# Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

### Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Yes, I know I should let this go but much has been said or implied that needs clarification. I am NOT a theorist advocating “dots over ear”. I learned like many of you to play by ear long before I even knew you could write music down as notation. It was only when I began writing tunes that I decided to figure out “how” to convey a tune through notation. Notation can only approximate the basics of a tune but if one is familiar with the genre, (in this case ITM,) and can read notation, then one should be able to play a fair rendition of the tune from the notation. (That’s in no way meant to denigrate learning by ear on your own.) So here are a few basics which IMHO are important.

Time signature: I’ll stick with simple meters here, reels and hornpipes, polkas (jigs are compound meter so I’ll leave them out of the discussion). The two numbers in a time sig tell you two things: (1) how many beats per bar, (top number,) and (2) what kind of note gets the beat, (bottom number,)… period. So a tune notated in 4/4 time gets four beats per bar, with each beat falling on a ¼-note (crotchet.) A tune in 2/4 time (polka,) gets two beats per bar with each beat on a ¼-note. A tune in 2/2 time gets two beats per bar with each beat falling on a ½-note.

What does this mean for reels notated in 2/2 (cut-time) vs. 4/4? As Jim mentioned in an earlier thread, if you run it thru your software, not much. There are exactly the same number of 1/8-notes (quavers,) in a bar of 2/2 as 4/4… EIGHT! So what’s the diff? In 4/4, each PAIR of quavers gets a beat. In 2/2, each set of FOUR quavers get a beat. When properly notated this is indicated by “beaming” four quavers together in 2/2 while beaming pairs of quavers in 4/4. When playing reels of course you’re free to place emphasis wherever you want, (or none at all if you prefer the “metronomic” sound.) Sometimes a slower reel or hornpipe may sound better at 4 beats to the bar, but if you want to develop speed youll have it easier thinking 2/2 (IMO).

To illustrate, I’ve taken a snippet from “Maid Behind the Bar” played at our St Patrick’s day 2014 session and added “claps” to show the differences I’ve alluded to:

(1) Slowed down to 75% speed, 2/2 time, clap 2/bar (87 BPM): https://www.dropbox.com/s/n9nx9nj5ozbv5ba/MBB%202-2%2075%25.mp3

(2) Slowed down to 75% speed, 4/4 time, clap 4/bar (194 BPM): https://www.dropbox.com/s/1pkd2kqmo3f9ftc/MBB%204-4%2075%25.mp3

(3) Played at full speed, 2/2 time, clap 2/bar (117 BPM): (The way I feel it.) https://www.dropbox.com/s/vh1tr6a4kmznyzd/MBB%202-2.mp3

(4) Played at full speed, 4/4 time, clap 4/bar (234 BPM): (Sounds too busy IMO) https://www.dropbox.com/s/0ald8vmba6bfzxw/MBB%204-4.mp3

Notice that when beat in 4/4 time at a slower speed, clip (2), it doesn’t sound too bad. When you get up at speed though, clip (4), trying to beat at 234 BPM is distracting. Sometimes students who begin learning tunes by tapping four to the bar will lose it completely when coming up to speed. I encourage students to start slowly but tap it 2/bar so they’ll have less trouble getting in the grove at speed. If you play before an audience they will often fall into the “right” time immediately clapping along. Oh, if you want to hear the whole tune played at speed here’s the link. How would you clap along?
https://www.dropbox.com/s/p62co3iv4m6zulf/MBB.mp3

One last point. How you play with others is really all that matters; how you blend your music with theirs to make the “magic”. You’re certainly free to make whatever noises you want in the privacy of your kitchen but if you want to play with others there are certain basics your fellow musicians will expect you to bring to the table. And to play well, you must play with others.
I like Oirish’s post on “synchronizing 32 metronomes.” Making music with others is like that. Everyone comes with slightly different takes on a tune but a few bars in “et voila”, you’re in the groove!

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Does it really matter?
I always notate reels in 2/2. That’s my convention. Others use 4/4 or 2/4. But surely whichever of those time signatures is used for notational purposes doesn’t affect the way you play the tunes.
But I would have to say that I feel two beats to the bar in reels when played at normal speed (about 112bpm). However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Sometimes people will tap four beats to the bar and I’ve even seen/heard eight to the bar.
But it is only convention when it comes to notation.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

As you say, it makes no difference if you run it through software — because the score tells you nothing about rhythm. It tells you:-
(1) how many notes per bar, (top number,) and (2) what kind of note it is (bottom number)… period. So a tune notated in 4/4 time gets 4 crotchets per bar. A tune in 2/4 time gets two crotchets per bar. A tune in 2/2 time gets two minims per bar. Neither does it tell you the duration of the note — only the mathematical division — unless the BPM is included.
Clapping is not included in the score, and there is no indication as to where a clap should fall. A reel and a reggae would look the same but sound completely different, as would a march and a reel, or a 6/8 march and a jig.
One problem with written music is that this valuable information is absent — which is why many classical and novice musicians get it wrong in unusual genres.
Beaming is a matter of choice and makes no difference except to the look of the score. It might be taken as an indication, but it equally might not; but how it sounds is imposed upon the notation by the player — you have no way of knowing what the writer intended, and can only guess, using convention as a guide.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Notating a reel in 4/4 results in having to play at an absurdly high BPM :-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

DonaldK and Gam, I agree with much of what you say and I don’t mean to split hairs. Notated music doesn’t speak at all to those who don’t read music and certainly doesn’t effect the way they play nor should it. But when we try to convey the sense of how we want it played, notation is the best we’ve got. I might notate a hornpipe in 4/4 and use dotted quaver and semiquaver pairs to try to convey the lilt I hear or just write it as straight quavers; in either case I couldn’t hit it exactly how I play it. A reel notated in 2/2 vs. 4/4 conveys a "sense" of up tempo even though as you say there’s nothing about tempo or pace in the time sig per se.

Let’s assume that a player has a finite upper limit to the number of times they can tap their foot in a given minute. It may 6 BPM, it may be 6000 BPM. Let’s further assume that they’re cruising along playing a reel in 4/4 time, tapping four beats to the bar and they reach that limit before they reach the speed they want to play at. If they switch to two beats to the bar, they’ll have no trouble achieving the speed they want.

BTW, when I said the upper number in the time sig indicated the number of beats per bar I also said it was for simple meters. Compound meters are more complicated. Jigs are annotated in 6/8 time but really played two beats to the bar with a dotted crotchet getting the beat. It’s a little hard to write the dotted crotchet as the bottom number. Since a dotted crotchet = three quavers in length, the top number is multiplied by 3 to make it come out right.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"Jigs are annotated in 6/8 time but really played two beats to the bar with a dotted crotchet getting the beat"
This may be true (it isn’t always), but the one does not convey the other. There is no difference between a 3/4 tune AB CD EF
and a 6/8 tune ABC DEF. Not in the notation, that is — how you choose to interpret it is up to you, but that information is not included in the score.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Well, 3/4 time is simple meter. Three beats to the bar, on each of three crotchets. 6/8 is compound meter and more complex. But your point is well taken. Certainly no score can perfectly indicate how a tune may be played no matter how well annotated. That’s why orchestras have conductors and why it’s important to understand the genre.

Again to your point, I’ve told the story before of a young, classically trained flute player who came to one of our sessions and could sight-read at speed. Right off she tried her hand at a jig and it sounded like a fast waltz. It took only few minutes however to demonstrate how the jig should be phrased and she was right on it.

We can go on and on about the shortcomings of notation. Do triplets really sound like three evenly spaced quavers in the time space of a crotchet or is is more like two semiquavers and a quaver? What’s the best way to notate the lilt we might hear in a hornpipe? But it’s the best way we’ve got to preserve a sense of the music w/o actually recording it. Did Pagannini really do all those things the way Isaac Stern played it? We don’t know how Pagannini actually played other than by what was written about him and the scores he left behind.

Back to my point, I think most reels are played up tempo and best notated in 2/2 time. Some slower reels work fine at 4 to the bar, i.e. "Dunmore Lasses", "Castle Kelly", etc. As DonaldK mentioned some might even try 8/8.. same number of notes right? Might work for a really slow tune but try tapping your foot at 8 to the bar for a fast reel.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

It seems odd to me to say the ‘better’ way to count when you play a fiddle or a flute is determined by how fast you can tap your foot. What does a foot have to do with the music — either in the notation or in what you hear? The notion of setting an upper limit because of physical restrictions is really about how fast you can play the notes. Perhaps there is a maximum number of notes that can be played in a minute. But if you can play them, you can count them (if you really wanted to count them for some reason). Keep the count in your head, if you can’t coordinate your foot quickly enough — or alternatively, internalize the clock and don’t tap your feet at all.

Whether it is two or four per bar doesn’t matter much to me. The real point is in how it is played — and how each of the notes has a different role in creating the pulse of the tune. If there are four beats to a bar, they are certainly not created equal — each of them is different from any of the other three, and exactly how different depends on the tune.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The difference between 2/2 and 4/4 is encapsulated in the Bodhran album http://www.emusic.com/album/mark-stone/the-bodhran/10936638/ as is the confusion as to what it what.
So Its an excellent example. The first reel track is a straightforwards 4/4 , but hes called it cut time ; 2/2 . The second reel variation, is in cut time 2/2. They are 2 different beats. you cant substitute one for the other for the same feel , you can vary either quickly , a Hemeola, but otherwise the change of rhythm will change the feel. Rhythm is a combination of factors . Just as Jim pointed out in the last thread a melody can be written out in any time sig and played by a machine it will sound the same. Why? because the machine is not using the information encoded into the written system whereby the player stresses certain notes as indicated by the bar line. The top line conveys how many beats to a bar. 2 3 4 until we enter compound meters which are based upon and within the earlier system.

The bottom note is much more than people seem to understand so let me explain. These systems developed before the advent of metronomes etc so the size of the bottom note conveys important information . if I write a melody in 3/4 and 3/8 same they are not played the same because the info at the bottom is indicating the sense of speed of the piece in relation to a general standard . This system allows all ranges of speed to be instantly conveyed just by a glance at the page . Very simple and effective. So a 2/2 piece says there are 2 large (slow)beats of half note length . Its a different beat to 2/4 which is much faster and livelier .
4/4 common time, has a feel of double 2/2 cut time which is why they are called single 2/2 and double time 4/4 or half time 2/2 , time 4/4 .

But because a piece is in 2/2 or 4/4 does not mean that we have to stress the first1ea+ 2e+a etc! like a robot !! Every tune calls for an individual approach the information we need is encoded in the word ‘Reel’ We all know how reels sound and are played ok there is immense variation possible but fundamentally we refer to our experience and understanding of the sound of other players .

The other link I gave on the thread the Ceilli band drummer playing . Thats the sound of a ceilli band playing a reel. who cares if that sound is called 2/2 or 4/4 ? Who needs to know that? not even the drummer , as evinced by the bodhran tracks above! As long as what we do sounds right in relation to our musical understanding experience and education.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"The first reel track is a straightforwards 4/4 , but hes called it cut time"
He’s hitting a drum with a stick — what’s that got to do with time signature? It could be anything at all and you have no way of knowing other than that he calls it a reel, and you have an idea of what a reel sounds like and is usually notated.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will, 2/2 is cut time and 4/4 is common time. Also cut time is 2/2 and not 4/4. Common time is 4/4 and not 2/2.
I’ve never heard the one about the bottom number conveying tempo before. I’ve seen some Beethoven 3/8s that are slower than others’ 3/4s. As far as I’m concerned (and in this day and age) the bottom number is purely arbitrary. If I want to write an impressive looking (as opposed to impressive sounding) reel I might write it out in 2/16. Most composers though tend to choose the bottom number so as to make their composition as easy to read as possible.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

No matter how they are notated, you play reels like reels. There is no such thing as a 4/4 reel or a cut time reel. It is the same beast, captured two different ways in a notation system that wasn’t designed to capture The Music. I have an accompanist friend who likes to start from sheet music, who was puzzled when I gave him a set of sheet music notated in cut time. It took me a long time to convince him that this was not something different than the other reels we have played together. "Then why would they write it like that?" he asked. He seemed to think that it must have been something done on purpose, to capture some nuance that made this tune different than others.
But that is not the case. Can we move on now?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

No point in belaboring a difference of opinion so I’m OK with doing what you say Al.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

It’s not a difference of opinion Roads, it’s a matter of logic. That is what Al and the others are explaining to you. Please read and think carefully about what they are saying.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

[*Can we move on now?*]

Yes, but first, since you appear to know so much, Al Daddy, I think you should take the lead in providing some good descriptive terms and markings to add to the music, just like the experts do - so we all know how to play it. You know, all these ‘Tally’ terms, like ‘presto’, ‘largo’, ‘agitato’, ‘stacatto’, ‘veloce’, etc etc … they need to be diddley-friendly, so get going, Sir :) ….lilte, lifto, nyahimo, etc for starters? :)

We 80,000 members put our collective trust in you. There aren’t really that many tunes in the database .. >:)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@Donald, we do it automatically its such a fundamental part of everyday life who even thinks about it ? . The fine details s are mainly going to be covered by percussionist, reading percussion dots or playing music written for a full drum kit.

>>Most composers though tend to choose the bottom number so as to make their composition as easy to read as possible.>>
exactly, ! thats what im saying. to convey the information the player needs to play the piece in a manner the composer chooses. so if he wrote it in 3/4 you played it fast like a 3/8 he would just say read whats written! if I write a piece thats not a waltze or mazurka its in 3/8 then thats how it should be played!! Its a language that uses simple marks and numbers to express complex concepts .

ex

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, Will, please give it up. Apparently there is some magic quality of ITM music that defies even the most seasoned of transcribers to capture "the sense of" in written transcription. Perhaps we should, as suggested, use "logic" to capture "that special sense."?

To that end, I suggest we refrain from posting our tunes in ABC or whatever and instead post only our recordings of those tunes (along with whatever Venn diagrams we might use to sort it all out!!)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"some magic quality of ITM music that defies even the most seasoned of transcribers to capture "the sense of" in written transcription"
Exactly so — except it isn’t magic, of course. It is, however, impossible to transcribe. If you don’t know in advance how a reel should sound, you do not have enough information in the score to work it out, or even to ‘get the sense of’ it. There is no difference between using quavers and using semi-quavers *unless you specify the BPM as well*.
They look different, and you may ‘have a feel’ for how you think it should sound, or what the writer was trying to convey; but the fact remains that you do not know and can not tell by looking at the score. Period.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Well, I guess you could use the old-fashioned method of adding ‘in the style of [BigBoyDiddleyPlayer]’, like Fritz Kreisler and others did when they published their arrangements of other peoples’ work (which in a way, is what we’re all doing here when we play the tunes) .

I submit "The Oak Tree" (in the style of Wee Spankie Flavin) and "Jessica’s Polka" (in the style of Kevin Burke), for starters.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"some magic quality of ITM music that defies even the most seasoned of transcribers to capture "the sense of" in written transcription"
I’ve said it before,and I’ll say it again. This is not a unique property of ITM, it’s a limitation of music notation. If you try to read a funk bass line without knowing what a funk groove is, you have no chance of getting it right. Same with a Strauss waltz, etc, etc.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Roads to Home, there is no more a magic quality of ITM music than there is for any other sort of music.
If you are unfamiliar with a genre of music then trying to become familiar with that genre through sheet music alone is doomed to failure. Where sheet music comes into its own is when the musician is familiar with the genre already and so is able to interpret the notation in an appropriate way.
In the case of "traditional" reels, the vast majority of "traditional" musicians will pay no attention whatsoever to the time signature but will concentrate instead on the notes and the melodic rhythm because they already know what the underlying metre/rhythm of a reel is.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

You beat me to it, 5stringfool.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

You don’t capture this music by dithering around with increasingly complex notation, or ‘descriptive terms or markings,’ Jim. You follow the lead of the real experts in this type of music—and capture it by opening your ears and listening.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

[*You don’t capture this music by dithering around with increasingly complex notation, or ‘descriptive terms or markings,’ Jim. You follow the lead of the real experts in this type of music—and capture it by opening your ears and listening.*]

…and that advice would apply to any kind of music - this music is no different in that respect, and I think that should be obvious to any musician.

Sorry my little joke backfired … :(

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"If you are unfamiliar with a genre of music then trying to become familiar with that genre through sheet music alone is doomed to failure."

Depends on whether the notation is trying to describe the music after the event, or whether, as in classical, the notation comes first, and it is up to the performer to realise the composer’s intention as expressed on paper. (But even then, period performance anyone?)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

You still need to know the conventions of the genre Tom, even with classical music.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"…or whether, as in classical, the notation comes first…"
I would have said that for 99.9% of classical composers the notation comes second in that, well versed in the genre, composers hear music in their heads and then try to notate it as best they can according to the conventions of the genre.
Yes, there may be one or two (and this applies to any genre) who write some random markings on a score and then get it played/interpreted to hear what it sounds like, but surely that is nothing more than a gimmick.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

thats all for today 8-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I regret that my feeble attempt at satire in a comment posted above (https://thesession.org/discussions/34172#comment727029) did’nt take.

But the comments I got back reflected exactly what I indicated in the OP:
“if one is familiar with the genre, (in this case ITM,) and can read notation, then one should be able to play a fair rendition of the tune from the notation.”
So apparently we all agree (including I with myself.)

In future posts, if there are any, I will try to encapsulate satire or levity with emoticons as in the rest of this post:
8-)
Since this was my first post, I’ve found it to be a little like “Schroedinger’s cat”. “You don’t know what you’ve got until you open the box.” OK, cat’s outta the bag. In my non-musical life, I’m a physicist, labeling me both as “theorist” and “academician” Oh my! No wonder! ;-)
8-)
As I’ve received several emails trashing my original post and me personally, I’ve caught myself humming an old folk song from the sixties..I can’t remember the title, something like “Bridge over Troll-Invested Waters:?
;-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I thought 8-) meant ‘this video does not exist’.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will, great video clip. Beautifully illustrates many of the points debated in this thread. :-)

Ooops! I used an emoticon but that wasn’t satire!

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Roads, I think I mentioned that use of 2/2 (or 2/4) or 4/4 to notate reels was largely a matter of convention. So, for example, in The Athole Collection, by James Stewart Robertson, reels and hornpipes are all in cut time (2/2) and strathspeys are all in common time (4/4). In The Skye collection, by Keith Norman MacDonald some reels are in cut time and some are in common time. I don’t think it means they should be played any differently, certainly not today.
If you follow the Cape Breton tradition at all you will know that they will often play, for step-dancing or listening, a series of strathspeys, very much in 4/4, of ever increasing tempos, which then are seamlessly followed by a series of reels in 2/2 so that one very much feels a relaxation in tempo. The feel of the time signatures is emphasised by tapping (or stamping) feet.
As I said before, I always notate reels in cut time because I personally think that suits the feel of reels better than common time but it is also true to say that the majority of people playing reels don’t know the theoretical difference between the two and it doesn’t matter to them anyway.
I should also say, not trying to blow my own trumpet, that I earn part of my living from transcribing "traditional" tunes, so I must be doing something right.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

So, to answer your original question: "What does this mean for reels notated in 2/2 (cut-time) vs. 4/4?"
Answer: Nothing. There should be no audible difference.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

And, just to say, I’m not for sending personal messages that are anything other than courteous.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

DonaldK, You state:
[I always notate reels in cut time because I personally think that suits the feel of reels better than common time ]
I think that is really all I’m saying. It’s how you feel it. Whether or not people understand the theory behind it is irrelevant.

Here’s a clip that clearly illustrates how some might "feel" the rhythms differently:

Notice how the guitar player sets the beat at the start by tapping 2/2 and it’s picked up by fiddle and banjo players. But as the whistler picks it up, he goes heel-to-toe in 4/4 and by the time they’re into "Mountain Road" he is really into it. For a minute it looks as if he might get up and dance it! Gotta love it!

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Let’s get the terminology straight on this topic. The time signature has nothing whatsoever to do with rhythm. It is the rhythm that makes Irish music sound like Irish music, not the time signature. However, it is the time signature that makes a reel sound like a reel.

The top number indicates the number of beats per measure. The bottom number indicates the value of the note (quarter note, half note, etc.) that one counts. It doesn’t matter what note values are actually written in a measure of 4/4 time, you count it with four quarter notes. But, if you play a reel in 4/4 time, it will sound very choppy. Reels are in cut time (2/2) whether or not the player is aware of it. Don’t confuse the rhythm or where you place emphasis with how the tune is counted; they are totally separate. One can play a reel in a variety of styles and rhythms without changing the time signature. However, as soon as you change how you count, regardless of rhythm, a reel ceases to be a reel. Counting 4/4 faster also does not affect how the tune will sound from a time perspective. Reels don’t sound like reels because of the speed at which they are played; they sound like a reel because they are counted in cut time and because of the rhythmic style employed. If you are playing a reel and it sounds like a reel even though you may be tapping your foot four times per measure, don’t think that is putting you in 4/4. You are simply tapping your foot twice for each beat instead of once (unnecessary and tiring, it seems to me). Since cut time is simply 4/4 cut in half, it is possible to count in 4/4 whilst playing in 2/2. If you played the way your foot is tapping, the reel would sound markedly different. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll simply play it right despite the fact your foot has it wrong. But if you don’t know better, your result will be quite different.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough that the time signature is only about counting, not about rhythm or tempo. I won’t argue this point further with anyone who cannot quote a source on music theory that contradicts me. We have been round and round about this too many times to again debate how the time signature works, so if any of what I have said needs to be discussed, please do so with a persuasive rebuttal, not simply contradiction. Be aware that the experienced player is going to play a tune right no matter what the time signature says because he or she knows how to count it already. Some books actually publish reels with no time signature at all because none is needed if you know what a reel sounds like. The musical form per force identifies the time signature.

I hope this helps.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

But, Ailin, cut time is 2/2 and not 4/4. Therefore, if you are going to notate reels I think you should use a cut time signature (2/2) rather than a common time signature (4/4). Why use a common time signature if what you are playing is in cut time? It just doesn’t make sense to me to say that there is no connection whatsoever between time signature and rhythm. Surely how notes are grouped is connected to the rhythm. But I’m not going to quote a source so you don’t need to argue the point further.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Donald, you are correct that reels should be notated in 2/2. I thought I made that clear. But there is definitely no relationship between rhythm and time signature. The rhythm is established by how the notes are written and how they are played stylistically. For example, if you have a dotted quarter followed by an eighth note, you will get a syncopated rhythm without altering the time signature. Similarly, if you add emphasis to one beat or another, that also affects rhythm with no change in time signature. I realize many have come to think of 4/4 and 3/4 as being different rhythms, but that is not the case: they are in different time. It’s one of the most common mistakes made in music

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I think it’s fair to say that the time sig ‘implies’ the rhythm.

If you plug in the first 24 notes of a reel into a 6/8 time sig, it plays back just the same way as if it were in 4/4 sig. Or 3/4. Makes no difference.

Plus in 24 notes of a jig into any time sig, and it will still sound like a jig.

So I put it to you that what makes your brain identify a tune as being in a particular family, is dependent on the notes themselves, and their sequence, and has bugger all to do with the time sig :)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, I need clarification of your post. When you say "plug," what do you mean? I can think of no way to play a reel in 6/8 time and have it sound like anything other than 6/8. Why would it not make a difference?

I’m sorry, but time indicates virtually nothing related to rhythm. Time is time, rhythm is rhythm. They are simply not the same. Look it up.

If your last sentence were correct, there would be no need for a time signature at all, but without time, there is no music.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ailin, it’s really about the ‘literal’ representation of music vs the ‘human’ representation.

What I’m saying is that if you use music notation software (eg Harmony Assistant) to notate a tune, bare bones, no effects, no ‘swing’ added, then on playback the tune will sound recognisable, but probably pretty lifeless. Now this is good - because there’s a very good reason why it sounds that way. Whilst that playback would be a really bad way to try to learn to play a tune (jeez, even my hamster knows that!) it is the perfect tool for showing us just exactly what information in contained in a time sig. Very little, really.

So, to my previous post - using the software, if you set the time sig to 4/4, and key in / "plug in" the notes of a reel, on playback you’ll get your reel, note for note, albeit sounding pretty lifeless.

Now, cut out those notes, copy them to the clipboard, and start a fresh tune, and this time set the time sig to 6/8, and copy your notes into it (those are your reel notes) …

So, it will look like a jig, each bar has two groups of three notes … all fine so far. Now play it back, and what do you get? You get your reel. You get your reel because you put in the notes of the reel. The time sig has no effect on it. You didn’t tell it to play DIB iity DAB itty, DIB iity DAB itty - you told it to play back the notes of your tune, which just happened to be a reel. You’d get the same result if you plugged in the notes of a jig into a 4/4 time sig.

So, that’s why I said that the time sig only *implies* the rhythm. When *we* play a jig, or a reel, or any type of tune, we decide how to group the notes, where to put the accents, pulses, rhythm and swing. It’s (literally) got very little to do with a time sig. Hope that clarifies the last sentence of my previous post :)

There’s a little demo of this in another (now locked) thread :

https://thesession.org/discussions/34122 … and scroll to my links.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

So in that clip, which of them is *playing* something closest to 4 in a bar ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

[*So in that clip, which of them is *playing* something closest to 4 in a bar ?*]

Neither. The two sound sections are identical.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@ jim I think He means the clip of 4 people playing. @ David, the guitar starts playing 4/4 as the whistler starts. I couldn’t listen to it all, please can we have examples from comhaltas and the like?
A few ceilli band links with them playing 2 beats a bar? if you can find any ;-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, your software is hardly a good test. It is apparently playing the notes without any regard to bar divisions, in which case you won’t get the proper time. The emphasis you put in your post as being the reason one could distinguish reel from jig is your own - it is not a function of the time signature since those points of emphasis need not be where you have placed them. They are a function of how the notes are written and the style in which the notes should be played. Style does not exist in musical notation for any genre. No form of music can be played properly without agreed-upon conventions for the style. Musical notation is not intended to indicate that any more than the words of a speech by Shakespeare can indicate how it should be interpreted. But it sill remains that knowing the time is critical. But so knowing does not tip you off regarding rhythm. Most popular music is in 4/4, but the rhythms are all over the map.

Something to take a look at with your software: If you go from 4/4 to 6/8, your note values will have to change in order for there to be three beats per measure. If the software merely divides a note at the end of a bar and then ties it across to the next bar so the note gets it’s full value, you will simply get a collection of notes with no time value whatsoever. You’re essentially just drawing new lines for the bars, and that is not really changing the time of the tune. I can play many reels as jigs, and although the melody remains the same, the note values must change to accommodate the difference in time signature. It sounds like your software doesn’t have that capability or you wouldn’t be getting your stated result.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Yes, that clip Will. My thought was that the whistler is tapping 4 to the bar but tending to emphasise 1 and 3 whearas the banjo player is tapping two the bar but, by the nature of the instrument, often sounding the 2 and 4 as clearly as 1 and 3 and phrasing things so that they sometimes get a bit of emphasis.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, another little test you can do is to take the reel you turned into a jig on your software and play the A part of the jig without looking at the music. Note the number of bars you played. Now look at what your software produced. The number of bars will not be the same. The software is making a mathematical calculation, not a musical one.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Sorry, been burning my finger ends for the last three hours.
Ailin, are you referring to melodic rhythm when you talk about rhythm versus time signature? If so then your argument makes sense to me. Being mainly an accompanist I thought you were referring to underlying accompaniment rhythm (don’t know what else to call it).

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Donald, I don’t know that there is more than one kind of rhythm, so I’m a bit confused by your question. When Jim says the rhythm of BUM-da-da, BUM-da-da is inherent to a 6/8 time signature, my response is that it is only the case because of the accepted convention of playing jigs. It is not a function of the time signature being 6/8. In jazz, a 6/8 rhythm does not contain the diddly-diddly quality of a jig. So, I guess I am talking about melodic rhythm, but what else is there? What you do as an accompanist follows the rhythm of the melodic line, no?

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Well there is rhythm and there is melodic rhythm. Rhythm is generally what people dance to and is usually produced by a "rhythm section". It’s like the underlying pulse. Melodic rhythm is the rhythm of a melody. So, applied to traditional music, two different reels could have different melodic rhythms but be accompanied by the same rhythm on a bodhran, for example.
That was incredibly hard to write, by the way. That whisky (Old Pulteney) has gone straight to my head.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Okay, I get you, and you are right. So primarily I am talking about melodic rhythm, but the overriding point is that time and rhythm are not to be conflated because rhythm exists within time to form the carpet melody rides upon. But rhythm of any stripe is a stylistic element, whereas time is fundamental to the form of music being played. Thus, it helps to use the appropriate notation for those that need it. Those steeped in the genre only need to know the tune and the rest is in our bones.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Indeed.
I’m off to bed.
It’s been a long day and the dogs will have me up at six (and it’s 1:30am now).

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I am confused. What about how a computer plays music proves anything about a musical form played acoustically by human beings?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim was trying to make the point that somehow time signatures are not important. His case was that if you enter the notes into a computer and tell the program to do the tune in a variety of time signatures, it all sounds the same. His conclusion was that the sameness proved that it is the musician that makes the music, not the notation. That is true in a general sense, but not in the way he meant. As I have pointed out, you cannot simply change the time signature and expect the computer to do anything but mathematically divide the notes into the measures in accordance with the time signature you ask for. But more than bar divisions is happening when you change the time signature, and if the program doesn’t know how to change the notation so that it truly fits the new time signature, you just get a collection of notes with no time, rhythm or musicality. It simply is the wrong tool for understanding the importance of proper notation for people who need it.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Thanks to everyone who posted to my first OP.
I think the inputs proffered coalesce around the same general opinion.
I’d not fain state that opinion in words because individual opinions are as nuanced as the music itself but from what you’ve said or implied I sense most of us are on the same track.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

On the same track , does that reassure you that the majority holds your opinion ? ;-) <<time is fundamental to the form of music being played>> exactly, which is why reels should be notated in 4/4 . the fundamental basis of the dance is a four count not a 2 count. cheers

The time marked out by the graces in my pipe music here is 4 stresses a bar, not 2 . The feel of a reel is not a steady walking pace. its not a slow 2 beat. it just isnt .its a fast 4 beat .Its a reel not a walk. 8-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Whatever, Will.
The rest of us will stick with 2/2. A scottish reel is two steps to the bar anyway.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

This is a site about Irish dance music ,it comes from the same root but a different branch.
perhaps this makes it clearer?

this is Scottish Reel dancing and even here they cant avoid kicking up their heels because the beat is infectious and then they take it into a fast hornpipe! . all good fun had by everyone.

Its all in the footwork boys; the fine detail and its all in the piping fingerwork , the fine detail. yes superficially reels can be seen to be in cut time, IMO thats why a lot of classical people get it so wrong when playing trad, theyr clearly told reels are in 2/2 . This is the classical understanding of the music. This irons out the lift and bounce and drive .

We all have our opinions, so lets not talk opinions, lets talk facts. Let us demonstrate every point we make with copious examples all clearly and intelligently analysed untill the true situation becomes apparent to everyone here. Its not about how many people hold an opinion , People thought the world was flat! Its about the evidence supporting the conclusions , about finding the true reality.
Im quite prepared to eat humble pie and acknowledge im wrong where the case maybe. so if you (general)think im wrong, and many clearly do, lets see the evidence to support your position and do me the justice to open your minds to the possibility that the majority here are simply misinformed.

Seriously , convince me your position is based on an accurate representation of the facts with examples and intelligent debate , lets see some you tune links demonstrating your points. Ive uploaded plenty demonstrating reels being played in 4/4, such as the Irish Ceilli bands yet no one wants to engage with the information?, just holding on to entrenched opinions …. Cognitive dissonance is going to set in soon and people will storm out getting upset that people even question that the earth is flat :-)

need i say more?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I think Will’s clip of dancing are useful. Will - can you find us a clip of an Irish set dance where dancers are doing some more travelling across the floor with less stepping. I think that would be a better comparison to your Scottish dancing clip. My impression is that when they pass through the set it is a left and a right foot per bar.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

In the eightsome reel they are doing two steps to the bar, as I and every other Scot has done for the last n years, where n is a number as large as you want to make it.
I’m off to chew some concrete. I’ll get slightly more joy doing that than continuing with this thread. Roads To Home got the answers he was looking for. If someone wants to have the last word that’s fine by me but their arguments, I’m relieved to say, don’t (and won’t) hold any water in this neck of the woods.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Sigh. I forget that round here the obvious can’t be assumed. I am asking what the *Irish* dancers do when travelling more than stepping.

I suspect that since the moment of intertia of an Irish leg is much the same as that of a Scottish leg they do the same when travelling. So Will’s clips are not a good comparison.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

they are not a comparison.they are showing the difference between 2/2 and 4/4 .I remember my first post on this subject was that Scottish reels are often in 2 time, danced as such and phrased as such. On the other side of the water this is simply not the case as i show with the musicians both playing 4/4 . Unless anyone is trying to say that Bobby is tapping his foot to a beat thats not there? both of them are playing common time, a reel , 4/4 .
As it happens the traditions diverged several hundred years ago and if you go back to settings of tunes from the early days of writing Scottish pipe music the graces generally beat 4 in reels with a g grace on 1234. so I dont know what the Scottish dancers were meant to be doing historically but the pipers were definitely meant to be playing in 4 :-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Hello Donald K and Ailin: You have my admiration and respect for the very civil way you
discussed an interesting issue here. Not that you need my compliments I am certain. But
it was nice to learn from you both without wading thru the muck of contentiousness and the ad homenin
approach. This is as it should be - a good chance to learn.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Thank you very much for commenting, Tom. I’ve been around here for well over ten years, so it means more than you know.

I’ve listened to Will’s clips and they are in cut time except for the jig on accordion. I’m not sure what he is on about, but if one can’t hear the difference between 2/2 and 4/4, such an individual will not be persuaded by me. All I can say is that these tunes can most certainly be played in 4/4, but they will not sound like those clips. That being the case, Will, how do you account for it?

There is nothing slow about playing in 2/2, it doesn’t affect the pulse (which is a product of rhythm, not time) and you can tap your foot any way you like. Many people tap their foot in 4/4 when they are playing in 6/8. They are simply dividing the beat into sets of two, which will work fine, but it doesn’t change the time of what they are playing one whit. The part I think Will is missing is that the lower number refers to the unit by which you count. So regardless of how the tune is written, where the pulse is, or how you tap your foot, you are counting in quarter notes - thus four counts to the measure. Think of a tune like The Rights of Man, which is in 4/4 and is, in my experience, always played at a walking pace. If you speed it up, it gets pretty choppy, doesn’t it? If you play it as a reel (2/2), its character changes utterly - it is a new tune. If you can hear the difference in that example, you will understand the difference between 4/4 and cut time.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

So are there any sort of tunes that are in between ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Thanks for the nice dance clip Will.
Most forms of ITM seem to have originated with dance. That’s sometimes lost with modern players who may want to nuance the music with their own stylistics but that’s certainly OK too. With that in mind, it may be instructive to have a look back at the various forms of Irish dance. Here’s an excellent description of the forms and examples of each:

http://ashleyirishdances.com/music/types-of-irish-dance-music/

I often have "newbies" read the information therein carefully and try to play against some of the dances.
As noted there, most common forms of Irish music, (reels, jigs, hornpipes,) are duple-meter. As we know, reels are 8 quavers to the bar so they might be notated in 4/4, 2/2 or even 8/8 as someone suggested. The time sigs indicate how many beats to the bar but they don’t indicate how each beat is "accented" when played (to use a term from the link above). If I were to notate a reel in 4/4 (perfectly acceptable,) I would accent the 1st and 3rd beats. If notated in 2/2, each of the two beats would be accented. In 8/8 time, the 1st and 5th beats would be accented.
The time sig tells you how many beats per bar but not how to "accent" the beats. That’s where being familiar with the genre comes in. I happen to think that 2/2 best conveys "the sense" of the reel because the accent falls on every beat but that’s just me. But even if I annotate in 2/2, I still need to know that it’s a reel instead of a march because the time sig doesn’t say anything about the tempo. I would play a march much slower. (I sometimes wish we could post the "Q:" key in our tune submission headers to indicate tempo but that’s another matter.)

When I listened to your dance clip, (I love dance clips,) I found myself instinctively tapping my foot 2 to the bar but some might as easily tap 4 to the bar just as the whistler did in my earlier post of the 4 musicians playing the reel set. (BTW, after looking at that again I realized the whistler started off by tapping the back beat before settling in on 4 to the bar. Hmm.)

Anyway as I said earlier while trying to exit this thread, I think we’re pretty close to agreement as long as we don’t get hung up on nuance. Everyone phrases a tune a little differently but when we play together all the subtle differences coalesce into "magic"!

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I recognize you are trying to wrap things up on an agreeable note, but I am compelled to emphasize that notating a reel in 4/4 is just plain wrong. Place a reel in front of someone who knows nothing about Irish music but understands musical theory and they will get it right on the first try if it is notated in 2/2. It may sound funny to those of us who know and play the nuances that make ITM what it is, but it will be recognizable as a reel nonetheless. Place the same music before your subject in 4/4 and it will no more sound like a reel than a blues number does. You don’t have to believe me, just try it.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

« Place a reel in front of someone who knows nothing about Irish music but understands musical theory and they will get it right on the first try if it is notated in 2/2. »

It’s heartening to read that people who know nothing about Irish music, on sight-reading a reel, will get it right first time - as long as it’s written in 2/2.

Wait, was that two or three pigs flying by my window just now? ;-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Stiamh, you seem to differ with me, but you are not making a case, so I do not understand why you posted. Perhaps before you speak, you should try the experiment and tell us what happened. I have, so I know.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

It’s a pity that the last clip from Will is missing the introduction to it.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

In a workshop, Martin Hayes pointed out that players like Michael Coleman, rooted in a dance tradition, clearly were playing four beats to the measure on reels, for a much bouncier feel. It’s only been in recent times that the tempo has speeded up and people tap twice to the bar.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

It seems pretty clear to me that there is no reason to prefer 2/2 over 4/4 for reels, except as a matter of convention among pedants. Any number of video clips showing some people seem to ‘count’ in twos does not prove a general principle. All it takes is one counter example — and in fact there are many. I expect the debate ultimately devolves into subjective blather about how one performer must understand better than another how to play or think about Irish music. Ultimately all that matters is the sound — and clues or advice given in the notation about how a performer should tap their foot while playing seem pretty trite.

I like Jim’s point about software that cannot distinguish 4/4 from 6/8. I wonder if bar lines really matter at all — and perhaps it comes down to readability. In terms of readability there is no difference between 2/2 and 4/4.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

By ‘software’ do people mean something like the MIDI generator used by the Tunes section ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ailin, my frivolous comment was inspired by the idea of people knowing nothing about Irish music playing a reel "right" from sheet music - regardless of time signature. Please ignore it, and carry on arguing your point.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@Stiamh - Thanks for the clarification. I know what you mean and by "right" I don’t mean to imply "good," but I guess you know that :)

"I like Jim’s point about software that cannot distinguish 4/4 from 6/8. I wonder if bar lines really matter at all."

# Posted by Fiddler3

@joefidkid - With all due respect to the venerable Mr. Hayes, I have a number of recordings by different artists dating from the 1920s and they play the music pretty much the same way and at the same tempos we do today. Also, playing in 4/4 is not more bouncy unless you play it bouncy. The time signature does not impart that quality in either 2/2 or 4/4. However, 4/4 will make it more choppy, which appeals to no one. It has become clear to me that some people simply do not know what time signature they are playing in. That’s why I suggested the test of having someone who doesn’t know better to try it both ways. Your ears will certainly recognize the difference.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Prompted by Joe Fidkid’s post I have just finished listening through all the John Mckenna reels (1920s and 1930s). I still tap my foot 2 to the bar but I reckon on most tunes it has a 4 to the bar feel, especially the tracks with Michael Gaffney on banjo or lilting. Not sure I would call it bouncy or choppy though.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@ David, you dont need me to tell you its 4/4 , the piano playing a strong backbeat.
Find some old pipers playing solid regs four to the floor.
Heres a tune labeled a reel but IMO is more a hornpipe with a strong 2 feel,
play it as such ; thats what a 2/2 sounds like steady walking pace suitable for fast intricate footwork for the dancer to show off his or her wondrous footwork with trebles etc
.http://www.ceolsean.net/content/Edcath/Book02/Book02%2029.pdf
As you look at the piece you can see the 2 structure laid out melodically in front of you.If you resist the impulse to play it as a hornpipe but play its straight and driving in with a clip on every 2nd note it becomes a reel in 4/4 a Shetland reel I suppose.
So as you can see a piece of music can be interpreted as a hornpipe by stressing a’ humpty dumpty ‘2 rhythm; left right left right or as a reel by speeding up and stressing the 1st of every pair it becomes more urgent , it becomes a Shetland reel. Here is another tune
http://www.ceolsean.net/content/Gunn/Book03/Book03%2015.pdf
Its a Scottish reel, in 4/4, its written in that manner correctly. If you look at the grace notes, the g grace is the strong beat , thats the effect it has within pipe music. Melodically the C after the 2 A’s straight away makes a statement of movement that is continued throughout the piece, even when it rests on the high G it steams back into it .
Often its the actual and implied harmonic movement that dictates how a tune feels and where the beat is, the sense of movement .

im just listening to Harry play , you can hear his strong 4 rhythm with his breathing , the melody sounds a bit more 2 to my ear, ie it could go either way

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

David50 - If you don’t mind tiring the heck out of your foot, by all means, count it in four; you can indeed get away with it on this particular tune without sounding choppy. I think you’ll be more relaxed and find the tune flows better if you play it in two. Give it a shot and let us know :)

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The convention I learned was that 4/4 has two strong beats per measure, 1 and 3 (where you tap your foot) with the weak beats being 2 and 4. In 2/2 there is only one strong beat, and that is 1, 2 is a weak beat. It seem to me most reels feel like two pulses per measure, so 4/4 makes more sense to me, but there are reels that only feel one strong pulse per measure and that would make sense to notate in 2/2. Not that it matters.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I go with what I thought was generally agreed above that it usually doesn’t matter much if one taps two or four to a bar. There are plenty of clips of people playing together doing all sorts of things - and just look along the floor at a session.

I disagree with Will about the dance clips above because I am fairly sure that most social dancers covering any distance across the floor (which Irish set dancers often don’t - I have found a few clips where they ‘pass through’ but it is always deep within in long clips ) to a reel at a normal tempo will do two main footfalls per measure. In Will’s example they are not moving far and are ‘decorating’ the step.

The question I ask every now and again but never get an answer to is whether in a tune notated in 4/4 the 1, 2, 3 and 4 are equally spaced in time. If they are not then notating in 2/2 would seem more sensible because even if noted as 4 quavers to the beat some flexibility could be assumed. (the begrudgers would say they that can all be pushed and pulled so why worry)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The last two posts continue to confuse rhythm with time. When you count, each count is equally spaced from the next. There is absolutely NO pulse or emphasized beat of any kind in any time signature. Time signature does one thing and one thing only, which is to tell one how to count. Any emphasis on any beat is a factor of style and is not indicated in any way by the time signature. This is why you can get an almost infinite variety of rhythms out of the simple 4/4 time signature.

I find that many in this discussion seem to think time signatures are either optional or up to interpretation. I can’t account for this, but it appears to be true. Musical theory is like gravity: whether or not you acknowledge it, it abides by laws that cannot be denied even if it is possible to go through one’s life without ever thinking about it. If you are going to use the code of musical notation, you must adhere to the conventions of that code or no one is going to know what you are trying to convey when you use it.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Rhythm and time are not the same as meter. Meter is what conveys strong and weak beats, ie. which beats get the stronger accent.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Music theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. Often the description is approximate. Sometimes genre-specific conventions are adopted. Specify ‘jig’ rather than ‘march’ for a tune in 6/8 and additional information is conveyed. Most software used for traditional tunes (including the MIDI generator on this site) uses that information.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The other question no-one has answered is if there are any styles in Irish music that people who notate reels in 2/2 think are a bit like 4/4 like and vice versa. Or is there a law prohibiting it ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Some of what David50 is saying is true. But whether a tune is a jig or a march is not addressed by musical theory beyond intentionally descriptive markings such as adagio, presto, etc. or dotted notes, or rests, or expression markings that convey a style or rhythm. No matter what is done to make a tune sound the way it is supposed to within a genre, the basic laws of musical theory are never violated, which is why I submit that it is primarily prescriptive. To put it simply, the making of music is a fluid thing, but there are definitely rules of the road, at least in its written form.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The other question no-one has answered is if there are any styles in Irish music that people who notate reels in 2/2 think are a bit like 4/4 like and vice versa. Or is there a law prohibiting it ?
# Posted by David50

How you write it is how it should be played. I gave an example earlier of The Rights of Man. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but it’s not a reel as I think of reels. I’ve never heard it played in any time other than 4/4. I can make it work as a reel, but never would I do that, because it doesn’t sound very good. When I play The Musical Priest, I like to start out with a jaunty version in 4/4 and then switch it up to reel time (2/2) to give it more drive. So there are no laws, as such, but if you are going to write it out, you need to use a language that will allow someone else to play the tune the way you intend.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I do realise that this is a bit ‘off the beaten track’ - people discussing the difference in sound when a tune is played / danced to in 2/2 or 4/4 (which I think is what Will was trying to say, and what the "is / isn’t" debate is centred around). However, this time sig business I’m describing is kind of peripherally related, and I’m going to try my best to explain how a machine handles it (and what it tells us about the tunes, and how our brains understand them) - compared to human interpretations / expectations of of just exactly (eg) what is 6/8 and what is 4/4 (or 4/4 or 2/2 for that matter).

Ailin said "But more than bar divisions is happening when you change the time signature, and if the program doesn’t know how to change the notation so that it truly fits the new time signature, you just get a collection of notes with no time, rhythm or musicality." Well, it does change the notation as you would expect. It groups the notes in 3’s for jigs and 4’s for reels, and puts the bar lines in the correct place. It has done its job perfectly. Why *should* it sound any different?

Do you "just get a collection of notes with no time, rhythm or musicality"? Yes, you do, except that the collection of notes is your jig (or reel), and you will recognise it even when it is played back in this lifeless robotic fashion. Take it one step further, remove the time sig, and all the bar lines. You will then visually have a load of notes, no meter, no time, no rhythm, every note with the same volume and duration. It will sound very lifeless, and it will be obvious that it’s been generated by a machine, but you *will* still hear your jig, and recognise it. Or your reel, depending on which you picked. Why? Two reasons.

1 - It’s because of the notes of the tune, and their sequence. As you know, when we play, we bring life to tunes by adding a lot more than just adhering to a time sig and mentally and physically arranging them into groups, and observing bar lines - we accent notes, vary relative volumes, lengthen and shorten notes to get swing / lift / pulse, and sometimes we even play "through the bar lines". A machine won’t do all that unless you tell it to.

2 - Our brains are pattern-trained to recognise tunes, and as such to recognise ‘jig’ form or ‘reel’ form, *solely* by the notes and their sequence. We don’t *need* rhythm, time, meter or anything else to ‘get’ the bare bones of a tune. Of course, when we add these, it don’t arf make an efn difference :)

That’s my theory. Here’s my evidence : two tunes, back to back, played in the manner I described above. Looks this this :

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/call-me-lifeless.jpg

…and sounds like this :

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/call-me-lifeless.mp3

Tell me you don’t hear a very common jig and a very common reel.

Forgive me for not getting involved in the main discussion :)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, I can hear the reel, but not the jig. I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. Whether you play Irish or not, you would at least begin by using a downbeat for every measure. It would still sound rather lifeless on your computer, but the difference between reels and jigs would be unmistakable. The only reason counting makes sense is to separate aurally one bar from the next. You seem to be trying to make a point by taking that reality out of the equation and I don’t know why. Where are you going with this?

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I was reading Dave Flynns dissertation, very interesting and his opinion was that sometimes the music slips into 6/4 as the phrasing actually played by the masters. That a simple 4/4 does not actually cover the intricacies in performance and melodic structure.
The essential point is not about notation, as we all know who gives a feck for notation, what is important is that the feel, the bounce is there for the dancers. I think we can agree on that.
I think we can see that the argument is not as cut and dried on either side as both forms, 2/2 and 4/4 are common. It matters not , what matters is that if we are playing in 2 or 4 that we understand what we are doing .
IMO This discussion may help people train their ears to listen out for these difference and allows them to become more consciously aware, which will let them see and hear more and hopefully incorporate the understanding in their playing. Were I a fluter id be huffing and puffing away . :-)
Just to be clear though, music is based within and on human phsiology , its all linked in with heartbeat pace etc etc etc natural rhythmic activity like walking.
The system of notation simply reflects this reality. notes have a fundamental relative value so apiece of music wont be readable if it changes rhythms and changes understanding of relative note value. So a bar in 5/4 followed by a bar in 3/4 will be easily readable, no one would think otherwise. So a tune in 2/4 followed by a tune in 4/4 wont feel like cutting time in half as it would if you moved to 2/2 it will feel like your doubling time, find a pace that suits a polka and a reel 2 tunes and try it.
Were a tune to go from a reel to a hornpipe the feel would be from 4 to 2 unless its a hornpipe played crazy fast like a reel! but traditionally HP are slow steady feeling tunes with vivaceous flourishes and a 2 count though more often written in 4 they are actually a much more complex form with aspects of 12/8, 6/8 4/4 and 2/2.
so move from a 2/4 to a 2/2 hornpipe same 1/4 note value. bang from lively fast polka to sedate HP now move to a reel, 4/4 immediately you will notice the doubling up feel.

This is how the system is designed. cheers

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, all you have demonstrated is that those two tunes are sufficiently distinctive to be recognised when played badly. The accents that many MIDI converters apply if told the dance tune type and where the bar lines are allow them to play the tune less badly.

Why not find a jig or reel we won’t have heard, give it that treatment (but only present a fragment so that we can’t count the notes) and then ask us if it’s a jig or a reel ?

(sorry, crossed all after Jim)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Or is the jig a trick doing that - do I just think I have heard it before but can’t bring the name to mind ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Tobin’s, the latest casualty in Jim’s war on chestnuts… :-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

OK, let’s keep it simple - listen to the mp3 while reading the music.

1st tune is part A of jig ‘Tobin’s Favourite’, 2nd tune is part A of ‘Maid Behind the Bar’. A (very common) jig and reel one after the other, seamlessly, with no break, no accents, no meter, no time sig, nothing.

My point : you don’t need anything but the notes to be able to recognise a tune. I also realise that all this might not make a lot of sense (or have any point) for someone who hasn’t used music transcription software before.

No big deal.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

8-)
Take heart fellow inquisitors and know that in a parallel universe all your questions are answered to your complete and utter satisfaction… unless of course you believe that the math indicates it to be just one big "fuzzy" mess!
;-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Road to Schrod, you’re back! And not, perhaps. I am of the opinion that some of the above sentences should be notated with semicolons and brackets within parentheses, but as long as we understand each other … FWIW, i came from (mostly) notated music to the trad world and when I teach workshops on notation for those who play by ear, I usually begin by asking whether they are sure they want to sully their ears … Though above all, what you are asking about, to notate things yourself rather than to focus more on notation exclusively (which got lost for a while up there), I also say that the notation can be a supplement rather than a script. For what it is worth, I absolutely prefer 2/2 for reels, because of what reelsweet points out. It shows not only content of the measure, but hierarchy. So i tend, usually, to find that 4/4 would be too "beaty" and "local" for my taste. And what Will says about the info conveyed by notation is helpful: a meter can be a shorthand, but there is more than one option for a meter: 6/8 can be a jig, but can also be a slow tune (e.g., "Hector the Hero"—unless someone wants to correct me so I should play it faster?). To me the meter says something about the phrasing. I really love this example:
http://youtu.be/mznRzNylNuo

Were I to transcribe, I would choose 2/2, since the quicker notes (shortest usual value) are usually grouped in 4s, and the guitar often emphasizes the first of those. So yeah, it doesn’t matter, *unless* the notation gives one of those cues that is unhelpful.
For anyone who is interested: classical music really really does not take everything from the notation, as someone points out above. A sort of rough approximation/comparison: one can get certain cues from notation in classical music but still needs training, listening, experience. In trad music, as many have said, so much is known from the playing or taxonomy. It is interesting though to think of how the *concepts*—apart from notation, whether verbalized or not—might be significant. Speaking of Hector the Hero, the is a transcription here on the site in 3/8, which would have led me to play it very differently from the way I do having heard it (and having looked at Skinner’s own notation). Apart from which digits to choose, two thoughts that might be helpful, if obvious: (1) neatness is probably more important than nuances of meter, in most cases, and, relatedly, (2) with easier and easier access to technology it can be helpful to provide recording and notation both. But then again, I am a fellow a academic, if not a physicist, so take what I say with a grain.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I read an interesting comment that might partly answer our questions; cut time has four beats but its so fast it gives the impression of being 2 beats…..

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I read an interesting comment that might partly answer our questions; cut time has four beats but its so fast it gives the impression of being 2 beats…..

# Posted by Will Evans

Absolutely dead wrong. You can play in cut time at a snail’s pace. Cut time and 4/4 are not, cannot be, the same in any way shape or form. That’s why both time signatures exist. Think of the Beatle’s song Eleanor Rigby. It’s very fast, but no one would ever (I hope) think for a moment that it was in anything other than 4/4. I can’t even imagine what it would sound like in cut time.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

It would sound like ElRby.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Thanks Rose Marie, you make many of the points that I tried to make in my OP. As you indicate, the difficulty in playing music from a written score occurs in every musical form not just trad. (In fact, trad is probably one of the easiest forms to notate.)
The Eagles produced a DVD several years back, ("Hell Freezes Over",) and used a full orchestra on several of the songs. On the DVD, were several rehearsal out-takes and in one of those Don Henley is visibly upset with the conductor when he fails to get the violin section to play from the score with the proper "bluesy" emphasis he had intended. (The song may have been "New York Minute" but I’m don’t remember for sure.) Composers have probably felt that same sense of frustration throughout history. Maybe that’s why many classical composers also wanted to conduct their own pieces?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

That’s an interesting story, Roads to Home. There is another, somewhat related one, on video, where choreographer Peter Martins is working with Wynton Marsalis on the score he commissioned from Marsalis. Even though the score is quite planned out and arranged, Martins asks that the group play everything the same each time. It’s quite a moment to see on video!

It’s an interesting point you make about conducting—to generalize dangerously, notation in notated music (!) has in many instances gotten more specific and complex. In my case, I would rather not conduct, but I do feel choosy about who plays and I like to be there coaching on the nuances that cannot be conveyed in notation—so it ends up being more like non-notated music anyway. In general.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Interesting to see both time sigs being used in the John Mckenna transcriptions. its written 4/4 with the 2/2 in brackets; the 2/2 is indicative of the fast tempo , lending a sense of 2 beats per measure, according to this author.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

:-D

(not taking sides, but a good spot that Will)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will, you’re making me crazy. Time signature has nothing to do with tempo! Can we possibly get past that concept?

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ailin. I would appreciate your critique of what is said each time the word "tempo" appears in this article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature

So far wikipedia is making more sense to me than mustardia.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@ Aillin ;Time sig has everything to do with tempo, I find it strange to be even discussing such a basic obvious point . Its a fundamental part of the system everything revolves around, thats why Im not debating with you . Its simply a matter of historical fact . Until you understand the basic concepts within the notation system Im not really in to discussing this issue further with you . cheers

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

If I’m reading the arguments correctly, it seems as if nobody would know if a musican plays in 2/2 or 4/4 unless there some foot-tapping/snare drum/piano backbeat, so why bother? Apart from the time signature at the beginning of the notation (should it matter AT ALL), the tunes look the same.

We have strong backbeat implying 4/4, right? We have 2/2 (no backbeat, I assume). And we have musicians whose accompanyists let the chord/bass note ring for entire bars. Does that make the tune 1/1?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

They look the same , but they sound different! The whole attempt to define reels in one time sig is doomed because there are so many flavours . I have the dots to three old reels infront of me , you simply cant switch from one to the other without a strong change of feel. Some reels are interchangeable and fit together in sets well, some dont .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

OK, let’s take it back a step - what happens when you hear a reel, then decide to notate it? What time sig do you use? This is now getting physical and factual, and there’s no room for subjectivity any more. You all need to put your money on the bench.

I have just transcribed a reel, and don’t bother asking what time sig I used. If you were to transcribe it, what time sig would you use? This is one very specific reel, and it’s one from a recent thread. You know exactly how it sounds, so how would you correctly notate it? :

https://soundcloud.com/tim-cornell-2/the-phd

… from here :

https://thesession.org/discussions/34222

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@ Aillin ;Time sig has everything to do with tempo, I find it strange to be even discussing such a basic obvious point . Its a fundamental part of the system everything revolves around, thats why Im not debating with you . Its simply a matter of historical fact . Until you understand the basic concepts within the notation system Im not really in to discussing this issue further with you . cheers

# Posted by Will Evans

If you feel that certain, good for you, but the fact remains you have substantiated nothing to support your position (you really lost me with the "historical fact" line - what?). One can either accept what you say or not, as they wish. I, on the other hand, have the support of works on music theory and simple logic. One could simply ask the question, how does knowing how a measure should be counted indicate tempo? No matter how you count a measure, it can be played very fast or very slow. Do you dispute that? Many pieces of music have metronome markings to indicate temp. That would not be necessary of the time signature did that for you. Do you dispute that? There are all sorts of markings in Italian (allegro, presto, etc.) that each have an accepted range of tempo used in music. If the time signature did that, these terms would not be needed. Do you dispute that? Your statement implies to me that a certain time signature must be played at a certain tempo, or at least within a range. This is quite novel to me. At the very least, you might favor me with an explanation of why a given time signature could not be played at any tempo one pleases.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I suspect that’s a clever choice for your posed question Jim.

Years back someone posted a clip (Bothy Band I think) saying that the pace of a jig seemed really lazy until one tried to play it or measured it. They were emphasing the first beat of the (two beat) bar quite a bit more than the second and playing at a tempo that made foot tapping to both beats hard work. So people were tapping a relaxed one to the bar. Was it still a 6/8 jig ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

[*Was it still a 6/8 jig ?*]

How can we tell?

You’d need to hear the audio, and see the transcription too, in order to properly answer that one - in other words, remove all subjectivity and get down to facts. Otherwise you can end up going round in circles - don’t you think?

There are all manner of aural illusions out there. Sometimes it’s only the combination of the audio and the print of that same tune that can help out to understand ‘what’s this?’ when we hear it.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

yes , the system is designed to indicate tempo . All additional markers , metronome etc are detailed specifications.
Anything can be played anyway you like but the whole idea behind writing music down is so that other people can play it! and understand it . So the conventions is that a waltze is made up of 3x 1/4 notes .Were i to put 3/4 next to a jig it would make no musical sense, or 6/8 next to a waltze or 3/8 .

, The historical fact you seem to miss is that the system already has a built in structure and is logical coherent system that indicates tempo, relative tempo notes etc etc . The very foundation of the written system rely on this difference .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will, I think what you are missing in your illustration of waltzes and jigs is that, no matter the tempo, a jig written in 3/4 cannot and will not sound like a jig. This is not because it is being played at the wrong tempo, but because it is being played in the wrong time signature. Please show me anything anywhere that states that the time signature indicates tempo in any way. I may still disagree, but you talk about this as something that is common knowledge and in over 40 years in music, I have never, ever heard of a time signature indicating anything of the kind. I’d truly love to see some documentation on this. What you are positing flies in the face of everything I think I know about how music is written and what the various symbols and marking are meant to convey.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I took the time to dig up my old copy of Foundation to Flute Playing (copyright 1917 - now there’s some history for you!). Let me directly quote the salient passage:

"Time refers to the number of beats in a measure. Tempo indicates the rapidity of the beats. The two are often confounded."

Apparently so.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Flight of the Bumblebee has a 2/4 time signature and generally played around 160 bpm.
The 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony has an identical 2/4 time signature, and generally played around 50-55 bpm.

How is this possible, if time signature is indicative of tempo?? Please enlighten me, Will.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"3/4 equals 3/8 time at a different tempo" also "12/8 equals 4/4 time at a different tempo and requires the use of tuplets" (op. cit.). Happy to be told it is wrong, if explained. An algorithimic, rather than practical, approach seems at variance with practice.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Now, I am no big music theory expert, but it seems to me 3/4 time is very different than 6/8. If you split the measures up into eighth notes, the first is made up of three groups of two eighth notes, the other is two groups of three eighth notes. The difference between 4/4 and 2/4 pales in comparison to that difference.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"3/4 equals 3/8 time at a different tempo"

Excuse me, but what? I have no idea what that statement means. What’s at a different tempo? The 3/4 or the 3/8? I’ve never even seen anything in 3/8, but is someone suggesting it is what 3/4 becomes if it is played faster? Such hair-splitting really obscures the simplicity of the difference between time and tempo. Time allows you to count, but how fast or how slow is a function of tempo. The two are separate and distinct.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@: teagun , People either play what is written , or they play what feels right to them. We dont always follow the Composers directions, reels can be played slow or fast BUT to play them for dancers requires a specific understanding of tempo .The top number states how many beats and the bottom number indicates general tempo , if it were not so the whole system itself would be unreadable, No one would ever know how fast a piece was meant to be played if there was no standard in the written system.
We all know how a waltze sounds , in 3/4 that is called perfect time . just as 2/2 is cut time and 4/4 is common time. This is the standard which is based upon human physiology , heart beats pulses walking pace. You can not separate the 2 without losing the sense of it , language and culture are entwined.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"The top number states how many beats and the bottom number indicates general tempo "
Sorry Will, but this is just plain wrong.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will, what do you think the metronome markings represent when it says in a 4/4 tune (crotchet) = 80 or in a 6/8 tune (dotted crotchet) = 80? If , as you claim, the bottom number in a time signature represents tempo, is it possible to place a metronome marking of, say (crotchet = 120 instead of the above 80? If the bottom number in a time signature represents tempo, are Italian terms such as "andante" and "allegro" not redundant if a piece of music contains a time signature?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

the bottom number indicates what then?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The metronome indications and Italian indications are additions to a system. they are not a fundamental part at all! how could they be ? they were added to clarify as the written system itself is far older than metronomes .
In fact the written numbers were a development of the previous cut common perfect system . With the advent of the ars nova system in 1320 all sorts of modifications were made to improve the systems effectiveness.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I will quote here from a performers guide to medieval music .; ” while it is generally agreed that mensuration signs provide information about relative tempo there is still serious scholarly debate on the issue’

So its not just here at the sesh we discuss and debate these things …

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"the bottom number indicates what then?" It seems to match ‘American’ usage.

(or vice versa)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"the bottom number indicates what then?"

The bottom number represents a note in its relative duration. The actual duration is dependent on a particular tempo, but it is not indicated by the time signature. The measurement of the note duration is relative, not absolute If, as in 6/8, the bottom note is a quaver, then that quaver is half as long as a crotchet. You don’t know what tempo you are to play in unless the duration value of a particular note is indicated in beats per minute, or some other indication is given, as in Italian terms or maybe English terms like"brisk" etc.

"The metronome indications and Italian indications are additions to a system. they are not a fundamental part at all! how could they be ? they were added to clarify ."

Not really. They give you an idea of the duration of a note. As said above, the note duration is only given in relative terms in a time signature.

Should "Planxty Irwin" be played at jig tempo? Or the above example "Hector the Hero"?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"I will quote here from a performers guide to medieval music .; ” while it is generally agreed that mensuration signs provide information about relative tempo there is still serious scholarly debate on the issue’"

Interestingly, quotation is from a paragraph on notation and rhythm- and concerning mensural notation.
We are not discussing mensural notation or its (implied) tactus - where a semibreve was approximately equal to a human heartbeat. Musical notation has moved on considerably since then.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

One evolved from the other. The whole system is designed to indicate how to play the music . so Either our modern system is an improvement or not.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

You see the very foundation of the written system requires absolute time as well as relative time. Otherwise it makes no sense. I can write a waltze as 3/32 or 3/1 .If time is only relative then its as valid an approach as writing reels in 4/ 16th or 2/1.. no one could understand the tempo without additions . It could change from tune to tune ! I could write a tune in 3/4 and the next waltz in 3/8 and expect them to be played the same and then 3/32… need i say more?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

So why did Skinner notate his lament, that Ailin (and many others) hear him playing as more like 3/4, in 6/8 ?

(I think the A part may give a clue. But I can’t read music, I just decode it)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"no one could understand the tempo without additions"
Precisely — You could, as you say write a waltz as 3/32 provided you specify the BPM Exactly the same as you would do if you wrote it as 3/1 or 3/4.
The top number tells you how many notes of a certain TYPE (not length) and the bottom number tells you what that type is. The note usually used as "one" is the semibreve, or whole note; but this is not always the case. Some people use minims, or even breves. That is why the BPM and note type must be specified at the top of the score if it is to make any sense. The only reason for not including it in some scores such as Irish trad or other genres, is that it is assumed by the writer that the musician knows what kind of music is being played — but that is also an assumption on the part of the player.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will, I simply do not understand you. You are still asking what the lower number in the time signature means, when I have explained it a number of times already? Yet, you refuse to answer the basic question that was asked of you to reconcile your viewpoint with the reality that any time signature can be played at any tempo. Cut time is counted in half notes, yet is generally faster than 4/4. That simply doesn’t jive with your take on what a time signature tells you. There is a standard accepted definition of what a time signature is and does. You are operating outside of that standard and I don’t know why. It doesn’t accomplish anything but have us debating something to which only you seem to subscribe.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

So why did Skinner notate his lament, that Ailin (and many others) hear him playing as more like 3/4, in 6/8 ?
(I think the A part may give a clue. But I can’t read music, I just decode it)

# Posted by David50

3/4 and 6/8 are closely related time signatures and in some tunes can be interchangeable depending on how you wish to write the notes. Give Me Your Hand is often notated either way. Which time signature you use will affect the notation used, but it need not always affect how the tune will be played. Sometimes, there simply isn’t that much difference.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

3/4 and 6/8 closely related? What next! jeez 6/8 is compound 2! its not related to 3/4 in any way! 9/8 and 3/4 are related! and you want to explain things to me!? 8-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The question about the Skinner tune was to you Will. If, as you say, time signature suggests tempo why did Skinner chose 6/8 ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Yes, Will, they are closely related. If you don’t agree with that, well I guess I’m not surprised. And I’m not the only one that is trying to explain things to you, but you are not paying heed despite that fact that no one is contradicting me, but everyone is contradicting you. :)

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I take it you did basic maths at school, Will? What’s the difference between three-quarters and six-eighths?

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The concrete actually tastes pretty good.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@Will:
"jeez 6/8 is compound 2!"

For the first time I (and probably others) agree with you (in the sense that we see a 6/8 bar as xxx xxx rather than xx xx xx), but that doesn’t stop people from labeling (for example) jazz waltzes 6/8.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

For the first time I (and probably others) agree with you (in the sense that we see a 6/8 bar as xxx xxx rather than xx xx xx), but that doesn’t stop people from labeling (for example) jazz waltzes 6/8.

# Posted by jeff_lindqvist

Jeff, I don’t think that is what Will is saying. In fact, he is saying the opposite. He is saying that 6/8 IS xx xx xx and not xxx xxx, unless I am mistaken. That is what he means by compound 2. Either scenario is actually correct, depending on the convention of the music being played. Where Will goes off the tracks is in saying there is no relationship between 3/4 and 6/8, a statement that could not be more incorrect.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Its not maths Gam, its music. So ahem , exactly what is this ‘relationship’ between 6/8 and 3 /4?
@jeff People can write what they like when composing, doesnt mean anyone will understand it …

At David , I presume he wrote it one way , as a jig but decided to play it as a waltz. Nothing unusual there I do it a lot when composing , decide its better played another way. Doesn’t mean anyone is going to play it from the dots like a waltz if it written as a jig and vice versa because the idea is not expressed and therefor not communicated.

Completely wong Aillin, you clearly dont understand compound time . cheers

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Completely wong Aillin, you clearly dont understand compound time . cheers

# Posted by Will Evans

I’d be pleased to see you explain it. Keep in mind that you are the only one at odds with what you think I don’t understand.

Gam can speak for himself (hope I got the gender right), but your statement about it being music and not math sidesteps the fact that the entire musical notation system is about nothing but math. Without exception, it adheres to the same rules and conventions.

And regarding the piece David50 asked about, you should be able to tell that the piece is neither a waltz nor a jig, at least not as it was played. It sounded to me more like an air written in 3/4. One certainly would never dance to it.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ailin-I suggest you look up compound meter.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ailin, Will. The score to the piece was linked above by Weejie. In responding to my question you are not using all the information available.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ailin-I suggest you look up compound meter.

# Posted by 5stringfool
Thank you - I had that one wrong.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ailin, Will. The score to the piece was linked above by Weejie. In responding to my question you are not using all the information available.

# Posted by David50

I would call this piece a lament. I am unclear as to what it is you want to know that hasn’t been answered.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Since I initiated the OP I suppose it only fair to post my take-away. Those who don’t read music, or don’t care to, need read no further. Nothing said here will change the way you hear or play your music. For the rest, I divide my comments into (1) fact, (2) implication, (3) generally accepted concepts and (4) my own conclusions. I reference each where needed.

Facts:
(1) time signature (or meter,) definition: The number of beats per bar over the length of the note that gets the beat. 2/2 = two beats per bar, each ½ note gets a beat. 4/4 = four beats per bar, each ¼ note gets a beat. 8/8 = eight beats per bar, each 1/8 note gets a beat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature
(2) tempo definition: the speed at which the beats are played; usually indicated in beats per minute (BPM.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo
A drummer may establish the tempo and where the beat lies but it can also be emphasized or accented by foot-tap, clap or even by melody players accenting the beat notes.

Implications:
(1) Reels can be notated in 2/2, 4/4 or 8/8 because each time sig will have the same eight quavers (1/8 notes,) in a bar. Even though time signature says nothing at all about the tempo (BPM,) it does imply that tempo must double from 2/2 to 4/4 and double again from 4/4 to 8/8 if you want to play at the same note speed. For example, if you are counting your reel in 2/2 by tapping your foot two to the bar at a tempo of 100 BPM, you will have to tap your foot at 200 BPM if you’re counting in 4/4, or 400 BPM if you’re counting in 8/8 to maintain the same note speed.
(2) It is perfectly acceptable to have players “beatmatch” a tune. For example, a drummer may beat out a tune in 4/4 at 200 BPM against someone playing melody and tapping their foot in 2/2 at 100 BPM. This is almost a given in big bands. The earlier clip of the four trad players is a perfect example of “beatmatching”, where three of the musicians are beating two to the bar and the whistler taps merrily along at four to the bar.

Generally accepted concepts:
(1) “Rhythm” is a hard to define concept, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/501914/rhythm but it certainly has elements of both meter and tempo as well as nuance (accent, note spacing, syncopation and phrasing) that convey the sense of a tune. The “pulse” that gives the tune lift.
(2) ITM reels for the most part, (there are exceptions,) are considered to be “duple-meter”, that is two strong pulses per bar. http://ashleyirishdances.com/music/types-of-irish-dance-music/ Whether you notate in 2/2, 4/4 or 8/8 this implies the “accent” would fall on the 1st and 5th notes of an eight-note bar. In 2/2 time, the accent falls on each beat. In 4/4 time the accent would be placed on the 1st and 3rd beats. In 8/8 time the accent falls on the 1st and 5th beats.

Conclusions (only my opinion):
(1) Reels can be notated in 2/2, 4/4 or 8/8 time as long as you specify where the accent should fall where playing. (Old-time reels are often notated in 2/4 BTW)
(2) Accents are not included in the notation. Therefore to adequately render the tune from just notation the player must be familiar with the genre.
(3) IMO, 2/2 time sig (or cut-time,) best signifies the “feel” of the reel because the accent falls on each beat and you need not know that you should accent “different” beats in other meters.
From a physical sense, I feel “less rushed” when I’m tapping two times per bar instead of four EVEN THOUGH I may be playing at exactly the same note speed.

One of the biggest attractions, for me at least, on this board is the "tune" section. I’ve no heard every reel that’s ever been played but I’ve heard enough to know what they sound like and to do a fair play from the notation everyone is kind enough to post. In that respect, the notation matters.

Anyway, that’s my take. Thanks again for all those who contributed.
RTH

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I linked the clip of Skinner playing his own tune because I knew it was scored in 6/8 so flew in the face of Will’s insistance that time signature gives an indication of tempo and because it seemed to me to be the converse of Ailin’s "a jig written in 3/4 cannot and will not sound like a jig."

It came to mind because of the way the discussion was going at the time - the next post was Albrown’s caveated comment that "it seems to me 3/4 time is very different than 6/8"

So why did Skinner score a lament that people usually ‘hear’ as 3/4 in 6/8 ?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

… to contradict the converse of… (Hey Weejie, since you pre-empted my ‘punchline’, what do you think ?)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

david, to answer your question, he didnt. he wrote the piece as a jig, clearly and a pretty good one. the fact that he decided to slow it down considerably and play it as a 3/4 or a 3/2 has no reflection on the notated example. He is simply not playing what is written , thats his prerogative . .
It appears , most people here dont understand the foundations of the written system , some dont even understand basic concepts like compound time. If people are interested about understanding the fine points of the system I suggest they study drum notation the whole thing will become a lot clearer.Work your way through the rudiments , tackle a few pages of drum notation for just snare.
@ road to home, i have to disagree with this point; (2) Accents are not included in the notation. Therefore to adequately render the tune from just notation the player must be familiar with the genre.#

.the main accents are marked clearly in every piece of written music in this system, its called a bar line, in combination with an understanding of the system then the time sig and note barring can be very clear and effective in communicating information. IF you understand the code.

There is also a very comprehensive notation system that marks all the accent in pipe music. Thats why I can categorically state that many reels are played as written , in 4/4 time simply from the evidence.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will. It’s a coronach, a lament. Written two days after the death it relates to "for immediate publication". The score has the note "The coronach sighing through the trees" Are you suggesting he re-purposed a jig and didn’t bother changing the notation to help players ("suitable for pipes, piano, violin").

:-/

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will-what evidence do you have to support your assertion that Skinner wrote Hector the Hero as a jig? There are many examples throughout history of slow tunes in 6/8. Barcarolles and Siciliana come to mind, as do the aforementioned jazz waltzes.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

A week of complete meaninglessness?

Posted .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Will, just so we’re not speaking oranges to apples, when I use the term "accents" above I did not intend it to mean grace notes, birls or embellishments commonly "beamed" together in pipe music. (I think you use the term "bar line" but I interpret that as the line separating measures.) By "accenting" a note, I meant adding emphasis to a note by playing it a little louder, holding a little longer or something to distinguish it as a "beat" note and add "pulse" to the music.
Even at that though, you are right in that there are ways to indicate "emphasis" in a well written score. It’s just not commonly done when notating a reel. (I know how to do that with "dots" but I don’t know if it’s even possible with the ABC notation we use to post tune settings.)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"A week of complete meaninglessness?"
Afraid so. Also abysmal ignorance, confusion and self-contradiction. In other words, a normal week at The Session :)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

It’s the one constant thing in my life.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@road, no i mean the bar line between every bar[ apologies the word beamed is correct term ]. it states that the primary stress is on the first note of the bar . the meter then explains how many beats in simple time . But that does not mean that compound time sigs dont convey the same information, just in a more subtle form. 6/8 is compound 2 so we know there are 2 beats in a bar. left and right. .
In my urtext Bach sonatas here are no metronome markings ,occasional presto or allegro indications but really for the 3/8 in the first sonata the presto indication is inessential, one just reads it as written .
Of course there is a lot of debate over how these tunes should be played!:-) But IMO Mr Menuhin put paid to that with the definitive recordings . One tune has bars of 3/4 but mostly in 9/8 , but to make things simpler its all notated in 3/4 . Its a very complex set of work to analyze in this context .

Yes quite often the reels are just bare bones transcriptions , but there are plenty of heavily anointed setting specifically for Irish pipers and also some stuff for fiddlers , I can suggest some if your interested because its info not on the net , you have to pay cash :-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

but road, just to clarify FYI the grace notes have specific functions ; So on the Scottish pipes the first finger grace is the strongest accent , so it goes on the beat generally unless it syncopated.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Well, earlier on I linked to a tune composed by thesession member Timmy. I liked the tune, so I transcribed it, and with Timmy’s permission, uploaded it to the tunes section : https://thesession.org/tunes/13707

I also assigned the correct time sig to it :) , and the audio is here :

https://soundcloud.com/tim-cornell-2/the-phd

So there.

@David50, about the 6/8 and 3/4 business, read the music and listen to the audio at the same time :

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/what-jig-is-this.jpg

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/guest/what-jig-is-this.mp3

So, as you can see, it’s a jig. All the signs are there : 6/8 sig, correct grouping of notes, etc. I didn’t break a single rule. Go on, put all the accents in, and play it for real - it’s still a jig, right? :)

Again, I put it to you all that it is the notes of a tune, and their sequence, and that alone, that has plasticised the diddley brain into classifying a tune into a particular time sig, regardless of what time sig is on the paper.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

The bar line does NOT mark where the emphasis lies. As I said earlier (it seems like a month) if it did, reggae wouldn’t sound the way it does. You can assume all you want, Will; but other people may very well assume something different — that does not make them wrong and you right.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Actually, meter is indicated by the tempo. This is how I was taught, as far as meter goes, (I realize not everyone has been taught the same thing, but I find this way helpful). 4/4: XxXx XxXx 2/2: Xxxx Xxxx 3/4: Xx Xx Xx 6/8: Xxx Xxx Although many reels are written in 4/4, I believe they are more commonly played in 2/2.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"I believe they are more commonly played in 2/2"
Reels are not played in any time signature — that is solely for writing stuff down.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Well, I hardly hear anyone playing reels in a meter that 4/4 would indicate, because that would make for a very choppy reel. Classical players coming to ITM do this all the time though, because of these conventions.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@ Gam ;In reggae the one is dropped but that doesnt mean its not accented! On the contrary the accent is even stronger, marked by the bar line …
@ reelsweet just go to the graceings of any reel , not the time sig , the graces . [ though they say the same thing .]

It depends where you are I suppose, In my experience reels are generally played with a pulse of four,, not 2. Unless its a 2/2 reel that is , like St Annes reel.
Micheal, if the conversation is dull to you then by all means start a discussion more to your liking .

It may not make much difference to you personally but for some aspects of the game its essential that people understand that reels are not just one beast but come in a variety of guises.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"the one is dropped but that doesnt mean its not accented" doesn’t make sense. It’s either dropped (whatever that means) or it’s accented.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Guys, please take note, you don’t win a discussion by having the last word, you win it by making good, sensible comments. I would suggest that any good, sensible comments that are still being posted on this thread are just repeating what came before. Perhaps it is time for sensible people to leave the discussion, and move on to more important things!
Last one out is a rotten egg! ;-)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"So why did Skinner score a lament that people usually ‘hear’ as 3/4 in 6/8 ?"

It sounds 6/8 to me. Even more so the way Tommy Peoples plays it. Likewise Planxty Irwin which many seem to think of as 3/4.

It’s in 2/4 - but much of it has 6 quavers to the bar.

It’s all down to interpretation.

"One evolved from the other."

Just like an ocean liner evolved from a hollowed log.

Every so often you get a Titanic, however.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

looks like they are miming….. 2/4, 6/8 not so much difference , just emphasis.
@ weejie no steel ship ever evolved from a hollow log , ever ever ever . the hollow log evolved into the canoe and kayak etc in a sense but its an evolution of ideas and concepts of communication .Either the present system has evolved historically or its devolved .
The system itself is unworkable without absolute time as a fundamental concept, Just as is relative time. Its simply not possible to communicate ideas clearly if the ground rules change from tune to tune. from page to page , from line to line.
. Of course we can all come up with examples of exceptions to the general rule and links to music written by people who dont understand the system. but thats all they are . Anyone here can write a piece of music in any time sig in any fashion with out any real understanding of what they are doing .
# ok its possible to say; well language evolves and changes and the way its riten dus a lot thru hiftory, fair enough and perhaps text speak is the new way forward….. I accept that it is superior in some ways but there will always be arguments over it till the older generation dies down.
My point is that this is merely a written language designed to express human concepts in human terms, it can change it can evolve but it can also devolve but once something has devolved then it becomes inadequate at transmitting the concepts so people add on more bells and whistles to attain the communication of information that was previously done through an understanding of what was there already .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

" weejie no steel ship ever evolved from a hollow log , ever ever ever ."

Humans quite likely learned by watching things float, that you could float with those things. An ocean liner is an extension of that principle (wooden boats - wooden ships - iron clad wooden ships - iron/steel ships). You don’t necessarily have to understand Archimedes to discover that. Unless you can show that floating on steel hulls was developed from an entirely different principle, I’ll take your assertion as being as unfounded as tempo being indicated in time signature.

" 2/4, 6/8 not so much difference , just emphasis. "

And a pile of artificial groupings - 6 quavers don’t naturally fit into a bar of two crotchets. Getting them to fit involves triplets.

"Of course we can all come up with examples of exceptions to the general rule and links to music written by people who dont understand the system."

You said it.

Is this real?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

And concrete, too!

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

No, that’s wrong !

Pykrete was inspired by icebergs, not floating logs. Interesting story though, thanks.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"Pykrete was inspired by icebergs"

Nae doot when it came to materials, but the idea was to build an "aircraft carrier" which was a shipbuilding development. Does the "artist’s impression" here look like an iceberg or an aircraft carrier?

http://tostevin.net/?p=2897

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Nah, that’s a fancy raft, not a descendant of a dugout canoe. "He proposed that an iceberg, natural or artificial, be levelled to provide a runway and hollowed out to shelter aircraft."

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Did the raft not come about as a GT model dugout?

That’s the point. each time something is elaborated it takes on fresh ideas. It’s why modern music notation has moved on leaps and bounds from mensural notation. Semibreves and heartbeats fell out long back.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@Road called it with the Arghhh (did I notate that right? Three hhhs?).

Two examples in 3/4:
• Sarabande, conventionally (pretty much always) in 3/4: http://youtu.be/VF9v-6B_O0A. (Chuckling welcomed.)

• Waltz: conventionally (pretty much always) in 3/4: http://youtu.be/5oYh1ycMTAs?t=41s. (Dropped jaws welcomed.)

It seems that the main sticking point here in this "discussion" concerns which aspects/parameters are consistent/invariable and which are more open to (in fact, requiring of) interpretation. In the two above: both are in 3/4, which is expected/necessary for each dance form. Either could be played in a wide range of tempi—but there are certain conventions, as some have pointed out, that we learn to expect. The waltz would have a tempo that facilitates waltzing, and the sarabande a tempo that facilitates sarabanding (slower than a waltz)—particularly evident in the exx. with dance here. One *could*, however, speed up or slow down either: both would remain in 3/4 (the more empirical/literal aspect), *but* the question of whether retain the formal designation, of waltz or sarabande, might arise. Where one draws this line could vary quite a bit. Even if a waltz is too fast to dance to, it could retain, not only the 3.4 as essential, but the other syntactic (sometimes subtler) features of a waltz: as in the famous use of the "Blue Danube" in *2001*: http://youtu.be/UqOOZux5sPE?t=2m24s. Such a fast waltz tempo (there are faster ones to be found) is often described as being "in one": one feels/plays a big beat that *contains* the three within it: a conductor would give one beat per measure, but it remains a waltz, recognizable in this case (1) *not* particularly due to tempo; (2) but due to meter, still audible within the fastness, if not danceable; and (3) perhaps even more due to the more specific musical features—kind of like the things we hear, in addition to meter and tempo, that make us recognize a jig, a reel, etc. A waltz may have oomph, a sarabande has an emphasis on beat 2 within the 3/4, and so on—we can apply the same to trad forms. Although my exx. are classical, because that is what I have handy, you could apply the same logic to, say, a reel: it could be faster or slower, but tempo and meter are two, not all, of the parameters that make a reel. (There’s also the interesting matter of differing tempi for, say, hornpipes and reels, but they after get blurred, right?) So while there is all this arguing going on here, which breaks my tender heart, because I want us all to play together nicely, there is really not one answer to many of these issues, because there are multiple questions in the air, and different matters are getting conflated.

Two other tidbits for the intrepid:
• Tchaikovsky 6th Symphony, Mvt. II is waltz in *5/4*‚and is the warp that proves the straight line: i.e., one can hear, *if* familiar with the normative waltz, the way it deforms the expected 3/4.
• One of my favorite meters: http://youtu.be/jn644mhstUs?t=25s. Any takers?

Now, does this help at all? In any case, it’s nice spending the first day of my sabbatical with y’all. #BusmansHoliday

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Interesting clips, Rosemarie :) I like the Blue Danube one, btw. Did you notice how, in my earlier links ("what jig is this?"), I proved that the Blue Danube was actually a 6/8 double jig? Yes, very silly indeed.

The 5/4 business is interesting too. I find some time sigs take a bit of getting used to, in terms of listening.

Have you heard the famous ‘aural illusion’ in the Bach Violin Sonata #6 in the bariolage (about bar #13 onward) - it sound like the ‘beat’ is being turned upside down. It’s just the arrangement of the notes, nothing else. And it’s notated in 3/4, although it doesn’t really sound like it.

Back to diddley music - ever notice how hard it is to play a 6/8 double jig and put a persistent accent on the 2nd note of each group of 3?

Anyway, no-one is arguing here. It’s just that we are all totally clueless :)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Well, Rosemarie, it’s a good try, as far as it goes, but I think you perhaps waste your time. If I understand you correctly, you are trying to bring sense and reason to unnecessarily convoluted and silly arguments that seem to me to be more self-serving than enlightening (theirs, not yours). The simple fact is that time signatures have naught to do with tempo. I believe your point is that, sometimes we get unintended information from a time signature because of the accepted conventions of the type of music being notated. And in general, certain time signatures tend to be slower or faster than others, so one might make a leap of understanding that simply isn’t there, but perhaps seems to be to the less musically literate. I think it’s nice that you have addressed that, but I don’t fancy it will persuade those who, at least in my view, are in most need of it.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Oh, are we off again ? Thanks for the information Rosemary, it was your posts I was thinking of when I mentioned the ‘practical’ as opposed to the algorithmic somewhere up there.

Jim. I still think that all your messing with tunes just shows is that a familiar melody can survive murder.

Don’t forget the waltz steps folks. Listen out for the faint ‘pairing’ of the bars when people dance.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

[*Jim. I still think that all your messing with tunes just shows is that a familiar melody can survive murder.*]

…and in that respect, in reality time sigs and tempos have little relevance.

…and I’m not messing with them, I’m performing creative experimentation :)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, thanks and apologies: I disciplined myself to catch up on the last sedimentary layer of posts before spilling any more virtual ink myself—so I shall rewind to catch up more fully and check that out. With that in mind, I was glad my mention of "Hector the Hero" was taken up …

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I can’t remember (or find above), but has anyone mentioned the obvious fact that Hector the Hero is a slow, 6/8 march? Reasonably common tune type. Not so much in Irish music, though.

Posted by .

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

No one has Ben. It was something like that that I was fishing for above. Thanks. The limited scale range and ‘suitable for pipes’ had me wondering if part of the ‘target audience’ would be famliar with playing 6/8 marches with ceremonial slowness. Also, wouldn’t the A part be untidy scored in 3/4 since it looks as if he wanted to ‘pair up’ the groups of three ?

When played as a waltz for dancing is comes out completely differently, more like Jim’s efforts at ‘morphing’ one tune type into another.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

" but has anyone mentioned the obvious fact that Hector the Hero is a slow, 6/8 march? "

They haven’t because it isn’t. It could be played as such, but it was composed as a "coronach" (a dirge, basically). You can see that clearly in Skinner’s own hand, both on the stave, and in his notes "1st strain loco [played in place - as written] - the Coronach sighing through the trees".
There are even a set of words for it (by Thomas McWilliam).

A "coronach" is not for marching, but is part of a keening process.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

[*When played as a waltz for dancing is comes out completely differently, more like Jim’s efforts at ‘morphing’ one tune type into another. *]

Not really morphing, just a reminder of the difference between the literal interpretation of time sigs, compared to their implied / interpreted meanings - contrast how a machine plays a tune, as opposed to how warm bodies do.

If time sigs are interpreted literally, all tunes will sound the same, regardless of whether they are jigs or reels.

It’s only the accents on the notes (implied by the time sig, and in which my machine examples did not have) that makes (eg) a jig sound different from a reel.

I though the concept was peripherally related to the original discussion (practical difference between 2/2 and 4/4 notation) - that’s all.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"It’s only the accents on the notes (implied by the time sig, and in which my machine examples did not have) that makes (eg) a jig sound different from a reel."

Not to my ears. I hear the effect of melody notes as being strongly influenced by how they fall within rhythm of the tune. Taking a 6/8 jig that has 6 quavers to the bar and playing those notes 8 quavers to the bar as a slightly swung reel (and stopping before you run out of notes) is not going to make it sound like a reel with a nice melody ** . Cadences would come at strange places for example.

If you got a whistle you could explore how missing different notes out to take a breath does or doesn’t alter the sense of movement in the melody.

** I suspect that Bach and his pals could pull something of that would work but probably not with an off-the-shelf melody.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

So far as I have noticed where a melody is used in different metres the basic melody and pulse stays the same but the rhythm changes (e.g. https://thesession.org/tunes/4320 which crops up in 4/4, 6/8 and 3/4) or extra beats with appropriate fragments of melody are slipped in (e.g.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np8NW16Dx3Y)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

"It’s only the accents on the notes (implied by the time sig, and in which my machine examples did not have) that makes (eg) a jig sound different from a reel."]

It is just the accents. It’s only because when you play a tune, it’s very difficult (almost impossible) for you to play a tune without accents, every note the same length and volume, like a machine can. So in that sense you can’t really make a judgement :)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Unconvinced Jim. But that is why I think as a test you need a tune that most of us won’t recognise. I reckon that if it was a good tune then even without the accents people would generally agree whether they would rather play it as a reel or a jig.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Sorry, I should have said ‘notes themsleves’, not accents. Snorting too much Domestos :)

As in my previous post "So I put it to you that what makes your brain identify a tune as being in a particular family, is dependent on the notes themselves, and their sequence, and has bugger all to do with the time sig"

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, I think I’m finally understanding what you are saying. You are correct that without any accented beats, all time signatures sound the same. Where I find fault with your premise is that, given the whole purpose of time signatures is to separate groups of notes by a downbeat followed by a prescribed number of beats, you cannot simply put in dividing lines and ask a computer to play it giving each beat equal emphasis and get any other result than the one you’ve reported. In making your case that time signatures are not relevant, you correctly state that if one knows the conventions of how a tune is played, pretty much any notation beyond the notes themselves serves little purpose. However, the purpose of all musical notation beyond notes is to give as much information as possible to allow one to play from a written score. Notation cannot address style, but it does provide the framework of a piece and that is all it is intended to do.

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### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Thanks, Ailin. You’ve got it.

I think this all started a while back when I composed one of my tunes, then went to transcribe it. It was a 6/8 jig, and when I was finished I accidently changed the time sig to 4/4, and of course it re-grouped and re-barred all the notes so the tune now looked like a reel. Before I corrected the error, I hit ‘play’ and was quite surprised to hear that the tune sounded exactly the same. My conclusion - time sig change in a music transcription tool does noting but visually change the appearance of the tune. It does not alter the sound a single bit.

At a bare minimum, the only single thing you need in order to recognise a tune are the notes played (which is kind of stating the obvious, I suppose).

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Jim, thanks for that Bach example—indeed, the open E string is why I started playing trad. music, though I do not have one on any of my instruments, yet—but I am working on one for my clarinet. (Incorporating an aulos design.) Yeah, the weight of the lower notes in the Bach starts to tug away from the "correct" downbeat.

You know, I am not sure I understand the definition of a double jig! It seems like what I would think of a normative jig—like, most of the ones I play I would think to be double? I looked it up on another discussion here on thesession and—surprise—I gleaned some info but also some uncertainty. (Plus the discussion turned to slides …) More info welcome if you feel up to it.

There is a related phenomenon in the concluding presto from the Bach Solo Violin Sonata 1 in g minor:
http://youtu.be/W_AE5gwN94o?t=13m36s

http://javanese.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/4/4f/IMSLP01304-BWV1001.pdf
(p. 8)

(I play this one clarinet, as written (thus wrong key), and it fits nicely and is delightful to work with those rhythms, though the breathing is a bit of a challenge—as in Celtic music.)

This is actually neat and related to what we are all discussing: if this were played (egad) by a machine without accents, it would just be a stream (the consistent 16ths make it a "perpetual motion). But it is notated in 3/8, *but* there are moments/passages that undermine that—moving from 1+2+3+ to 1++2++. What’s interesting and related to some of the above, despite it being a different rep: (1) the only tempo indication is the word "presto"; (2) neither dynamics nor articulation are indicated; and (3) therefore, etc.—performers make certain decisions about tempo and everything else, including how much to bring out the rhythmic quirks. So it does have something in common with a reel: including strings of notes of identical duration; with some ideas about tempo, accent, and such; and a certain freedom for the player to make choices. (I love "off" accents in reels, which vary a *lot* from player to player.)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Up for a Pink Floyd example? This is related to the machine thing—

http://youtu.be/ps—8dJlFFc?t=25m5s

(Should take you to 25:05.)

Here the smallest value—let’s call it an eighth note—stays constant, but the groupings into beats change.
12 8th notes, grouped in 2s: 1+2+3+4+5+6+
12 8th notes, but grouped in 3s: 1++2++3++4++

6X2=12
4X3=12

(The speaker, Gilad Cohen, is one of my advisees and organized "the first ever academic conference on the music of Pink Floyd.")

Any other Syd Barrett fans out there? Quiz question: What was Syd Barrett’s relationship to Celtic music?

Ok, ‘nuff said; back to jigs n’ reels for me.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Rosemarie, thanks for the Bach clip, yes, indeed another one that induces the ”aural illusion". Similar to Novacek’s "Perpetuum Mobile", difficult for learners because the accent is on the 1st of the group of four, but the ear thinks it’s on the 2nd on the group of four. Also, the last part of the Kreisler "Prelude and Allegro" consists entirely of rapid groups of four, but everyone thinks they are triplets :) Another reason why that one is difficult to learn.

Interesting analysis on "Shine on Your Crazy Diamond" too. Didn’t "Money" have a really bizarre time sig?

I wonder if anyone experiences an aural illusion in any Irish tunes?

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

Ah,Jim, I just checked out Szeryng’s and Heifetz’s Perpetua—interesting. Thanks. (The Heifetz one is pretty destabilizing to my ear in an interesting way.) You do mean the piece that is in 6/8? So the second beat … here we go again …

(Reminds me of my collection of "Flight[s] of the Bumblebee—Rafael Mendez—I digress …)

It’s nice to hear the Kreisler again‚—I trust you mean the cadenza-like part—pretty nifty.

(Perhaps you have already heard the duo of fiddler Dwayne Côté and guitarist Duane Andrews; they play some Kreisler. And some Grapelli/Reinhardt stuff … It’s a small world …)

Yes, "Money" is in 7/4 and of interest because, while normally one would divide irregular meter in to x+y (such as 3+2, 2+3 for 5/4; or 4+3 or 3+4 for 7/4), this is less distinct; not as much emphasis mid-measure. (My rocker acquaintances here it differently from how I do.)

I would bet there are numerous prog-rock examples of stuff like this, but I don;t know that genre.

Another couple examples of irregular meters: "Mission: Impossible" Theme and Dave Brubeck’s "Take Five" (etc.). Sting has a hankering for these too.

Eager to hear any answers to the aural illusion question too.

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

[*You do mean the piece that is in 6/8? So the second beat … here we go again …*]

Yes, that one. It’s written in 6/8, and arithmetically it’s correct, but it’s no jig :)

I gave up paying any attention to time sigs after that one :)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

I noticed in the "Mickey Finn Scratch Recording" that Jason posted there are some interesting rhythmic nuances. (Ambiguities, to my ear—though I have a sneaking suspicion others just might hear differently …)

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@rosemarie did you read the dave flynn dissertation I linked above ? you might find it interesting…..

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@will Thanks for the reminder—I did *think* I saw it, but just now I could not find it. Do you have any other "distinguishing marks" you can relay? Title, or institution? I’d be grateful, thanks—

### Re: Reels 2/2 or 4/4? Arghhh, Not again!

@Will: Thanks—I will look forward to giving it a look after I give up my day job writing comments here at thesession. :-)