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#2393534 - 03/08/12 06:48 AM Time Signatures
G Patrick Bryant Offline
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Registered: 03/06/12
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Loc: Tennessee
My first "disappearing" post (which turned out to be over in the guitarists' forum) dealt with what I mistakenly believed to be an error in John Goldsby's column in the February issue of Bassplayer. If anyone cares, here it is:

Sometimes even great teachers like John Goldsby will err. A case in point appears on page 66 of the Bassplayer February 2012 issue in his Woodshed column titled "Divide & Conquer".

The statements calling for correction read: "The bottom number of the written time signature indicates which type of note equals one beat. The top number indicates how many of those beats are in one measure, or bar of music."

While these statements are true when referring to simple time, they are untrue when referring to compound time, two examples of which (6/8 and 12/8) appear immediately below these statements.

A compound time signature is one in which the upper number is not three but is evenly divisible by three (e.g., 6, 9, 12, etc.). To determine the number of beats in compound time you divide the upper number by three. To determine the beat unit you combine three of the note types indicated by the lower number in the signature, which is almost always an '8', representing the eighth-note.

Deciphering the two examples of compound time listed in Mr. Goldsby's column, we find that the 6/8 signature indicates two beats per measure with the dotted-quarter note receiving the beat, and that 12/8 indicates four beats per measure, with the dotted-quarter again serving as the beat unit.

I served as a musician in the U.S. Navy for four years and can tell you without hesitation that there are many marches in 6/8 time, not one of which is counted six beats per measure. Two excellent examples of 6/8 marches are Sousa's Washington Post and Semper Fidelis.

I hope this helps. All the best... gpb

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#2393565 - 03/08/12 08:10 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: G Patrick Bryant]
Eric Iverson Offline
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I remember playing Sousa marches in 6/8 when I was high school marching band (when I went - I hated the football players, LOL). Yes, indeed, they are marches, not waltzes or Irish tunes in 6/8.
I don't recall counting the Sousa marches - we just followed the band leader and it was not problem.
I have some Bach pieces I like that are in a slow 12/8, and it was very helpful when my teacher told me it was a good time to subdivide it - much easier to count it as two bars of 6!

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#2393577 - 03/08/12 08:51 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: G Patrick Bryant]
Richard W Offline
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Thus endeth today's lesson. wink
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#2393597 - 03/08/12 09:38 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Richard W]
SteveC Offline
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Registered: 06/29/01
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Loc: Grand Forks, North Dakota
In 6/8 time, there are indeed 6 beats in a measure and the eighth note does receive one beat. The march examples you site are FELT in 2 with a triplet subdivision, but theoretically, there are 6 eighth note beats in each measure.

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#2393608 - 03/08/12 10:12 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: SteveC]
G Patrick Bryant Offline
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Registered: 03/06/12
Posts: 8
Loc: Tennessee
SteveC - all I can say is that whoever taught you time signatures misled you. It's not your fault, as there are many teachers who still teach time signatures incorrectly. But please be assured that the 6/8 signature calls for two beats per measure with the dotted quarter serving as the beat unit. I'm using as references the texts used at the U.S. Armed Forces School of Music, from which I graduated in 1976, and the music theory texts used at the University of West Georgia where I was a piano performance major after leaving the Navy. Please don't confuse being able to rapidly count to six (or 12) with beats per measure. All the best - gpb

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#2393619 - 03/08/12 10:36 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: G Patrick Bryant]
jeremy c Offline
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Loc: Berkeley,CA,UNITED STATES
Well, you are both right.
You can say to a beginning student:
6/8 has six beats per measure and an eighth note gets one beat.

That's technically what the the numbers in the time signature mean. note values are going to look different than in 4/4 time.

In cut time aka 2/2, there are two beats in a measure and a half note gets one beat. Note values also look different than in 4/4.

I think you need to talk about this before you tell them about compound time and how in the real world, time signatures with eight on the bottom are a way of grouping notes in threes and therefore you will tap your foot twice in a 6/8 measure and four times in a 12/8 measure.

I will sometimes write out an example in which I give the same music in 2/4 with triplets and in 6/8 with eighth notes (or 4/4 and 12/8) to show why it is more practical to write in 6/8.

I'll also tell students that while 6/8 and 3/4 are equivalent fractions in math, they are not equivalent in music: one has two foot taps and the other has three if you are going slow and one if you are going fast.

The most fun is trying to teach a time signature with an odd number at the top, like 5/4 or 7/8, in which the foot taps are not even.

Once someone can tap their foot twice in a 5/4 bar on the 1 and the 4, then we can get really tough and have them tap their foot in a clave rhythm while playing a tumbao on the bass. Good luck with that.

Thanks for your input, GPB.

p.s. my degree in music is from UC Berkeley. I don't remember being taught time signatures.....I think we were supposed to know all that before being accepted into the program.
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#2393636 - 03/08/12 11:09 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: jeremy c]
SteveC Offline
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I have conducted movements with a 9/8 time signature in 9. To conduct it in 3 wouldn't have worked either for the feel of the music or clarity for students watching.

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#2393642 - 03/08/12 11:24 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: SteveC]
TimR Offline
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From Guitar place:

Originally Posted By: TimR
I'm not comfortable with the use of the term 'beat' in this circumstance. There are not 6 beats in a bar in 6/8. The 8 refers to the length of the note. In this case 1/8th notes in 2/4 and 4/4 it's referring to 1/4 notes. The 6 then indicates the length of the bar in terms of the note type. So in 6/8 there are 6 8th notes.

You would count this as 123 223 rather than 123456 giving 2/4 with a triplet feel.


Originally Posted By: G Patrick Bryant
The point of my original post was to point out, just as you have pointed out, that there are not six beats in a measure of 6/8. And while you could correctly say that a measure of 6/8 consists of six eighth notes (or the equivalent), doing so does nothing to convey the underlying meter. Your discomfort with the term "beat" is a little perplexing, but the 6/8 signature indicates two beats per measure, with the dotted quarter note serving as the beat unit. Was this helpful?


Originally Posted By: johngoldsby
Thanks, G Patrick.

Regarding the terminology, I would call what we are talking about the "pulse." The word beat has several possible meanings. Pulse is a good word to describe the underlying meter.

Thanks for the warm welcome, Caevan!
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#2393645 - 03/08/12 11:30 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: TimR]
TimR Offline
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The most annoying time I've had was trying to convince a band that "Try A Little Tenderness" was in 6/8 and not just played freely and that we would all play a bit better if we counted instead of trying to "feel it". We dropped it in the end.

As Jeremy points out they're only 6/8 to make the writing and reading easier. They're essential 2/4 with some parts having a triplet feel. That doesn't make them waltzes.
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#2393647 - 03/08/12 11:39 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: TimR]
jeremy c Offline
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Waltzes are always in 3/4, never in 3/8 or 6/8.
A Viennese waltz is in 3/4, but the 3 beats are not all the same length.
A mazurka is also in 3/4,

I'd say that Try a little tenderness is in 12/8, or you could say that it is in 4/4 with a shuffle feel, which another way of saying the same thing.

Did you hear what the Armenian band leader said to his drummer?
"Just keep it simple and hit the back beat on 3 and 11."
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#2393655 - 03/08/12 11:49 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: jeremy c]
TimR Offline
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Yes. It may have been 12/8. Essentially what was happening was the the triplet notes weren't happening. Mainly because the bass player couldn't get them in as no-one else cared enough to wait.
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#2393662 - 03/08/12 12:12 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: jeremy c]
Paul K Offline
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Originally Posted By: jeremy c, OG

Did you hear what the Armenian band leader said to his drummer?
"Just keep it simple and hit the back beat on 3 and 11."


grin
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#2393663 - 03/08/12 12:13 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: TimR]
Ross Brown Offline
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This is why I suck.

I just play the song.... I either make it up, or play it like I have heard it.... don't know nothin' 'bout no time sigatures.

ok... carry on.....
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#2393714 - 03/08/12 02:11 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: G Patrick Bryant]
johngoldsby Offline
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Here's a good ol' good one in 9/8.
Blue Rondo a la Turk

from the youtube comments section:
taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

burrito burrito burrito

smile

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#2393731 - 03/08/12 04:06 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: johngoldsby]
Groove Mama Offline
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Originally Posted By: johngoldsby
Here's a good ol' good one in 9/8.
Blue Rondo a la Turk

from the youtube comments section:
taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

burrito burrito burrito

smile


Not only is this clever, but now I'm really hungry.
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#2393733 - 03/08/12 04:33 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: johngoldsby]
Griffinator Offline
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Originally Posted By: johngoldsby
Here's a good ol' good one in 9/8.
Blue Rondo a la Turk

from the youtube comments section:
taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

burrito burrito burrito

smile



Reminds me of a really weird composition I put together for my prog band - the series of riffs that drove the bulk of the vocal passages were in 13/8:

burrito burrito taco taco burrito

with the bridge out to instrumental land in 21/8:

enchilada burrito burrito burrito burrito burrito taco

three drummers joined then quit over this song... grin

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#2393763 - 03/08/12 10:03 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Griffinator]
jeremy c Offline
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Registered: 02/01/01
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Loc: Berkeley,CA,UNITED STATES
Speaking of time signatures, I love this song:
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#2393778 - 03/09/12 03:50 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Griffinator]
Michele C. Offline
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Registered: 02/27/06
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Loc: Milano
Originally Posted By: Griffinator
burrito burrito taco taco burrito

with the bridge out to instrumental land in 21/8:

enchilada burrito burrito burrito burrito burrito taco


Is this the SoCal version of south indian solfege? Enjoy some gamala



Jeremy, seven and a half is a killer! For you odd time aficionados I would recommend some PSP (Phillips, Saisse, Palladino).
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#2393782 - 03/09/12 04:34 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: johngoldsby]
Flemtone Offline
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Registered: 12/18/02
Posts: 1837
Loc: Mine Hill, NJ
Originally Posted By: johngoldsby
Here's a good ol' good one in 9/8.
Blue Rondo a la Turk

from the youtube comments section:
taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

taco taco taco burrito

burrito burrito burrito

smile


When I saw this topic header, that's just the tune that came to mind.

The added 'lunch menu' is a surprise extra, like fresh guacamole on the side. Well played, sir. I applaud you.
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#2393801 - 03/09/12 06:08 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Flemtone]
Chad Thorne Offline
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Posts: 6322
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See, this is one of the reasons I switched to bass from guitar. Guitar players never think about things like this. Questions like this haunt me! laugh

Idle curiosity: Berry Oakley's opening figure in "Whipping Post:" Would you call that three measures of three and then one of two? I call it 11/8 just because I think it's more fun to tell people that I'm playing in 11/8...
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#2393816 - 03/09/12 07:09 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Chad Thorne]
Ross Brown Offline
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Registered: 12/28/05
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Loc: Pennsylvania
what ever happened to the "rest"?
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#2393834 - 03/09/12 07:54 AM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Ross Brown]
Griffinator Offline
TPS cook & bottle washer
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Registered: 03/28/02
Posts: 20318
Loc: Lynchburg, VA, USA
Originally Posted By: Ross Brown
what ever happened to the "rest"?


I'll sleep when I'm dead. grin

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#2393948 - 03/09/12 01:43 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Griffinator]
jeremy c Offline
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Registered: 02/01/01
Posts: 16436
Loc: Berkeley,CA,UNITED STATES
How often you tap your foot and what the time signature fraction means in terms of beats per measure is not always related.

I play with a big band and we often play music in 4/4 time with tempos above 180 bpm.

You're not going to tap your foot four times per measure at a tempo like that. I tap my foot twice. On a fast jazz waltz, I tap my foot once per measure.
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#2393949 - 03/09/12 01:47 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: Chad Thorne]
TimR Offline
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Loc: Hertfordshire (next to London)...
Originally Posted By: Chad Thorne
See, this is one of the reasons I switched to bass from guitar. Guitar players never think about TIME. Questions like this haunt me! laugh


Fixed for you. grin
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Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

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#2393953 - 03/09/12 01:56 PM Re: Time Signatures [Re: jeremy c]
TimR Offline
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Loc: Hertfordshire (next to London)...
Originally Posted By: jeremy c, OG
How often you tap your foot and what the time signature fraction means in terms of beats per measure is not always related.

I play with a big band and we often play music in 4/4 time with tempos above 180 bpm.

You're not going to tap your foot four times per measure at a tempo like that. I tap my foot twice. On a fast jazz waltz, I tap my foot once per measure.


Yes I thought about this earlier. Really it's just another one of those "It just is" things. Trying to analyse what constitutes a beat and how long a note is in relation to beats etc is what I find odd.

So. Starting with a whole note you divide it into 2, 4 or 8. The length of a beat changes depending on what the time signature is. So the bottom number tells you what type of beat it is. The tempo tells you how often that beat occurs. The top number tells you how many of those beats fit in a bar.

1/4 note is not always one beat.
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Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

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