Many questions that pop on Music.SE are about particular pieces. Most of them are closed. But regularly, a question’s validity according to scope is in dispute.

Case in point: How to identify complex time signatures?

Some of these questions are disputed for what I believe are good reasons:

  • The question itself as little interest for future readers.
  • An underlying, more general question, however, is useful.

In our particular example:

  • Finding the signature of a particular song (only referred to with a Youtube link) is quite specific.
  • Knowing how to find time signature can be very useful.

When confronted to such a question, I can’t help but wonder if we should:

  • heavily edit the question to make it more general (although it might lose all interest for the OP);
  • open a new, more general question, possibly marking the first one as a duplicate after a while.

3 Answers 3


I think the opening a new question suggestion is excellent, because suppose this case merited two new questions:

"What techniques can I use to understand the time signature of a song?"

The answers would explain the time signature components, what the two numbers of a time signature mean, and what elements of music are typically faithful indicators of time signature, etc.

...and possibly:

"What can make a song's time signature appear more irregular than it really is?"

(I don't know why the author struggled, but one of the answers suggested some unrealistic 'continuously variable' time signature, so the author wasn't the only one)

If the question was edited, it might:

  • Only satisfy one area of knowledge the OP was interested in.
  • Offend OPs and discourage them from the site.
  • Invalidate any of the answers/comments already made.
  • Lose any potential inspiration for other spin-off questions.
  • 5
    This is a good answer. SE is very much about community and collaboration, but the asker's name and picture are stapled to their posts. It is very poor form to change someone's question to be something different than they were asking -- edits should be small clarifications, corrections, and so on.
    – user28
    Jul 30, 2014 at 0:09
  • 2
    I believe the offence taken by questions being closed post haste is overshadowing the edit generated offence by a wide margin. Nov 25, 2014 at 13:48

I seem to recall that the accepted practice with threads closed as duplicates is to leave them up instead of deleting them, so that they can act as signposts for people who might not naturally phrase the question the way it appears in the "canonical" post. This seems to be a similar issue here.

Using the time signature example, let's say there are the following:

  • "How do you count out the rhythm in 'Take Five'?" (5/4)
  • "WTF is up with the time signature in Pink Floyd's 'Money'?" (7/8)
  • "How do you count non-standard time signatures?"

If we're taking the generalization approach, the first two could be closed/deleted and redirected to the third one, producing the issues Leo discussed in his reply. Taking it a step further, however, if it's a well-known song or a commonly-occurring question, this does nothing to prevent the next person with a question about the same song in the future from re-posting it, completely unaware that it's already been done and genericized (because the system didn't register it as a suggestion when they were typing up their post, due to edited titles and content).

Even if the example isn't one that's likely to come up on a frequent basis, my inclination would be to live and let live if there isn't already a question on the specific song. That said, redirection and closing as a duplicate would be appropriate if, say, someone could identify the song in the video and point to another thread where it's been addressed.


Keep in mind that another side effect of "heavy editing" is pissing off the posters so they leave and don't come back. I've found it really annoying on other SE sites myself. I would say edit as little as possible, ie only if the question is actually incomprehensible to a competent speaker or is confusing because of nomenclature issues. My two cents.

  • Down-voted for unwelcome observations of human nature? It's like this site is trying to chase away musicians. bizarre. Nov 17, 2014 at 23:24

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