What are time signatures, what is 8th notes, 16th notes, 32nd notes, 64th notes, I come across it all the time but I don't know what it means?

I've only been with guitar for 3 months but that stuff seems basic. can somebody tell me what it is?
If you've ever read a tab or something it will say 4/4 or something like that on it. 4/4 is a time signature used a lot in most music you'll hear. It is a little bit confusing at first... The 8th notes and such are just how long you hold the note basically. Messing around in Powertab or guitar pro or maybe just getting lessons would make it a whole lot easier to understand. I'm not much of a good teacher if it doesn't involve visuals.
The numbers are how much of a beat you hold each note for.

A 32nd is 1/32 of a beat, an 8th is 1/8 of a beat, etc. I don't go for writing stuff in a set time signature myself, hence I haven't bothered to learn the notation for it.
Ah ok so if I play any note and hold it for a certain amount of time that's what determines what kind of note it is?
Sure, care to explain the basics of brain surgery to me? LOL

Time signatures, whole notes, quarter notes, eigth notes etc. are basic to music not to guitar. They deal with pacing and rhythm. The concepts are easy to understand, but hard to explain, so I'll be basic and then link you to an article that can explain better than me.

First the time signature. If you look at the begining of any musical notation you will notice a fractional number like 4/4, 3/4, 3/8, 3/3 etc. That's the time signature. The bottom number represents what the beat duration is. x/4 is quarter notes, x/8 eight notes, etc. The top number determines the number of beats per measure of music. In the case of 4/4 time, there are four quarter notes per measure, 3/4 time is three quarter notes per measure, 3/8 time is three eight notes per measure. So you asking yourself, what's a measure? From the dictionary a measure is a grouping of a specified number of musical beats located between two consecutive vertical lines on a staff. The purpose of a measure is to define the basic rhythm structure of a song.

I'm going to assume a pacing of 60 beats a minute and 4/4 time for the next example. In this case the beat is a quarter note. Imagine a drummer who hits a drum once every second, imagine four hits, 1-2-3-4. 1-2-3-4 would be a measure of quarter notes in 4/4 time. And this repeats the entire song (usually). 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. As a guitarist, you are expressing melodies, within this frame work. This does't mean you and the drummer are limited to using only quarter notes the entire song, just that the pacing of your melodies fall with in the time duration of four quarter notes repeated over and over.

You can read more about time signatures here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature
Last edited by rhettro at Jul 22, 2008,
Quote by MopMaster
The numbers are how much of a beat you hold each note for.

A 32nd is 1/32 of a beat, an 8th is 1/8 of a beat, etc. I don't go for writing stuff in a set time signature myself, hence I haven't bothered to learn the notation for it.

Actually it's 1/32 of 4 beats, or a normal bar.
think of a song and bang your head to it. most likely any good head bang song is usually in four four which means it has four beats per measure. if you play a note every time you bang your head its a quarter note (4/4). if you play faster with a note at every head bang and one every time in between its twice as fast and its an eighth note. each time you play faster notes in between beats it goes to eighth sixteenth thirtysecond etc....

no matter what whenever i practice for some reason i always tap my foot to what i'm playing. every tap is a beat and every note to that is a quarter note.

so lets review:

quarter note (every beat)
eighth note (every beat and in between) twice as fast as quarter
sixteenth (every beat and three in between but its still evenly spaced) four times as fast as a quarter note (its like doing to an eighth note what an eighth note does to a quarter note.)

might be confusing now but u'll get it. its not too hard.
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Music is divided into measures. Ignore time signatures for now; we'll just stick with 4/4 time for now. Each measure is 4 beats long. | 1-2-3-4 | 1-2-3-4 | 1-2-3-4 | is 3 measures of music, for example. Listen to a song and tap your foot to the beat. Each tap is one beat.

A 1/4 note is 1/4 of a measure, or one beat. An 1/8 note is an 8th of a measure. 2 8th notes can be played in the time one 1/4 note is played. If you have a mteronome, start a basic drum beat at about 100 bpm. Tap your foot twice as fast as the metronome clicks and you'll be tapping 8th notes. Tap your foot for each beat and you'll be tapping quarter notes. Tap your foot for every second beat and you'll be tapping half notes. Tap your foot every 4 beats and it's a whole note, or a whole measure-long note.
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ill give you a very basic answer

IN 4/4 TIME: means four beats per measure, and quarter note = 1 beat
quarter notes- 4 in a measure (a measure=four beats)
eighth notes- 8 in a measure
sixteenth notes- 16 in a measure
thirty second notes- 32 in a measure
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