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In a song I'm working on, I have 3 3/4 bars followed by a 4/4 bar, and this repeats. However the 4/4 bar is actually comprised of 4 triplets... so we have something like:

1 and 2 and 3 And 1 and 2 and 3 And 1 and 2 and 3 And 1-2-3/1-2-3/1-2-3/1-2-3 ...

I wondered if it is still best to score the 4/4 bar as 4/4 or something else?

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I wonder what the 'And' at the end is doing. – Tim Feb 4 at 18:06
What exactly is the 'pulse' of the song - as in - are you tapping your foot 3 times in the 3/4 and tapping at the same speed for the 4/4, only adding one extra tap? Or - as is sometimes the case - the 4/4 bar is executed in the same length of time as the 3/4 bar. The former is more common. – Tim Feb 4 at 18:36
@Tim my mistake on the 'And', removed it. The speed of the beat stays the same so it's the former, though as stated the rhythm of the 3/4 and 4/4 bars is different too – Mr. Boy Feb 8 at 12:27

Marking the score 3/4 for 3 measures and then 4/4 for one, seems to fit nicely. Another thing you could try, is to mark the 4th measure as 12/8 (which works with 4 groups of 3 eighths each).

Personally, I think I would choose the first option, 4/4.

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In a very subtle way, I perceive a slightly different feel between 4/4 triplets and 12/8 time. Maybe I just associate 12/8 with a slightly swung feeling whereas 4/4 triplets I would interpret as very even in timing. – Todd Wilcox Feb 4 at 16:12
@ToddWilcox are you referring to 12/8 in general or 12/8 as I mentioned above? Because there are other ways to group the eighths and each way has a different feeling – Shevliaskovic Feb 4 at 16:15
12/8 in general. But I think it's just my personal association between 12/8 and the types of music where I've seen it. The only "serious" source on the matter I can think of is when I finally got my hands on a score for Bolero by Ravel, I was very suprised to find it was just constant triplets instead of 12/8 time. I'm assuming there was a reason why he wrote it in the way that to me would be the more difficult of the two ways. So maybe he felt like 4/4 triplets and 12/8 are not exactly the same thing also. I do agree (and I upvoted) that 99.9% of the time they are both valid options. – Todd Wilcox Feb 4 at 16:18
On the assumption that crotchet=crotchet, this works. +1. – Tim Feb 4 at 18:10
@ToddWilcox: I agree with your general point, but I don’t think Ravel’s Boléro is such a clear example. Firstly, its triplets are triplet-16ths in 3/4, so rewritten in compound time it would either become 18/16, which is quite unusual and ambiguous as to its internal grouping (2x(9/16), or 3x(6/16)?), or else each 3/4 bar would become three bars of 6/16, which would drastically change the overall implied meter. Secondly, while the accompaniment has those constant triplet-16ths, the melody has lots of straight 16ths against them. So compound time really wouldn’t simplify Boléro at all. – PLL Feb 4 at 19:09

A bit more information is needed. In the 4/4 bar, are the quarter notes the same length as in the 3/4 bars? In other words, is the quarter note constant (thus yielding 13 total pulses) or is each bar to be the same length (the quarters in the last bar are only 3/4 the duration as in the other bars.) Both of these are legitimate possibilities.

If the quarter note pulse is constant, then three 3/4 bars followed by one 4/4 bar with each quarter note marked as a triplet would be easy to read. If the duration of each bar is constant, the last bar could be left in 3/4 and nested tuplets used. Either a big 4 bracket over the bar (showing the quarters to be 4 in the duration of 3) and eighth-note triplets underneath, or just twelve sixteenth notes but barred in groups of three instead of groups of four (slurs over the groupings would help too.)

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+1 for the pulse point. It will affect how it's all written dramatically. Most times, it'll be a constant crotchet, but only the composer actually knows right now. – Tim Feb 4 at 18:08
Although in actuality it swings a bit, it would be most accurate to say the beats are constant e.g.a metronome would click 13 times. – Mr. Boy Feb 8 at 12:30

Note that if you're moving back and forth between these frequently, it may make more sense to notate in 12/8.

(Pete Seeger's transcription of Paul Winters' Minuit, in 4/4, was correct but almost unreadable due to the density of triplets. Rewriting it in 12/8 tremendously clarified it.)

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