It's been a very long time since I've done musical theory but I know this rhythm is quite common, especially in dance and even some punk/metal.

So, some songs have 4 beats to a bar but it has 2 triplets and 1 double.

In total, it consists of 8 notes however there are 3 accented notes. Like this:

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2

It's not 4/4 (although you can count 4 beats) and it's not 6/8. (2 triplets to a bar).

Is it 8/8? What's the time signature?

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    I edited the question a bit, because asking for a song's time signature is off topic here. I tried to make it a bit generic, so it won't get closed Nov 24, 2015 at 10:55
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    Sounds like a slow 4/4 to me. Accents can be put into any bar, regardless of time sig.
    – Tim
    Nov 24, 2015 at 11:03

8 Answers 8


1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 is Calypso rhythm.

Although it appears it often has a 4/4 or 8/8 time signature, I have seen it 3+3+2/8. Even with a more regular time signature, you may find it notated with two dotted-crotchets (which shouldn't cross over the secondary beat on to the third crotchet) and a dotted bar-line before the fourth crotchet.

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    Do we have some sort of MathJax gizmo for time signatures? Nov 24, 2015 at 13:39
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    Andrew - hopefully with graduation we'll get some tools. See: meta.music.stackexchange.com/q/913/104
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Nov 24, 2015 at 13:45
  • The rhythm given on that page is slightly more complicated. A very simple 3-3-2 is common in pop music (e.g. the bridge to Cascada, Every Time We Touch). I don’t know what it’s called though.
    – Owen
    Jan 26, 2020 at 6:09

Yes, that would be 8/8. Mathematically it is the same with 4/4, but it differs on the accented beats. Where 4/4 would be:

1 2 3 4

8/8 is:

1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2

like the one in the song you provided.

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    Well, that's one way to play 8/8. In Largo music all odd beats are weighted. There's more than one late 19th-early 20th cent. composer who would write your 123,123,12 as alternating 6/8-2/8 bars. Nov 24, 2015 at 12:19
  • @CarlWitthoft: I’d be quite surprised to see this written as 6/8 + 2/8; do you have examples in mind that do that? If it were split as a repeating pattern of multiple measures, I’d rather expect it to be split as three measures, 3/8 + 3/8 + 2/8, so that each measure is a single metrical unit. But I don’t remember ever coming across that either.
    – PLL
    Nov 24, 2015 at 15:59
  • Dunno if I've seen that exact split, but there's plenty of cases where 5/4 or 1/4 measures are thrown in between 4/4 measures. I've seen sheet music where the initial staff marking is something like 6/8 -- 9/8 to indicate alternating measures. Nov 24, 2015 at 16:10
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    8/8 CAN be 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2, but it can also be 1-2-3, 2-2, 3-2-3, and 1-2, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, etc. Nov 24, 2015 at 16:25

It's a very common pattern, and it can (and probably should) definitely be notated in 4/4. It is the first half (the "three-side") of the traditional clave pattern.

  • I don't follow. Your link clearly shows dotted-eighth -- sixteenth, not triplet, rhythm. Nov 24, 2015 at 12:20
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    @CarlWitthoft: Why should it be a triplet rhythm?
    – Matt L.
    Nov 24, 2015 at 12:22
  • The OP posted two groups of three followed by a pair. While the clave starts with three notes, they clearly are not evenly spaced in rhythm. Nov 24, 2015 at 13:18
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    @CarlWitthoft: The first half of the clave rhythm is evenly spaced: first note on the one, second note on the 4th 16th, third note on the 7th 16th. It's exactly 3+3+2 (the unit is 16th, and they're distributed over 2 quarter notes). It has absolutely nothing to do with triplets, it's a pure 16th rhythm with accents; or - if you like - notate it with 8th notes, but in any case no triplets.
    – Matt L.
    Nov 24, 2015 at 13:44

Well, I cannot view the video in Germany but { 4. 4. 4 } (two dotted crotchets and one normal crotchet) is a common syncopated rendition of the "original" { 2 4 4 } (one minim and two crotchet) rhythm of 4/4 for tango. In fact, if you are not playing old arrangements of old tangos, you are much more likely to get the syncopated version these days, particularly in Tango Argentino.


The pattern of 3,3,2 is the first bar of the two bar sequence Bossa Nova. Generally written in 4/4. The 'ones' are accented, often on a snare drum, with the stick on the skin, tapping the rim. There's probably a proper name for that... if not, there's another question coming...


It's called a tresillo. As others have mentioned, it's the first half of many other rhythms, but the tresillo is an important rhythm in its own right.


The original question specifies time signature.

Shouldn't the answer show an additive time signature?

enter image description here

The rhythm is common and can be expressed in notation with beaming or accent marks, etc. But there also is a time signature to represent it metrically.

Here is an example from Bartok's Mikrokosmos...

enter image description here


In addition to the other answers given, Bluegrass music typically follows a 3-3-2 pattern as well, usually picked out on the banjo.

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