12/8 time signature example
Explanation of 12/8 time signature
In the article time signature, this is explained that:
- the top number indicates the number of time units in a measure (bar ).
- the bottom number determines the unit of time.
We can visually translate like this:
That is to say that there are 12 eighth notes (quavers ) per measure.
But, what is not indicated in the time signature is that can to a simple meter measure or a compound meter. In the article simple and compound meter, you learned that:
- Simple meter (or simple time) is a meter where each beat in a measure can be subdivided by two.
- Compound meter (or compound time) is a meter where each beat in a measure can be subdivided by three.
A beat with 12/8 time signature can be divided by two or three, it depends on the context.
Here are the beats for a simple meter measure:
In that case (simple meter):
- 1 eighth note (quaver ) equals 1 beat
- 2 sixteenth notes (semiquavers ) equals 1 beat
- 1 dotted quarter note (dotted crotchet ) equals 3 beats
- and so on...
Here are the beats for a compound meter measure:
- 1 dotted quarter note (dotted crotchet ) equals 1 beat
- 1 dotted half note (dotted minim ) equals 2 temps
- 3 eighth note (quaver ) equals 1 beat
- 6 sixteenth notes (semiquavers ) equals 1 beat
In the vast majority of cases, a 12/8 bar is a 4 beats compound measure, where each beat equals a dotted quarter note (dotted crotchet ):
Examples found in famous works
Chopin, Nocturne opus 9 n°2
Frédéric Chopin's Nocturne opus 9 n°2 in E flat Major uses the 12/8 time signature:
(Royalty free soun sample performed by pianist Samson François in 1964, Creative Commons Zero 1.0 license, source)
You will notice the use of gruppetto (measure 2), mordents (measure 5), trills (measure 7), appoggiaturas (measure 8), and the use of an anacrusis.