How to Add Multiple Time Signatures in Cubase Pro 10

I recently swapped out Logic Pro for Cubase Pro 10. Even though most of this transition phase has been fairly straightforward, I stumbled upon a little problem. I couldn’t for the life of me find out how to add a new time signature in the middle of a track. Luckily, the solution turned out to be very simple.

So how do you add multiple time signatures in a Cubase project? First, add a new track and choose signature. Then, hit right-click on your mouse and choose the draw tool. Hover the cursor over the area in your track you want to change. When you click the bar with the draw cursor, you get the option to insert a new time signature. 

Insert your new, preferred time signature and voilá! You have now added what is called a meter change in your project. This post will focus on time signatures and meter changes as well as how you can use this knowledge to add something new and exciting to your music tracks.


What is a Time Signature?

Whether you are new to music production, or a seasoned veteran, you have unquestionably at one point steadily moved your feet, clapped your hands or nodded your head to a song you liked. 

Notice that I wrote “steadily”. Because the purpose of a time signature is to add your notes/melody into a steady rhythm that is easy to follow. A time signature is a way of determining the organization of beats within a bar. 

In sheet music, a time signature is something we see at the beginning of the music piece. In most DAWs you will find the time signature located on either the top or the bottom center of the screen. 


Adding Multiple Time Signatures in Cubase

When you add a new time signature in your music piece, you have made a meter change. For some weird reason, I ́ve seen people online claim that it is not possible to have more than a single time signature in a Cubase 10 project. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as you can do as many meter changes as you like. 

And this illustrated section shows you how to do it:

Step 1: Create a time signature track. You do this by pressing right-click, add track and signature.
Step 2: Locate the bar within your project that you want to change.
Step 3: Press and hold the right-click on your mouse. Choose the draw tool.
Step 4: Click the bar you want to change, and insert your new, preferred time signature.

When and Why to do a Time Signature Change

If you are working on film scores, knowing how to do a time signature change is quite essential. When composing music to picture, the music more often than not must follow the rhythm and story of what we see in the picture. You need to work out a general time signature and tempo and be able to compose different sections in different time signatures when necessary. 

Changing the time signature might impact us emotionally in the sense that we experience something new and unexpected in the music. But it can also be done to make a tricky bar easier for a singer, flutist or other instrumentalists. The following bullet list points out some benefits of doing a meter change. 

  • Build anticipation in your audience. Let’s say you have created a melody that begins on the first beat and ends on the 4th beat before it starts all over again. Your listeners are quickly getting used to this pattern. But what if you suddenly change the time signature, making the melody and beat take a different direction? It would certainly intrigue your listeners, pulling them further into your song.
  • Add an element of surprise. Much like building anticipation, taking your listeners by surprise will also pull them further into your song. In the very moment they get surprised, they are much more likely to forget their surroundings, being totally immersed in your music track.
  • Add a sense of chaos. Believe it or not, sometimes you wanna give your audience the feeling of chaos. For example, a car chase scene might call for a lot of different meter changes. Let the audience feel the rollercoaster they are on!
  • Very sophisticated rhythm. If you listen to a lot of film music, you have probably noticed that the time signature often changes more than one time during the piece. This is done because a film score needs to underline what is going on in the picture.
  • Help the singer or lead instrument on the melody by adding a couple of extra bars in tricky parts. Adding a new time signature could also very effective if you work with a songwriter that cannot figure how to get the lyrics across certain parts of your 4/4 track.

Time Signatures in Different Music Genres

There are of course much more than I present to you here, but this is the most common time signatures.

4/4: This time signature is by far the most common time signature in rock, pop, blues, funk and country music.

It is actually so common that it is called “common time”.

2/2: This time signature is often used in musical theatres, fast-paced orchestral music, and marches.

2/4: Also used a lot in marches, but also in polka and galops.

3/4: I bet you that the first music genre you are thinking of here is waltz. And you are correct! Other music genres that also use this time signature is polonaises, R&B, minuets, country, western and scherzi and mazurkas (Polish Folk dance).

3/8: This time signature is used by the same genre as for the 3/4, but when you see the 8 instead of 4, it often suggests that it is in a higher tempo.


Sheet Music VS DAWs: do the Time Signature Numbers Mean the Same?

Marked in yellow, you can see one bar/measure.

The time signature is written a little different in DAWs than on sheet music. In sheet music, the two numbers are placed top and bottom, while in DAWs, they are most often placed right to left. However, they do tell us the same information.

The top number (or the left, if you will) indicates the number of notes per bar/measure. 

The bottom number (the right) indicates what kind of note we are supposed to play. This could be a whole note, half note a quarter note and so on.


Understanding Time Signatures 

As I earlier mentioned, the most common time signature is 4/4. This time signature indicates that we will have 4 quarter notes per bar/measure.

What about the waltz? Well, as you know, the time signature for waltz is 3/4. Again the top number (3) tells us that we have 3 notes in the bar. The bottom number (4) reveals that the notes are played as quarter notes. Therefore, we will have 3 quarter notes per bar. 

Okay, let’s do one more. The time signature 3/8. Like the waltz we have 3 notes in the bar. The only difference here is that the bottom number is 8, which tells us that the 3 notes are meant to be played as eighth notes per bar/measure. This means that the notes are played faster, suggesting a higher tempo.


Now you Know

After reading this post, you should now know how to change the time signature multiple times in Cubase as well as when and why to do a meter change. In addition, the information I have provided on time signatures will hopefully give you the tools to really utilize this powerful technique.

Suggested Further Reading

Thomas Leypoldt

Hey there! My name is Thomas and I have been a film composer for over 10 years, delivering music to feature films, documentaries, video games, and commercials. I share everything I have learned on this website, to hopefully be of help to your own development as a musician.

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