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I am working through an exercise which has me determining the time signature of measures, and I'm stumped on this one:

Screenshot 1

In determining the value of the septuplet, I need to first determine whether the answer will be in compound time or simple time, based on this page where it was defined:

Screenshot 2

This is in the section titled Hybrid Meters, where we were introduced to

the hybrid duple times 5/2, 5/4, 5/8, and 5/16,

the hybrid triple times 7/2, 7/4, 7/8, 7/16

and the hybrid quadruple times which can be formed by taking the upper number to be 9,10, or 11, and the lower number to be 2, 4, 8, or 16.

Now I'm guessing there are infinitely many more possibilities, but these are the only ones we've covered so far, and my question is: am I wrong to say that it is impossible to classify this measure as one of the time signatures listed above, using one of the interpretations of septuplets' values stated in the second image?

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    Only glancing right now, so I don’t feel sure enough to provide an answer, but I think I disagree with the definition of septuplets in that second image. By my understanding, a septuplet in simple time takes the place of 4 sixteenths as shown, but would take the place of six sixteenths in compound time, not three. At any rate, I think you’re technically correct that you can’t 100% guess the difference between this being a relatively normal 9/8 or a relatively abnormal 8/8 (3+2+3 subdivision), but the former seems far more likely absent further evidence. Has 8/8 been discussed? – Pat Muchmore Nov 29 '17 at 4:01
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    @PatMuchmore This is entirely right. It is far more likely that the septuplet takes the space of six notes than four. Consider converting this to an answer. – Kilian Foth Nov 29 '17 at 7:38
  • I agree with Pat and Kilian here - since the measure's beaming (and therefore metric subdivision) implies compound meter, if the septuplet did not occur within the same metrical grouping, it would need to be specified with a ratio (e.g. 7:4) – jjmusicnotes Nov 29 '17 at 13:59
  • 8/8 hasn't been discussed yet. I'm going to take the answer to be 9/8 by treating the septuplets as 7:6. Thanks so much for clarifying! This one threw me for a loop. – Kyle Schlitt Nov 29 '17 at 17:30
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I disagree with the definition of septuplets in that second image. By my understanding, a septuplet in simple time takes the place of 4 sixteenths as shown, but would take the place of six sixteenths in compound time, not three. At any rate, the beaming together of three eighth notes after the septuplet and the dotted-quarter before makes it clear that this septuplet comes between two compound beats. I think you’re technically correct that you can’t 100% guess the difference between this being a relatively normal 9/8 or a relatively abnormal 8/8 (3+2+3 subdivision), but the former seems far more likely absent further evidence. As a hybridization of 4/4 time, it seems possible that 8/8 has come up in the book, but it isn’t in the list you’ve provided.

  • Yes, I'd agree -- my "internal" rule, which I am pretty sure is correct, is that a triplet/quintuplet/septuplet, etc. takes up the time that a standard group of notes of the same beaming would take to fill one beat. <-- that's probably incomprehensible to anyone but me :-) – Carl Witthoft Nov 29 '17 at 12:41
  • OK, I'll disagree with @PatMuchmore's disagreement :-) Caveat, that I've played a lot of strange rhythms in musical theater, but don't have a strong theoretical background. I would play this as the septuplet takes a single eighth note. Wouldn't a 16th note Triplet take the space of a single eighth in compound time? That would make the example 7/8 time. And.. I think the examples in the text are poorly written. – Greg Nov 29 '17 at 13:53
  • @PatMuchmore thanks for the answer! I was careful to list every time signature that has come up. – Kyle Schlitt Nov 29 '17 at 17:25
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    @Greg I wouldn't be surprised if your interpretation is the one the author intended. But I agree the book is not as great as I thought it was. It depends heavily on the teacher to not just elaborate on topics, but to clarify actual problematic ambiguities which frequently arise. The exercises are great, but I would not recommend this book to someone for independent study. – Kyle Schlitt Nov 29 '17 at 18:14
  • Actually, I'd say 7:4 or 7:8 in simple time, and 7:6 for compound time. – ericw31415 Dec 7 '17 at 2:56
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The book's definition of a 7-tet is misleading. OK - more than misleading, when stated as a 'rule' it's plain wrong! That's a '7 in the time of 6' tuplet. So the 'hybrid' idea isn't required. It's a straightforward compound-triple 9/8.

(And it's the first time I've heard of 'hybrid' meters. Not a bad concept, but don't assume anyone else will know what you're talking about!)

In the contest of a theory exercise, there's room for confusion. In real music, which WILL have a time signature, it should be clear. Though a '7:8' notation rather than just plain '7' might have been helpful.

  • Yeah the term seems to only be used in my book. Other places seem to call them complex or irregular time signatures. Is this correct? – Kyle Schlitt Nov 29 '17 at 17:26
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    'Complex' perhaps. I don't see how, foir instance, a consistent 3+2 5/8 could be called 'irregular'. – Laurence Payne Nov 29 '17 at 17:56
  • I learned it as "hybrid" meters as well, but my book also called it mixed meters. – ericw31415 Dec 7 '17 at 2:58

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