Question about beaming in 6/4 and irregular beaming

In 6/4 can I beam by 2/4 + 2/4 + 2/4 or is it strictly 3/4 + 3/4?

And also I didn't find a good explanation of irregular beaming in cases where time signature constantly changing from bar to bar (not alternating but literally changing, e.g., I have four measures, and they're all different in time, e.g., 6/4, 4/4, 5/4, 9/8) in that case, can I beam the 4/4 measure like 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 or even 3/4 + 1/4? Especially if it looks more convenient on paper than regular 2/4 + 2/4 and will not distort the entire picture because that bar is one of a kind?

• Why do you need to use 6/4, which is quite specific. Could 4/4 and 2/4 be used instead? In fact, what reasoning makes the changes so specific? You could use other marks and keep everything in the same timing, but accents will give the same feel.
– Tim
Apr 24, 2020 at 18:54
• Well, the piece that I wrote almost entirely in 6/4, no way I can divide it in 4/4 and 2/4. And plus, I wanna finish the idea that I started. Apr 24, 2020 at 20:44
• Have a look at the way 'America' is written, it may provide some ideas.
– Tim
Apr 25, 2020 at 5:47

2 Answers

6/4 is universally subdivided into 2 groups of 3 quarter notes. When I encounter music written in 6 but grouped in 3 groups of 2 it’s usually written in 3/2. If you really want to write 6/4 in 3 groups of 2 quarters to keep a strong quarter note pulse going during an odd meter section I suggest writing 2+2+2 over the bar to make your intentions clear but I think @Tim’s suggestion or writing a 4/4 and a 2/4 is better.

A bar of 4/4 divided into 3+1 is generally not done unless it is a very simple rhythm like dotted half-quarter or quarter-half-quarter. You could also write the 3+1 subdivision over the 4/4 bar but beaming 3 beats together in 4/4 time is unusual and I wouldn’t recommend it.

• What about 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4? Apr 24, 2020 at 20:47
• You could beam quarters individually if you like, once 16th note rhythms occur that happens anyway. The bottom line is this is all for clarity for the musicians who have to read it. Envision yourself sight reading it and ask yourself if it looks clear to you. Apr 24, 2020 at 21:03
• @JohnBelzaguy - Trusting my own sight-reading instincts is apparently not good enough. On NinSheetMusic, a website of video game music piano transcriptions I contribute to, I've been repeatedly told to beam 3 + 3 + 2 rhythms with a tie in the 2nd group of 3 beats despite me being more used to no tie in the 2nd group. (I'm arguably influenced by the beaming in a Royal Conservatory of Music printing of Stephen Chatman's "Spring Celebration", which indeed beams 3 + 3 + 2 with no tie in the 2nd group.) Apr 25, 2020 at 12:16
• @Dekkadeci Are you talking about showing the imaginary bar line on beat 3? If there’s a recurring 3+3+2 rhythm it wouldn’t bother me personally if it were beamed that way. It’s not a bad idea to mark 3+3+2 at the beginning of the chart though. Apr 25, 2020 at 19:55

You can beam your piece however you want as long as it makes musical sense and it's readable by whoever has to play it..
It's not unusual to see 6/4 occasionally beamed as 2+2+2, but if you're doing that a lot you might want to consider another time signature like 3/2