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Sheet Music Theory: Irregular Time Signatures And Grouping

Aug 29, 2008
Once you have a firm understanding of simple and compound time you will be ready to learn to interpret irregular time. You can then also begin to understand the methods used to group notes in all types of time. From there on it will be a matter of sitting down to actual sheet music and seeing if you can put your knowledge to use. First you must learn to read and understand irregular time.

Irregular time will have a top number that is greater than four. It will not, however, be divisible by three. Some examples of this sort of time include 5/8, 7/8 and 11/8 times. The same basic rules that you have learned for compound time will also apply here. The main difference is the number of beats per bar will not turn out as neatly as they do for simple or compound time.

You know have a basic understanding of all three types of time signatures. You are now ready to move on to how notes can be grouped in each type of time. The first thing you must know is that there are very few rules that must be followed. When you are grouping notes in simple time any that are less than one beat should be grouped together to make a single beat. An example of this in either 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4 time would be the grouping of eighth notes and sixteenth notes in order to equal a single quarter note beat.

If you are grouping eighth notes in either 2/4 or 3/4 time and they fill the entire bar then you can simply join them all together. 4/4 time is a bit different however. Each half of the bar must be joined separately. For example, if you have eight eighth notes in a bar you can join the first four and you can join the second four. When you join notes in this manner it is known beaming the notes. One rule of note when beaming in 4/4 time is that it is okay to do so to the first and second notes and the third and fourth notes, but you should not beam eighth notes across the second and third beat.

Once you begin grouping notes in irregular time you will find that there are no rules set in stone that must be followed. Take 5/8 time for example, it could be grouped as two eighth notes plus three eighth notes. This could be reversed as well. You might also find either a half note followed by an eighth note or an eighth note followed by a half note. One of the most famous examples of music that contain five beats for each bar is the second movement of Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony. As you move on to sheet music with an even higher top number you will find even more possible combinations.

Now that you have all the basics down for being able to recognize irregular time and to group notes by beaming you will soon find that you are ready to practice doing so. Get some lined paper and draw your stave. Now add a time signature and place some notes on each bar. You can then practice your new found skill by beaming the correct notes.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music grouping, guitar tab, and home theater audio.
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