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phil-the-thrill

12/8 timing and a free metronome

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It's my understanding that 12/8 timing means that there are 12 beats per measure and there is no symbol to represent a 12th note, so we use the 8th note symbol. When I count to myself, I have a problem when I get to seven, because it has two syllables. So I just count to 6 twice. 6*2 equals 12 beats. The song I'm working on has an emphasis on beats 1 and 4, so I count: ONE two three FOUR five six ONE two three FOUR five six. I have a simple metronome, so I'm using 3/4 timing. The notation shows that a dotted 8th note equals 54. I don't know how to figure out what to set the metrnome at to match the notation. Anybody know how to do the math?

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12/8 time has FOUR beats per measure, but each divides into triplets.  That's why it's not 4/4, because beats in 4/4 divide in half.

So to count, it would be something like "One and a Two and a Three and a Four and a" - making sure each syllable is evenly spaced. (Your piece is slow enough to count the 8ths as figures, as you're doing, but that's not always possible or helpful; counting every 8th in that way can make the tempo feel rushed, when in fact it's quite slow.)

For your notation, setting the metronome to 54 is correct - the clicks will then align with the "one ... two ... three ... four .. "  That would be for an old-fashioned metronome with no beat subdivisions.

However, that's very slow, difficult to play along with (which makes it a good exercise, btw ;) ).  If your metronome doesn't have a 12/8 setting, it may have a 6/8.  You can then set it to 54 bpm, and it should give you the triplet subdivisions.  (The way you are already counting is equivalent to two bars of 6/8.)

If you don't have a 6/8 setting, then set it to 3/4 at a bpm of 54x3 = 162.  That will turn one bar of 12/8 into four bars of 3/4, but of course it won't distinguish between your four different beats.

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phil-the-thrill wrote:

It's my understanding that 12/8 timing means that there are 12 beats per measure and there is no symbol to represent a 12th note, so we use the 8th note symbol. When I count to myself, I have a problem when I get to seven, because it has two syllables. So I just count to 6 twice. 6*2 equals 12 beats. The song I'm working on has an emphasis on beats 1 and 4, so I count: ONE two three FOUR five six ONE two three FOUR five six. I have a simple metronome, so I'm using 3/4 timing. The notation shows that a dotted 8th note equals 54. I don't know how to figure out what to set the metrnome at to match the notation. Anybody know how to do the math?


What is this exercise from and are you sure the tempo base is a dotted eighth? That would give you a dotted quarter = 108 or 8th = 39. If it's not that kind of modulation drill then Jon is prolly correct in going with dotted quarter = 54.

Incidentally, if this is a rhythm theory thing and not a pop tune, time signatures ultimately have no rhythm or specific feel. They can be counted in any combination that fits the bar and as more bars are added, any combination regardless of denominators or barlines. 

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1001gear wrote:


phil-the-thrill wrote:

It's my understanding that 12/8 timing means that there are 12 beats per measure and there is no symbol to represent a 12th note, so we use the 8th note symbol. When I count to myself, I have a problem when I get to seven, because it has two syllables. So I just count to 6 twice. 6*2 equals 12 beats. The song I'm working on has an emphasis on beats 1 and 4, so I count: ONE two three FOUR five six ONE two three FOUR five six. I have a simple metronome, so I'm using 3/4 timing. The notation shows that a dotted 8th note equals 54. I don't know how to figure out what to set the metrnome at to match the notation. Anybody know how to do the math?


What is this exercise from and are you sure the tempo base is a dotted eighth?

I didn't notice that - I think it must be a mistake.  A dotted 8th beat suggests 12/16, which is a little unlikely!

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Thanks so much for the replies. It really helps. No 6/8 setting on my metronome. You are correct. It is a dotted QUARTER note. It's not an exercise, per se. I'm working on the song "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out". And yes it is slow. It even says "slow blues" right before it shows the dotted quarter note. Thanks again for the help.

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Yes, I can see it now. 162 is the number I'm looking for. In 3/4 setting on my metronome, the first beat has a different sound than beat 2 and beat 3. So I can count "and a" on beat 2 and 3. thanks.

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Thanks for the link. I noticed that my metronome has a 1/4 setting. I just set it on 54 and gives me just one beat. Works pretty good counting the way Jon suggested. Kudos.

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If your counting 12/8 or 12/4 never use the triplet format for that counting- its straight 1/4 note count meaning if your doing 1/16 note triplet within the 1/4 note count- it can still be counted. If you try to sub divide it into smaller counting groups you'll have several beats during the bar with the same count structure. If your playing straight 1/8 note on all &'s through  7 beats it's easier to count the 12beats as you woulds a 4/4 bar - you don't count 4/4-1,123, do you? a lot of fills when playing 12/8 are counted as 12 beats using 1/16 note fills ( all straight) guitar players like the tension it creates- you just play the same fill with them. so the count is 1&2&3&4&5&6&7&8&9&10&11&12&.

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