transcribing time signatures

Slazaar

Member
Hi, just wondering how do drummers interpret the time signature of a song?
When you listen, how do you accurately predict when a bar begins and ends?

This is especially troublesome when I'm trying to transcribe a song which has sudden rests here and there and i cant phantom whether they're whole/quarter/etc rests.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
1) Trial and error. There are plenty of things I think are one thing, but then I realize they are different when I break them down.

2) Experience.

3) And understanding the basics of how songs are formed.

If you have a drum machine or computer program, try programing out the part in questions, which will give you a visual reference to figure out the note values.
 

toddy

Platinum Member
in terms of playing time signatures, having an internal clock/using a metrenome.
in terms of transcribing, i would suggest you get a music theory book to learn more about time signatures and why they are used (e.g. 6/4 vs 6/8, which are completely different).
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
6/4 and 6/8 are not completely different. Yes, there most common uses are quite different. But common usage does not make a definition. Any style, feel, groove that can be written in 6/8, can also be written in 6/4 - and probably has been at some point.

Sure common usages might give one a better guess at the time signature of a specific transcription - but just from hearing something (transcribing it), there is no way to no for sure of how it was written. At least, when it comes to the bottom number. Common usages just allow you to make a best guess.

A may seem like picking a nit - but I so often see players get hung on time signatures because their definitions are like 6/8 = march, 4/4 = rock, 12/8 = shuffle, etc. And while those example are often true - the only rules are 1. the number determines the number of beats per bar and 2. the bottom number defines the rhythmic value (whole, half, eighth, sixteenth, etc) that counts for one beat.

David
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
Hi, just wondering how do drummers interpret the time signature of a song?
When you listen, how do you accurately predict when a bar begins and ends?

This is especially troublesome when I'm trying to transcribe a song which has sudden rests here and there and i cant phantom whether they're whole/quarter/etc rests.
Be sure you are paying attention to not just the drum parts, but the rhythms of all the other parts of the music as well. Then while listening, tap along and count. If you're listening to everyone, and being sensitive to the possible ebb and flow of all the parts/performances, you should be able to suss out timing grid or roadmap they are all playing to.

David
 

drumtechdad

Gold Member
A may seem like picking a nit - but I so often see players get hung on time signatures because their definitions are like 6/8 = march, 4/4 = rock, 12/8 = shuffle, etc. And while those example are often true - the only rules are 1. the number determines the number of beats per bar and 2. the bottom number defines the rhythmic value (whole, half, eighth, sixteenth, etc) that counts for one beat.

David
Another fallacy that seems hard to eradicate is the notion that music written in 8th-note signatures must be fast, while music written in quarter-note signatures must be slower.

It's all the composer's choice, and counter-examples abound. There is common practice, but that's all it is. 6/8 = 6/4 = 6/2 = 6/16, period. A smart composer chooses the signature that makes the music easiest to read.

Back at conservatory, all the classical cats used to sit down and listen to the latest Zappa/Weather Report/Mahavishnu disc and make a parlor game of "what's that meter?" Interpretations would vary: was that 4/4 + 3/4, or was it 7/4? In the end it doesn't matter as long as you get to the heart of the music.
 

toddy

Platinum Member
6/4 and 6/8 are not completely different. Yes, there most common uses are quite different. But common usage does not make a definition. Any style, feel, groove that can be written in 6/8, can also be written in 6/4 - and probably has been at some point.

Sure common usages might give one a better guess at the time signature of a specific transcription - but just from hearing something (transcribing it), there is no way to no for sure of how it was written. At least, when it comes to the bottom number. Common usages just allow you to make a best guess.

A may seem like picking a nit - but I so often see players get hung on time signatures because their definitions are like 6/8 = march, 4/4 = rock, 12/8 = shuffle, etc. And while those example are often true - the only rules are 1. the number determines the number of beats per bar and 2. the bottom number defines the rhythmic value (whole, half, eighth, sixteenth, etc) that counts for one beat.

David
sorry, i shouldn't have written it the way i did, no offence intended. :)
i agree that anything can be written in 6/8 or 6/4.
 

TheGroceryman

Silver Member
The only reason one should differentiate between 6/8 and 6/4 etc. are if you change time signatures rather often.

For example, if a song starts in 4/4, then goes into 6/8, the feel will sound radically different than if you went from 4/4 to 6/4. Same the other way around. 6/8 to 4/4 has a different feel than 6/4 to 4/4. This distinction can really change the way someone composes music if you want multiple feels within your song.

for example, my high school wind ensemble played this piece called "Ride." The composer changed sig's constantly, from 4/4 to 3/4 to 5/8 to 6/8 to 7/8 to 6/4 to 7/4. I thought it was absolute genius the way he changed the feels by going from a 3/4 to a 7/8 or from a 4/4 to a 7/4.

take a listen, its really hard to figure out what time signature you're on:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U2jBiIbQoM

btw, this song was a BLAST! to play....that sax solo is gorgeous.
 

toddy

Platinum Member
basically, i should have done what he did ^
i know exactly where you are coming from, and i agree. and it's awesome fun.
 

dcrigger

Senior Member
The only reason one should differentiate between 6/8 and 6/4 etc. are if you change time signatures rather often.

For example, if a song starts in 4/4, then goes into 6/8, the feel will sound radically different than if you went from 4/4 to 6/4. Same the other way around. 6/8 to 4/4 has a different feel than 6/4 to 4/4. This distinction can really change the way someone composes music if you want multiple feels within your song.

for example, my high school wind ensemble played this piece called "Ride." The composer changed sig's constantly, from 4/4 to 3/4 to 5/8 to 6/8 to 7/8 to 6/4 to 7/4. I thought it was absolute genius the way he changed the feels by going from a 3/4 to a 7/8 or from a 4/4 to a 7/4.
Yes - unless instructions are written otherwise, the bottom numbers of the time signatures are relative to each other - just like the rhythmic values they represent. So a bar of 4/4 followed by a bar of 3/8 followed by a bar of 5/4 would be counted -

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 2 3 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 &

David
 
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