giving this a last shot, sorry if asking this question again annoys anyone, been doing lots of research and it's still bothering me

i know 12/4 time has 12 pulses and 4 beats , each beat has 3 pulses

if we're trying to make syncopated music in 12/4 time, how do we know where is strong and weak?

do we look at the level of the beat? we know there are 4 beats, so strong-weak-medium-weak

Or below the level of the beat (within the beat)? we know each beat has 3 pulses, so strong-weak-weak

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    "if we're trying to make syncopated music in 12/4 time" can you elaborate on that? "Syncopation" is a very wide concept. Feb 3 at 15:37

12/4 and 12/8 are, to my mind at least, basic 4/4 count wise. 1 2 3 4. As usual, 1 gets the main emphasis, 3 less so, with 2 and 4 the weaker beats.

The fact that each beat is subdivided doesn't really affect that. It's like 6/8 can be played as 1 --2--, or 123456.

Syncopation? Syncopate anything, and those emphases go out of the window. Surely that's the point of syncopation? It throws the well-known emphasised parts out, to produce other, often unexpected ones. So, anything goes.


Normally, unless differently indicated, usually slurring, 12/4 can be thought of a consisting of 4 quarter-note triplets. Your description is correct. The "outer" beats are just like 4/2: strong-weak-medium-weak. The triplets I think are about even rather than strong-weak-weak but much depends on style.

For syncopation, the composer (or arranger or editor....) will indicate stress by accents or by slurs (on a keyboard) or by beaming (if the notes have beams) or even by using (in keyboard again) several note chords on the accented beats and single notes on the other beats.

As a preference when I compose, I prefer to use 12/8 so that beaming can be used to indicate grouping; a hemiola may be beamed as 4 groups of 3 eighth notes and then 3 groups of 4eighth notes. I suppose sometime I'll write something that needs 12/4 (I have used 6/4 and 5/4 so who knows?).


Usually the beats in 12/4 are similar like in a 4/4 (emphasis on the 1st and 3rd group of the "triplets" =4 groups of 3x1/4th notes.

Even if the tune may be off-beat, the accompaniment of the percussion (drums, bass, ev. piano chords will still be on beat.

Other syncopations can be happen by sub-groups e.g. 5+5+2 or 7+5 and any other combination of summands of 12: in this case you should transform the rhythm assignment of 12/4 and change it in the time sign that it actually represents.

With other words rhythm and time assignment are related. I wouldn't speak of 12/4 if not the beat is steady 1-2-3-4, in this case it doesn't matter what syncopations are in the melody or solo part.

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