a slow 6/8 in 6. The foot tap beat is ALWAYS dependent on tempo.... which has nothing at all to do with the time signature..... Time signatures do not dictate tempo.... ever.

And yes, there's nothing wrong with explaining things to students - but IMO this music analysis approach - and it's near endless jargon - ends up confusing as many people as it helps. As I experience on these drum forums over and over again. Students so inundated with definition and trying figure out which "box" a piece belongs in - so obsessed with the categories - and devoid of the knowledge of how to simply figure it out for themselves. Including realizing that there is rarely only one correct answer - though there often is a more common one (but not always). So they get caught up in debates of whether "All Blues" is in 3/4 or 12/8 or 6/8 - when simple truth is - it can be all of the above. It is in 3 and all of those time signatures are a completely valid way of notating that original performance. "But no there are these categories - and it has to be one" As I said as much confusion spread as illumination.

Again, in my opinion.
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
I can't believe how many interviews I see with name musicians who will say something like "yeah, we went with a 3/4 feel on that song" when the song in question is 12/8 (or 4/4 in triplets).

Like dude, you're a rock star, and yet you don't know how to count.....
Again - you have been lead to believe there is one right answer to these things... the best you can get... is most common. And in this instance, that's not possible.

For any number of pieces of music - a fast 3/4, a 1/3rd slower 12/8 or 4/4 with triplets are 100% synonymous. In that the resultant music will sound the same - it might easier to read one way or the other - and certain players might tend to feel it better one way or the other. This IMO is the beauty of the system - writers have choices of how to approach this. Again sometimes for clarity, or feel, or practical considerations like when writing more complex (multiple section, multiple, feel, multiple tempo'd) music - what will make transition flow better.

It is a very versatile system - we should be careful presuming someone is ignorant of it, when there usage may be nuanced in ways we are unaware of.
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
Man I cannot look at your reading nightmare, lol. Whatever works in context. Weird things can exist.
Also - seriously.... not that weird. I've been asked to negotiate far weirder stuff than that. Show music, commercials, film cues... not even remotely esoteric stuff. Did you try and imagine what that might sound like in your head - fast samba to slow 3/4 shuffle and back again?? It's actually remarkably straight forward - and not unlike things that happen all the time (in non-straight song situations). And frankly, I can't imagine a more bullet proof way of writing it. Unless the samba could be written in 16ths - which sometimes is a good idea and sometimes not. But that would still leave us with 9/4 for the slow 3, which isn't much more accessible than the 9/2.

Personally I found it fascinating - I almost just went and wrote some music to it and mocked it up - (but I guess that would've been an even greater waste of time)

samba to 9:2 ex - SCORE.jpg
 
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