The Meaning of a Time Signature

There they are. Those 2 numbers, one over the other, lurking within the first measure. What are they and why are they there?

Those numbers are called the TIME SIGNATURE, which tells us how many beats or counts are in each measure. The top number stands for how many beats per each measure. In the case above, the top number is 4. Four beats in each measure.  The bottom number, a 4, tells us that a quarter note gets one beat. Many different rhythms make up each measure and should add up to the top number.

For example: A measure can be made up of a quarter note (1 beat), a half note (2 beats), and another quarter note (1 beat) to equal 4 beats. Or a measure could be made up of 2 half notes (2 beats per half note). But each measure in 4/4 time signature would be made up of 4 beats.

Some commonly used time signatures for beginners are: 4/4, 3/4 and 2/4.


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