How to Read Music: Time Signatures

The Time Signature, written immediately after the key signature, is a pattern of numbers that looks like a fraction that tells you two things:

  • The top number tells you how many beats are in a measure.
  • The bottom number tell you which type of note gets the beat.

Here are a few examples:

This time signature (3/4)…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-time-signatures-example-three-four

tells us that there are three quarter notes per measure and each quarter note gets one beat.

 

This time signature (4/4)…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-time-signatures-example-four-four

tells use that there are four quarter notes per measure and each quarter note gets one beat.

Note: 4/4 time is so common that it is sometimes written as the letter “C” (for Common time) instead…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-time-signatures-example-common

This time signature (6/8)…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-time-signatures-example-six-eight

tells use that there are six eighth notes per measure and each eighth note gets one beat.

By the way, any time signature is possible: 2/4, 2/2, 3/8, 5/4, 6/4, 7/4, 9/8, 10/8, 12/8 and so and so on!

About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
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