I'm currently making sheet music for a song that isn't mine and I know it's in 4/4 but as the song progresses, there's no way I can fit all notes in that time signature, so I'm changing it to 6/4, 7/4, 8/4 and then coming back to the original 4/4. I'm even playing it with the song and nothing seems out of the place. Is it the wrong way to do it? Should I try searching for a workaround? I'm pretty new when it comes to sheet music so I don't know that much. I'll put a pic down bellow showing what I mean.

Song is Up & Down from Crumb

measure of 8/4 plus two measure of 4/4

  • 1. Are you sure the rhythm is correctly notated? 2. Are you aware, that a note can extend beyond the measure line with a tie en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tie_(music) ? So e.g. a quarter note can be written as two eight notes tied together. Perhaps this is what is missing for you? Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 19:54
  • @user1079505, I looked over it in the past and I though they're supposed to just extend the note and not to also influence other bars' lenght. It'll help me so much in the future.
    – Joe Victor
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 20:53
  • @JoeVictor - Is that this song? youtube.com/watch?v=G9cz1JHUMsg
    – Neal
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 21:46
  • @Neal yes, sir. I'm writting the bassline (trying to, at least)
    – Joe Victor
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 22:08

2 Answers 2


The only thing you're missing is the use of ties. They allow a note duration to cross a bar line. Here is the 8/4 measure rewritten in 4/4. Notice that what was previously a quarter note is now two eighth notes tied across the bar line. There are also two tied sixteenth notes where the used to be an eighth note. This is to better show beat 3 and beat 4.

Re-notated example

  • Will this work with 7/4 and 6/4? Not this exactly but using ties? Either way, this is such an eye openner. The only thing I know about sheet is note and pause reading, I don't really know the other stuff too well so this will help me improve a lot. Sorry I can't give you an upvote, I need rep I guess lol
    – Joe Victor
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 20:47
  • 1
    @JoeVictor Even if you're too new to upvote, you're the question author, so you can accept the answer (with the checkmark ✔).
    – Theodore
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 21:19
  • @JoeVictor Ties can be used anywhere. They're independent of the time signature.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 21:20
  • @JoeVictor If it's an option for you, I highly recommend Behind Bars by Elaine Gould. It's a (the) music notation reference book, and if you're going to be writing a lot of music, it covers just about every scenario you could run into.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 21:24

There are a few misunderstandings to clear up on a broader level than this particular song:

The key misunderstanding might what time signatures are "good for." They don't have to squish the actual notes into certain amounts of time; rather, they affect the way we think about the rhythms, grouping the notes into sets.

To take a super simple example, here's "Twinkle twinkle little star": enter image description here Now, I could also write it like this: enter image description here It's the same series of notes, in the same durations (aside from having to fill up the last measure with a few rests). So what's to say that the first way of writing it is the right way, and this second one is wrong?

Only the way we think about the tune. We normally emphasize the start of a measure, so that 3/4 is "ONE two three," and we normally think of "Twinkle twinkle little star" in groups of 2 or 4 syllables, not 3. But I totally could write it the second way; that last C half note got split right down the middle by a bar line but it doesn't have to stop it, courtesy of that tie.

So to another part of your question, is it okay to change time signatures frequently? Sure; some songs do. Consider this one, which flip-flops between 9 and 7 in a recurring pattern:

But why does it choose to change the time signature back and forth between 9 and 7? Just because of the groupings that we're imagining the notes to fall into, and the emphases at the start of them.

In the case of Up & Down, the rhythm of the bass line seems much more straightforward. I hear it as basically taking up "about" the first two beats of each measure on the lower note and jumping up an octave for the second "about" half of the measure. An overly simplified transcription could just give it half notes. A more accurate one might be something like this: enter image description here

  • It's crazy how much different we can write a phrase and yet it's the same. Seeing all your comments I realized that I have a long way ahead if I want to delve deeper into music and it's awesome tbh. I'll start experimeting with some things from now on. Also, since there's no wrong way to measure a song, would you say that changing the measurement could make it awkward to read? I did find it a little bit awkward and that's why I'm here asking these questions.
    – Joe Victor
    Commented Feb 27, 2023 at 22:53
  • 1
    @JoeVictor Oh, I didn't mean to give the impression that "there's no wrong way." You could write Twinkle Twinkle in 3/4... and you wouldn't go to jail, but it would make no sense, implying that the strong and weak beats are "TWIN-kle twin-KLE." Sometimes we have to choose between a number of good options (like, is it sets of 4 beats, or of 2?), but sometimes some other options just don't make sense. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 3:03
  • @JoeVictor In the case of this bass line transcription, one thing that might make it more readable is, instead of short notes with rests in between, to just "fill in" the rests by using longer notes, like in my example. You could then add some kind of direction like "not too sustained" to make sure the style is dry. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 3:05

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