Greetings and Salutations, Potential Saviors.

In a piece I write, which is generally notated in 8/8 (3+3+2) time, there is a 3-bar phrase that, if combined, is equal to 16/8.

BUT the way this part is constructed is quite odd, and is as follows: (in 1/8 notes) 3-2-2-2-3-2-2.

My question is: How do I clearly and understandably notate this in terms of time-signature?

It's doing my head in.. It couldn't be 7/8 & 9/8, 'cause 9/8 is used when there are 3 groups of 3 1/8 notes. It couldn't be 12/8 & 4/8 for the same (only four groups this time). The only achievable conclusion I had managed to come to is to divide it like this: 7/8 (2+2+3), 5/8 (2+3) and 4/8 (2+2), but I'm afraid that for someone who's unfamiliar with the piece, this'll mean total nonsense.

Thanks in advance for your help!

2 Answers 2


There's a variety of ways to split that 3-2-2-2-3-2-2 grouping time signature-wise, and your 7/8-5/8-4/8 suggestion is a good one.

Here are some other suggestions that fit:

9/8 (3+2+2+2) & 7/8 (3+2+2): This has the advantage of having the 3-beat grouping lead each bar. This has the disadvantage of confusing a lot of people about why your 9/8 bar isn't split as 3+3+3 like it usually does.

4/4 & 4/4: This has the advantage of letting you not switch meters. This has the disadvantage of having note groupings cross bars, but I've seen enough sheet music that uses the 3-3-3-3-2-2 grouping use 2 bars of 4/4 time to notate it that I believe this disadvantage can be mitigated.

In all of these cases, including your suggestion, I recommend beaming each group to match your 3-2-2-2-3-2-2 intention. I've seen uneven beamings like that in RCM printings of Stephen Chatman's "Spring Celebration".


I agree with Dekkadeci's answer: since this is an irregular (= "not classical") rhythm in any case, beaming the groups of two and three together is the most important thing for clarity. But why not just leave it in the previous 8/8 with the note groupings crossing the bar? That's a lot less fussy and easier to read than all these time signature changes, which are not going to make things clearer anyway.

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