enter image description hereI’m fairly new to grasping this concept so take it easy on me. In the following piece which I assume is 4/4 the sum of the notes simply do not add up. Lots of 32nd notes and some quarter notes equalling far more per bar than there should be. What am I missing I’m this time signature?

  • There's no time signature written, but this section could equally well have been notated in 2/4
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 12:14
  • Does this answer your question? Why aren't there barlines in the piano solo parts in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5?
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 13:48
  • @PiedPiper - since it's solo violin, would it matter if it had a time signature at all - no-one else needs to keep time, and there's as much rubato as the soloist wants to put into it. Maybe with a time signature, it would restrict the soloist somewhat.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 7:13
  • @Tim I agree that it doesn't matter. For a good musician (and you'd need one to play this) a time signature is never a restriction.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 8:02
  • I suggest you treat it like a cadenza, and be creative. Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


The smaller notes are grace notes. They don't count for the time signature. Traditionally there would be only one or a few per "main" note. Here, Paganini is basically saying to play these figures ornamentally and out of time.

This is especially underlined by the fact that there is no time signature and indeed there are no bar lines. There are no measures; there is no meter. Play the notes freely.


Since there is no time signature, it's no good trying to guess one!

The one beat notes (crotchets, 1/4 notes), are the target notes the violinist will aim for, and play for a little longer than the flurry of other notes, which show how much of a virtuoso s/he is. Those notes are called grace notes, or ornaments, which a player like Paganini would play often, showing his prowess as a violinist. The notes themselves have little or no note timing value on their own, and are always written with smaller heads and stems to show this. Because there's no time signature, or even bar lines, there's going to be no 'pulse' running through that part of the Caprice.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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