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  #1  
Old 08-27-2013, 01:57 PM
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Default Time signatures, help needed

Hi guys,

this is me and my friend Milda playing rhythms on our balafons [link to video].
What time signature is this played in?

We've been playing different time signatures (in 3 or 4, 5, 7 or 12), but not sure how to write those down correctly.
What would it mean if I write say.. 3/4, or 8/12, or 5/10?

(I beg you pardon greatly for my ignorance in music theory! :)
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  #2  
Old 08-27-2013, 02:51 PM
iwearnohats iwearnohats is offline
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Ok.

Simple explanation is:

Top number: Number of notes in the bar...
Bottom number: ... of the subdivision represented by this number.

So, 4/4 = 4x 1/4 notes (or crotchets). 6/8 = 6x 1/8 notes (quavers).

You could use, say, 10/10, which would be 10x 8th note quintuplets per bar. I have never seen odd note subdivisions used as the pulse, however.

Generally, when you're defining the bottom note (the pulse), you have to consider the context of what you're playing. So for example, if you have a bar that is in 7/8, depending on what you're playing it might be more appropriate based on the pulse to notate it as two bars of 7/16.

When I'm working out a time signature, I start with 8th notes, and if you play alternating 16th note single strokes with your hand, then it's easier to work out if you should actually be counting an odd 16th note subdivision instead.

In the case of what you're playing in that video, the first half to me sounds like bars of 7/8 and 5/8 alternating.
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Old 08-27-2013, 04:18 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Time signatures are simple if you follow this simple rule. The top number ALWAYS equals the number of beats per measure. The bottom number ALWAYS equals the kind of not that gets one beat. The bottom number can ONLY be these numbers due to the limitation of notes available.:

1 = whole note
2 = half note
4 = quarter note
8 = eighth note
16 = sixteenth note
32 = thirty-second note
64 = sixty-fourth note

There is no 10 or 12 on the bottom because these are not notes.

I could not get your example to play on my computer long enough (memory issue) to be able to tell but I think it is in 7. I'll try to listen again on another computer. Remember the top number can be anything. In your case the bottom number is not relevant unless you are going to notate the music. I hope this helps.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:20 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Sometimes, with odd-time tunes, the meter is implied. That is, if you are playing 7/4, being that the tempo of the song has 7 notes per musical phrase, you CAN notate parts in 7/8 if the phrase is twice as fast.

In other words, say you are playing in 7, using a 12-12-123 kind of phrase where the relative tempo is 200bpm, that could be written as 7/8 BUT if you count half that speed at 100 bpm's, you'll still land on 1 when two of the 200bpm phrases were counted.

For example:

1-2-1-2-1-2-3/1-2-1-2-1-2-3 (7/8 x2) =
1----2----3----4----5----6----7 (7/4)

Seems confusing till you start counting and figuring out the math. Same thing works for 5:

1-2-1-2-3/1-2-1-2-3 (5/8 x2) =
1----2----3----4----5 (5/4)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvBQw00w3IM

Here is Zappa's Five-Five-FIVE from "Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar", as an example.
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Old 08-27-2013, 07:36 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zickos View Post
The bottom number ALWAYS equals the kind of not that gets one beat.
The bottom number can ONLY be these numbers due to the limitation of notes available.:

this is not entirely true

there are Irrational Meters used in cases of irrational bar lengths and are based on fractions of the full beat

so you may see things like 3/10 or 5/24

the bottom number still indicates the number of notes it will take to fill the whole note just not represented by the common note value

for example, A denominator of 5 would indicate that quarter note quintuplets are the basic unit of the bar, and the numerator, as in familiar time signatures, indicates the number of units in the bar. Thus, 3/5 would be a bar of 3 quarter note quintuplets.
Of course, you can, instead, treat these changes of denominator as metric modulations and tempo changes and could technically be written in a common time signature.

but they do exist in certain types of music and being written that way is necessary for proper interpretation
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Old 08-27-2013, 07:47 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
this is not entirely true

there are Irrational Meters used in cases of irrational bar lengths and are based on fractions of the full beat

so you may see things like 3/10 or 5/24

the bottom number still indicates the number of notes it will take to fill the whole note just not represented by the common note value

for example, A denominator of 5 would indicate that quarter note quintuplets are the basic unit of the bar, and the numerator, as in familiar time signatures, indicates the number of units in the bar. Thus, 3/5 would be a bar of 3 quarter note quintuplets.
Of course, you can, instead, treat these changes of denominator as metric modulations and tempo changes and could technically be written in a common time signature.

but they do exist in certain types of music and being written that way is necessary for proper interpretation
Certainly in Indian music, much like the scale theory they use, you CAN notate things in a polyrhythmic sense. If you were playing in a 5 feel, but wanted to superimpose 3 over it, you would write if 3/5. Now this makes little sense to a linear-thinking, Western musical person but a lot of world music does not play by the same rules. This is why I am getting into Efrain Toro's rhythm theories. It's blows the doors wide open to create rhythmic idea with NO limits. When we say, "Since note values in Western music are only divisible by 2's, 4's, 8's, 16's, etc... you can't do ___________" That creates a limitation. I don't like limitation. :)
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Old 08-27-2013, 07:56 PM
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  #7  
Old 08-27-2013, 10:08 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

In Western notation, the top number ALWAYS equals the number of beats per measure. The bottom number ALWAYS equals the kind of not that gets one beat. No exceptions. Can't speak for non Western notation.
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Old 08-27-2013, 10:34 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zickos View Post
In Western notation, the top number ALWAYS equals the number of beats per measure. The bottom number ALWAYS equals the kind of not that gets one beat. No exceptions. Can't speak for non Western notation.
simply not true

these "irrational meters" are found in classical music

even though they almost always resolve into a traditional time signature they are indeed used for a specific purpose within the piece by certain composers

Last edited by WhoIsTony?; 08-27-2013 at 10:44 PM.
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Old 08-27-2013, 10:43 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

I believe this is in 6/8 time.
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  #10  
Old 08-27-2013, 10:57 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
simply not true

these "irrational meters" are found in classical music

even though they almost always resolve into a traditional time signature they are indeed used for a specific purpose within the piece by certain composers
Perfectly true. To be fair, though, that's pretty obscure stuff. It's certainly nothing that most people here are ever going to see, or even need to know about. I never saw it, not on any studio chart, lead sheet or anywhere else.
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Old 08-27-2013, 11:03 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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Perfectly true. To be fair, though, that's pretty obscure stuff. It's certainly nothing that most people here are ever going to see, or even need to know about. I never saw it, not on any studio chart, lead sheet or anywhere else.
so that means it doesn't exist

gotcha

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Old 08-27-2013, 11:10 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
so that means it doesn't exist
What means what doesn't exist? Irrational meters? They exist alright, it's just that, as I said, they're pretty obscure, and certainly are nothing that most people here are ever going to see, or even need to know about. I never saw them, not on any studio chart, lead sheet or anywhere else.
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Old 08-27-2013, 11:33 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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Originally Posted by con struct View Post
What means what doesn't exist? Irrational meters? They exist alright, it's just that, as I said, they're pretty obscure, and certainly are nothing that most people here are ever going to see, or even need to know about. I never saw them, not on any studio chart, lead sheet or anywhere else.
classical percussionists indeed encounter them

and the point of my post was to counter the claim of "no exceptions" made by Zickos

there is absolutely an exception regardless of how often they show up in your charts

Last edited by WhoIsTony?; 08-28-2013 at 12:02 AM.
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  #14  
Old 08-27-2013, 11:59 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
classical percussionists indeed encounter them

and the point of my post was to counter the claim of "no exceptions" make by Zickos

there is absolutely an exception regardless of how often they show up in your charts
Except when there isn't an exception, of course.
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:49 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zickos View Post
In Western notation, the top number ALWAYS equals the number of beats per measure. The bottom number ALWAYS equals the kind of not that gets one beat. No exceptions.
That's the traditional explanation-- minus the caps and the word always-- and it's not very good. It's not accurate. There are always exceptions, but in none of the */8 meters, except occasionally 3/8 and 6/8, is the beat commonly felt in 8th notes. In 3, 6, 9, and 12/8 the beat is usually felt on the dotted quarter note pulse. The explanation I give is that the numbers tell you how many (top) of what kind of note (bottom) there are in a measure. So 3/4 means there are three quarter notes per measure; usually there are three beats per measure, sometimes there's one beat per measure.

Thanks for the 'irrational' meters link, WIT. It's a good explanation, and the closest thing to a legitimate function I can imagine for that type of thing-- transient metric modulations. I think it's an extremely flaky, un-performer-friendly practice, though, and I just want to ask them “You don't really want anyone to actually play your music, do you?” Nobody's going to put in the time it would take to master those rhythms exactly.
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Old 08-28-2013, 03:29 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

My bad. I should not use the words always and never. (Started to say never say never - maybe I should always never say never). I started to show a definition of time signatures from a music dictionary but I see now that they do in fact exist. I do agree with toddbishop in they are not practical and I doubt anyone save for a very few will ever encounter them let alone put in the time trying to play them.
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Old 08-28-2013, 03:30 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by toddbishop View Post
That's the traditional explanation-- minus the caps and the word always-- and it's not very good. It's not accurate. There are always exceptions, but in none of the */8 meters, except occasionally 3/8 and 6/8, is the beat commonly felt in 8th notes. In 3, 6, 9, and 12/8 the beat is usually felt on the dotted quarter note pulse. The explanation I give is that the numbers tell you how many (top) of what kind of note (bottom) there are in a measure. So 3/4 means there are three quarter notes per measure; usually there are three beats per measure, sometimes there's one beat per measure.

Thanks for the 'irrational' meters link, WIT. It's a good explanation, and the closest thing to a legitimate function I can imagine for that type of thing-- transient metric modulations. I think it's an extremely flaky, un-performer-friendly practice, though, and I just want to ask them “You don't really want anyone to actually play your music, do you?” Nobody's going to put in the time it would take to master those rhythms exactly.
In Zickos' defense, as far as the exceptions are concerned it's almost universally a matter of "so what?" I've had hundreds, perhaps thousands, of charts placed in front of me in my career and they have all conformed to the system he described. Who would need another way?

Speaking of which, I find your description of irrational meters as being "an extremely flaky, un-performer-friendly practice" to be dead-on.

“You don't really want anyone to actually play your music, do you?” Hah!
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:46 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by toddbishop View Post

Thanks for the 'irrational' meters link, WIT. It's a good explanation, and the closest thing to a legitimate function I can imagine for that type of thing-- transient metric modulations. I think it's an extremely flaky, un-performer-friendly practice, though, and I just want to ask them “You don't really want anyone to actually play your music, do you?” Nobody's going to put in the time it would take to master those rhythms exactly.
Impractical for sure in most cases

but they do exist and are an exception to Zickos "no exceptions" theory

I would have never known they existed if not for them being brought up while studying with Bill Platt of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

he insisted we have somewhat of an understanding of these if for nothing else but to help understand certain modulations of pieces he put in front of us and how they were meant to be interpreted
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Old 08-28-2013, 05:52 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Huh, I guess it's more of a real thing than I was aware of-- I thought I'd been exposed to my share of out modern percussion music in school, but I've never played a piece using those types of meters, or had them discussed at all that I can recall. It seems very hostile to the performer, and self-defeating for composers to write that way.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:26 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Unless of course, your performers are well versed in applying the bizarre measures :)

Personally, I can't conceive ever writing something in, say, 7/10, but who knows what'll be doing in 20 years time?

I love the idea that in music, we have the freedom to do almost absolutely anything to express what is in our minds, even if most people almost always resort to I - V - IV (killlll)
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Old 08-28-2013, 09:26 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

I can't even begin to imagine it. Can anyone link an example of what a measure of "X/10" would sound like?
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:52 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

I'll see what I can come up with :)

Edit: I have created the video, and it is uploading as we speak. Please check this link, at this point it's got another 40 minutes to go:
Link removed: PM me if you want it

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Old 08-30-2013, 08:27 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Not even a thank you? :(
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Old 08-30-2013, 10:15 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

My I humbly suggest my own video lesson, specifically on the topic?

Try this: http://youtu.be/mC8OcZmst5g
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:19 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

hey..

things get interesting when you start throwing in concepts such as artifical grouping.

usually noted like...

5:10

...sometimes with brackets over the written music showing where the grouping occurs.

This would indicate that 5 'notes' in the indicated music would be handled in the same passage of time that 10 of the same 'notes' would usually occupy...

..and is spoken "five to ten"...though i have heard it spoken "five ten"...without the 'to'...so this can get a bit interesting to tell someone that I am playing a "five ten" phrase and see how they deal with what they think is a poor understanding of music thoery on my part...

The ratio is not always fewer to greater, of course...could be something like 5:3...where 5 notes take the same time as 3 like notes would per the written signature/tempo.

Its a delight to run into a musician who gets it when I do an artificially grouped passage and doesnt respond like it was a mistake...but laughs and moves with it...only found one guitar player so far in 30+ years who recognized and moved with it on the fly.
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:52 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

So, notation-wise, what does a 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 or 12 note look like?
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:14 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zickos View Post
So, notation-wise, what does a 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 or 12 note look like?
Work through Mighty Jokers's tutorial...then once you have the ideas...check out a basic google search and you will find the different ways quarter, half, whole, eighth, sixteenth(etc...) notes are drawn.

Dont start out with the physical form of them ...start out with the idea...

my 2 cents...
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Zickos View Post
So, notation-wise, what does a 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 or 12 note look like?
They're notated the same way as triplets. Select the most appropriate 'regular' subdivision (eg. 1/4 notes, 1/8 notes, 1/16 notes), create your group (including rests if you want) and then notate them with a 5 or 7 or whatever instead of a '3' where you'd put the marking for a triplet.
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:36 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

This will probably catch on eventually and be main stream. I just hope I don't live long enough to have to play it. Something about old dog and new tricks.
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:49 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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This will probably catch on eventually and be main stream. I just hope I don't live long enough to have to play it. Something about old dog and new tricks.
this made me laugh pretty good

thanks for the giggle on an otherwise kinda crappy night
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:13 AM
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this made me laugh pretty good

thanks for the giggle on an otherwise kinda crappy night
Glad I could be of service.
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Old 08-31-2013, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Ian Ballard View Post
Certainly in Indian music, much like the scale theory they use, you CAN notate things in a polyrhythmic sense. If you were playing in a 5 feel, but wanted to superimpose 3 over it, you would write if 3/5. Now this makes little sense to a linear-thinking, Western musical person but a lot of world music does not play by the same rules. This is why I am getting into Efrain Toro's rhythm theories. It's blows the doors wide open to create rhythmic idea with NO limits. When we say, "Since note values in Western music are only divisible by 2's, 4's, 8's, 16's, etc... you can't do ___________" That creates a limitation. I don't like limitation. :)
I don't think assigning a note value to things will "create limitation". Poly-rhythms and note values aren't really the same thing; in other words, a 3/5 poly-rhythm could get played over a 4/4 time signature.
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:16 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

I've spent years working with the odd tuplets up to 19. (Thanks to Mike Mangini). I had never heard of anyone using the odd tuplet as the note value in a time sig but, technically, the concept is valid.

No jazz or prog music that I have ever heard has ever used these irrational meters, though.

Wild stuff but I will leave it to the musicologists.
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:24 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

If you watch my video you'll see someone doing it basically on the spot :P

It actually isn't that weird at all, really. Imagine if you wanted to play 7 quintuplets in a row, but then not get stuck trying to fill out the rest of the measure with suitable note and rest values. Throw in an irrational time signature and it's easy :)
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Old 08-31-2013, 01:36 PM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

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Originally Posted by iwearnohats View Post
If you watch my video you'll see someone doing it basically on the spot :P

It actually isn't that weird at all, really. Imagine if you wanted to play 7 quintuplets in a row, but then not get stuck trying to fill out the rest of the measure with suitable note and rest values. Throw in an irrational time signature and it's easy :)
I checked out your vid. you did a good job. What you're saying about the 7/5, for example, is easy as long as you only play the quintuplet note vale in the irrational (7/5) time signature.

Imagine having a song in 7/5 and then having to play quarter notes etc in the 7/5. Ugh. Even worse, playing septuplets in a time signature where the quintuplet is the note value. I could hash it out but it would not be walk in the park.

But yes, your video did a good job of explaining the idea. Thanks for posting it.
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:06 PM
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Haha, thanks :)

The way I see it is that you would use it to create a brief change in a song, ie. you might have the predominant time signature being something more rational, but then want to have a moment that has a bit of time modulation without actually changing the tempo. I can't see it being used as a dominant time signature, though. I mean, obviously you could have 5/5 as a time signature, but why not just use 4/4? I think it would have more usefulness for those modulated moments in finer subdivisions, eg. /10, /14, /18, etc.
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Old 09-02-2013, 03:07 AM
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Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by iwearnohats View Post
Not even a thank you? :(
Jesus. Didn't I marry you some years back? Thought I was reading a post from my missus for a minute there. :-)

I capable of many things mate. Alas, the ability to send thanks via telepathy before I've read the forum and seen the post is a bridge too far (as is the comprehension of a X/10 time sig, so it would appear).

However, now that I am aware you've put it up......please accept my thanks indeed. That was great. I'll admit to still not fully comprehending the concept, but the vid certainly helps give me a basic understanding. It's certainly not something I've ever encountered before.

Thanks again. Appreciate the time and effort.
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  #38  
Old 09-02-2013, 08:26 AM
iwearnohats iwearnohats is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Australia
Posts: 620
Default Re: Time signatures, help needed

Haha, no worries, I waited two days or something before I posted that response and NOBODY had commented :P
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