Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Time signature


Hi Clare,
This is a quick and hopefully veryn simple question. I was wondering if you could tell me what is the time signature of the song Panic In Detroit by David Bowie -

My knowledge of music theory is very very basic. I can usually identify 4/4 and 3/4 but I can't get my head round this one. Is it something a bit unusual or maybe I'm overthinking it?

Kind regards,


Hello Gavin, and thanks for the link.

It's in 4/4 - the underlying rhythm is:

Beat 1: Crotchet
Beat 2: Two quavers - tie the second quaver over the barline to
Beat 3: (Dotted semiquaver), demisemiquaver, quaver
Beat 4: Two quavers OR crotchet - it varies

Apparently this is a variation of the Bo Diddley beat (not terminology I'm familiar with!).

What may be confusing you is the way the phrase "Panic in Detroit" occurs on different beats of the chorus.  It starts on the second beat of the bar: (One) Two-and-a Three-and (Four) /.  When it comes again it starts on the fourth beat of the bar: (One Two Three) Four-and-a / One-and (Two Three Four).

The guitar solo in the middle is only three bars long, which is disconcerting too.

Hope this helps.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


57 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 42 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 45 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 20 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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