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The sequencers I own allow for quantized 16th note triplet input by selecting 1/24 as the note length. Some of my sequencers also allow for time signatures with 24 as the bottom number. This is similar for 8th note triplets, etc.

However, looking at a list of note values on Wikipedia, there are no 6th, 12th, 24th, or 48th notes, which makes it look like my sequencers are just including those denotations as a convenience (?) for users who aren't theory inclined.

Is the phrase "24th note" ever used in lieu of "16th note triplet"? If so, can there be a time signature with 24 on the bottom?

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  • That Wikipedia page needs an edit to depict tuplets graphically instead of burying them in the text on modifiers.
    – Theodore
    Nov 4, 2021 at 16:50

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No and sort of. There’s no musical symbol for a 24th note, so it couldn’t be directly written into music. Then again, there is a musical symbol for a 16th note triplet, with which you could notate one or more notes with the same length as a “24th note”.

Regarding time signatures, I’m guessing that your sequencer lets you put 24 “24th notes” in a default length measure/pattern (which in music notation would be a measure in 4/4 time. If so, then you could notate music that would sound the same by using a 12/8 time signature which would have 24 16th notes per measure, making a 16th as long as 1/24th of a measure. If you specify a tempo of a dotted 1/4 note equaling the BPM set in the sequencer, then the 16th notes in the sheet music at 12/8 time would last the same amount of time as a “24th note” on the sequencer lasts.

Your guess about those non-standard note values being a design choice of the sequencer to make it easier for users (and also the makers of the sequencer!) is probably correct.

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    This is kind of one of those "You're right, it doesn't say anywhere in the rulebook that a dog can't play basketball!" kind of issues. You can put whatever you want in a time signature, really—pi over Z—the real question is, if it's intended for someone else to read and understand (not really the case in this instance), whether they can. Nov 4, 2021 at 12:00
  • "You can put whatever you want in a time signature, really" made me notice one point in particular from the answers so far: there is a limited set of numbers for which there are corresponding musical symbols that can be directly written into music, but it's valid to use numbers outside of this set as the bottom number of a time signature? So the bottom number does not necessarily have a direct relation to any musical symbol? Nov 5, 2021 at 0:36
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'24th note' is a mathematically accurate description of 16th triplets. And non-standard time signatures are mainstream in today's 'modern classical' music, usually used to show tempo relationships. If the old 16th triplet became the new beat, a time signature of x/24 would not be impossible.

Be aware of how composers like Thomas Ades use 'irrational' time signatures. Use such notation if you feel a need. But if you're writing mainstream music, write mainstream time signatures!

Having said that, I can see how e.g. a 8/24 time signature might be useful when working in a sequencer as an alternative to a complicated tempo map.

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