A waltz is always played in 3/4 time, but are there any other types of music that are associated with specific time signatures?

  • 6
    Almost all traditional dances have a more or less fixed time signature, such as minuet or sarabande (both in triple metre).
    – Matt L.
    Aug 9 '15 at 10:20
  • Although waltzes are usually three time they can very easily be 3/8 time as well. Nothing forces them to be 3/4 time.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 9 '15 at 10:24
  • 3
    6/8 time is compound duple time. You don't have six groups of quavers in 6/8. You actually have 2 groups of dotted crotchets.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 9 '15 at 11:48
  • 1
    @arc_lupus - it would be pretty well impossible for a (good) dancer to waltz to 6/8 time! 9/8 may be in with a chance, though.
    – Tim
    Aug 9 '15 at 16:56
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because it asks to list things, and such questions are off-topic. In this case the pool of answers can be very broad and open ended. Jan 3 at 20:31

From the Wikipedia article on Time Signature:

  • 4/4: Widely used, rock, country, blues, funk, pop
  • 2/2: Marches and musical theater
  • 2/4: Polkas and marches
  • 3/4: Waltzes, minuets, scherzi, country and western ballads, R&B, pop
  • 3/8: Same as above
  • 6/8: Double jigs, polkas, sega, salegy, tarantella, marches, barcarolles, Irish jigs, loures, and some rock music (half of all Chevelle songs, seemingly)
  • 9/8: Triple jigs, rare (famously used in The Ride of the Valkyries)
  • 12/8: Slower blues (shuffle), Do-wop, example: Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin

There is a long list of styles of music with particular distinct rhythms and time signatures at the Wikipedia article on Ballroom Dance. That is to say that these are competition styles of dance, but each dance has its own style of music that goes along with it.

Here is a partial list from that link

  • Waltz: 3/4 time

  • Tango: 4/4 time

  • Viennese Waltz: 3/4 time

  • Foxtrot: 4/4 time

  • Quickstep: 4/4 time

  • Samba: 2/4 time

  • Cha-cha-cha: 4/4 time

  • Rumba: 4/4 time

  • Paso Doble: 2/4 time

  • Jive: 4/4 time

  • Boogie-Woogie: 8/8 time ("eight to the bar")

  • Bolero

  • Mambo


In the Baroque style period (roughly 1600–1750) the rhythms of a number of folk dances from all across Europe were incorporated into instrumental compositions -- at the same time, what we now know as ballet was being developed in France. There are numerous Baroque dances and rhythms. Many great composers wrote famous instrumental pieces called suites which have numerous short movements one after the other, each in a different rhythm and meter associated with a particular dance style. These pieces are still performed today.

This list is from the Wikipedia article on Baroque dance. Click on the link and you can go to individual articles on each of the dance forms in this list to read about the rhythm associated with each.

  • Allemande
  • Bourrée
  • Canarie (canary)
  • Chaconne
  • Courante
  • Entrée grave
  • Forlane (forlana)
  • Gavotte
  • Gigue
  • Loure
  • Menuet (minuet)
  • Musette
  • Passacaglia
  • Passepied
  • Rigaudon
  • Sarabande
  • Tambourin

Further details of a more musical nature can be found at this Wikipedia article on the Baroque suite.


Do you think specifically about 3/4, or time signatures in general?

Pop, rock and metal are almost always 4/4, and rarely change meter, though there can be exceptions (e.g. Iron Maiden - Number of the beast alternates between 4/4 and 6/4, Oingo Boingo little girls - alternates between 4/4 and 2/4). Great exceptions are postrock and avant-garde metal, where there are no specific rules regarding meter, and changes of meters can be common.

Dubstep (both old school and brostep) are mostly 4/4 (as far as I know), except maybe some post-dubstep, though I can't think of an example right now. And modern electronic dance music is commonly 4/4 (e.g. Trance, EBM, IDM). Though, nothing of this is strictly rule, look for example at chapter about meters in EDM in this book.

Derivatives of drum'n'bass music such as breakcore use variety of different time signatures, and it mostly depends upon the producer. Venetian snares writes his music in 7/4. Igorrr uses in some songs duple meter, while in others triple (e.g. Igorrr & Ruby My Dear - Barbecue), and also their combinations. Lauren Bousfield from Nero's Day At Disneyland alternates between duple and triple meters in many of his songs.

  • Good idea to use the exceptions that prove the rule.
    – Josiah
    Aug 10 '15 at 14:59
  • Well, just to get "Old School," "Light My Windows" by Quicksilver Messenger Service (1967) is in 7/4 time and sounds like a mellow rock song, but who cares, right? But it's pretty hard to dance to.
    – Wastrel
    Apr 18 '21 at 3:26

Here is a long and detailed list of many Bulgarian folk dances and styles of music (going back centuries) which make use of various odd-time signatures like 7/8, 11/16, 5/8, and many others.



If you are talking about stylistic appropriate time signatures you can also add that Irregular Time Signatures are a distinct characteristic of modern music. They where extremely rare before the Modern scene was invented.

  • 2
    Not if you live in places like Turkey and Greece and Bulgaria. What we call irregular time signatures (or "asymmetrical rhythms") have been part of their folk dances for centuries.
    – user1044
    Aug 11 '15 at 0:13
  • Norway and Sweden, too.
    – user1044
    Aug 11 '15 at 0:15

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