I'm refering to Cross Examination Moderato 2001 by Masakazu Sugimori and Minecraft by C418. Let's assume the beat unit is transcribed by a quarter note.

For the first piece, it sounds like eighth notes grouped in 3+3+2, but doubled. That makes a 3+3+3+3+2+2, so the 3s would be dotted quarter notes and the 2s would be regular quarter notes. That makes 8 quarter notes in total.

For the second piece, it sounds like quarter notes grouped in 3+3+2. That's like eighth notes grouped in 3+3+2, but half the pace. That also makes 8 quarter notes in total.

Why I'm confused is, firstly because, I've never seen a sheet music that states a time signature as 8/4. Secondly because, I don't know how long a motif is in these pieces, 1 or 2 measures. Is 8/4 a legit transcription for these pieces? If so, is there other pieces that is in 8/4?

  • 1
    This rhythm 333322 is usually notated in 4/4 when the bass line walks in steps pf quarter notes. (I‘ve played that famous Glenn Miller number in 1968 in military service, but I don‘t remember the title. Further I‘ve not encounter 8/4 yet, maybe 4/2, may depend from the sub-values of smaller notes.... May 17, 2020 at 13:09
  • 1
    @Albrecht Hügli A String of Pearls. Nice arrangement. May 18, 2020 at 5:40
  • @Old Brixtonian: youtu.be/jg2vtWezWbw that‘s it! Thank you so much! May 18, 2020 at 11:27
  • It's a thing, in that the maths checks out and you can write music in that way. It is, however, unusual. All I can say is to try writing part of it out and then playing it from the sheet. Which do you find easiest to read? - Also, is the whole piece using this accenting? If it's an occasional change to the phrasing, consider keeping the time signature the same and have an accent which isn't at the start of the bar.
    – AJFaraday
    May 19, 2020 at 8:26
  • 332 rhythm is extremely common. Related music.stackexchange.com/questions/109408/…
    – qwr
    Jul 11, 2023 at 4:13

5 Answers 5


With irregular timings, there's two ways (at least!) to write them out, so they're easily playable. One is to work out where the pattern repeats, and make that length one bar. So with something like 123 123 12, it's pretty straightforward to call it 8, if that pattern continues. If it doesn't, it's hardly a pattern!

The other way is to write out (using my example) two bars of 3, then a bar of 2, two bars of 3, then a bar of two. Starts getting tedious.

Another way would be to put it into whatever comes close, and use accents. But that's awkward because each first beat of the bar would naturally have its own accent, naturally. So, not the best of three.

I used to work with a Greek band, and we had more interesting time signatures like 13/4. 123 123 123 1234 was one pattern. Better written out as 13/4, though.

In fact, one could have any number over the 4 (or 8) - 5/4 and 7/4 are ones we come across regularly. And generally speaking, any time signature is divisible into 2s, 3s and sometimes 4s. 7/4 might be, for example, 12 12 123.

One other thought - when these odd ones are written onto sheet music, the better writers will group notes like quavers into their own little 'joined up' bits, like 6/8 should be two lots of 3 quavers.

  • 1
    I feel like I have also seen a convention like the "two bars of 3, then a bar of 2" which has dotted barlines within the pattern, and solid barlines at the end of each pattern. I really can't remember where though. May 18, 2020 at 7:36
  • 1
    @SteveBennett - you probably have, but it gets tedious when trying to read it. And, it will depend, as I said, as to where and how much the emphases are needed.
    – Tim
    May 18, 2020 at 7:41

There's a modern convention to notate bars that add up to 4/4 but have irregular 8th groupings as 8/8. Using the same logic I would notate this in 16/8.

Using 8ths rather than quarters as the unit has the advantage of making it easy to show beat groups by beaming. Some composers would state the groupings (as in my example). I'd consider this implicit in the notation, therefore unnecessary.

enter image description here


I think a lot of it is how you feel the pulse of the music and in what tempo. For the first tune, if you feel it in bars of 4/4 at around 126bpm, the repeated melody is in 8th notes and the motif is 4 bars long. However, if you feel it bars of 4/4 at half that tempo, the motif is 2 bars long and the repeated melody is in 16th notes. I have never seen 8/4 written out before and for a piece of music like the first one you posted, it would be easier to read as an 8th note melody, so why not break it up that way.

That being said, if you want to think of it as 1 bar containing 8 quarter notes, then go ahead, especially if it makes it easier to read.


I’m with @meganoob on the first piece, it sounds like a 4 bar motif with a syncopated 2 bar 8th note rhythmic pattern in 4/4 time.

As for the second slower piece, this I hear as 3+2+3, not 3+3+2. The notes of the basic pattern fall on 1,3,4,6 so the last note on beat 6 is a 3 count.

I hear this as 8th notes in slow 4/4, about 53bpm. You could also could write it out as 8/8 grouped as 3+2+3. As mentioned in other answers and comments 8/4 is very unusual, I don’t recall ever seeing it. It’s better to go with an 8th note pulse.

enter image description here


It is quite common practice to note groupings in the time signature, like 2+2+3 over 8 instead of 7 over 8.

  • If this were elaborated upon, it would make a nice answer.
    – user45266
    May 18, 2020 at 17:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.