I'm writing a piece in the time signature of 12/8, and I want a part of it to be in 4/4. I know I can just change the time signature, but I thought of something: If you can divide a beat into three (with triplets) in 4/4, why can't you do the opposite in 12/8? Is there actually a way to do this?


2 Answers 2


Yes it is possible. Similar to triplets, there are duplets which tell you 2 notes go where 3 use to. Similarly to triplets you would group the eigth notes in two and put a two over there beams like below:

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  • 11
    There are also dotted quavers, and they're about as commonly used.
    – user16935
    Oct 29, 2016 at 20:56
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    This is the way I've seen it notated, I think it was in Hounds of Spring, which is in 6/8 for a lot of the piece Oct 29, 2016 at 23:34
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    @fyrepenguin, from what I'm seeing of the score and parts, Reed seems to switch to straight 4/4 time. Now, I'm only seeing partial scores on the Web, so I can't say that he doesn't do differently later on. Straight 4/4 (♪ = ♪. of the previous) is entirely valid as well.
    – user16935
    Oct 30, 2016 at 0:40
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    I had thought that it was in the last third or so, and I've been seeing the same as you online. I can't find my music for it right now, I'm still looking. I'll let you know one way or another if I find out. Oct 30, 2016 at 1:57

Quite often, 12/8 stuff is written in 4/4, but with a little advice note at the start indicating a triplet feel. You could write in 4/4 but say which is in triplet and which is a straight feel.

  • I think you may be confusing 12/8 with 'swung' 4/4. In the latter, straight 8s are played ... - well, if I have to explain 'swing' then you won't be able to play it! If you want 4/4 to sound like 12/8 - write triplets.
    – Laurence
    Oct 30, 2016 at 17:45
  • @LaurencePayne - 'It Don't mean a Thing', 'Take the A Train', etc., etc., written in 4/4 with 'swing' at the top. Swing 4/4 will never be 'straight 8s'. How can they be? It's either straight or swung. That's the whole point. If one can't feel the difference between straight and swing... Have I been getting it wrong for 50 yrs? Writing triplets is not necessary. If one can't feel it, one shouldn't really be trying to play it...
    – Tim
    Oct 30, 2016 at 18:05
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    Striaight 8s are written. Swung 8s are played. That's what I meant to convey. Sorry if it was't clear. (But Swing covers a broad range of music. Straight 8s occur more often than you might think. Even in the traditional styles.)
    – Laurence
    Oct 30, 2016 at 23:25

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