Music theory > Lessons > Duration of sounds > Time signature > 9/8 time signature example

9/8 time signature example

Explanation of 9/8 time signature

In the article time signature, this is explained that:

- the top number indicates the number of time units in a measure (bar united kingdom).
- the bottom number determines the unit of time.

We can visually translate time signature 9/8 like this:

time signature 9/8

That is to say that there are 9 eighth notes eighth note (quaver) (quavers united kingdom) per measure.

But, what is not indicated in the time signature is that time signature 9/8 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 9/8 time signature can be divided by two or three, it depends on the context.

Here are the beats for a simple meter time signature 9/8 measure:

Beats in 9/8 time signature

In that case (simple meter):

- 1 eighth note eighth note (quaver)(quaver united kingdom) equals 1 beat
- 2 sixteenth sixteenth note (semiquaver) notes (semiquavers united kingdom) equals 1 beat
- 1 dotted quarter notedotted quarter note (dotted crotchet) (dotted crotchet united kingdom) equals 3 beats
- and so on...

Here are the beats for a compound meter time signature 9/8 measure:

Beats in 9/8 time signature

- 1 dotted quarter notedotted quarter note (dotted crotchet) (dotted crotchet united kingdom) equals 1 beat
- 1 dotted half note Dotted half note (dotted minim) (dotted minim united kingdom) equals 2 beats
- 3 eighth note eighth note (quaver)(quaver united kingdom) equals 1 beat
- 6 sixteenth sixteenth note (semiquaver) notes (semiquavers united kingdom) equals 1 beat
- and so on...

In the vast majority of cases, a 9/8 bar is a 3 beats compound measure, where each beat equals a dotted quarter note dotted quarter note (dotted crotchet) (dotted crotchet united kingdom):

Beats in 9/8 time signature

Examples found in famous works

Debussy, Clair de Lune (moonlight)

The movement entitled Clair de Lune (moonlight in French) from Suite bergamasque by Claude Debussy use 9/8 time signature:


This royalty free sound sample was recorded by Caela Harrison (source, Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 license. You will notice the use of duplets.

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