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  1. #1

    reading time signature changes - question

    tune starts out in 2/2.

    Leader says I'm counting half notes and counts it off. 1 2 1 2. Lets call that 75 bpm. That is, you're tapping your foot on the count at 75 taps per minute. Half note gets one beat, or, stated another way, half note gets one tap.

    Time signature changes to 4/4.

    At that point, the way the band did it, the quarter note was at 150 bpm. If you tap your foot to the quarter note you're tapping 150 taps per minute. That means, the quarter note stayed the same. And, apparently, that's the correct way to approach it.

    But, it seems to me, that in 2/2 a half note gets one beat while in 4/4 a quarter note gets one beat. So, by that logic, the issue is what you're referring to as a "beat". I guess that's wrong, or, otherwise, the original foot tap would have become quarters instead of halfs.

    Can anyone clarify how to think about this?

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  3. #2
    Think of it as the quarter notes need to go by at the same pace between the two time signatures.

    You can think of it from any subdivision, though. If you are switching from 4/4 to 7/8, the eighth notes keep going at the same pace.

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  4. #3
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    I run into cut time in jazz orchestra frequently, and it gets confusing because it gets used for different reasons. I've performed a St Louis Blues chart written in 2/2 because it has a strong 2 beat to it, because it's like a march.

    On the other hand, I've played some 30's foxtrots written in cut time or 2/2, because they were so darn fast that if written in 4/4, all the notation would be 1/16 note rhythms, so written in 2/2 allows an easier read because it could use 1/8 notes. I know it's confusing, because lots of charts are in mixed 2/2 and 4/4 meter.

    It's kinda like two measures of 2/2 would = one measure of 4/4.

    Here's some videos to further confuse it.




  5. #4
    [QUOTE=cosmic gumbo;947794]I run into cut time in jazz orchestra frequentlyxed 2/2 and 4/4 meter.

    It's kinda like two measures of 2/2 would = one measure of 4/4.

    What happened today was that the 4/4 seemed like double time 2/2.

    Meaning, I think (it's confusing) that one bar of 2/2 took the same amount of actual time as one bar of 4/4.

    Or, stated another way, in the bar of 2/2 there were 4 quarter notes, each taking half a beat. And, I'm tapping my foot in half notes. Two slow taps per bar. 2 quarter notes per tap.

    In the bar of 4/4 there were four quarter notes. Each quarter, apparently, is supposed to last the same amount of time as in 2/2. So, this time, I'm tapping my foot in quarter notes Four quick (twice as fast as before) taps per bar.

    Anyway, thanks for the replies. I think I've got it now.

  6. #5
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    reading time signature changes - question

    [QUOTE=rpjazzguitar;947801]
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    I run into cut time in jazz orchestra frequentlyxed 2/2 and 4/4 meter.

    It's kinda like two measures of 2/2 would = one measure of 4/4.

    What happened today was that the 4/4 seemed like double time 2/2.

    Meaning, I think (it's confusing) that one bar of 2/2 took the same amount of actual time as one bar of 4/4.

    Or, stated another way, in the bar of 2/2 there were 4 quarter notes, each taking half a beat. And, I'm tapping my foot in half notes. Two slow taps per bar. 2 quarter notes per tap.

    In the bar of 4/4 there were four quarter notes. Each quarter, apparently, is supposed to last the same amount of time as in 2/2. So, this time, I'm tapping my foot in quarter notes Four quick (twice as fast as before) taps per bar.

    Anyway, thanks for the replies. I think I've got it now.
    Miles Davis Quintet

    Moves from 2/2 (two feel) to 4/4 are a standard arrangement feature of that era of jazz.

    I think what you ran into is a notational convention and are probably over thinking it.

    But yeah 2/2 is the same amount of time as 4/4. Really if you are playing rhythm the only change you need make is to play a little more even in 4/4 and play the 2 and 4 a touch more sharply in 2/2. (Not a dynamic accent per se - that’s a mistake a lot of people make.)

    On many charts this is actually notated and is usually what the arranger actually means if they write chords only on 2 and 4 (the 1 and 3 disappears into the ensemble.)

    Furthermore it’s a good idea to get comfortable swapping from 4/4 to 2/2 and even 1/1 as these different macrobeat amalgamations will help with feeling tempos north of 200 (2/2) and around 300 (1/1)

  7. #6
    The difference between 2/2 and 4/4 is purely arbitrary on paper , but even relative non-musicians can feel the difference. I have a piece I'm doing with a very VERY amateur choir which alternates between straightahead 4/4 and cut-time feels between sections. Even though the whole thing is notated in 4/4, there are issues with it, and we basically had to break it down a little and practice counting in 2/2 on the halftime sections. It presents a visual conflict vs what you're hearing even if notated the same.

    In modern music feels, a "big 2" seems to help in immediately feeling/implying the shift from one to the other.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 04-15-2019 at 02:54 PM.

  8. #7
    [QUOTE=christianm77;947805]
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post

    Miles Davis Quintet

    Moves from 2/2 (two feel) to 4/4 are a standard arrangement feature of that era of jazz.

    I think what you ran into is a notational convention and are probably over thinking it.

    But yeah 2/2 is the same amount of time as 4/4. Really if you are playing rhythm the only change you need make is to play a little more even in 4/4 and play the 2 and 4 a touch more sharply in 2/2. (Not a dynamic accent per se - that’s a mistake a lot of people make.)

    On many charts this is actually notated and is usually what the arranger actually means if they write chords only on 2 and 4 (the 1 and 3 disappears into the ensemble.)

    Furthermore it’s a good idea to get comfortable swapping from 4/4 to 2/2 and even 1/1 as these different macrobeat amalgamations will help with feeling tempos north of 200 (2/2) and around 300 (1/1)
    Thanks for the reply. This was a big band chart which began with 10 bars of 2/2, during which the guitar was out (10 bars of rest). The time signature then changed to 4/4 with, as I recall, a few more bars of rest. So, the issue was simply to count it correctly.

    So it's 10 bars of ONE TWO at 75bpm. Then switch to ONE TWO THREE FOUR at 150bpm. Well, at least, that's one way to think about it.

    Thanks for the help.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    So it's 10 bars of ONE TWO at 75bpm. Then switch to ONE TWO THREE FOUR at 150bpm. Well, at least, that's one way to think about it.
    Yeah. Maybe mentally counting that last bar of 2/2 as "one AND two AND" to set the tempo 4/4 solidly.

  10. #9
    [QUOTE=rpjazzguitar;947801]
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    I run into cut time in jazz orchestra frequentlyxed 2/2 and 4/4 meter.

    It's kinda like two measures of 2/2 would = one measure of 4/4.

    What happened today was that the 4/4 seemed like double time 2/2.

    Meaning, I think (it's confusing) that one bar of 2/2 took the same amount of actual time as one bar of 4/4.

    Or, stated another way, in the bar of 2/2 there were 4 quarter notes, each taking half a beat. And, I'm tapping my foot in half notes. Two slow taps per bar. 2 quarter notes per tap.

    In the bar of 4/4 there were four quarter notes. Each quarter, apparently, is supposed to last the same amount of time as in 2/2. So, this time, I'm tapping my foot in quarter notes Four quick (twice as fast as before) taps per bar.

    Anyway, thanks for the replies. I think I've got it now.

    One bar of 2/2 doesn't take the same amount of time as a bar of 4/4 in a piece that has both unless there's a tempo change noted. And the quarters don't occupy the same amount of time because the tempo is the same. In comparison, the quarters in 2/2 sound like eighths in 4/4. The beat ( not the quarter notes ) in each of these takes the same amount of time but how it is represented varies.

    I thought the video of CG's mentioning the pulse was an important aspect of this because it does change the feel, in particular, the march feel.

  11. #10
    [QUOTE=keith;947951]
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post


    One bar of 2/2 doesn't take the same amount of time as a bar of 4/4 in a piece that has both unless there's a tempo change noted. And the quarters don't occupy the same amount of time because the tempo is the same. In comparison, the quarters in 2/2 sound like eighths in 4/4. The beat ( not the quarter notes ) in each of these takes the same amount of time but how it is represented varies.

    I thought the video of CG's mentioning the pulse was an important aspect of this because it does change the feel, in particular, the march feel.
    What happened yesterday was that one bar of 2/2 took the same amount of time as one bar of 4/4. No tempo change was noted. This is a band filled with old pros. Hard to believe they'd get it wrong.

    This way of counting is consistent with another chart. That one was in 2/4. Suddenly, there was one bar of 3/8. After that, more bars of 2/4. How to count it?

    Let's say you're tapping you foot in 2/4, on quarter notes. When you get to the 3/8 bar, what happens? I think that the quarter note stays the same. So you tap your foot twice (quarters) in the 3/8 bar. BUT, the second tap is shortened. Meaning, that you drop an eighth note after that tap. The next tap occurs when your foot would have been at the top of its travel.

    So it's tap (quarter) tap (quarter) tap (quarter) taptap (eighths) and then back to quarters.

    My point is that in this case and in the big band chart, the quarter stays the same. The 3/8 bar could be sensibly notated as 1.5/4. That is, one and one half quarter notes. Mathematically, it's the same thing.

    Or, stated yet another way, it's like a count-in. One, Two, onetwothreefour.

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post

    What happened yesterday was that one bar of 2/2 took the same amount of time as one bar of 4/4. No tempo change was noted. This is a band filled with old pros. Hard to believe they'd get it wrong.

    This way of counting is consistent with another chart. That one was in 2/4. Suddenly, there was one bar of 3/8. After that, more bars of 2/4. How to count it?

    Let's say you're tapping you foot in 2/4, on quarter notes. When you get to the 3/8 bar, what happens? I think that the quarter note stays the same. So you tap your foot twice (quarters) in the 3/8 bar. BUT, the second tap is shortened. Meaning, that you drop an eighth note after that tap. The next tap occurs when your foot would have been at the top of its travel.

    So it's tap (quarter) tap (quarter) tap (quarter) taptap (eighths) and then back to quarters.

    My point is that in this case and in the big band chart, the quarter stays the same. The 3/8 bar could be sensibly notated as 1.5/4. That is, one and one half quarter notes. Mathematically, it's the same thing.

    Or, stated yet another way, it's like a count-in. One, Two, onetwothreefour.
    Oy. I just probably wouldn't be tapping my foot for that. For some things it's just not as helpful.

    The easiest way to think about something like that, for me, is least common denominator, which is 8th notes. So, 1-&-2-&|1-2-3| where all 5 of those syllables are of equal length/tempo.

    If anything, just tap on 1 of the 3/8 measure.

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    Oy. I just probably wouldn't be tapping my foot for that. For some things it's just not as helpful.

    The easiest way to think about something like that, for me, is least common denominator, which is 8th notes. So, 1-&-2-&|1-2-3| where all 5 of those syllables are of equal length/tempo.

    If anything, just tap on 1 of the 3/8 measure.
    That was just a way of explaining where the pulse is.

    Actual foot-tapping is a different topic. I've looked at it a bit. There are great players who do it every which way.

    I find it easiest to think of the 3/8 measure as 1.5/4. Makes it clear that you're dropping half a beat.
    Or 1 & 2 & 1 & 2 1.

  14. #13
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  15. #14
    [QUOTE=rpjazzguitar;947961]
    Quote Originally Posted by keith View Post

    What happened yesterday was that one bar of 2/2 took the same amount of time as one bar of 4/4. No tempo change was noted. This is a band filled with old pros. Hard to believe they'd get it wrong.

    This way of counting is consistent with another chart. That one was in 2/4. Suddenly, there was one bar of 3/8. After that, more bars of 2/4. How to count it?

    Let's say you're tapping you foot in 2/4, on quarter notes. When you get to the 3/8 bar, what happens? I think that the quarter note stays the same. So you tap your foot twice (quarters) in the 3/8 bar. BUT, the second tap is shortened. Meaning, that you drop an eighth note after that tap. The next tap occurs when your foot would have been at the top of its travel.

    So it's tap (quarter) tap (quarter) tap (quarter) taptap (eighths) and then back to quarters.

    My point is that in this case and in the big band chart, the quarter stays the same. The 3/8 bar could be sensibly notated as 1.5/4. That is, one and one half quarter notes. Mathematically, it's the same thing.

    Or, stated yet another way, it's like a count-in. One, Two, onetwothreefour.

    I can't comment on what you heard the other night but all I was saying previously is that just looking at the time signatures, 2/2 is a bar that has 2 beats and 4/4 is a bar that has 4 beats, so it will take longer finish being at the same tempo. As in Cosmic's video above it will take 2 bars of 2/2 to equal the time of one bar of 4/4 at the same tempo. I will say that if you're going from 4/4 to 2/2 in the same piece and the same line is written i( say a quarter note arpeggio ) in each bar, the 2/2 bar will sound faster because those notes you just heard in 4/4 are being squeezed into the time of 2 beats. Hence the 4 quarters in 4/4 will sound like eighths in 2/2.

    In your example of 2/4 to 3/8 you asked how to count it. To my way of looking at this you're just counting beats. So 2/4 there are 2 beats and 3/8, 3 beats. The one beat quarter note in 2/4 will be 2 beats in 3/8 just because the eighth note has a single beat in 3/8 so 2 eighths ( one quarter ) will have 2 beats. In looking at the notes that are written in these changed time signatures you have to relate them to what in the time signature gets the beat, so 3/8, the eighth note gets the beat so a written sixteenth in 3/8 will get half a beat.

    The feel in 2/4, I believe, would be strong on 1 weak on 2 where 3/8 would be a 3 feel strong weak weak.

  16. #15
    [QUOTE=keith;948111]
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post


    I can't comment on what you heard the other night but all I was saying previously is that just looking at the time signatures, 2/2 is a bar that has 2 beats and 4/4 is a bar that has 4 beats, so it will take longer finish being at the same tempo. As in Cosmic's video above it will take 2 bars of 2/2 to equal the time of one bar of 4/4 at the same tempo. I will say that if you're going from 4/4 to 2/2 in the same piece and the same line is written i( say a quarter note arpeggio ) in each bar, the 2/2 bar will sound faster because those notes you just heard in 4/4 are being squeezed into the time of 2 beats. Hence the 4 quarters in 4/4 will sound like eighths in 2/2.

    In your example of 2/4 to 3/8 you asked how to count it. To my way of looking at this you're just counting beats. So 2/4 there are 2 beats and 3/8, 3 beats. The one beat quarter note in 2/4 will be 2 beats in 3/8 just because the eighth note has a single beat in 3/8 so 2 eighths ( one quarter ) will have 2 beats. In looking at the notes that are written in these changed time signatures you have to relate them to what in the time signature gets the beat, so 3/8, the eighth note gets the beat so a written sixteenth in 3/8 will get half a beat.

    The feel in 2/4, I believe, would be strong on 1 weak on 2 where 3/8 would be a 3 feel strong weak weak.
    Thanks for the reply.

    Let me make sure I understand this. Assume the metronome is set for 60 bpm; let's call that the "pulse" for the rest of this post. One pulse per second.

    In the bar of 2/4, presumably, the metronome pulses twice. That takes two seconds of clock time.

    Next bar is 3/8. In your view, is the 3/8 bar three seconds long? Or is it 1.5 seconds long?

    My view: When I first saw this, I was imagining tapping my foot in quarters in 2/4. Two taps
    is one bar. Then for the 3/8 bar, I thought, well, an eighth note gets one beat. So, I thought that would be three taps. But, apparently, that's not correct. Rather, the quarter note stays the same, so three eighths is 1 and 1/2 beats.

    It's as if you doubled the speed of the metronome to 120 and counted three pulses.

    I'm not sure if I'm saying the same thing as you, or not. Thoughts?

  17. #16
    [QUOTE=rpjazzguitar;948117]
    Quote Originally Posted by keith View Post

    Thanks for the reply.

    Let me make sure I understand this. Assume the metronome is set for 60 bpm; let's call that the "pulse" for the rest of this post. One pulse per second.

    In the bar of 2/4, presumably, the metronome pulses twice. That takes two seconds of clock time.

    Next bar is 3/8. In your view, is the 3/8 bar three seconds long? Or is it 1.5 seconds long?

    My view: When I first saw this, I was imagining tapping my foot in quarters in 2/4. Two taps
    is one bar. Then for the 3/8 bar, I thought, well, an eighth note gets one beat. So, I thought that would be three taps. But, apparently, that's not correct. Rather, the quarter note stays the same, so three eighths is 1 and 1/2 beats.

    It's as if you doubled the speed of the metronome to 120 and counted three pulses.

    I'm not sure if I'm saying the same thing as you, or not. Thoughts?

    Yes 2 beats a measure in 2/4, 3 in 3/8 if 60 beats/min then 2 seconds and 3 seconds

    You're correct in 3/8, three beats/taps per measure. The eighth note issue doesn't matter in the beats per measure. It only matters when you play the line in 3/8 and it tells you with this new time signature what note, the eighth, gets the whole beat. All other notes are relative to the eighth; quarter is 2 beats, dotted quarter 3 beats, half note is 4 etc; this relationship stands until the time signature changes again. The beat stays the same throughout unless noted.

    Three eighths being 1 1/2 beats is in 4/4, or for that matter anything/4. The tempo throughout stays the same but the weight/beats of a note that you label, say as the quarter, in say 4/4, will change if the denominator changes. So that quarter in 4/4 getting one beat, gets half a beat in 2/2, so it sounds faster as written in 2/2 and actually is because it's weight has changed relative to the beat because of the change in time signature. You have to redefine the weight of notes( how many beats they get ) when the denominator changes because that is what it is telling you; "what note gets a beat ". I could be wrong but you seem to be looking at everything as if in 4/4, the quarter getting the beat. You need to change that perspective for this. And remember the beat stays the same as you established at the beginning of the piece.

    I hope that's clearer.

  18. #17
    [QUOTE=keith;948178]
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post


    Yes 2 beats a measure in 2/4, 3 in 3/8 if 60 beats/min then 2 seconds and 3 seconds

    You're correct in 3/8, three beats/taps per measure. The eighth note issue doesn't matter in the beats per measure. It only matters when you play the line in 3/8 and it tells you with this new time signature what note, the eighth, gets the whole beat. All other notes are relative to the eighth; quarter is 2 beats, dotted quarter 3 beats, half note is 4 etc; this relationship stands until the time signature changes again. The beat stays the same throughout unless noted.

    Three eighths being 1 1/2 beats is in 4/4, or for that matter anything/4. The tempo throughout stays the same but the weight/beats of a note that you label, say as the quarter, in say 4/4, will change if the denominator changes. So that quarter in 4/4 getting one beat, gets half a beat in 2/2, so it sounds faster as written in 2/2 and actually is because it's weight has changed relative to the beat because of the change in time signature. You have to redefine the weight of notes( how many beats they get ) when the denominator changes because that is what it is telling you; "what note gets a beat ". I could be wrong but you seem to be looking at everything as if in 4/4, the quarter getting the beat. You need to change that perspective for this. And remember the beat stays the same as you established at the beginning of the piece.

    I hope that's clearer.
    I appreciate the explanation. I think I understand your view. My experience with playing in bands, though, goes in the other direction. That bar of 3/8 got played as one and one half quarter notes -- where the quarter note was the same as in the bar of 4/4 that immediately preceded the 3/8 bar.

    So, 1.5 seconds, not 3 seconds.

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