Writing a piece in different simultaneous time signatures


I am a composer and I’ve used Finale and Sibelius. I can’t get either product to do what I want to do. It’s an Odd request but I’ve been wanting both Finale and Sibelius to do this for 25 years!

What I am looking to do is have different lines in different Time signatures. For instance combine 4/4 and 6/8 where you would keep the 8th not in common and the bars would not line up evenly but the piece could be played with one group of musicians in 6/8 and the other group in 4.4.

My idea has been to say write a 20 minute Quartet in 6/8, another different 20 minute quartet in 4/4, then have both quarters come out and play the same piece together for a whole different piece.

To do this I’d have to be writing the one in 6/8 and the one in 4/4 separately and together, so when played back I’d hear both time signatures of pieces played back at the same time with keep the 8th note in common.

Does this make sense and is this possible? I could see this feature being implemented but I don’t see this feature being asked for.

Another example would be 1st violins in 4/4, 2nd violins in 3/4, violas in 6/8, and cellos in 5/4. The bars would not line up but the notes would keeping the 8th note in common and playback together.

Let me know if you can make these dreams happen?


Different time signatures ?

See the note at Step 6:
“To input a time signature only on the selected staff or staves across which the caret extends, press Alt/Opt-Return.”

Does this help?

Different Time Signatures played at the same time. Sorry “key” was a typo.

What I am talking about is one like being in 4/4, another one in 3/4, anther in say 6/8 but they all line up by the Eight note vertically but the bars would not like up because each staff would be playing in a different time signature.

This Scoring Notes article is old, but has an example of what you’re talking about. Scroll down to the last example they work on. The general trick you need to know is you can input a time signature, key signature, barline, etc. on only one staff instead of the whole system by using the popover and hitting option + return.

Yes, this is what happens if you follow the instructions.

As long as you press Alt/Opt-Return after entering your time signature in the Popover (rather than just Return), the signature will only apply to the staff that the caret is on.

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I wanted to see if Dorico would do this and play back at the same time, say keeping the 8th note in common all while having different time signatures going on at the same time. I don’t have Dorico yet and this was a pre-sales question but it looks like from what you are saying you can do that.

I want to have say each section in a string orchestra playing in different time signatures at the same time so the cellos will be in 5/4 while the violas are in 6/8, and first violins in 4/4 etc.

So if I think I am clear it sounds like that’s possible.


Try the trial!

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Great news!! Thanks! Looks like it is time to switch to Dorico.

I’ve never tried it, but from what I understand, yes, it’s possible. And it doesn’t even take any workarounds or digging around in any options! It’s all right there.

This option for how to handle barring in polymetric music may also be of interest to you:

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Yep, this feature is easy-peasy with Dorico

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It isn’t common to do so that’s amazing… I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time and have things played back that way!! Super!! hahah At last… lol

I lot of us have thought this!

Make sure you check out the First Steps Guide that’s available with Dorico when you’re starting out. It’s great!

And welcome to the forum!

I’m sure Charles Ives has tried, if not this exact thing, something along these lines.

He has. Central Park in the Dark, m. 64, is a good example. It’s funny that it was easier to do in metal engraving than in software for a long time — a good reminder that every tool through the ages is a technology, and they all have their pros and cons.

It’s funny I heard back from Dorico, Steinberg Support, and they said it isn’t possible to do this! Maybe we should tell them?

Well that’s funny because the real Dorico support is here— product manager, some of the developers and the writer of the documentation come every day and answer our questions here. What’s that other place?

I got an second email from them saying

, “We apologize for the information that you received from us was incorrect. It does seem that it can be done, but we were not aware that it could.”

I was directed to email ​steinbergussupport@yamaha.com or post in the forums.

It seems that posting in the forums here has been a better and faster method of support and that’s great to know!

Thanks Marc!

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