We met today this work by Bach with this strange time - strange to me as I've never met before this meter. Of course it is possible ... but I ask if someone knows another composition with this meter, not only by Bach.

How do I determine the time signature of a song?

(my assumption was that it is a simple 2/4 (ed. or better 4/8) where Bach ignored to write the sign for triplets as this would be obvious for everyone ...)

But now I've found the copy of the manuscript from Johann Christian Bach who wrote the time 12/16 for this Gigue.

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    2/4 or 2/8 works for me, but technically I suppose 12/16 is accurate. To someone like Bach, would it really make any difference to have it in 12/16? We are a little late to ask him though.
    – Tim
    Apr 30, 2019 at 19:09
  • It‘s no difference to me. There are only 2 points: a) I haven‘t ever seen 12/16 time. (obviously there are several by Bach and others!) b) the question (I‘ve added the link now) asking: what measure is this? could be answered as: Gigue, 4/8 (triplets abbreviation, usual in the time of Bach). May 1, 2019 at 5:52

1 Answer 1


I think it's rather more a 4/8 with triple subdivision than a 2/4 with sextuple subdivision, as seen for example in Prelude 13 of WTC I. Bach used it several times. There's a recording that appears to show that Buxtehude used it, though I couldn't find much more about this piece, let alone a score. There's also a web page mentioning Pachelbel's use of the meter.

It therefore appears that it was not unusual in Bach's day.


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