Time Signatures in Theory

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Anybody know what time it is? Wha- th-? I’m talking about the timing and tempo of the song you are playing, silly! And it’s really easy to tell, too. It’s one of those types of rhythm music! There may be many to choose from but the predominant ones will number, let’s see… one, two, three… okay, four! Illustration 1 shows the basic music signatures.

Common-Time-Signatures

Illustration 1

Notice how they are written like a fraction? Well, here’s the way it is:  the top number is the number of beats per measure, a measure being the space between the vertical bars. The bottom number is the note number in the sequence that gets the beat, or emphasis. It is the note value getting the emphasis. So our first signature is called Four-Four time, or Common Time. Why? Because it is the most commonly occurring time signature! There are four beats per measure and the value of the measure, or length of the measure, is four quarter notes.

The second signature is Three Quarter Time, or Three Four Time, or Waltz Time. All waltzes are written in Three Quarter time. Three beats per measure, each worth a quarter note. The time that reads 2 over 2 is called Cut Time, or Half Time. The music of Waylon Jennings comes to mind because he wrote mostly in Half Time. Finally, there is Six Eight Time. The count of the measure is eighth notes and there are six of them per measure.  Here’s how you’d count out each of the four common time signatures.

4/4 – one,  two, three, four, ONE, two, three, four, …

3/4 – one, two, three, one, two, three, …

2/2 – ONE, two, ONE, two, …

6/8 – ONE, two, three, one, two, three, ONE, two, three, one, two, three, …

Notice the emphasis on some of the ONE counts? You need to learn to count in terms of these time signatures. What? More stuff to memorize?? Trust me! You’ll thank me later! No, I’m serious. You need to practice, practice, practice. Learn to pat your foot in time along with the song. To help you do this, I’m going to make another very strong recommendation: buy a metronome! They come in all varieties and prices, from under $10 to over $100. Any quality musical instrument store will carry them.

What follows is four short song samples that use the time signatures above. Happy Listening and, oh yeah, Happy Playing!

 

4/4 Time Signature – Creedence Clearwater Revival

3/4 Time Signature – Tennessee Waltz

2/2 Time Signature – Pick Up The Tempo

6/8 Time Signature – Whipping Post

 
Coming up next… Key Signatures In Theory

MegaphoneLike what you see and read? Go to the Leave Comments section and let me know what you think. Don’t like what you see and read? Be sure to leave me a comment or two. I really want to know what you think. I really want to know what you want!


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