Time Signatures (2)

Today we will be looking at time signatures, an essential part of music. We will examine how time signatures work, as well as examine some commonly used time signatures.

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Intro: Hello, and welcome to day nine of CPDmusic's lesson writing marathon 2010! Today we will be looking at time signatures, an essential part of music. We will examine how time signatures work, as well as examine some commonly used time signatures. Enjoy! What is a Time Signature? Well, obviously the first question here we need to tackle is what a time signature actually is. Well, it's actually pretty basic. You will see two numbers, one on top of the other, at the start of a piece of music, like this:
Now, this tells you two things. It tells you how many beats are in one bar of music, as well as what note is the equivalent of one beat. So, let's look at some time signatures, to determine what they are telling us. Four-four time: Now, above I showed you a time signature. Here it is again:
This time signature is a four-four time signature, and is often referred to as common time, as it is the most common universal time signature in music. Now, let's use this to find out how many beats are in one bar of music, and what note is the equivalent of one beat. Determining how many beats are in one bar is actually extremely easy. If you look at the top number, you will see that it is the number four. This tells us that there are four beats in one bar of music. Easy enough, right? Next, we will determine what note gets one beat. This is also relatively easy. Notice how the time signature looks almost like a fraction, with one number on top of the other. Well, if you were to change the top number on this time signature to a one, what fraction would you get? Well, it's pretty basic; you would get one fourth, or one quarter. Therefore, the note that gets one beat would be a quarter note. So, we can now say that in a piece of music in common time has four quarter notes in one bar of music (in that same sense, it could be 8 eighth notes, or two half notes) So, time signatures aren't that hard, are they? Three-four time: Three-four time is also a common time signature. It is often referred to as waltz time, as it is mostly used in waltz music. A three-four time signature looks like this:
So, let's examine this time signature. First off, we will determine how many beats are in one bar. Pretty easy, the top number is three; therefore there are three beats in one bar. Next, we would have to determine which note gets one beat. We change the top number to one, and are left with a quarter, meaning a quarter note gets one beat. Therefore, we can say that while in three four time, there are three quarter notes in one bar. Two-four time: The final common time signature we are going to look at today as two-four time. Two four time is often referred to as cut time, as it is exactly half of common time, or four-four time. Cut time is often used in marches, as it is easy to keep time while walking (left foot is the first beat, right foot is the second). A two-four time signature looks like this:
Now, let's look at this time signature. The top number is two; therefore there are two beats in one bar. Secondly, if you change the top number to a one, you get one quarter, so a quarter note gets one beat. So, we can determine that in cut time, there are two quarter notes in one bar. More Time Signatures: Now, there are just a few more things I want to add to this lesson. First of all, you may have noticed that all the notes have a value in relation to the time signature. For example, in common time, there would be two half notes in one bar, while in cut time, there would only be one. But, this is not the case for whole notes and whole rests. No matter what the time signature is, a whole note or whole rest is held for the entire bar, no exceptions. Secondly, I would just like to point out that in all the common time signatures, the bottom number is four. But, the bottom number could also be a two, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, or even sixty-four; not every time signature has a quarter note equal to one beat. For example, if the bottom note in a time signature was an eight, an eighth note would be equal to one beat, note a quarter note. Now, finally, I think practice is the best way to learn something. So, here are some time signatures for you to put you knowledge to. Just identify how many beats are in each bar, and what note gets one beat. You can even try writing a melody in each time signature!
Outro: Well, that's all for today's lesson on time signatures. Hopefully you learned something new! Time signatures are extremely crucial to being able to play and write music, so they are something extremely important to learn. Anyway, that's it, so goodbye!

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    HellFury
    Correct me if i'm wrong, but i believe 6/8 timing is more "common" than 2/4... Knowing the difference between 3/4 and 6/8 is far more important for beginning musicians, in my eyes, as they are used more often.
    KurdtStaley
    shreddymcshred wrote: KurdtStaley wrote: This is article is useless. And no one cares about the difference between 3/4 and 6/8. Try feeling a barcarole in 3, then comment
    you're stupid. As Zepplin Addict said "two bars can phrased the same as one bar" it makes no difference at all. It's a matter of how you choose to write it.
    ArreatsChozen
    ^ agree with the majority above. Plus the total lack of odd time signatures. Admittedly they would obviously be out of the scope of this lesson, considering it's general lack of any real technical knowledge, but still, even mentioning they exist would have been nice.
    thePTOD
    deftools wrote: KurdtStaley wrote: shreddymcshred wrote: KurdtStaley wrote: This is article is useless. And no one cares about the difference between 3/4 and 6/8. Try feeling a barcarole in 3, then comment you're stupid. As Zepplin Addict said "two bars can phrased the same as one bar" it makes no difference at all. It's a matter of how you choose to write it. umm no, 6/8 has two strong beats per bar each divided into three pulses and 3/4 has one strong beat per bar divided into three pulses, they have a different "feel" due to the accents falling on different beats. yeah its a subtle difference, but to say no one cares or needs to know is ****ing stupid. Also the grouping of notes in the 3/4 and 6/8 are different. But i would have to agree with the people who say that this article was useless.
    This. But then again, I think for extreme beginners this is useful.
    mkrulez
    FlameGame wrote: I thought I understood the lesson completely until I read the comments. WOOF WOOF
    totally agree wid u.....thought it was fairly easy.....but the comments threw me off completely!
    FlameGame
    I thought I understood the lesson completely until I read the comments. WOOF WOOF
    yM.Samurai
    There is a major difference between 3/4 and 6/8. Listen to Glasgow Kiss. Listen to Nothing Else Matters. Now, tell me they're in the same time signature (they're not). Admittedly Glasgow Kiss would be better written in 12/8 and 6/8, but that makes no musical difference. Changing the feel to 3/4, however, would
    deftools
    KurdtStaley wrote: shreddymcshred wrote: KurdtStaley wrote: This is article is useless. And no one cares about the difference between 3/4 and 6/8. Try feeling a barcarole in 3, then comment you're stupid. As Zepplin Addict said "two bars can phrased the same as one bar" it makes no difference at all. It's a matter of how you choose to write it.
    umm no, 6/8 has two strong beats per bar each divided into three pulses and 3/4 has one strong beat per bar divided into three pulses, they have a different "feel" due to the accents falling on different beats. yeah its a subtle difference, but to say no one cares or needs to know is ****ing stupid. Also the grouping of notes in the 3/4 and 6/8 are different. But i would have to agree with the people who say that this article was useless.
    Zeppelin Addict
    also! the bottom number is ALWAYS the duration of the beats you are counting ( the top number counts the number of beats) 2 is a half beat, 4 is a quarter, 8 isan 8th and 16 a 16th..
    Zeppelin Addict
    the only thing known as common time is 4/4 time. period. 3/4 is waltz, 2/4 is fairly uncommon as 2 bars can be phrased the same way in one bar in 4/4 time. if you have a 6 9 or 12 as the top number it is usually a compound time signature ( all the examples in the bottom diagram with 6, 9 and 12 on top are compound time signatures) which is more commonly used writing with triplets or syncopation.
    shreddymcshred
    KurdtStaley wrote: This is article is useless. And no one cares about the difference between 3/4 and 6/8.
    Try feeling a barcarole in 3, then comment
    KurdtStaley
    This is article is useless. And no one cares about the difference between 3/4 and 6/8.
    Windwaker
    2/4 is hardly common in today's music. It's a relic of classical music. You failed to explain the much more common and fundamental important difference between times. That is the difference between duple feels (3/4, 4/4, 6/4, etc) and triple feels (6/8, 12/8, 9/8). You didn't address compound meter at all, but that may have been a bit out of the reach of this lesson.
    sajal.chokra
    If majority of people don't like what was taught, why not post links where one can learn it better?