The beats can have the pattern strong-weak-medium-weak-weak or strong-weak-weak-medium-weak, although a survey of certain forms of mostly American popular music suggests that latter is the more common of these two in these styles. The beats may use any other combination, including five equally-stressed beats in every bar, each consisting of an accent and a non-accent
Like the more common duple, triple, and quadruple meters, it may be simple, with each beat divided in half, or compound, with each beat divided into thirds. The most common time signatures for simple quintuple meter are 5
4 and 5
8, and compound quintuple meter is most often written in 15
Simple quintuple meter can be written in 5
4 or 5
8 time, but may also be notated by using regularly alternating bars of triple and duple meters, for example 2
4 + 3
4. Compound quintuple meter, with each of its five beats divided into three parts, can similarly be notated using a time signature of 15
8, by writing triplets on each beat of a simple quintuple signature, or by regularly alternating meters such as 6
8 + 9
Another notational variant involves compound meters, in which two or three numerals take the place of the expected numerator. In simple quintuple meter, the 5 may be replaced as 2+3
8 or 2+1+2
8 for example. A time signature of 15
8, however, does not necessarily mean the music is in a compound quintuple meter. It may, for example, indicate a bar of triple meter in which each beat is subdivided into five parts. In this case, the meter is sometimes characterized as "triple quintuple time".
It is also possible for a 15
8 time signature to be used for an irregular, or additive, metrical pattern, such as groupings of 3+3+3+2+2+2 eighth notes or, for example in the Hymn to the Sun and Hymn to Nemesis by Mesomedes of Crete, 2+2+2+2+2+3+2, which may alternatively be given the composite signature 8+7
Similarly, the presence of some bars with a 5
4 or 5
8 meter signature does not necessarily mean that the music is in quintuple meter overall. The regular alternation of 5
4 and 4
4 in Bruce Hornsby's "The Tango King" (from the album Hot House), for example, results in an overall nonuple meter (5+4 = 9).
Before the 20th century, quintuple time was rare in European concert music, but is more commonly found in other cultures.