If my understanding (just being based on the number of counts in each measure in the given staff) is right then two added time signatures only mean that in one measure, there will be 6 beats and a quarter note still gets one beat. Is this correct?

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    I have seen variations of this. A single time signature with a sum on top: 4+2/4 or: 6/4 with an instruction above it such as “4+2 grouping”. Jan 28 at 18:55
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    Traditionally this would have been written as 3/2.
    – phoog
    Jan 30 at 2:52

2 Answers 2


It's down to the rhythm within each bar.

A more obvious time signature would be 6/4. But 6/4 is compound time, and is generally understood to have two stong beats per bar, as: ONE two three FOUR five six.

But that isn't what the composer wanted here. They wanted: ONE two three four FIVE six. writing the time signature 4/4+2/4 makes this more clear.

  • What is the difference between this notation, and alternating 4/4 and 2/4 in every other measure? Jan 28 at 18:29
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    @user1079505 There is no difference in the way it is played or the way it sounds but the main difference to me is practicality. The 4+2/4 establishes a pattern and eliminates the need for writing a time signature in every bar. Jan 28 at 18:45
  • @JohnBelzaguy ...but introduces the need to search the internet to understand the notation! Jan 28 at 18:53
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    @user1079505 I couldn’t say where but I have seen this several times before in the past. I think it’s more common to have a single denominator, 4+2/4. Jan 28 at 18:59
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    Another alternative would be just to make it 6/4 and rely on the beaming of the eighth notes to establish the beat groupings.
    – trlkly
    Jan 29 at 23:04

Ordinarily, you'd use a compound time signature to express that the accents in the bar are distributed in an irregular way, e.g. 5+3/8. But there is a perfectly serviceable 3/2 signature which does much the same as this expression, so I can't see really see the point of it.

  • I have no idea how to read the 5+3/8 time signature 😅. but yeah, I also thought 6/4 would suffice.
    – harpey1111
    Jan 28 at 16:27
  • When I've seen 6/4, it usually means two dotted minims (half notes) per bar, like a "slow" 6/8. Jan 28 at 16:54
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    I agree with @ElementsinSpace. Time signatures with a top number that is a multiple of 3 like 12/8, 9/8, etc. are grouped in 3’s unless some type of instruction indicates otherwise. Jan 28 at 18:52
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    Might not be what was intended, but this answer seems like it's saying "I don't know the answer". Which would be more appropriate for a comment. Jan 28 at 23:32

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