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I've been having an issue with this composition. Is it supposed to be 4/4 or would it become a different time signature? I know that 4/4 is 4/4 often because each note contains 4 beats- but often I heard composers could take time signatures such as 6/8 or 3/4 because of how the notes look better displayed or in terms of rhythm. This measure contains a bunch of 32and and 16th notes... Would the time signature end with ?/16 or ?/32?

Music composition

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Different time signatures can be used to simplify the notation, but I would argue that that's not the case in this example, which strikes me as a pretty clear 4/4 assuming an average tempo. Rather, I think it's just that the notation of this example isn't ideal. While it may be exact in terms of note lengths, a more standard notation would be something like:

enter image description here

This way the reader doesn't have to crawl through a forest of eighth and sixteenth-note rests to determine the meter.

Historically, other "equivalent" time signatures like 2/4 versus 8/16 could be used to suggest some tempo or other performance implications. For more on this, see especially this fantastic answer to Is there any practical difference between 3/4 and 3/8 time?

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    Excellent job using articulations and simplifying this to make it readable, Richard. The music in the question looks like what happens when computer notation programs interpret something too literally. – John Belzaguy Nov 14 '20 at 5:49
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    You could improve this even further by writing the last beat of measures 9 & 10 as staccato eighths. Also the fouth eighth of M.8 – PiedPiper Nov 14 '20 at 12:06
  • @PiedPiper Absolutely. I considered this, but for some reason decided against it; perhaps just to still include some sixteenth notes? I'm not exactly sure, but there are multiple ways of notating this. – Richard Nov 14 '20 at 14:54
  • If you have to sight-read this kind of stuff, simpler is always better. – PiedPiper Nov 14 '20 at 15:29
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Were I attempting to play this, the problem would not be the time signature, but rather the manner of notation, which is hard to read. It's best to bar together notes that combine to form one or two beats -- as has been done with the first fourth eighth-notes -- and this can be done even when there are rests in between.

X:0
T:Re-stemming of OP Example
M:4/4
K:C major
L:1/16
A2^F2A2d2 B4 z4| B/2z/2Bz2 A/2z/2Az2 ^F2z2 =FzEz | DzB,z DEEz D6z2 [|: _G,z_A,z B,zA,z F,A,zB,- B,zA,z | _F,zA,z B,zA,z D,A,zB,- B,zA,z :|]

However, even this is hard to read. Unless the rests are essential to the interpretation, you could get the same sound by removing the rests and notating with staccato:

X:0
T:Staccato Rewrite of OP Example
M:4/4
K:C major
L:1/8
A^FAd B2 z2 | .B/2.B/2z .A/2.A/2z ^Fz.=F.E | .D.B, D/2E/2.E D3z [|: ._G,._A,.B,.A, F,/2A,/2z/2B,/2- B,.A, | ._F,.A,.B,.A, D,/2A,/2z/2B,/2- B,.A, :|]

You could change the time signature to 16/16 or 32/32, but that wouldn't solve the fundamental readability issue, because the notation itself wouldn't change. However, you could change to something like 8/16, which would have the effect of bar-lines breaking up the notation into easier to digest chunks. This is not recommended, though, as it creates unnecessary clutter and is potentially confusing both for being non-standard and for making it ambiguous how to handle the underlying pulse -- an additional "sixteenth note = sixteenth note" marking would have to be included, adding to the clutter.

X:0
T:8/16 Rewrite of OP Example
M:4/4
K:C major
L:1/16
A2^F2A2d2 B4 z4| [M:8/16]B/2z/2Bz2 A/2z/2Az2 | ^F2z2 =FzEz | DzB,z DEEz | D6z2 [|: _G,z_A,z B,zA,z | F,A,zB,- B,zA,z | _F,zA,z B,zA,z | D,A,zB,- B,zA,z :|]

Please forgive the ugly too-tall stems. That's just how ABCjs does things.

  • @PiedPiper What's wrong with the 8/16 version? – Aaron Nov 14 '20 at 11:56
  • @PiedPiper True, however OP specifically asked about changing the time signature.... Okay, I have an idea.... – Aaron Nov 14 '20 at 12:03
  • @PiedPiper Do you think the edit improves matters (a few sentences just above the 8/16 example)? – Aaron Nov 14 '20 at 12:10
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    If something can be written clearly in 4/4 then there's no need to look at other time signatures. The answer to the question is "leave it in 4/4 and simplify the notation". – PiedPiper Nov 14 '20 at 12:11

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