I've been doing some loop based compositions lately. And I was wondering if I should conform to measures or is it ok not to.

Sometimes when I'm loop recording I don't really bother to look at how many beats or measures were recorded as I am looping on a hardware based looper (boss rc-202) so I could stop the loop recording whenever I want and it immediately loops on it (although there is a setting that forces a loop to whole measures, that's if I set the bpm and turn on the metronome). Subsequent loops are then just a multiple of the time of the base loop and I stitch all these loops together eventually (.wav files) to create a song.

I don't really mind if they're not whole measures, I prefer it because then the loop stops immediately and doesn't have to wait until it gets to a whole measure to stop. But I was wondering if it's ok to do that.

  • If you intend on making compositions that sound like EDM, then I must tell you that EDM strongly does not tend to change time signatures, so you're stuck with whole measures.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 10:54
  • I agree with a lot of the below. Make it however you like. However keep in mind it may not be listenable. But it depends on your goals. Want to make people dance? Go with a steady 4/4. Want to make art? Do whatever you like.
    – b3ko
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 12:15

3 Answers 3


It's certainly simpler to "conform to whole measures," but this can also result in songs that sound repetitive, predictable, or "blocky." I'd also point out that the concept of a "measure" can vary dramatically in orchestral scores. A lot of classical music switches time signatures frequently. A song might start in 5/4 and switch to 3/2 or 2/2 or 4/4.

I would say that you shouldn't let one time signature constrain your creativity. It might make it more complicated to rearrange parts or you may find it tricky to teach other folks how to play a tune when rehearsing, but mixing up your time signatures can give your music a more sophisticated structure. It might be a bit weird on the first few listens, but the song might seem interesting for longer because if its unusual rhythmic structure.

  • 1
    I agree with this answer. Mind that there are often notated ritardandos, fermatas and even accelerandos or general breaks. Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 5:14
  • @AlbrechtHügli yes! translated to more contemporary terms, a beat drop or birds eye might be of indeterminate length. I'd further add that tempo often wanders in live performances. Even the most highly trained performers play faster or slower than a perfect metronome. youtube.com/watch?v=L8wHteSOwW4
    – S. Imp
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 16:53

Use whatever technique produces the sound you want. Regularity is good. Irregularity is also good.

  • This covers most bases. But does it really answer the question?
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 9:28
  • 1
    Yes, fully and concisely, in the first sentence. It doesn't waffle on pointlessly though.
    – Laurence
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 9:36

You can obviously do exactly as you wish. However, when trying to put it all together, it won't just be a matter of going from, maybe, 4/4 to 3/4 or whatever. You'll have fractions of bars to join, which will make the whole sound pretty amateur. Imagine a track where you start tapping a foot, and suddenly it's out of time. That will be going on all through.

I know some music varies time signatures bar to bar, but even so, before the next bar comes in, at least the previous bar is completed!!

If you want to make stuff that sounds avant-garde then carry on. But I'd have thought you might have realised how bitty the final mix sounds already.

I use a looper on occasions, and yes, it takes some doing to stop/start exactly in time, but that's really what it's about. More work needed!

  • There is a counterpoint to "highly quantized" music.
    – S. Imp
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 16:50
  • I don't think it would be possible for the song to suddenly be out of time as you said with tapping the foot. because the whole thing relies on the base loop. as long as the base loop sounds good then all the other loops are just multiples of it in length. I just meant the base loop could be variable in length (not necessarily a whole measure in 4/4 time)
    – user34288
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:00
  • That is the whole point. Unless i'm missing some information.
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:11

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