I am learning a pop song that is in 4/4 and has a tempo of 81bpm and don't understand why the writer has chosen cut time. Is this so he doesn't have to use 16th notes so much and so the reader doesn't have to read a lot of 16th notes? I have very similar songs with similar tempos and in a similar styles where the sheet music is written out in 4/4 common time and would have liked this piece to be written like this too but it isn't. I can't understand why the writer chose cut time.

Also, in my DAW if I want to play this piece note for note I would have to set my bpm to 162bpm which is also confusing. If the writer is using cut time shouldn't the bpm at the top of the piece change to accurately represent the duration of the notes?

Here is a section of the partiture https://ibb.co/cMGqoJ

  • What DAW are you using? Ableton, Logic etc can all use a 2/2 time signature. – BugHunterUK Jun 5 '18 at 23:17
  • @Bug I am using cubase 8. Thanks I will look into this. – armani Jun 6 '18 at 9:24
  • @BugHunterUK I did find in the transport panel of Cubase 8 the possibility of changing the grid from 4/4 to 2/2 (cut time) thank you. – armani Jun 8 '18 at 9:08

It's BEATS per minute, not quarter notes per minute. The composer decided this piece was a slow march, 2 in the bar, rather than a brisk trot, 4 in the bar.

Maybe your DAW only knows about quarters per minute though, so you'll have to do the math. It could be worse. If the piece was in 6/8 time, the mm mark would refer to dotted quarter beats!

  • Blame the people who devised the MIDI standard for equating "beat" and "quarter note"! In MIDI the tempo is always defined as the number of microseconds per quarter note, though DAWs usually display it as "quarter notes per minute". MIDI files can optionally contain time signatures as meta-information, but the time signature has no relationship with anything else in the file. – user19146 Jun 2 '18 at 11:33
  • @Laurence: I added a section for you to look at please. At the top of the piece it does have a minim = 81bpm so that makes sense but in the section I posted, it looks like a normal 4 beats in a bar doesn't it? – armani Jun 2 '18 at 11:46
  • @Laurence: Also, do you know why they may have chosen cut time for this piece as it is a normal 4/4 song by the band "Travis" – armani Jun 2 '18 at 11:52
  • A song full of quarters and 8ths can still have a slower 'two in a bar' feel rather than a more urgent 'four in a bar'. This seems to be what the composer (or the guy who did the transcription) is trying to indicate. Cut time is also used for marches with a speed like half=120 of course. – Laurence Payne Jun 3 '18 at 12:33
  • @Laurence: When I count to the song it is definitely in 4/4 time. Does the song have a "2 in a bar" feel to you? If it does, perhaps I am missing something because after all these years I was sure I knew what 4/4 sounded like. – armani Jun 5 '18 at 7:15

I found this explanation on another site and it made perfect sense:

Often you can't tell the difference between 2/2 and 4/4, and sometimes it may appear that the composer made the choice for no other reason than simplicity in notation (writing fast eighth notes instead of sixteenths, perhaps).

I had thought that this may be the reason or part of the reason why the writer used cut time in this song and I had even added it in the initial question but for some reason nobody seemed to think it was correct. In this song however, I am almost certain that the reason why cut time is used is simply to not write so many 16th notes. It is silly if you ask me and I would have preferred it in normal 4/4 time.

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