I was playing an original song in 4/4 but noticed if I instead played the first 3 bars as 3/4 and kept the last 4 chords one per beat in a bar of 4/4, it seemed more interesting.

How would this time signature be written... and how unusual is it in popular music? This is the bones of an acoustic guitar singer-songwriter song and I'm a bit worried it might be a pig to sing!

  • I would put this as 3/4 on the first bar, then on reaching the fourth bar put a 4/4 mark. Then the following bar would go back to 3/4 again and continue the cycle. There are examples of changing time signatures mid-song - Beatles' tune "Strawberry Fields", I think, is a fairly exaggerated example but there are more subtle ones too that many people would not notice.
    – Andy
    May 1, 2015 at 11:05
  • It is exactly as you said, not a single time signature but 3/4 with one bar 4/4. The 4/4 would be indicated at the beginning of that bar, and at the beginning of the next bar you would add the 3/4 signature. This might not become a great dance hit, but if that's the way the song goes then so be it. Note that this is not entirely uncommon, even in popular music. E.g. check out 'Take me to church' by Hozier, they also mix 3/4 and 4/4, so you also might get 190 million views.
    – Matt L.
    May 1, 2015 at 11:05
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    Yeah, there are several examples of time signature changes. "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" - The Beatles, has a very noticeable time signature change from 4/4 to 3/4.
    – MrTheBard
    May 1, 2015 at 11:14
  • The Beatles seemed quite good at this - Here comes the Sun, All You Need is Love. Roy Orbison often stuck a 2/4 bar in,. After a few listenings, it all seems quite simple to sing. Ever sung The 12 Days if Christmas?
    – Tim
    May 1, 2015 at 12:33
  • I gotta put in a word for "March of Pigs" by NIN which is 7/8 7/8 7/8 4/4 during the verses. Also, "The Ocean" by Led Zeppelin which has the exact same pattern for the verses. May 1, 2015 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


Well, you could write that as (3+3+3+4)/4, indicating a fixed cycle, but time signature can change during a piece as well, in which case you could just indicate the changes.

I do believe that such meter is fairly uncommon in popular music, as it leads to a cycle of 13 units. In 20th Century 'Classical' music this kind of things are quite a bit more common, as in Arabic/Turkish/Indian (among others) music.

  • 1
    Agreed, I think the way to denote this on sheet music would be to explicitly indicate the changes every time.
    – user28
    May 1, 2015 at 14:07
  • It's about the only way. Unless it's 3/4 then 4/4 alternating solidly, when it could be re-written 7/4. Or - do as Stravinsky did, and put emphasis marks over what would otherwise be the first beat of a new bar in a new time sig.
    – Tim
    May 1, 2015 at 14:56
  • How might one best notate this on a guitar chord sheet? Just add textual notes?
    – Mr. Boy
    May 1, 2015 at 17:02
  • You should use a staff, meter and barlines. You can draw a slash (a thick diagonal line) for each beat. You can write the chords above each measure or beat, as needed. May 2, 2015 at 16:24

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