how do you find time signatures which does not match 3 , 4 ,5 , 7 counts,etc ?

For example , I know that the second song sung here is 6/8 . But what is the time signature of the first one ?

The second one is quite clearly 6/8 .. But I am missing the time signature of the first song ? Or do some songs have no time signatures ? Is it acceptable ?

  • Questions about basic analysis of specific pieces are generally disallowed on this site. Try to rephrase the question, or likely it will be closed. Your other question seems to be within the parameters.
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 11:49
  • I have edited to be more general to gain knowledge on music theory yet getting insights on analysis of a piece of music . thanks Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 11:59
  • "Can some songs have no time signatures Is it acceptable ?" Of course. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_time_(music) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_chant
    – leonbloy
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 13:03
  • 2
    The rhythmic structure of Indian music is often much more complex than the Western idea of "the same small number of beats in every bar". Some Indian rhythmic patterns have more than 100 beats before they repeat. There are also patterns like 14 beats divided into 5+2+3+4. Google for "tala" or "taal".
    – user19146
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:17
  • So what is the time signature or tala of the above mentioned song ? Commented Jul 2, 2016 at 1:04

4 Answers 4


Charles Ives dispenses with time signatures in his Concord Sonata (at least in the "Emerson" movement). The measure bars merely function as synchronization points; one can plainly see that the "measure" on the lower left stave has substantially more beats on the lower staff than on the upper (look at all those minims!), and also more beats than the subsequent measure.

First page of "Emerson" movement


Start counting at the first heavy beat, and keep counting till you reach the next heavy beat. It may not be apparent straight away, but when you think you have the magic number, count through the song. If it fits, you've most likely solved it. You may have to try with a slow and a fast count, as some time sigs are compound, like this one It could be a slow 4, or the 4 could be split on each beat to give 3 on each - triplets. In which case, it's 12/8. However, that could still be written as a 4/4 time sig., with a written note at the top of the music, saying crotchet = 3 quavers, usually with the note signs. Sorry, can't do that for you - no doubt someone else will!

  • I suggest you try that idea using this recording youtube.com/watch?v=Joyk_EMtzn0 starting at 2:45 (The fact that the video tells you what the right answer is, and that Ravi Shankar is beating time anyway, probably won't be much help!)
    – user19146
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:27

Part of the intro might indicate that the first part is also 6/8. The tempo is not steady, so it is very difficult to know for sure. It is performed freely.


There's another problem which is that many pieces of music change their time signature often. Just because something starts in, say, 3/4 does not mean that it will stay in 3/4 for long. Also some pieces of music have different voices or instruments playing in different time signatures at the same time (which gives the conductor a problem). It's done so that the stresses on beats occur in different places in different parts.

You can't expect to be able to tell just by listening. For example it's not uncommon to find stretches of music in 6/8 where each bar has two dotted crotchets in it, in other words it will sound exactly the same as 2/4. But if it's written like that it'd probably be because in a few bars time some of those half bar dotted crotchets will become three quavers or a crotchet and a quaver as the rhythm begins to develop. It might be clearer what's going on seeing all of that in 6/8, even if you might thing the music should be written first in 2/4 then 6/8.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.