October 2010

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A friend recently proposed a bit of a puzzle: How many times does the time signature change in the Rush song Limelight? I hadn’t ever really tried to figure it out before so I thought I’d give it a shot, and rather than just erasing my work, I thought I’d go ahead and post it here in case anyone else is interested.

I’ve chosen to use additive time signatures, which may look a bit odd at first. When you see something like “4+3/4” it means that there are seven beats in the measure (4+3), but that the beats are arranged in a group of four then three (as opposed to three then four, or two then three then two, etc.) You can just as easily write this as 7/4, or as alternating measures of 4/4 and 3/4.

It’s also important to note that music can be written down in any number of ways. For example, in the verses I heard two measures or 3/4 followed by two measures of 4+2/4 (or 6/4). This could have been written as six measures of 3/4, but it would have been more awkward to count and syncopated. The music felt like it should be broken down like I have done it here.

Also, interestingly, at the end of the bridge and the start of the last chorus, the drums are playing in 4/4 while the rest of the band is playing in 3/4.

If you want to follow along, you can listen here:

Intro:

  • 6 measures 4/4
  • 4 measures 4+3/4

Verse:

  • 2 measures 3/4
  • 2 measures 4+2/4
  • 2 measures 3/4
  • 1 measure 4/4
  • 1 measure 4+3/4

Fill 1:

  • 1 measure 4+3/4

Repeat: Verse

Chorus:

  • 7 measures 3/4
  • 8 measures 4/4

Fill 2:

  • 3 measures 3/4
  • 2 measures 4+3/4

Repeat: Verse, Fill 1, Verse, Chorus

Fill 3:

  • 2 measures 4/4

Bridge:

  • 30 measures 3/4

Repeat: Chorus, Fill 3

Ending:

  • 12 measures 4/4