# What is the time signature of Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)?

I found this on Wikipedia:

(in the IV. Finale section)

`1` has four crotchets; `2` has two crotchets and one minim `3` has one and a half crotchets, one quaver, and one minim

The total duration of each bar is different from each other. So what is the time signature? Shouldn't they be all equal?

• "The total duration of each bar is different from each other. " - what do you understand to be the duration of a minim, and a quaver? Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 9:55
• I think to best answer your question, it would help if you explain how you’re calculating that the durations of the bars are different. That’s because there’s an error in your calculations. The duration of each bar is in fact the same. So the answer to your question a correction to how you’re adding up those durations. Before we can offer a correction, we have to see how you’re adding it up to find your mistake(s). Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 11:29
• @MichaelCurtis I'm with you. Perhaps the question deserves to be closed as unclear, because it does not explain how the asker reached the conclusion that the music is inconsistent with the time signature, but the question "help me understand why this music doesn't match its time signature" should be on topic. If we closed every theory question where the asker has misunderstood the underlying theory we would have precious few theory questions. Further, this question is "substantial" and does "refer to a well-defined work ... including a concrete reference (sheet music, etc.)." Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 14:56
• I would vote to re-open if OP told us how he came to the conclusion that each bar was different in length. Even though it does seem like a schoolboy error, with little or no research.
– Tim
Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 15:19
• "...a schoolboy error, with little or no research" ...isn't that the basis for nearly all guitarist questions about modes of a diatonic scale and pentatonic boxes? Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 21:07

Your question isn't really "what is the time signature" but how to add up the durations of note rhythm values.

The time signature of the example is `4/4` and so there will be 4 quarter notes per measure.

For this passage the simplest thing to do is count up duration using the smallest unit of rhythm value which in this case is an eighth note.

```BASIC NOTE VALUES

1 eighth note (quaver)    = 1 eighth note
1 quarter note (crotchet) = 2 eighth notes
1 dotted quarter note     = 3 eighth notes
1 half note (minim)       = 4 eighth notes

VALUES AND DURATION OF EACH MEASURE

m.1
1 quarter note        = 2 eighth notes
1 quarter note        = 2 eighth notes
1 quarter note        = 2 eighth notes
1 quarter note        = 2 eighth notes
--------------------------------------
total                   8 eighth notes

m.2
1 half note           = 4 eighth notes
1 quarter note        = 2 eighth notes
1 quarter note        = 2 eighth notes
--------------------------------------
total                   8 eighth notes

m.3
1 dotted quarter note = 3 eighth notes
1 eighth note         = 1 eighth note
1 half note           = 4 eighth notes
--------------------------------------
total                   8 eighth notes
```

You could also add up durations using `quarter note = 1`, but then you would need to use values like `dotted quarter = 1.5` and `eighth = 0.5` and that seems a bit more difficult than adding whole numbers.

• I like this approach because it looks like you've identified the problem OP was having. But the result would be so much nicer with a quarter note as your base unit. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 14:37

With a time signature of, say, 4/4, it does not mean every bar must have 4 crotchets (1/4 notes). How could it? It would be a very boring piece rhythm-wise!

Each of those bars posted actually has the equivalent of 4 crotchets, and that's what counts - literally. The time signature tells how many of what, admittedly. But there are many combinations of notes which can be, and are, used to fill each bar - including rests. And once a time signature is stated, the writer is duty bound to keep to it, or change to a different time signature if the last one is inappropriate, which happens, although not that often in 'Classical' music, at least

So, this question is actually asked using false premises, but hopefully this answer will explain why.

EDIT: I guess you're considering the 4th movement, which has a time signature of 'C'. That in fact, is another way to designate 4/4, which may be where the confusion comes from?

• Personally, I don't quite understand your answer. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 7:57
• @Pyromonk - which part don't you quite understand? This is ripe for vtc, but I'm trying to explain what's wrong with the reasoning behind the question.
– Tim
Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 7:59
• True but irrelevant, since the time signature could be 2/2 as well. TheRealAnswer(TM) is "go look up the score, dude" :-) Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 14:17
• @CarlWitthoft - why irrelevant? It's actually a fact. How can that fact be irrelevant when referring to time signatures? And the answer to most questions here could easily be 'Go look it up, dude.' Hardly sensible answers, though...
– Tim
Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 14:47
• @Tim the OP was incorrect in his attempt to observe note-lengths, but is question was "what is the time signature," which I see you edited in but buried the lede. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 16:29

Mathematically, we can say it's in either 4/4 or 2/2 time, sometimes marked as 𝄴 (common time) or 𝄵 (cut time) respectively. (There are other esoteric possibilities, but let's keep it simple). If we look at the actual score, we can see that Beethoven chose 𝄵.

You say "The total duration of each bar is different from each other." You are mistaken. Minims are worth two crotchets, a dotted crotchet is one-and-a-half, a quaver is a half. So each bar adds up to four crotchets.

Think of it like (British) money. 4p can be 4x1p, 2x2p, 1p+1p+1½p+½p, or a 4p piece (OK, I know we don't have ½p coins any more, or a 4p piece, but you get the idea!)

• +1 for answering the title question, but -1 for finding the wrong time signature. The first appearance of the Ode to Joy theme is marked Allegro Assai, half note = 80, with a time signature of `C`. Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 15:55

Actually all measures have the same length. The notes use the time differently in every measure, but they add all up to 4/4.