Rhythm track with complex time signatures

Hi, one thing I miss a lot in the rhythm track option is that you can’t create complex time signatures with it.

You can set 7 beats per measure, but it’s always strong beat and then the rest weak beats. In example, in times signatures like 5/4, the beats go strong weak weak strong weak, or strong weak strong weak weak. That would be like joining 3/4 + 2/4 or 2/4 + 3/4.

There are more complex situations, for example you can have a really weird 9/8 piece that goes like this:
1 2, 1 2, 1 2, 1 2 3 (notice this are 9 beats in total, and its structure is like a 4/4 but with an extra beat in the 4th beat) [this is done x3 times]
1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3 (and the 4th time you do it like a 3/4 structure, knowing it’s a 9/8 and you must have 3 beats per “regular” 3/4 beats)

then you repeat that all the time, so the 9/8 is like divided in 4 different things, although the first 3 are identical.

In other words, there should be an option in that menu to let us select where the strong beats lie, and also a way to be able to create the weird 9/8 I just explained. I’m quite sure if you add a way to create that, no time signature will be left out.

Thanks, if you have any doubts, I’m here!

What would the user interface be like?

I can see ways to make it more flexible than now, but not a good way to cover the general case of arbitrary groupings up to 20 beats per bar (or even for up to 16 beats per bar).

One possibility would be to use numeric text input, so, for example, if you want to alternate between:
12, 12, 12, 123 (9 beats in bar)
123, 123, 123 (9 beats in bar)
there could be a text box where you enter:
[2 2 2 3 3 3 3]

While this is very flexible, it’s not very user friendly, especially as the vast majority of users just want 3/4 or 4/4 time.

Yeah, I got to think how to implement this in an easy way. Your idea is quite good:

Each number means that the first beat is strong and the rest weak. So, a number 2 would mean strong-weak; a number 4 strong-weak-weak-weak. So if I want to set the 9/8 I explained, I should be able to type:
2 2 2 3, 2 2 2 3, 2 2 2 3, 3 3 3… and that repeats itself.

May be, instead of numbers you could use a dropdown menu where you can actually select real time signatures, like 2/4 + 2/4 + 2/4 + 3/4, that 3 times, and then the forth time you select 3/4 + 3/4 + 3/4. This time signature structure is quite weird so if you can do this, as I said, it’s pretty much all done. The problem I see is that you would need 15 different dropdown menus to select what I’ve just explained.

In this case, the beats per minute option is quite useless. Notice how I put all 4, but this could actually be 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 or even 32. Actually in my example of 9/8, instead of 4 I should have put 8.

Another problem:
What if a time signature is a 4/4 + 2/8?

This means that in the drop down menu, the number below should be considered, it’s not all 4 or 8. A time signature 2/8 can be represented as 1/4, but that’s not actually 100% correct, since there are 2 beats per measure in the 2/8. This structure should go ONE two three four + ONE two (twice as fast this 2/8).

By the way, the 4/4 goes like this: STRONG weak strong weak, meaning the first beat is the strongest, but the third beat is stronger than the second and forth.
Complex Time signatures.png

It seems to be getting close to being a drum machine. I’m not sure that we would want to go that far - it’s getting somewhat away from the core purpose of Audacity being an audio editor.

You could of course use a third party drum machine, and if it can export WAV files, then you can import the file into Audacity (example: http://www.hydrogen-music.org/hcms/node/21)

Although I understand what you’re saying, it’s basically a feature that kills the really basic rhythm track where only simple tempos can be added and opens the possibility to add complex composed rhythms. These structures are used in jazz a lot, like the 5/4 being 3/4 + 2/4 (piece “Take five”).

It’s not adding a feature that only drummers would find useful, I play the guitar and I use Audacity to record, and I would find this very useful, and many jazz guitarists out there would as well. Not all guitarists play 4/4 or 3/4. Just take it into account, may be it’s easier to implement than it looks. In the end it’s basically a way to select where the strong beats lie, very easy to understand.

Not all fiddle players do either (I’m a violinist), but I can play a 5/4 rhythm against a click track that has a strong beat on “1” and 4 week beats. I don’t find it essential to have a semi-strong beat on “4” (and a 5/4 rhythm could change that semi-strong beat from “4” to “3” - no reason it has to stay on “4”).
(I’ve also conducted a piece of music that had a different time signature for every bar in the first 15 bars - that took some practice :wink:)

This is one of those effects that could easily grow to be massively complex with dozens of options - it already has more options than any other effect in Audacity. At the end of the day it will be down to the developer to try and strike a good balance of being “feature rich” while not overly complex.

I’ve made a note of your suggestion, and I do agree that at least some support for more complex time signatures would be a nice addition.

Thank you Steve. Yeah, of course, a 5/4 can be a 3/4 + 2/4 or a 2/4 + 3/4, being a fiddler then you must really understand us, non-pop non-rock musicians, jazz musicians, that many times have to deal with composed time signatures. I know, I know, we can go away by having a 5/4 with only one first strong beat, but that’s not really how a 5/4 works.

At least thank you for suggesting it. :stuck_out_tongue: