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This question already has an answer here:

It's once again time for everyone's favorite game, "why is this wrong on my test?"

This time, it's a "name that time signature" question that got marked wrong.

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In short, the only other answer that I would consider is 3/2, but it could technically be either right? The first measure obviously is divided into 1+2+3, but the second measure looks distinctively 6/x ish, at least with the greater classical style as a pretext. To me, there's nothing to suggest one answer over the other.

If it is in fact 3/2, how can I distinguish them in the future? I see that there's already a similar question about 3/4 vs. 6/4, but to me this is different because of this specific instance where the second measure looks to my eye to be two beats divided into three. At the very least, there's no clear way to distinguish them, is there?

If there is, how can I tell?

marked as duplicate by Richard, Community Apr 10 '18 at 1:34

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • @replete As I mentioned in the question, I at least find this to be different because "of this specific instance where the second measure looks to my eye to be two beats divided into three." Basically, while the linked question explains that there's a difference, I'm asking "what's the best way to know for certain when in doubt?" I did check the linked question, and I haven't found what I consider to be a direct answer to my question. I'll check again later this evening when I have time to make sure I haven't missed something. – General Nuisance Apr 9 '18 at 23:53
  • The second bar may be in either two or three, but the first and third bars cannot be in two. – user48353 Apr 9 '18 at 23:55
  • @replete They can though, can't they? But given the context, I concede it seems unlikely. – General Nuisance Apr 10 '18 at 1:04
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    Having written out the full thing, I have to say that it feels very much like 3/2. Although while taking the test my eye gravitated toward the second measure, I have to agree that given the context, there isn't anything very 6/4ish about this excerpt at all. I think the real answer to my question of how to tell is to get more experience with sight reading/audiation/rhythm. – General Nuisance Apr 10 '18 at 1:34
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    I'm nominating to open this although the questions seem superficially the same, the particulars on the grouping that answers the question is different. – Neil Meyer Apr 10 '18 at 6:56
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I get 3/2 in that the first and third measures indicate a pulse of a half note. The second measure looks like a 6/4 measure though. Thus 3/2 wins the election. Many pieces do have some measures that do not follow the usual conventions of the time signature. Examples would be "America" from "West Side Story" which alternates 3/4 and 6/8 (though it's regular in a two-measure grouping.) Often waltzes in 3/4 will have a pair of measure with the melody (and accompaniment) being three half-notes in a row.

  • I don't agree that the second bar looks like 6/4 any more than 3/2. It could be either. I have some music in front of me right now - In dir ist Freude BWV 615 - which is in 3/2 with bars just like the second. The choice here depends on whether the bar is in two or three. 6/4 is used for two in the bar, 3/2 is used for three in the bar. – user48353 Apr 10 '18 at 0:51
  • The first and third bar have no note crossing the quarter-note beat. The second does. (Weak, but there's not much to go on from the score.) The fourth measure is consistent with either time signature. – ttw Apr 10 '18 at 3:07
  • I see, you are not counting 6/4 in two dotted half notes. That's up to you... – user48353 Apr 10 '18 at 3:20
  • In 3/2 the second bar may have been written with a minim tied to a crotchet to give the picture of 3, but it appears that these days, (almost) anything goes! – Tim Apr 10 '18 at 9:05
  • I do Know That 3/2 is Three Half notes counted to a measure/ and unless there is something missing in the example neither looks to have a measure of Three half notes – jayjackson Oct 13 '18 at 0:23

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