Time signature

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A time signature is a set of two numbers, one on top of the other one, written right after the key signature in a piece of music. The two numbers in a time signature tell you how many of one kind of note there are in each measure in the song. For example, \frac 4 4 means that there are four quarter notes, or notes that last one beat, in each measure.

Finding out what certain time signatures mean[change | change source]

The number in the top of the time signature tells a player how many of a certain kind of note there are in each measure. The number in the bottom of the time signature tells what kind of note is used a certain number of times in each measure. The number on the bottom of the time signature can be any exponent of 2. So, 64 could be a number that is put in the bottom of the time signature, but 65 could not be one.[1]

Number on the bottom of the time signature What it means
1 A whole note lasts one beat
2 A half note lasts one beat
4 A quarter note lasts one beat
8 An eighth note lasts one beat
16 A sixteenth note lasts one beat

This table shows different numbers that could be the bottom of a time signature, and what they mean. Note that each note down lasts for one-half of the amount the note above it lasted. For example, one quarter note lasts one beat, and one-half note lasts one half of a beat, because one divided by two is one-half.

Time signatures that are used very often[change | change source]

Time signature What it means
\frac 4 4 Four quarter notes in each measure[2]
\frac 3 4 Three quarter notes in each measure[2]
\frac 2 4 Two quarter notes in each measure[2]
\frac 6 8 Six eighth notes in each measure[2]

Symbols that are used instead of time signatures[change | change source]

  • The letter C has been used instead of using \frac 4 4 time.
  • The symbol "Mensural proportion1.gif" is called "cut time" (alla breve) and has been used instead of using \frac 2 2 time, where every note is cut in half. So, in "cut time", a quarter note, which usually gets one beat, gets one-half of a beat.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]