So, after a bout of composer's block, I started composing this piece for Cello Piano Duo. I find I have fewer issues with the Cello Piano Duo than the Violin Piano Duo when it comes to things like doubling at the unison, probably because the overtone spectrum of the cello and piano are similar when compared at the same pitch, more similar than that of the violin.

Despite this similarity in the cello and piano overtones, I find that the cello is way more expressive in register changes than the piano. You have that double bass like timbre up to about G2, then you start getting this soulful sound out of the cello as you get closer to the tenor register. In cases when it goes into the treble register(which outside of solo pieces are extremely rare), it has an almost trumpet like projection to its notes.

Anyway, I intended this piece to be an Adagio, so I had the tempo at quarter note = 65 BPM. However, I am finding that I seem to be getting an eighth note tactus. Or to put it in tempo terms, my Adagio sounds like an Allegro. And this is despite some long notes such as dotted half notes in both the cello and the piano.

I'm considering changing the time signature to an eighth note time signature to reflect this faster tactus. However, should I go ahead and do that? For 3/4, the 2 eighth note time signatures that make the most sense are 6/8(same relation to 3/4 as 8/8 has to 4/4) which switches the meter from triple to duple in the vast majority of cases, and 9/8 which is basically 3/4 with implicit triplets.

The whole rhythmic relation would change, were I to change it to 9/8, and I sometimes find it difficult to figure out what would conserve the rhythmic relation, especially if there are dotted rhythms or triplets other than eighth note triplets in the original 3/4. And as I said before, a change to 6/8 would most likely mean a change to a duple meter. I mean, when is 6/8 in triple meter?

Here is an excerpt of my piece in the original 3/4 and tempo:

enter image description here

You can probably see why I am feeling an Allegro rather than an Adagio here despite the slow quarter notes and thus considering changing the time signature.

But should I change the time signature to an eighth note time signature? Or should I leave it as is, regardless of it feeling faster than the tempo indicates? If it were in 2/4 or 4/4, this would be easier for me to decide. But with it being in 3/4, it is harder for me to decide, as the 9/8 would be harder for me to figure out how to conserve the rhythmic relation and the 6/8 would switch meter.

  • 3
    Switching from 3/4 to 6/8 isn't a good idea. They're nothing like each other, and are not the equivalent of 8/8 to 4/4. The way it's written now is 3/4, with a 1-2-3-1-2-3 rhythm. Changing that to 6/8 won't change the tempo, only the feel which would go to 1-2-3-4-5-6-, and completely alter the emphases.
    – Tim
    Feb 19, 2020 at 16:05
  • First two paragraphs about overtones and timbre for a question about.... tempo?!? Feb 19, 2020 at 16:10
  • How much more enlightening would it be if dvers posted their thoughts and reasons? Perhaps stringing coherent sentences together is too taxing?
    – Tim
    Feb 19, 2020 at 16:29
  • I assume "dvers" = "down voters". I down voted for all the rambling, unrelated detail. The question really seems to be "what actually creates the beat in music?" Feb 19, 2020 at 17:14
  • @Tim can we please stop making negative comments targeted at down votes? They are a very important part of the site for quality control both up and down votes need to be done with purpose.
    – Dom
    Feb 19, 2020 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


...However, I am finding that I seem to be getting an eighth note tactus.

Let's work with the assumption that the beat (tactus) is not the quarter note but rather the eighth note which of course will make the tempo feel faster by double.

The question would seem to be why and what actually determines the pulse?

enter image description here

When the second beat plays the repeated G at even division points it raises the question of whether aurally (not notated) this sounds like a beat division or two beats.

Let's say that question remains unresolved until some other rhythm confirms it one way or the other. When we get to the next figure the syncopation at the sixteenth level sort of confirms the beat is at the eighth note level. To the extent that counting syncopation is easy with even divisions we sort of drift into an eighth note pulse.

If that explanation is satisfying about why the pulse feels like the eighth note, then the way out of the problem and getting the beat back onto the quarter note seems to be a matter of changing the rhythm rather than meter or tempo marking. Change what is happening aurally not what is marked on the page to realize the intended adagio.

Instead of repeating a note at the half division of beat two try a non chord tone. A NCT eighth note might help confirm the notion that half division point is a weak, unaccented metrical point.

Play syncopation with eighth notes rather than sixteenths.

Some changes like that might help get the pulse confirmed at the quarter note.

  • I didn't say that the eighth note pulse and thus the Allegro feel was necessarily a problem. I just didn't expect it to occur given how slow the tempo is.
    – Caters
    Feb 19, 2020 at 17:27
  • From your OP: "I intended this piece to be an Adagio..." So, you want an adagio, but an allegro feel is OK? Sounds like you're trying to have it both ways instead of deciding what you want and then writing/revising accordingly. Feb 19, 2020 at 18:10
  • "...given how slow the tempo is..." To be clear, if the beat is indeed at the eighth note level - which is how you described it - the tempo is not slow. It is twice as fast as marked, 130 bpm. Feb 20, 2020 at 13:47

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