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I am trying to assess the time signature of a song I'm transcribing. Initially, I thought it was in 4/4, but with this, very few of the verse chord changes happen on the beat. 4/4 might still be correct, but is there a term (like syncopated) that describes this?

If it helps, the song I'm trying to transcribe is Coconut Records - West Coast. Here's what I've transcribed so far in respect to the chord changes & beats. The numbers represent the measure number and the first beat in each measure, each dot represents the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th beat in the measure.

Intro
Riff1           Riff2
1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 

Verse 1
    Bb  EbGm      Bb  EbBb
5 . . . 6 . . . 7 . . . 8 . . . 
Bb  EbGm       Bb   EbCm       Dm
9 . . . 10 . . . 11 . . . 12 . . .

Chorus
     Gm  Eb   Cm  Dm   Gm  Eb   Cm     
13 . . . 14 . . . 15 . . . 16 . . .
Dm   Gm  Eb   Cm  Dm   Gm  Eb   Cm  
17 . . . 18 . . . 19 . . . 20 . . .
Dm      
21 . . . 

Verse 2
Bb   EbGm       Bb   EbBb
22 . . . 23 . . . 24 . . . 25 . . .
(Same chords as verse one)...
4
Intro   |4|4|4|4|  

        |2| 

Verse   |3|4|3|4|  
        |3|4|3|4|4|  

Refrain |4|4|4|4|  
        |4|4|4|4|  

        |2| 

Vers    |3|4|3|4|  
        |3|4|3|4|4|  

Refrain |4|4|4|4|  
        |4|4|4|4| etc.

Well, the intro is like the refrain - straight 4 beats, then you have a little break of 2 quarters, verse is 4 groups of 7 quarters (3+4) with a little 4 quarter extension (bridge) at the end...

Drums come in on bar 4 of the first verse!


Intro   |4      |       |       |       |  

        |2      |  

Verse   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Bb   |  
        |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Cm   | Dm   |   

Refrain |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb | Cm Dm |   
        |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb | Cm Dm |   

        |2 Dm   |   

Verse   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Bb   |  
        |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Cm   | Dm   |  

Refrain |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb | Cm Dm |  
        |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb | Cm Dm | etc.  

Of course you could - because of the chord changes - interpret the Refrain with the additional 2 quarter bar as


Intro   |4|4|4|2|  

        |4| 

Verse   |3|4|3|4|  
        |3|4|3|4|4|  

Refrain |4|4|4|4|  
        |4|4|4|2|  

        |4| 

Vers    |3|4|3|4|  
        |3|4|3|4|4|  

Refrain |4|4|4|4|  
        |4|4|4|2| etc.

respectively


Intro   |4      |       |       |2      |  

        |4      |  

Verse   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Bb   |  
        |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Cm   | Dm   |   

Refrain |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb | Cm Dm |   
        |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb |2 Cm   |   

        |4 Dm   |   

Verse   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Bb   |  
        |3 Bb_Eb|4 Gm   |3 Bb_Eb|4 Cm   | Dm   |  

Refrain |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb | Cm Dm |  
        |4 Gm Eb| Cm Dm | Gm Eb |2 Cm   | etc.  

But you'd better go for the first variant because before the repetition of the last Refrain they keep on playing 4 straight 4 beat bars and repeat them - until they are stuck with the Dm for the Coda (fade)...

  • Thanks for such a detailed answer! Seems it's just a song with an interestingly shifting time signature, so no matter which way I slice it it'll never be a consistent signature through the song. – tarun Sep 28 '15 at 0:16
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Lets get clarity on what syncopation is. Syncopation is at its core a emphasis on the weak part of a beat. If you would have syncopation in 4/4 time it would be something resembling this.

Syncopation

The 4/4 Time signature would have the strong pulses on the 1 and third beats and by playing a long note on the second pulse you would be emphasizing a weak pulse.

Now bringing it back to your example you may very well have syncopation depending on how your strumming is accentuated. Seeing as there is no indications of emphasis it is really hard to say for sure.

What I rather see here is simply 4/4 time signature with a lot of chord changes that change on the quaver beats ie two changes in one pulse.

This could be played by accenting certain strums in slew of ways that may include syncopation or not.

  • I don't think this is relevant to this question. In a rock groove, it's not really true at all that beats 1 and 3 are “strong” while 2 and 4 are weak. In fact it's rather the opposite: 2 and 4 are indicated by clear accents on the snare drum. In the example song, the drums make it thus quite unmistakable that the signature is 4+3/4, instead of 4/4 with syncopated chord changes. Of course you could still interpret this some other way with both chords and drums on unusual beats, but this would be rather more complicated. Better apply Occam's razor. – leftaroundabout Sep 27 '15 at 21:14
  • No syncopation here. The bar length changes as the song goes on. With syncopation, there would still be a four count present all through. There is not. – Tim Sep 28 '15 at 18:08

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