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Thread: Time signatures when composing

  1. #1
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    Default Time signatures when composing

    So when composing, time signatures seem unnatural to me. I start with 4/4 then I feel like I have to force everything to fit in using awkward rests or held notes. I get there’s a benefit of having the page divided to make is easier for the player to sight read so I’m not sure what the solution is. The Beatles for example would come up with melodies without concern for time signatures and it would end up in bizzare time signatures, but their songs are pop (nothing against it) with repitition. It works less when the melody is constantly changing. I’m of the impression that time signatures themselves are a social construct, and it is not the epitome of musical language.

    I’m wondering what Is the best work around for this.
    Option 1: have a time signature which is constantly changing. 14/4 for line one then 7/4 for line 2 and so on. Each main phrase gets its own time signature, that way at the very least the piece is broken down making it easier for the conductor to start at a certain passage.

    Option 2: have phrases start at awkward times in the measure

    Option 3: adjust the music to force it to end where it’s supposed to end in the measure. Changing the half note to a dotted quarter note and so on, or use lots of breaks.

    Option 4: maybe this really represents my deficiencies as a composer; and that I ought to think more closely to the pulse of the first beat which when composing I’m absent of.


    Thanks

  2. #2
    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    You should do whatever comes naturally to you while composing. You can always analyze afterwards how to re-design time signatures throughout to make it simpler to the conductor/players eyes and mind. Complexity is okay for the performing elite, but for average players it's to be avoided.

    My personal take:

    Usually the purpose of time signatures is to group the downbeat as the "strong" one with the following notes that continue until the next "strong" beat which would then be the start of the next measure. It does not matter whether this results in odd/rarely used meters or frequently changing more standard ones, but clearly for most players the less of those the better. Sometimes using accent marks in the middle of a measure will suffice to give the impression of the start of a phrase, so that odd/rarely used meters or frequently changing ones can be avoided.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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    Thanks for the reply! I’ve been using standard measures to keep it safe, but I’ll try to use abnormal measures and see how that goes.

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    Don't worry about it. Look at Brahms - he's shifting the meter and pulse about constantly in his pieces. All the way through his career. Listen to the opening of the op18 Sextet - nothing about it sounds like 3/4, but that's the time-sig. Check the the 1st symphony. All over the place the first beat of the bar is actually silent. If ever there was a man who wrote 'through the bar-line' it was Brahms.

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