How would you notate:


16/16 seems ungainly, but 8/8 puts a downbeat on an "and" in two places.

(To get my software drummer to do what I want, I am using two bars of 6/8 followed by one bar of 4/8, and doubling the tempo. This, I assume, is not a preferred solution for scoring.)


There are a few ways of doing this. Two bars of 6/8 plus one of 2/4 (or 4/8, depending on whether the "four-ness" is really evident) would actually be the most common way, or you could do it as a bar of 12/8 followed by one of 2/4. Either way, an explicit "♪=♪" tempo marking over the first change of meter would probably be a good idea.

I would tend to use quavers (eighths) as the base unit as you are courting very "black" notation with semiquavers. I'm not going to say that a semiquaver denominator is incorrect; it's just perhaps a bit harder to read and count. I'm guessing that what you describe sounds like 4 longish beats followed by two less long beats. (I don't mean a slow tempo, but one kind of beat being half again longer than the other.) I suspect the apparent tempo of the piece will depend on how fast the dotted crochets (quarter notes) sound.

If you want to bring it all into one bar, use something like (12 + 4)/8, make sure your beaming does reflect the meter, and possibly insert a Bartók-style dotted bar line between the triplets and the duplets.

  • 1
    Another single bar method you might want to add is to write it as a single 16/8 bar with the beat divisions written above the stave as 3+3+3+3+2+2. I've also seen additive time signatures almost as long as {3+3+3+3+2+2)/8 but that is terrible to read.
    – Natalie S
    Dec 23 '14 at 0:20
  • Yeah, that would work, but I'm not sure it's necessary if the beaming is properly done. Actually, I've seen scores that dispense with the meter marking altogether in favour of beam groupings and dotted bar lines, so I'm not even sure my suggestions are necessary. ;)
    – user16935
    Dec 23 '14 at 0:30
  • Do you guys know if this rhythm has a common name? It seems familiar, maybe from marching drumlines. It feels almost like a natural expansion of 3+3+2.
    – commonhare
    Dec 23 '14 at 9:15
  • Great use in pop song, by the way: "Tin Man" by America.
    – commonhare
    Dec 23 '14 at 9:21
  • Found another interesting example: "Ween El-Kalam" by Hayajan.
    – commonhare
    Feb 1 '15 at 12:39

You could write this time signature as an additive meter: (12+4)/8 or (12+4)/16

However, you might as well simply write it as 4/4 and use accent markers (>) to indicate accents.


Either 4/4, 16/8, or 8/4. 16/16 indicates sixteenth notes, which would only be useful if any beats are split into an odd number of sixteenth notes or if there are any sextuplet beats involved. (Read about compound meter to understand better what I mean.) 8/8 would be odd to use as it is neither conventional nor encompassing of the entire 16-beat pattern. I think that an additive time signature might be somewhat useful too, but it seems like it would just be unsightly. 4/4 is useful because while it splits the pattern in two, it is legible due to its conventionality, and 16/8 & 8/4 are useful because they place the entire pattern into a measure.

PS: Two examples of 16/8 / 8/4: the opening riff to "Summer of 69" by Bryan Adams and the "I ain't afraid of no ghost" bridge from the theme to Ghostbusters. Also, "Pyramid Song" by Radiohead supposedly has this time signature, but I'm not sure if that's accurate (its meter has befuddled many). Hope I could help, even if late to arrive.

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