I am confused on how to rewrite a piece in compound meter. Here are a few examples I have which I need to change to compound meter.

I think I need to just compound 2 measures together?

compound meter exercise

3 Answers 3


Yes, the exercise is asking for the measures to be "compounded together". So in exercise (a), you would remove every other bar line, beginning with the first, to create four measures of 6/8 time.

Just know, the exercise also misleadingly allows one to infer that two measures of 3-time is equivalent to one measure of 6 time. This is mathematically true, but not "musically" true. There is a subtle difference in how a performer would make the music sound.

In 3/16, each beat 1 would be presumed to be of equal emphasis. In 6/16, each beat 1 would be presumed to receive equal emphasis, but each beat 4 (previously a beat 1 in 3/16) would receive a lesser emphasis.

  • Where's that implication?
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 16:36
  • @Tim Changed to "allows the reader to infer". This is a beginning level exercise, and few beginners will understand on their own the difference between 3/8 and 6/8. Personally, I think this exercise is a poor way to introduce compound meter specifically for that reason. 6/8 is more than 3/8 with bar lines removed.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 16:50
  • 1
    I don't think ex.b works in anything but 9/8. What do you think? I agree it's pretty poor exercise concerning compound times.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 16:56
  • 1
    @LaurencePayne It is within the context of the exercise in the OP.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 17:29
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    @LaurencePayne Fair. I've rewritten to clarify. (P.S. Your caps lock key is stuck. Your point would be just as clear in lowercase.)
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 17:45

Simple is what it says. Compound is simples joined together - at least as far as this exercise goes. In 2s, 3s or 4s.

The 1st exercise works well when two bars are joined together - the tune doesn't lose its phrasing. But do that with the second, and it just doesn't sound good. Yes, physically, it can be done, but with emphasis every three bars (the emphasised note denoting it's the beginning of a new bar), it works out fine.

  • 1
    Sorry, @Tim, that ISN'T what 'Compound Meter' means in music.
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 17:24
  • @LaurencePayne - in actual fact, judging by the question, you're right - that's exactly what the writer of the question (in the example featured) is thinking!
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 18:01
  • I don't think you and I are giving enough credit to the textbook question writer. As you pointed out to me, melody b (and c as well) work better in compound meters. I beginner likely wouldn't pick that up, but a beginner with a good teacher would have a shot. The question could be better presented, but I think its heart is in the right place, so to speak.
    – Aaron
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 18:21
  • So, for B and C how do I know what the time signature should be for switching it to compound. Then do I do what I did for the first one and get rid of every other bar line starting with the first one? Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 20:40
  • Pretty straightforward. You sing/play it and feel where the divisions can be. Try one, two, three, four bar divisions, and when one feels right, use that.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 21:27

'Simple' and 'Compound' (as descriptions of meter) don't mean what the writer of the textbook apparently thinks they do!

In musical terms, a 'simple meter' is one where the beats subdivide into 2. Typically (but not exclusively) a quarter-note beat (quarter-notes split neatly into two eighth-notes). 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 are common 'simple' times.

'Compound meter' is where they subdivide into 3. Typically a dotted quarter beat (dotted quarter-note splits into three eighth-notes). 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8 are common 'compound' times.

(Actually, 3/8 and 3/4 are ambiguous. Counted 'three in a bar' they're Simple. Counted 'one in a bar' they're Compound. Think about it, before disagreeing!)

'Compound' DOESN'T mean 'formed from adding together pairs of shorter measures'. 2/4 is Simple Time. Join pairs of measures to make 4/4, it's still Simple. 12/8 is Compound Time. Split 8 bars of 12/8 to make 16 of 6/8, it's still Compound.

So the test question is not a very clear one. It's arguable that the examples are in Compound Meter already! However, we can assume they want you to concatenate every two or three bars to make a piece in 6/8 or 9/8, and even if you consider my theory that a one-in-the-bar 3/8 is Compound Single, we can agree THOSE are Compound meters! Maybe even every four bars to make 12/8. (I don't think we need to worry about 15/8 etc. here.) You're also being asked to judge whether, musically, each example does work well when grouped in this way.

  • 1
    Vote it down all you like, this is still the right answer!
    – Laurence
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 23:07

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