Can any score-writer do 'irrational' time signatures?

I know I can write them as metrical modulations but I prefer to write them like this:

...which Sibelius can't do. I have to switch to a graphics program and it's time-consuming.

The main advantage of writing them this way is that tuplet-relationships are familiar: you don't have to stop and work them out. You just have to remember to stop tapping your foot! Using metric modulations makes the page untidy.

Any suggestions? There's something for Mac called NoteAbility that seems to know about these time signatures, but it doesn't look very sophisticated otherwise.

• Does Sibelius allow fractional time signatures? Allowing I understand your intent (a dubious proposal), could you change 7 / 6 to (2-1/3) / 4 Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 5:45
• Musescore (musescore.org) can do it. Their time signature feature allows you to overlay the "actual" time signature with custom text. It's very easy to do. Just know, I couldn't discover how to create the incomplete tuplets at the ends of your 7/6 measures. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 7:12
• Also, in any case these are not "irrational" as that would mean they would involve numbers like Pi or Sqrt(2) or other non-rational numbers. Don't do that :) Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:32
• Ok a 6th note is actually a 4th note in a triplet, I get that now. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:46
• Btw do you just want it to look like this, or do you need the software to understand this semantically (like play it back correctly without hidden tempo workarounds etc.)? If not then Dorico can do this. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 8:58

I discover it CAN be done in Sibelius. AND it will play back correctly with a couple of hidden metric modulations.

First input the notes as normal crotchet-triplets into a 4/4 bar followed by a normal quaver into a 1/4 bar, then hide the barline and delete the time sigs, so that it looks like a single bar.

[Turn on 'View hidden objects' if you like.]

Add some space at the start of the bar using a hidden grace note. Switch its playback off.

Click the R. button in space above the staff, and from the menu that appears select text|special text|time signatures. Then click the L. button where you want the time signature and enter '7' then '6'.

Now to make the final incomplete-triplet's bracket.

Select the final quaver in the bar and press 'L' to open the Lines menu. Scroll through it and select the bracket without a final hook. It's named 'bracket above (start)'.

Position it where you want it, and lengthen or shorten it by dragging the end of its line with the mouse. Now right click above the bracket and navigate to text|special text and click on 'tuplets'. Then left click and type "3". The 3 appears and you can drag it into position on the bracket line.

[Depending on your set up it's possible you may need to switch magnetic layout on or off.]

Finally use a new tempo for what was the 1/4 bar to make it last only 1/6, and another one to set it back to the preceding tempo. Hide these tempo changes. Sibelius will now play it correctly.

As Sibelius still sees the 1/4 bar as separate, the bar-numbering will need to be corrected.

[Turn off 'View hidden objects' if you like.]

Lilypond handles this without fuss if you can do without a GUI: you just write \time 7/6 and enclose the notes in \tuplet 3/2 { ... }

``````\version "2.20.0"
\relative c'' {
\numericTimeSignature
\time 4/4
e4 b8. c16 cis8 cis gis4 |
\time 7/6
\tuplet 3/2 2 {
bes4 bes f8 r
g!4 d8 r e4
b!8 r
} |
\time 4/4
cis4 fis8. f16 e8 e a4 |
\time 7/6
\tuplet 3/2 2 {
g4 g c!8 r
bes4 ees8 r des4
ges8 r
} |
}
``````
• So \tuplet 3/2 {\time 7/6}? Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 22:16
• No, eg the OP’s second bar would be \time 7/6 \tuplet 3/2 {bes’4 bes’ f’8 r8 g’4 d’8 r8 e’4 b8 r8}
– user71850
Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 22:37
• Added minimum working example. And it works, tuplet brackets should be adjusted (span too small) but otherwise effective.
– user70304
Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 23:34
• yes, to get the tuplet brackets and spacing as desired you have to add the usual types of formatting instructions - my general point to the OP being that the use of a time signature like 7/6 doesn’t add any significant difficulty when typesetting with Lilypond.
– user71850
Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 8:02
• Thank you, Damian. Lilypond looks really good. I don't know if you saw my own answer, but I did eventually work out how to do it in Sibelius, and although the solution was complicated to describe, actually using it doesn't take long at all. So I'll stick with the devil I know. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 14:40

With some workarounds, Dorico can do this. The workarounds are necessary for the incomplete triplet at the end of the measure. There is a custom line tool with which you can create this by hand. It won't play correctly though, unless you add hidden tempo changes.

See this forum post.

• That's really useful. Thanks. Yeah - hidden tempo changes. No problem. As I said I don't need it to play back, but if it did that'd be a bonus. I'd better spend a few hours in Sibelius/Dorico hell (as I do every few years) and see if Dorico has caught up with Sib enough to be useable, or if there are any plans for Sib to incorporate these time signatures. (Very unlikely I think.) Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 12:32
• Well - in the end I found Sibelius CAN do it. AND it plays back correctly. It's a complicated workaround but at least it can be done. Thanks again for your input. Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 2:17

Since you've given no instruction as to the relationship between a quarter note in the first measure, and a (no-such-thing) "sixth note" in the second, this notation is useless to a performer in the first place. You have nothing to indicate how to map the standard icon for a quarter-note and eighth-note into "sixth-note" timing.

I can honestly say I do not know any musician who would want to try to read that and figure out the metric. Figure out how long your "7/6" measure will last in terms of the 4/4 measure, and notate triplets or sixths or 3-beat quads as necessary.

• It's quite clear to me, 4/4 lasts 4 quarter notes and 7/6 lasts 7 lengths of quarter triplet note (this is what division of a full note into six parts is). Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 19:51
• @OldBrixtonian Yes, I have, however they are purely composer-wanking and from a performer's point of view, highly obfuscatory. Kill them. Kill them dead and burn their bodies (the time signatures, not the composers) Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 11:08
• Don't know if this is helpful or not but: imagine the melody written out above, with no bar lines, and no time signatures. It's perfectly unambiguous how long each of the notes are in relation to each other. Adding barlines doesn't change that, and saying it means there's "a competely undefined meter relative to the previous measure" is simply untrue. That is to say, there is no such thing as "triplets in 4/4 time" as distinct to "triplets in any other time signature". That's like saying a dotted crotchet in 11/8 is different to a dotted crotchet in 4/4. It isn't. It's 3 quavers long. Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 20:15
• And absent of any specification to the contrary, i.e. absent any specification that relative lengths of notes in the new bar have changed in relation to lengths of notes in the preceding bar, everything just happily continues at the same pace, regardless of what time signatures we may have passed; the time signatures express the size of the bars and indicate the principal subdivision, but they have NO EFFECT on relative durations of notes unless this is separately specified Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 20:19
• Mmm...I’ve been playing, directing and conducting time sigs with 6, 12, 5 etc on the bottom since the 80s and honestly have never come across a musician who needed more than a few seconds to get their head around the notation; "what’s 5/12?" "Five triplet eighths" "err...so like three triplets plus another two at the same speed" "yup" "ok I get it"
– user71850
Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 21:43