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Theory Lesson: Simple Time Signatures

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by

Ted Gibson

on 9 September 2015

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Transcript of Theory Lesson: Simple Time Signatures

What's a time signature?
A time signature is a symbol at the beginning of every song that musicians should
always read first
before they start singing. It tells you two things...

1 - What type of note represents the beat?

2 - How many beats are in each measure?
The Bottom Number
When reading a time signature it's best to read the bottom number first. It tells you what the beat will look like.

The beat is not
always
a quarter note!
It depends on that bottom number...
If time signatures only had a number on the bottom, music would look like this...
Can you count these time signatures?
The Top Number
After you read the bottom number, and know what type of note represents the beat, you should read the top number.

The top number tells you how many beats will be in each measure.
Theory Lesson: Simple Time Signatures
What numbers could you see on the bottom?


What numbers will you
never
see on the bottom?
1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64...
(these numbers represent a note)
3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11...
(these numbers
do not
represent a note)
The top number affects your counting...
1+ 2+ 3+ 1+ 2+ 3+
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 5+ 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 5+
Does the
bottom
number affect your counting?
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 1+ 2+ 3+ 4+
NOPE!
What type of numbers could you see on the
top
?
ANY NUMBER!!
You usually don't see numbers bigger than 12 on top, but technically you can have as many beats as you want in each measure.
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 1 + 2 + 3+4+
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 1+2+ 3+4+
1+ 2+ 3+ 4+ 5+ 1+2+ 3+4+5+
Make sure you know how to read the bottom and top numbers of a time signature for the Simple Time Signatures Quiz.
The Weirdos
There are two weird time signatures you might see...
The letter "c" is an abbreviation for "Common Time." Since 4/4 is so common, some composers use a "c" instead.
The "cent" sign is an abbrev-iation for "Cut Time" or 2/2. Cut time usually feels twice as fast as common time which is why musicians call it "cut."
Full transcript