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I see a 'C' like sign in the beginning of the staff. What does it mean?

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up vote 18 down vote accepted

The "C" after the clef in place of the time signature stands for "Common Time," and it is shorthand for 4/4 time.

If you see a "C" with a vertical line through it, that stands for "Cut Time," and it is shorthand for 2/2 time.

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The history goes that religious music was written in 3 time, reflecting the holy trinity.So a circle would be used. When music was written in 4 time, a BROKEN circle would be used. This over time became printed as a C. So it represents 4/4, but doesn't actually stand for 'common'.As above, when split, it means split time - 4/4 but played with a 'two' feel.

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Can you please provide a source for your answer? I'm not sure whether your answer is actually true or not, so I'm hesitant to upvote it. – Kevin Nov 22 '13 at 23:17
Wikipedia, or most other reference sites.I wasn't around at the time, but it's a good story if only apochryphal. – Tim Nov 23 '13 at 9:32
Good info. Thank you. As an aside, there must be more to 3-time than just the digit '3', to make it especially useful to religious music... curious to know why! – rajath Nov 23 '13 at 10:26

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