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What is the predominant time signature of popular music of last 100 years

  1. Jan 12, 2013 #1
    Or more precisely from advent of the gramaphone and "talkies" until today. I am geussing it is 4 beats per measure, but why? I am asking with respect to how iambic pentameter could have become predominant back in the day, if poetic meter is ultimately derived from musical time, as that would mean time signature of 5/4 (?) which today is considered a little odd.

    Also, (unrelated) but what is that word that means something like "the frequency of unique words used in any one work, body of work. for example, how many unique words did WS use in midsummer nights dream? (its usually expressed as a ratio i think) . There's some obscure word that is specific to this idea, and someone used it on physicsforums, thats how i heard of it. ?? thanks someone
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  3. Jan 12, 2013 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    There are a whole bunch of unfounded assumptions in your question, so in the spirit of pointing you in the right direction, I will point out that you can sing the words to Amazing Grace to the Gilligan's Island theme song.
  4. Jan 13, 2013 #3
    Not only that, but the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven also fit with Gilligan.

    Obviously 4/4 is the predominant time signature in the West. I don't see any particular reason for that, other than people have two feet so an even number might be preferred. But that doesn't explain why 4/4 is more popular than 2/4 (march or polka beat.) A little more relaxed, maybe. 3/4 and 2/4 used to be more popular than they are now.

    4/4 doesn't come naturally. Lots of beginning musicians have trouble with it and have to learn.

    Music in China has a completely different concept of time, they scarcely have a time signature at all.

    Music in Latin America is usually 4/4, but not really. It's more complicated than that, and if you start playing a rumba rhythm to a samba they'll think you're incompetent. As far as they're concerned it's two different worlds.

    Music from Eastern Europe to India has lots of odd times. They are moving more to 4/4 these days due to Western influence.

    So 4/4 is not a world-wide standard.
  5. Jan 13, 2013 #4


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    2/2 should be a natural rythym, mirroring your heartbeat. That would probably get a little boring, though, so modifying the rythym while retaining some semblance of a heartbeat rythym should work pretty well. As the tempo of the music picks up or slows down, the heartbeat of the listeners should follow, affecting their mood, etc.
  6. Jan 13, 2013 #5


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    Somebody I know once made a good observation about "musical time": if you take 30 musicians who don't know each other to form a group (choir, band, orchestra - doesn't matter what sort of group). you start off with 30 different ideas of "musical time" and the result sounds terrible. You just have to wait till they reach some sort of compromise, and then you can start making music not noise.

    Note, this isn't talking about people making "mistakes" reading the sheet music - just the fact that no two people "count time" the same way.

    In any case, music notation of rhythm is only a rough approximation, whether you are talking about Hildegard of Bingen, hip-hop, or anything in the 900 years in between.
  7. Jan 13, 2013 #6


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    I'm curious as to what the time signature of this kind of "music" might be.

  8. Jan 13, 2013 #7
    This may be relevant
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
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