Time Signature of Limelight by Rush

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

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  1. bandcoach’s avatar

    Wow Alex.

    You’ve done really good with this. I would suggest an alternative time sig structure for the first section though:

    Intro:
    4 measures 6/4 — there is a heavy undercurrent of three here.
    4 measures 4+3/4

    Verse:
    2 measures 3/4
    2 measures 2+4/4 — because I’m hearing an accent on the 3rd beat above what you would hear if it were normal internal beat stresses in this grouping

    But I would certainly leave the rest as it stands.

    And, you were right; I did like the song as well.

    Reply

    1. admin’s avatar

      Hey there bandcoach! I’m not hearing the 6/4 in the intro, but I completely agree with the 2+4/4 in the verse — that does fit a lot better than the 4+2/4.

      Glad you liked it! 🙂 I’ve been listening to more Rush lately now that I’ve discovered how well they tinker with their time signatures. I wonder if they listened to Stravinski…

      Reply

    2. bobocaso’s avatar

      cool. thanks. i get really confused with constantly changing time signatures, as with many rush songs.

      Reply

    3. Connor Barebo’s avatar

      These meter changes are all left up to preference. You can make a phrase as weird or time signature funky all you want. However the first couple measures are not in 4/4. I see the first measure being in 5/8. Rush is known for having songs in 5/8 or 5/4, especially songs like The Trees or Mission during the solo. My favorite is 7/8!! Like in Anthem and Xanadu. Playing Rush music is so fun and challenging. If you can play La Villa Strangiato, you can play anything.

      Reply

      1. Ken Gettinger’s avatar

        The first measures Of Limelight are definitely in 4/4. It starts on the “and of 3” count the first note played as “and 3 and 4 and 1.

        Reply

      2. Jerry B’s avatar

        I tried this out on Guitar Pro 6 (demo) and it turns out, the best way to make it work is:
        The opening riff as an individual segment has 2 time signatures. The first two bars are 6/4 and the last bar (open “A” power chord) is 3/4. The open “A” power chord is a half note with a quarter rest and it works great. Just my two cents. -JB

        Reply

        1. Jerry B’s avatar

          correction.. the 3rd bar is 4/4 and it’s a half note with a half rest note. 😀

          Reply

        2. julian’s avatar

          The original poster–alex I think is his name– is correct about the intro. All this business about making it 5/8 or counting the first two bars as 6/4 and then 4/4 with a half not half rest note… makes it unnecessarily complicated. The intro up until the band kicks in is 4/4. The first note of the guitar is not on beat 1. The last 5 guitar notes of the intro are a pick up to the B chord which is pushed ahead of the downbeat. Then we enter 7/4.

          Reply

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