Polymetric music?

Good morning, and Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans.

Quick question: is there an easy way to have multiple time signatures at the same time, i.e., 4/4 for some instruments and 12/8 for all others? (Example: John Williams’ Superman March, bars 35 ff - see violas and celli which are in 4/4, everyone else stays in 12/8).

I am trying to figure out whether this was a recent feature introduced in one of the latest updates, but maybe I am mistaken. I haven’t closely followed all the wonderful updates and upgrades.


In Dorico this is done with hidden tuplets and a pickup-bar trick with a staff-specific meter. In brief:

  • Write 12/8 for everyone
  • Select the first bar in a staff to be 4/4, Shift-M, type 4/4,6 and Alt-Enter
    (shows 4/4, but with a first bar length = 12/8, puts that on just one staff)
  • In the next bar in the same staff, add 12/8, also Alt-Enter, and hide it in Properties
    (the barlines should match up again)
  • Copy these two staff-specific meters to any other 4/4 staves (select them and Alt-click)
  • Write 2:3 tuplets in those staves and hide the tuplets

For polymeter this simple, you might consider just writing duplets, letting them be hidden after a bar’s worth, and not bothering with the meter display tricks. It’s not hard for players to understand.

(Happy TG!)


Thanks Mark!

Yeah, keeping it all stupid and simple, I think it’s probably best to just use duplets for the celli and violas.

For the record: genuine poly metric music is also possible; you press ALTenter when assigning each stave its independent time signature. Just beware that this can cause other issues (such as barline alignment).

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Thanks. Yeah, the barlines need to line up, so that wouldn’t work.