Musical Time Signature
Time signatures consist of two numbers which are written like a fraction with a division line between the two numbers. The top number of the signature is the numerator and tells you how many beats to count. This could technically be any number, but is most often a number between 2 and 12 .
musical time signature
The bottom number of the signature is the denominator and it tells you what kind of note to count relative to the beat. For example, if the bottom number is a 4, it means that you will be counting in quarter notes.
In music theory, the terms "time signature" and "meter" are frequently used interchangeably, however, both refer to different aspects of the measure. The time signature refers specifically to the number and types of notes used in the music, whilst the meter refers to how those notes are grouped together in order to create the rhythm of the melody in a composition.
The reality is that 4/4 music will contain 4 beats in each measure, and these beats could contain half, quarter, eighth notes or rests, just so long as the note and rest values combine to the value of the top number of the time signature, which in this case, would be 4.
Time signatures, or meters set the rhythmic foundation of a piece of music. They let the player know how many beats are in each bar (or measure). They also tell the player how long the beats are: should we be counting in minims, crotchets or quavers.
If you are using European terms it is important not to think of time signatures as fractions. We must remember that each bottom stand for a different type of note: 4 at the bottom mean crotchets, 2 at the means minims and so on..
There are quite a few different time signatures so we need some way to organise them. This makes it easier to notice the similarities and differences. There are two handy ways to group signatures: by the number of strong beats or by how the strong beats are split up.
Simple time signatures have strong beats that divide into two. For example the time signature 4/4 has four strong beats per measure (or bar). These are crotchet beats and can be divided into two quavers each . (Alternatively, you can say there are four quarter-note beats, which can each be divided into two eighth notes.)
This is a simple time signature as each of the quarter notes divide into two eight notes. (Each of the crotchet beats divides into two quavers). Check out the example waltz by Dmitri Shostakovich below.
3/8 time contains three eighth notes per measure (or 3 quavers per bar). It has three strong beats making it a triple time signature. Each eighth note beat can be divided into 2 sixteenth notes, so this is a simple time signature too.
9/8 has 9 eighth notes per measure (or 9 quarter notes per bar). These notes are grouped into 3 groups of three, with each of these strong beats being worth 1 dotted quarter note (1 dotted crotchet). With each of the strong beats dividing into three, this is a compound time signature.
12/8 contains 12 eighth notes per measure (or 12 quaver nots per bar). These are grouped into 4 strong beats which are dotted quarter notes (dotted crotchets). As each strong beat divides into three, this is a compound time signatures. There are 4 strong beats per measure so this is a quadruple time signature.
The number of beats per measure determines whether a time signature is duple, triple or quadruple. As 12/4 has four strong beats per measure, it is a quadruple time signature. Each strong beat consists of three quarter notes, which makes one dotted half note. Alternatively you can say that each strong beat splits into three crotchets, which makes one dotted minim.
9/16 time consists of nine sixteenth notes per measure (or 9 semiquavers per bar). These are grouped into three strong beats per measure and each one is a dotted eighth note (dotted quaver). This is a compound triple time signature are it has three strong beats, with each one dividing into three sixteenth notes.
12/16 time consists of twelve sixteenth notes per measure (or 12 semiquavers per bar). These are grouped into four strong beats per measure, each one being a dotted eighth note (dotted quaver). This is a compound quadruple time signature are it has four strong beats, with each one dividing into three sixteenth notes.
5/8 time signatures have 5 eighth notes per measure (5 quavers per bar). These eighth notes are grouped into two strong beats: one quarter note and one dotted quarter note. The order of these beats does not matter, but it usually remains the same throughout a piece of music. So if the dotted eight note is first in each measure, then this pattern will continue for every measure in the piece.
7/8 time signatures have 7 eighth notes per measure (7 quavers per bar). These eighth notes are grouped into three strong beats: two quarter notes and one dotted quarter note. The order of these beats can vary from piece to piece but will remain the same throughout one piece of music. The only rule is that the dotted strong beat cannot fall in the middle of a measure.
Sometimes, if we speed up or slow down a piece, then our ear can find it hard to distinguish between the strong beats. This means that it can feel natural to count in a different time signature to the one on the music. This may sound a bit confusing but a few examples will definitely help.
When we listen to a piece of music our brains like a regular structure or format with which to overlay a melody. This is all time signatures are: a way to denote the rhythmic structure of the music. By giving them names and assigning numbers of beats and divisions, we can come up with many strange and usual meters, in addition to the staples like 4/4 and 3/4.
Looking at the example above, we know that the quarter note will get the beat (4) and there will be three (3) beats per measure. Here is an example of music in 3/4 time. You can see the count of the beats under the measures.
You know how to figure out which note value gets the beat, but to make things easier, here is a time signature cheat sheet. If the bottom number is a:1 - The whole note gets the beat2 - Half notes get the beat4 - Quarter notes get the beat8 - Eighth notes get the beat16 - Sixteenth notes get the beatSee if you can say which note receives the beat and how many beats are in a measure for these examples:
this is the four-four time signature, there are four beats per measure and the quarter note gets the beat.The quarter note (4) gets the beat and there are 4 beats per measure. This is the most common time signature most beginning musicians see, It's also what most popular music is written in. Since it is so common, it's nicknamed "common time," and can be written as the letter "C" instead of "4/4."
In 2/2 time, the half note gets the beat (2) and there are 2 beats per measure. This is sometimes known as "cut time," since it is exactly half of common time (or 4/4). You will sometimes see this written as a C with a line through it (like the cent symbol in American currency).
In 6/8 time, the eighth note gets the beat (8) and there are 6 beats per measure. This common time signature can be "in 6" or "in 2." When it is counted in six, it means you could every eighth note (1-2-3-4-5-6). When it is "in 2," you will only be counting beats 1 and 4. (1-2-3-4-5-6). When the music is a quick tempo, you will usually default to the "in 2," style of counting 6/8.
In music, the word meter is used to describe the pattern of beats. The time signature tells the musician the pattern of the beats, so "time signature" and "meter" are related. Time signatures tell you what the meter is. To understand the differences between simple and compound meter, you should first understand how notes can be divided into two parts or (if they are dotted rhythms) divided into three parts.
Compound meter is used to describe meter where beats can be divided by three (which means the beat will typically be assigned to a dotted value or a grouping of three). The most common example is 6/8. In 6/8 time, you have two groups of three eighth notes. Since it is a group of three, it is compound meter.
You can feel meter in different groupings -- either small or large. If you were to feel the beat of every quarter note in 4/4 time, that would be common time. Now, if you were to feel the first and third quarter note in the measure (feeling two stronger beats per measure) you would be feeling it "in two." Feeling the beat this way turns 4/4 into 2/2 (two beats per measure, the half note getting the beat). You basically "cut" the 4/4 in half. This is cut time.
Sometimes a piece of music will have just one time signature (so just one meter) for the entire song. That's true for most pop music and marches. However, sometimes music can change time signatures throughout the work. For example, it might start in 4/4, then switch to 6/8, then to 3/4, and then back to 4/4. When a piece of music changes time signatures, it is referred to as a "mixed meter."
The difference between a key signature and a time signature is that a key signature indicates the order of sharps and flats in a piece of music, and a time signature tells you how many beats are in each measure as well as what note gets 1 full beat.
As I discussed in my other guide on keys, sharps, and flats, accidentals (also known as sharps and flats) are used at the beginning of, or sometimes in the middle of, a piece of music to identify the key.
The amount of sharps or flats represented in the piece of music gives the musician an understanding of the tonal possibilities of the piece. But more importantly, what the key signature does is that it saves the composer a lot of time adding accidentals to every single note in the sheet music.
The numbers after the key signature may look very similar to what a fraction in mathematics looks like. If your teacher ever told you that music was just mathematics, they were right, because we use math and patterns all over the place in music. 041b061a72