1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to post, make friends, earn reward points at our store, remove most ads and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Time Signatures?<---- your chance to be smart!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by sayawnj, Jan 16, 2004.

  1. sayawnj


    Dec 9, 2003
    I understand how to work with time signatures and alot of how music is composed into notation, but what are the advantages of having different time signatures like 3/2 and 4/4, 6/8, etc... Is it because of how the song is transisting? Like the flow of notes from measure to measure? It does make a little sense but I still can't firmly grasp the concept.

    Your insight?
  2. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    :meh: well, you understand the basics, right? So you know this much:

    Top # = how many beats per measure.
    Bottom # = what note gets one count.

    4/4 = 4 beats per measure & 1/4 note gets one count

    3/4 = 3 beats per measure & 1/4 note gets one count

    ...if I'm reading your question right, I think your asking why would it be acceptable for a person to ever write 6/8 for the time rather than simplifying it down to 3/4? (the way your math teacher would want) Is that what your asking? That's actually not a bad question - here's my WAG's and assumptions. I think that by writing 6/8 (as opposed to 3/4) you'd be implying that there will be some eigth note rythms played. I think that often times has to do with a swing feel to the eight notes.
  3. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    This sort of this is best done with musical examples. Typed descriptions are difficult. But to me 6/8 and 3/4 "feel" have a different downnbeat. If the downbeat is on beat 1,

    6/8 is 1,2,3,4,5,6 1 ,2,3,4,5,6

    3/4 is 1,2,3 1,2,3 1,2,3 1,2,3

    Does that make sense?
  4. The top number you can hear from the music, usually. it's in the phrasing. some things will work in either 3 or 6, but there's usually one that works better. a 12-beat phrase can be three 4-beat bars, or four 3-beat bars, and it's not too hard to tell the difference.

    the second one is just for ease of writing it down. 4/4, 4/8, 4/64, can all sound identical. the bottom number just dictates what gets one beat when writing out the music. if something has a lot of fast notes, you'd use 8 rather than 4 because then you're likely to go only to 32nd notes rather than 64ths, say. it's all aesthetics. i would think 64ths would be harder to read than 32nds simply because they need more ink on the page.

    rereading this it isn't making much sense, but i can't think of how to clarify it........
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Except, that's not quite right.

    6/8 actually is 1,2,3,4,5,6 1 ,2,3,4,5,6

    The difference lies between what we call simple and compound time.

    simple time (in your example, 3/4 is simple triple) is when the unit of beat (the quarter note in 3/4) is divided into two subdivisions. (1 and 2 and 3 and).

    compound time (again, in the example 6/8) is when the unit of beat is divided into three subdivisions (1 and a 2 and a). you can't write 3/4.5 (for dotted quarter), so you have to write the number of subdivisions. 6/8 is compound duple time, with the dotted quarter as the unit of beat.
  6. sayawnj


    Dec 9, 2003
    thanks for your help. I understand the idea behind having different sigs a little better now.