5

This question was sparked by many answers and comments on the site which describe 6/4 as a compound meter of 2 groups of dotted half notes (1 & a 2 & a), rather than the way I've always used and heard it (mainly in prog rock and metal genres) as simple meter of 6 groups of quarter notes (1&2&3&4&5&6&) or, if you prefer, a complex meter of 4/4 + 2/4 (1&2&3&4&1&2& 1&2&3&4&1&2&).

I've also been trying to write a piece that is in a complex meter of 4/4 + 1/8 (count 1&2&3&4&5 1&2&3&4&5) so mathematically that would be 9/8 but yet 9/8 feels like it should always be a compound triple meter.

Is there a standard way to denote that a piece should be interpreted as having a certain feel which differs from the "standard" interpretation of the meter, or are there alternate meters that would better convey my ideas?

1
  • 2
    4/4 + 2/4 might rather be written as 3/2. – leftaroundabout Dec 12 '20 at 12:49
6

There's not a definitive standard, but there are various conventions.

One option is to include two time signatures: the "actual" time signature and, parenthetically, the "compound" version expressing the metrical divisions.

Time signature with parenthetical secondary signature

Another option would be to include, say, a dotted barline to help visually divide the measure.

Use of dotted barline to set off 1/8

As the previous two examples make clear, the notation itself can make clear the intended metric divisions. Baring eighth-notes in groups of four rather than three, or use of quarter notes rather than dotted quarters, signals strongly the intended interpretation, even in the absence of a "fancy" time signature.

9/8 time signature with clear note beaming

And finally, if needed, you can add accents to really make clear where the metric stresses should be.

9/8 time signature clarified by accents

3
  • Interesting, especially the second option. – dissemin8or Dec 11 '20 at 22:21
  • I have been repeatedly told to not bar notes like dotted 8th note-dotted 8th note-8th note on NinSheetMusic (a video game transcription website I have contributed to) and to use dotted 8th note-16th note-tie-8th note-8th note instead. This implies that the unorthodox beaming may not be considered "proper notation" and may in fact impede readability rather than improve it. – Dekkadeci Dec 12 '20 at 15:23
  • 1
    @Dekkadeci These are not unorthodox beamings, they're orthodox beamings of unorthodox metre. It's pretty difficult to comment on the example you give without context, but in most metres, ♪.♪♪ ought not be beamed because it's not a "complete" group -- it would be perfectly correct in something like a duple metre subdivided into 7s. – Esther Dec 14 '20 at 1:59
3

Adding to the other answer, which covers the 9/8 case very well.

The 6/4 example should probably be written in alternating 4/4 and 2/4 bars -- you can put both time signatures at the start of the piece like Tchaikovsky does here. enter image description here

Literally the only 6/4 beaming that will unambiguously convey what you're after is 8 + 4, which is going to look very strange and only helps if you don't have any intervening crotchets. You could try halving all your note values and write it in 6/8, but it'll look even worse and upset traditionalists. You might decide that 3/2 is "close enough", but it's not an approximation I'd personally settle for. Alternating time signatures definitely seems the way to go.

0

have a look at Bartok’s Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythms (Mikrokosmos) for ideas

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.