confused about time signatures (4/4 vs 12/8)

Say I have a project running at tempo 60 (one quarter note per second). I have the click giving out one “tick” per second as well.

Now, I want to change to 12/8. What I thought should happen is that the quarter notes would still be one per second, but there would now be three eighth notes per quarter instead of two, for a total of twelve in a bar. So the eighth notes would go by more quickly, because 12 now had to fit in the space where there were 8 previously. But the quarters will go by at the same rate.

Unfortunately, what happened instead is that while I do get 12 eighth notes per bar, they still seem to be grouped 2 per quarter note. So I essentially seem to get 6 quarter notes per bar. Each quarter note still takes one second. The click switches over to clicking on the eighth notes and I’d be okay with that if they were at the right tempo, but they are now too slow because the thing that remained constant was the rate of eighth notes (2 per second) rather than the rate of quarter notes.

To me, this is 6/4, not 12/8. What I wanted was three eighth notes per second. 12/8 at 60bpm has 4 beats at 60 bpm, or 1 beat per second, and in 12/8 that is three eighths in that one second. Isn’t it?

I can “fake” this by just leaving the project in 4/4 but switching the editor quantize value to 1/8T. This does not act like real 12/8, doesn’t edit like it, metronome doesn’t act like it, etc. The other way I can think of to fake it is to switch to 12/8, but multiply the tempo by 1.5 and then “pretend” there are only 4 quarter notes, each with 3 of the eighth notes. It’s all clunky though.

What am I missing?

12/8 is a compound meter, so while it’s correct that the pulse will be on divisions of three 8th notes, the pulse is dotted quarter notes. The alternative would 8th note triplets in 4/4. The tempo in Cubase defines how many quarter notes are played per minutes, not how many pulses.I could agree that it could be practical to have the option to work as you describe in some cases, but it could also be very confusing to others. So some simple math solves it better.

So, what is the difference (in Cubase) between 12/8 and 6/4? I’m inclined to agree that doing it the way it seems intuitive to me (metronome clicks on pulses) might be confusing. I wonder if there any real advantages to using 12/8 at 1.5*(desired tempo in pulses) vs just sticking with 4/4 and using 1/8T as a quant value in the editor in order to see the triplet grid (which is how I’ve done it up until now since the 1.5x tempo is more confusing to me)…

It is a weakness of the time singnitures and metronome logic in cubase. What we should be able to do is to define ad lib the time signature (12/8, 17/32 or whatever) and separately define the tempo in the way it is done in classical music by defining a metronome value . A metronome value definies what note value (eighth, dotted eights, halves,… everything should be possible) equals what bpm level.

That is how it would be done correctly and consistently with the way it is done when using notation.

And that’s the problem. Nowhere in “12/8” does it indicate that you meant to change the time base to 3/8 = 1/4. You should be able to specify that somewhere else in Cubase when you change the time signature. Other DAWs handle this better, allowing you to change the definition of a beat.


Very well said.

I agree.

And for those that don’t notate and think ‘well this would do nothing for me’ - it would quickly allow media bay and loop browser to sync half time, X2, in fact anything - something that’s often requested.